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April 18, 2017 5:43 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are thinking about asking our roommate to move out. How can we do this in the most considerate and mindful way?

I posted this question about my frustrating living situation about a year and a half ago. (TL;DR, I live in a loft with my boyfriend and his male roommate and a music studio and it's driving me crazy).

I assumed that after living here almost 2 years we'd find a house or the roommate would decide to leave of his own volition. Neither of those things have happened, and it seems doubtful that they will happen in the foreseeable future.

In the previous question, people suggested that I move out or bf and I move out together, but that isn't feasible at the moment. Bf and I share a car, so one of us moving out would make our transportation situation more difficult (there are no affordable rentals close by for me to move to on my own). Moving out on our own is difficult because we would like a space to have the studio and a standard 4 bedroom, 2 bath house isn't going to cut it. Plus, the housing market in our area is vicious. When we have found potential properties, we've been outbid or they've gone off the market quicker than we can get to them.

So! My bf and I agree that it might be time to ask the roommate to start looking for other places to live, so we can just enjoy our lives as a couple. I'm not sure what is the best way to do this. He's a very easy-going guy, so I don't think he'd get terribly sad or angry, but we do want to consider his feelings, as he is a great person. Our decision has nothing to do with his character and everything to do with the fact that having another autonomous human in our living space is an untenable situation.

So my questions are:
1. Should we both sit down and talk with him together, or should my bf (who has a closer relationship with him) do it on his own?

2. What do we say???? What are some things that we avoid saying? (We're thinking something along the lines of "Hey roommate, we've been talking and we think it might be time for you to start looking for your own place to live. We're getting more serious in our relationship and we'd like to live our life here as a couple and live alone together)

3. What do we do after we have that conversation? Obviously he's not going to move out that day, what can we do in the interim to avoid too much awkwardness.

4. Is this the right decision overall? In the year+ since I posted the last question, we have taken some of the suggestions and made several adaptions to our space and behavior. But I still feel very very unhappy and something has to change. I just want to make sure this is the right change.

P.S. Re: the studio situation. Band practices are now down to once a week and they are much more contained. I feel that if I could use roommate's old room as my retreat, I could definitely deal with that whole situation much easier.
posted by chara to Human Relations (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What's the roommate's legal situation with regard to the apartment? Is his name on the lease?

What happens if you tell him to move out, and he says, nah, I'm good, if you want some space you guys should move out? I.e. do you have any kind of legal authority to make sure you guys get your way here?
posted by crazy with stars at 5:51 AM on April 18, 2017 [16 favorites]

I notice you don't use the word "eviction", but that's what you're trying to do. There are many laws about how evictions may proceed legally - not to mention moral "rules" - and they may be stricter than you realize. You can't just ask someone to move out of their own home because you don't like living with them anymore.
posted by R a c h e l at 6:15 AM on April 18, 2017 [19 favorites]

Yeah, I'm gonna go ahead and say this is a pretty dick move. I remember your last question, and the issue here seems to be you have needs for lots of privacy and quiet (and an absence of musicians practicing, because you have feelings about not being in a band anymore?) that aren't being met living in what is essentially a recording studio. But the roommate was there first. If he goes, you're still living in a recording studio. You wanting your own "retreat" OTHER THAN THE BEDROOM YOU ALREADY HAVE doesn't seem like a valid reason to kick someone out. That "vicious" housing market will be as much of a problem for the roommate as it has been for you.

I wonder if your boyfriend really wants to do this, or if he is just trying to appease you here. Band practice is "down to once a week," was that his choice or your demand? Real talk: if this is his good friend and he goes along with a plan to ask him to move out he may well end up resenting you as the person who knew the living situation she was entering into, yet still worked endlessly to dismantle it.

Does your boyfriend actually earn his living with this practice/studio space? You say you would "like to have" a studio in any place you might move, which implies perhaps this is not an absolute must...but is that how your boyfriend really feels? For the record, it is definitely possible to set up practice/recording space inside a 4 BR home. Consider that your boyfriend AND your roommate seem perfectly satisfied with their current living arrangement.

It's selfish and unreasonable to expect a third person to accommodate your unhappy feelings by forcing him to find a new home in this scenario. YOU are the one who "feels unhappy with the space." You should find a different transportation solution and/or a different place to live.
posted by little mouth at 6:18 AM on April 18, 2017 [35 favorites]

You can't just ask someone to move out of their own home because you don't like living with them anymore.

Well, you can always *ask* but he probably does have the right to say "no."

Basically, this is up to the three of you, unless one of you decides to take legal action.

So, why would your roommate want to move out? What could you (the two of you) do to make it easier for him to move out? Presumably the housing market is just as vicious for him as it is for you. Are you willing to pay him to leave?
posted by mskyle at 6:18 AM on April 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also, this:

Plus, the housing market in our area is vicious. When we have found potential properties, we've been outbid or they've gone off the market quicker than we can get to them.

If potential properties exist at all, really, you need to be the ones moving out (especially because...why would you have a right to maintain access to this studio more than your roommate does?). In that kind of hot market, you need to learn to be reallly aggressive...even though it might feel shady, it's a skill, and a useful one. Show up to open houses in the first five minutes with a copy of your credit report and reference letters and your resume and a blank check in hand. Be so perfect and so organized that a landlord couldn't help but choose you. Check craigslist daily (or more). Set alerts on every apartment website that's active in your area. Place "housing wanted" ads, too - I found a fantastic apartment that never even went on the open market that way.
posted by R a c h e l at 6:21 AM on April 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

If you must do this, as far as what to say, I think your current idea is good: make it very clear that it isn't about him at all, it's just that the two of you are at a point where you want to have your own space as a couple. Putting myself in his shoes, the situation will suck, but it'll suck a lot less than being told "we hate you, get out". If he is on the lease, be willing and prepared to let him finish out the term of the lease; he may have general life plans already made around being in that spot for X amount of time.

That being said, like other people upthread have said, this is a pretty shitty thing to do. Presumably all the reasons you don't want to leave are also reasons he wouldn't want to leave. At a bare minimum, to be karmically OK, you should be offering to help him find a new place and paying his moving expenses. And you need to be entirely ready for the fact that this dude may well say "no, I don't want to do that", at which point (unless you own the house and he rents it from you, which doesn't sound like it's the case) your options to get him out are: nothing.
posted by Itaxpica at 6:25 AM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think, for the reasons that some others have said, the approach is going to have to be telling the roommate that you and your boyfriend want to live alone - and all of you talking about whether that means the roommate moves out, or you two do.
posted by entropone at 6:25 AM on April 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

You're right, everyone. I need to be the one who leaves. It's selfish to do otherwise. Thank you for your input.
posted by chara at 6:31 AM on April 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

I re-read your old question and it seems like you keep adding constraints to your situation. Getting a second car is one option which is probably cheaper than trying to buy a perfect house with studio space in a hot market.

I am zeroing in on #4 because I think you guys moving out is the better solution. Is there a reason the roommate can't get a new roommate and your boyfriend go there, especially now that it's down to once a week practice? Or would buying a normal house/condo leave room in the budget to rent studio space? (And if not, what does that say about whether this is an expensive hobby vs. a small business?)

The reason I think it's a better solution is not just because of the roomate's needs, but because I still don't see your boyfriend prioritizing your needs or your life as a couple. "You can live with me as long as I don't have to change anything" is not a great model for a partnership. Can he teach on the side or pick up wedding gigs or whatever to -fund- better space or spend more time driving to a studio, or renovate a basement? What's his commitment to building your life as a couple?
posted by warriorqueen at 6:34 AM on April 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Does your boyfriend own the space, or are you all renting? I feel like that makes a difference.

If your boyfriend owns the space, which in the previous question you say he has been in for 10 years and the roommate came subsequent to that (but before you), then I feel there's more standing there for him to approach the roommate and ask him to find new digs.

If you're all just tenants, then your boyfriend only has the "I was here first" claim, which is pretty minimal standing when it comes to the vagaries of the rental market.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:35 AM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Your boyfriend only has band practice once a week. Why don't the two of you move out and he comes back to the loft once a week to practise there? Then you don't have to rent a room with additional studio space as he still has access to the old one.
posted by Jubey at 6:36 AM on April 18, 2017

I don't think it's necessarily absolutely true that you must be the one to move out, but it really depends on the specifics of your lease situation - if you could come back and provide details on that, it might help us give better advice here.

As you may or may not remember from that previous thread, I'm deeply sympathetic here, having lived with partner + studio myself. I still maintain that partner + studio + roommate would have driven me absolutely up a wall, so I think you're 100% right in needing this situation to end. I just don't know how to advise you to end it without knowing what the legal rights are of each person based on who's on the lease, when it's up, what it says about lease-breaking, etc.

My gut feeling is that you should move out and get your own car, or move out to some neighborhood less convenient but with better public transit, and accept the additional transit cost as the cost of preserving your sanity, which is a very good thing to spend money on if you can swing it. But that would change depending on the lease details.
posted by Stacey at 6:51 AM on April 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

chara: "You're right, everyone. I need to be the one who leaves. It's selfish to do otherwise. Thank you for your input"

I think you're being too hard on yourself here. It's entirely reasonable to find the situation untenable and want to change it. I think a good answer though really does depend on the legal specifics of the situation (who owns? who rents? etc.), which you have not given.
posted by crazy with stars at 7:17 AM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I don't think you necessarily need to be the one who moves out, but you need to think about the specifics of the situation (legally and personality-wise). If you get along reasonably well with your roommate and he's a reasonable person, there may well be something that you and your boyfriend can do for him that would make moving out easier - you could work together to come up with a timeline for him to move out, and/or give him money for a security deposit on a new place, or lots of things.

You're not wrong to want your roommate to move out, but if you want to take care of him as a person while not having to live with him anymore, it's likely to be helpful to look at it from his perspective and even include him in the process of deciding how to unwind the roommate relationship. He probably doesn't want to live with a couple that doesn't want to live with him either!
posted by mskyle at 7:26 AM on April 18, 2017

This is a situation that works well for being passive agressive. Hey roommate, heads up, partner and I are interested in living just the two of us. We're looking at other properties. You may need to make other arrangements. Presumably he may consider moving out at that time (or I guess renting to others, but it could be an easy way to see if he's interested in moving on without throwing him out, especially if you moan about whole property struggles).
posted by Kalmya at 7:32 AM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I need to be the one who leaves. Huh? Nobody suggested that you leave. So I can't help but wonder if you just want out and are making up this situation so you can pack and go, no hard feelings?

If you and your BF want this space, just talk to your roommate, tell him you two are looking to have your own place and see what he says.

But if you just want out, you need to own it and move.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:01 AM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe your boyfriend just talks with him. "Hey, so chara and I are getting more serious and thinking about wanting a place of our own. We were thinking we might move out? Would you want to stay here? Or would you rather find a new place instead of trying to handle this rent on your own or with a new roommate? We want to do what works best for you."
posted by salvia at 9:20 AM on April 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

As the resident with the least seniority in terms of occupancy duration, I think you need to tread lightly here and be the one who is most willing to relocate in order to meet your needs.

Now, your boyfriend is the most senior resident, so if he wants the roommate to leave, he has more clout to make that happen and should be the one driving it, not you.

However, you might both consider the potential impact this could have on their friendship. While, as senior resident, your boyfriend could request that the other roommate leave, it could lead to some resentment.

As others have noted, the roommate has the same reasons to stay put that you do. Unless his financial situation is wildly better, he is actually somewhat less equipped to find an affordable housing situation, since he would potentially need to find a new roommate in order to make rent at a different place. It's a big ask, in my opinion.

I definitely sympathize with your last question since the situation you described would really stress me out also. Your update indicates that you are willing to step back and measure the appropriate amount of action you can justifiably take in this domain, and I think that's good.
posted by delight at 10:51 AM on April 18, 2017

Information update:
- Boyfriend is the one that brought up this topic to me, out of the blue. He casually mentioned in conversation "Oh well, when Roommate moves out, we can do a lot more with this space". I had been feeling this way for a while, but I had dropped the issue altogether, so I was surprised to hear him say that. He mentioned that it'd be nice to live together in our space, just the two of us.

- We are all renting month-to-month. Bf has been living in space for 10 years and built everything (kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, recording studio) from scratch, as the loft was non-residential before he moved there. If we moved out, depending on where we moved, we would take or sell most if not all of the high-dollar large items bf purchased for the space (fridge, stove, specialty light fixtures, air conditioning units, etc.). So roommate would have to spend a significant amount of money replacing those things. This might be an issue for him because....

- Before I moved in, roommate was only paying 1/3 of the rent, my boyfriend was paying 2/3. Now it is split 3 ways. If we moved out, I'm under the assumption that roommate could not afford the rent on his own or with another roommate, unless that new roommate was okay with him only paying 1/3 of the rent instead of 1/2, so he'd have to move out anyway.

- The house/apartment renting market is much better than the home buying market in our city. Roommate could easily find a place to rent on his own or with another roommate that is even more affordable than our current situation and that still meets his needs. Because boyfriend and I are looking to buy and not rent, (so that we can adapt the space to our needs), it is much more difficult to find a place.

- Recording studio is one of boyfriend's secondary source of income and that income is growing. Personal band practices have slowed down (not my choice, other bands gradually dissolved, as bands do), but paid recording sessions (which are quieter and more contained) have increased, as has the amount of work that goes with them. He is in the studio almost every evening, sometimes until 2-3 in the morning, working on mastering sessions. We have discussed the move out and keep the studio where it is. That is an option that we're keeping on the table, but it's not ideal.

- Both boyfriend and I use various features of the space for secondary income, in ways that would be difficult to replicate in another house/apartment, while this is not true for roommate. Some have mentioned that he has the same reasons to stay put as I do, but that is truly not the case. He could pick up and move to almost any apartment in the city and virtually nothing would change. He doesn't use the studio, except for the once-a-week band practice, and everything else he does can be done in any other space. I can't imagine he's particularly happy living with a flamboyant social lovey-dovey couple. I just think he hasn't taken the initiative to find a better situation.

- Roommate knows that we have been looking for a house to buy for the past two years. We'd be happy to help him find a new situation. We're not planning to kick him to the curb non-chalantly. We want to be considerate and mindful. It just doesn't make sense for us to move out and him to stay in this particular space.

Thank you everyone for cluing me in to the the legal and social/emotional implication. It was very, very helpful. I think boyfriend may have to have a starting conversation with roommate about our desire to live together as a couple and go from there. He does have the right to say no, and if he decided that he did want to stay, we would accept that and figure out other solutions.
posted by chara at 11:08 AM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Wow, some people are reacting strangely to your question. I'm assuming that they live in places with different housing laws and therefore different expectations. I'd look up tenant law in your region and use that as a guideline.

Where I live, the person on the lease has the power to give sub-tenants (which I assume your housemate is) 90 days notice, and they can then move out anytime within that notice period without any notice. So, your boyfriend talks to him, tells him that you'd both like to live alone, but haven't managed to find anything that suits, and ask him to start looking for somewhere else. Mention a date, say the end of June, and tell him that he doesn't have to give you any notice when he finds a place.

Give him his bond back early, deal with your real estate agent without bothering him, and help him pack. Have beers and pizza with him on his last night.
posted by kjs4 at 6:52 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think you have gotten a lot of unfair heat for this perfectly reasonable question. Your boyfriend was in the apartment long before you or the roommate. Depending on the laws in the region, he should tell the roommate he has to move out by X date, or, you can just move yourselves, sell or take the bits your boyfriend put in, and let the roommate deal with it. No one living as the secondary roommate with a couple should expect that situation to last forever. If you both like the idea of the space to yourselves, make it happen kindly but make it happen.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:50 PM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

She doesn't actually say how long the room mate has been there for, just that the bf has been there for ten years. For all we know, the room mate moved in at the same time or straight after and has been there forever too. We also still don't know who is on the lease. All of these things affect the answers given. Having said that, the OP makes a good practical case for the room mate not wanting/being able to stay there by themselves anyway. It's not like this is a current living situation that could stay this way forever.
posted by Jubey at 9:43 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

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