Awkward Living Situation
August 6, 2017 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Roommate has overstayed his welcome. How do we (gently and compassionately) ask him to start packing?

About 4 years ago, I invited an old college buddy of mine to move in with me and my partner into our small 2-bedroom condo. He had fallen on some hard times and needed a place to get back on his feet. Though there was no explicit discussion regarding the duration of his stay, we assumed it would be a short-term situation…maybe a year or two… but even after his life has gotten back on track, he’s still here.

My partner and I have come to the agreement that we’d like to ask him to move out, but we’re not sure how to start that conversation. He’s an okay roommate…mostly keeps to himself, usually pays rent on time…but he’s not great about cleaning up after himself or keeping up with chores, and it’s hard to have a healthy relationship with my partner while he is around in such close quarters. It’s been a constant stressor in our relationship.

My partner and I have agreed that I should be the one to have this conversation with him, since I have a closer relationship to him and I’m the one that invited him to move in…I just don’t know how to do it in a way that’s not shitty. He’s in his mid 40s and doesn’t have a large social network here, but he has a decent job and a car, and rent is very affordable in our city.

We all got along okay after the first couple years, but now it’s gotten awkward and my partner and I just need our own space. I’ve been putting off this conversation for about 2 years, but I know it needs to happen. I think my partner and I assumed that my friend would eventually move out on his own, but it appears that we may have to give him a gentle shove.

We’d like to ask him to move out within the next three months…which we think is rather generous. And of course we’d waive the last month’s rent so that he’d have funds to pay for a deposit on his new space.

We don’t have a lease, just a good faith agreement, since I own the condo. Are there any legal implications we’d need to deal with?

He’s a pretty chill guy, and I think he’d be understanding of our request, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings or make him feel like I don’t want him in my life anymore. Is there anything else we can do to make this difficult conversation as smooth and as painless for all parties involved? We don’t want to be assholes about this.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think you are way overthinking this. It's entirely reasonable for couples to live alone, and in fact so normal and societally accepted that I don't even think you need to bring anything up about not cleaning up after himself, etc.

Your terms are generous. I'd just say "Hey John, can we talk about something? Partner and I are ready to live alone and have more space again. We know looking for a new place is a process, so we're happy to give you 3 months to find something, and we'll waive your last month's rent so you can put it towards a security deposit."
posted by lalex at 1:36 PM on August 6, 2017 [55 favorites]

Are there any legal implications we’d need to deal with?

Depends entirely on your jurisdiction. Google your state/province/city and "tenant living with owner month to month eviction". That'll get you started on the bare minimum you need to stay on the right side of the law in terms of notice, in case things get ugly. (Your plan probably sounds fine, but I don't know your jurisdiction and you did ask.)

Lalex's script is right.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 1:40 PM on August 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also, when this is all over you should do something nice for your partner because four years is a really long time to put up with your college buddy "getting back on his feet". :)
posted by lalex at 1:46 PM on August 6, 2017 [59 favorites]

It seems like your roommate has no reason to think that there is a problem. The current situation works for him so he felt no need to move out. So, you need to take responsibility for speaking up for your own needs.

Latex's script is fine but I would start with something like "We've really enjoyed having you as a housemate but Partner and I are at the stage where we are ready to the privacy of our own place again." Then pause and let him respond. If you go straight into the rest of it, it sounds like you are being quick to push him out. Give him a minute to get with the program then, before the conversation ends make sure that you (1) be clear about how soon you are expecting him to move and (2) you willing to make it easier him by waiving the last month rent. I might even be specific and say "the October rent" or "November rent" to help you get into your new place by November/December.
posted by metahawk at 1:47 PM on August 6, 2017 [31 favorites]

It's almost entirely likely that your roommate is just gonna That Dude this situation for as long as possible and then do the right thing the second he's called on it. "So, roommate, we are really wanting to live alone again. Can we have a talk on the 15th about how long you think you'll need to find a place and move, and work out the details then?"

I'd put $5 on him already having a lease signed by the 15th.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:10 PM on August 6, 2017 [9 favorites]

Frame it as not about your roommate and instead about you and your partner, but do be aware he probably has some kind of tenancy rights so look into eviction procedures for your locale to make sure you don't do something wrong that extends the process.
posted by TheAdamist at 2:22 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had a situation somewhat like this around a decade go. I think it's reasonable to say that you and your partner have decided that, as part of the evolution/deepening/progression/whatever of your relationship, you don't want to live in a "roommates situation" any more. This is really a classic "it's not you, it's us" explanation that has the added benefit of being true. Practically no committed couple expects to live with a roommate for the foreseeable future, and there are aspects of your lives as a cohabiting couple that it's reasonable to desire to practice freely. Some super-obvious examples are being able to walk around in your underwear, have sex in the kitchen and that sort of thing. But there is also the relationship-expanding element of being able to build a home for yourselves together. These things are either inhibited or not particularly possible with a cohabiting third wheel.

I think you can explain that, while you enjoy living with your roommate, value that friendship and want it to continue, you want to be able to have these other things in your life. I would think that most anyone would understand that having a third person in a apartment, regardless of how good a friend or low impact a roommate, would have a deleterious effect on a couple's relationship. Out of town friends sometimes stay in our spare bedroom for a month or two while on town for a gig, and we need a breather even after having a third party in the apartment for that short period of time. After explaining all this, you can progress to negotiating a mutually agreeable move out/move on timeline.

When the then-future Mrs. slkinsey and I had a similar talk my former roommate, he understood where we were coming from and was cool with it. One thing you may have to watch out for, however, and which impacted us, is that a roommate who stuck around for this period of time in the first place may not approach the moving-on process with the alacrity you desire. We did have to do some fairly aggressive pushing to get him working towards finding a new living accommodation and actually moving out. That said, he did end up doing it on our agreed-to timeline, and we remained friendly.
posted by slkinsey at 2:39 PM on August 6, 2017

Without putting too fine a point on it, you do want to follow legal requirements to "evict" a tenant. These almost certainly require a written notice to terminate/vacate. There are pre-printed forms available at office supply stores (if such things still exist). You'll want to either adapt their language or do an addendum saying you will waive the last month's rent SO LONG AS he vacates by X date. Make clear he doesn't have to stay the full, additional three months (if that works with your plans and finances).

I would characterize the written notice and waiver as something for your mutual benefit and protection.
posted by uncaken at 3:57 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

There's nothing in the post that suggests that this person is likely to legally resist a request to leave within a reasonable period of time. I would try the friendly/informal route first. If that doesn't work, then I would worry about forms with legal language. Starting off with the legal docs strikes me as overkill that could sour the whole thing and make it more difficult in the end.
posted by Mid at 4:17 PM on August 6, 2017 [14 favorites]

Wouldn't be a terrible idea to spend a couple hundred bucks talking to a landlord/tenant attorney about how your roommate could turn into the Tenant From Hell. Not because you maybe need to do anything about it right now, but because you could easily agree to something that everybody thinks is reasonable, but it turns him into a tenant that you can't get rid of without a long, drawn-out, expensive process.

If you know what not to say, and how to recognize "going off the rails," you can avoid that miserable outcome. You don't have to serve him with eviction papers, you just have to not give his hypothetical future lawyer the edge he needs to hold you up or shake you down.

posted by spacewrench at 4:57 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree that you don't need to get out legal documents in the first conversation, but I think it could be prudent after you do talk to him to send a follow up e-mail documenting what you discussed.

I used to be of the same mind about the lack of a need for legal documents between friends back in my 20s but now I am older and have seen more unfortunate scenarios play out, and knowing there is no lease with this person and just how awful it can be to try to evict someone, it's something you definitely want to do everything in your power to avoid.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:34 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree that you can have a friendly conversation about it, and then just later send an email that recaps the conversation so there's an official record. "Hey Bob, thanks for agreeing to move out by the end of October, as we discussed yesterday. Again, I just want to reiterate we enjoyed having you as a guest and I'm happy to waive the last month's rent of $xxx to make this transition easier for you." Or whatever. Feel free to add a personal touch, like a link to a place you think they'd enjoy or an anecdote you heard about a great neighborhood, or something.

As for the conversation, I think you can say that you and your partner just need the space in your apartment. You don't need to explain more than that, but you can say you want to start having guests visit, or say you want to get some puppies, whatever you want to say. Tell him you still hope to hang out, if that's the case.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:25 PM on August 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

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