Can I move and then give notice? Explosive Landlord/Roommate Ed.
December 21, 2017 9:32 AM   Subscribe

I rent a room in a two bedroom apartment from my landlord/roommate. She's started yelling and blaming me for things and I need to move, but do I need to tell her in advance?

It is a short term rental, I've been here three weeks and told her last week that I would stay through January. This room, and a dozen other apartments she rents out, are to short-term students and visitors so it's a normal short-term situation for foreigners. She does have listings on airbnb but that is not our arrangement (no contract, actually).

So last night she came home from a few days trip away and blew up at me for a number of things from breaking an outdoor awning she failed to secure before a storm, to not watering her plants, to using too much gas because I turned the heat too high. She had never given information about any of these things to me before. I apologized but said I didn't know she wanted any of these things done. I told her I would give her extra money for the gas (she really bullied me) but that there was nothing else I could do, I simply didn't know. She continued yelling and insulted me several times (no swearing or violence). I know there are cultural differences because I'm a foreigner and she's from a yelling culture but I'm still not going to be yelled at for something I didn't do, by anybody, much less somebody I am paying. I need to move asap. She was rude and dismissive to me this morning, fwiw, but even if she does apologize I'm afraid of her, not physically but psychologically and won't stay in this situation.

I would like to tell her this isn't working out and I'm moving out at the end of the month. But I'm afraid, based on her irrational and extremely strong reactions, especially demanding money, to date. I'd like to give her notice so she can find someone else (since I did tell her that I would stay in January) but I'm starting to feel that my best move is just to move out and then tell her. Is this okay? Does that make me an asshole? Yeah, I also hate conflict and am really bad at standing up for myself. Thanks!
posted by perrouno to Human Relations (28 answers total)
I think it's reasonable to move out, then tell and pay her. you don't have a contract, so there's nothing for you to break, and it's clearly not worth dealing with this person any longer than you have to. good luck!
posted by acm at 9:34 AM on December 21, 2017 [13 favorites]

You can move as soon as you like, and I'd probably do the same in your shoes. You may, however, still be on the hook for January's rent if you told her you'd be there, even if you aren't.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:41 AM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

If I didn't have a contract, I'd be gone already. I would have told her on the way out.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:42 AM on December 21, 2017 [17 favorites]

Yeah totally just go. If you don't have a contract and you haven't paid her upfront, then just leave. Get out, lock up, get off the premises. When you are far enough away, send her a text saying, "I moved out, the keys are [under the mat or wherever]' and that's it.
posted by greta simone at 9:43 AM on December 21, 2017 [32 favorites]

Is this okay? Does that make me an asshole?
Removing yourself from a situation where you feel unsafe is not being an asshole.
posted by soelo at 9:48 AM on December 21, 2017 [63 favorites]

Get out. I am not your lawyer, but if you don't have a lease or other contract, you won't owe her. Just get a new place, move while she's out, leave a note or text her or something, and you're done.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:09 AM on December 21, 2017 [8 favorites]

Leave as soon as you are able, do not give her any further money. She elected not to have a contract with you for her convenience (i.e., to enable illegal practices). You are ethically clear, in my opinion.
posted by danny the boy at 10:32 AM on December 21, 2017 [19 favorites]

I agree with posters who say that you should move right away. I agree with your assessment that you need to do it, then give notice. Don't feel guilty about not giving advance notice, since this person makes you feel bullied and unsafe, I don't think they merit the courtesy. Make sure the key is returned, sending it back with written notice by delivery that requires a signature would give you proof you did it.

Tenancy laws vary by jurisdiction. In California, the contract is created in the very act of exchanging money for rent. So beyond the social aspect of this, do research on your exact legal situation while you are searching for your new place. Look for a Tenant's or Renter's Rights organization and speak to someone in person or on the phone, to find out the extent of your responsibilities in this circumstances from a purely legal standpoint.

Knowing this will help you so much should your move provoke a backlash from this unpredictable person.

If she presses you about leaving early or the gas, tell her that while you understood the concerns she raised after her return, her verbally abusive outburst is not how adults conducting a business relationship behave and that you have no responsibility or desire to continue the agreement. Provide her with a contact address where she can forward the utility information—the "high" gas bill you supposedly caused and a previous bill from the same time of year that clearly quantifies the difference you supposedly caused—and follow through with that make-good if she actually provides you with a documented figure ... chances are she won't.

Keep copies of all your correspondance, and write down detailed notes about the conflict now—date, time, sequence of events, exact words to the best of your recollection—while it is still somewhat fresh in your mind. Do not hesitate to contact law enforcement if her correspondence is harassing or she shows up in person. All this advice is from a U.S. perspective. Best of luck, O.P.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:36 AM on December 21, 2017 [20 favorites]

You have to take care of your own self first. Because if you don't, who will? Surely not your landlord.

And to paraphrase Major Frank Burns (M*A*S*H*), it's not asshole-ish to be an asshole to an asshole.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:40 AM on December 21, 2017 [8 favorites]

Just move.

What is she going to do? Call the police, and force them to move you back? The cops would laugh. Hire a lawyer to sue you? She will spend thousands suing you to collect hundreds. That will not happen. Take you to small claims court? Time consuming and not so easy to do. And even if she takes you to small claims court, there is no contract, and you have a good reason.

Just move. try to be as fair as you can. Keep notes and documents.
You will be fine.
posted by Flood at 10:45 AM on December 21, 2017 [10 favorites]

You said you'd stay until the end of January; that's a verbal contract.

However, the parts of the contract that weren't stated - that were implied - is that you'd be receiving access to a reasonable living space. Being yelled at and having extra responsibilities thrown at you with no warning, is not reasonable living conditions.

There is no rental, job, or any other payment-for-access situation that includes "and I can yell at you, insult you, and demand that you do extra work for me" without a whole lot of extra negotiation.

Tell her you're not playing out any more nonconsensual humiliation-kink scenes, and move out. (Well, probably don't use those exact words.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:49 AM on December 21, 2017 [11 favorites]

This sucks, but you might very well be legally bound to give her 30 days notice before you stop paying rent. It depends what country, state, and town you are in. You don't have to stay there, or keep your stuff there, but you might have to pay her.
posted by bq at 10:57 AM on December 21, 2017

Does that make me an asshole?

This landlord says you are most definitely not an asshole if you move out asap without a warning and without any further payments (unless doing so will get you in legal trouble... which is highly unlikely in this situation). A couple thoughts:

1) Last-minute apartment hunting and moving is stressful and costly so from a cosmic karma perspective you are even.

2) If she has a dozen short-term rentals you are not putting her out all that much, frankly.

3) You will be doing her future tenants' a favor by showing her that this behavior has a price tag attached.
posted by rada at 11:23 AM on December 21, 2017 [8 favorites]

You might want to get a post office box (if you're in the US) for anything she needs to forward so she doesn't know where you live. That may be overcautious, but she's already shown she's not a reasonable person.

And you are not the asshole in this situation.
posted by FencingGal at 11:52 AM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

If she's behaving unreasonably, she might take other actions like locking you out with your possessions inside. If there's no contract, you have no rights or legal protection. I'd get gone and let the chips falls where they may. Do the right thing by all means but get out first.
posted by diode at 12:08 PM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

Get that PO Box, yesterday, and get your change of address immediately, give a copy to your mail person, so they know to not deliver there. Your landlord wants you out, otherwise she would be playing nicer. Good luck with everything, a bad time of year to relocate. You do not have to be her emotional toxic waste dump.
posted by Oyéah at 12:13 PM on December 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

If there's no contract, you have no rights or legal protection

This is absolutely not true. There are laws that govern tenant rights and responsibilities even in the absence of a written contract. What they are depends on the area. OP, you may want to google ‘tenant rights organization yourarea’ for specific help. Listening to random internet people advice could get you in a lot of trouble.
posted by bq at 12:40 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Her behavior bordered on abuse. I'd move asap, and not pay for any time I did not use. You can probably record any further yelling with your phone, and it would be documentation of her behavior if she tries to hold you responsible for additional rent for time you do not use. I was a small landlord, and in my area, very bad behavior is grounds for ending a rental agreement.
posted by theora55 at 12:44 PM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I had a roommate/landlord situation several years ago that went real south real quick. She started behaving erratically, I told her I'd be moving out in 2 months, and then all hell broke loose. Screaming at me, following me to the bathroom and pounding on the door so hard things fell off shelves any time I went in there, telling me that I was screwing her over and ruining her life, etc etc. It became unsafe. I ended up moving out in silence at the crack of dawn so she couldn't see me leave and cause a scene.

Hindsight, I wouldn't have told her I was planning to leave at all. I'd just have left a check for the last month (since our agreement said a month's notice) and disappeared.

When the person who controls your ability to feel safe in your own home goes off the rails, you need to protect yourself first.
posted by phunniemee at 12:49 PM on December 21, 2017 [10 favorites]

You said you'd stay until the end of January; that's a verbal contract.

If there's no contract, you have no rights or legal protection

This kind of stuff is not really right because contract law tends to be different when landlord-tenant stuff is involved, and how it differs varies a lot based on the jurisdiction! The only reasonable answer to this legally is: it depends.

OP, you should move out and let the chips fall where they may, but this is not advice about the legal nature of this situation, only about your mental health. If the risk of having to, eg, double-pay January rent at two places is substantial to you, you should look for tenant-oriented resources that are specific to the jurisdiction you live in. Ideally, these would be resources written for people in your specific city or state, if you're in the US.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:54 PM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Thank you guys! No, I'm not in the US and don't fear any legal consequences as far as a verbal contract or not is concerned. If I have to lose some of December's rent to move out early it's fine. I just need to feel safe from this behavior. I always have felt the need to put other people's interests first (but I told her I'd stay, etc.) and am trying to stop this habit. As I'm writing this she walked in and demanded even more money. I told her I will not discuss this now. I will leave this weekend and try to find a solution for the keys, signed couriers aren't really an option, regrettably.
posted by perrouno at 1:30 PM on December 21, 2017 [9 favorites]

I'm sorry you're in this situation. Do you have a safe place to go on such sort notice? Not that anyone should bully you, yell at you, and try to extort you in your own home -- I'm only concerned that in your haste to leave this unpleasantness, you'll accidentally wind up in an out-of-the-frying-pan, into-the-fire scenario.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:15 PM on December 21, 2017

I'm really glad to hear that you're taking care of yourself, and that you refused to engage when she barged in demanding more money (?!?). You're definitely doing the right thing in leaving ASAP - it is not okay for her to treat you like that. One thing I'd add is to continue to stand your ground after you leave and don't let her bully you into giving her more money just because you'd originally planned to stay through January. Once you've paid what you owe up through now and handed over the keys, I'd suggest blocking her in all channels through which she has access to you.

Good luck - I hope your move-out goes swiftly and painlessly!
posted by DingoMutt at 2:41 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Given the circumstances I think you would be wise to leave as soon as possible and without notice in case things get bad quickly. I certainly wouldn't give her any more money given her behaviour. Casual arrangements are just that, for both parties.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 3:05 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I did this once, when I was living in a European country. Extremely unreasonable living conditions, short-term room rentals to foreigners, and lots of ridiculous and amazing lies told to me by the lead tenant (I found out these were lies because she didn't want the other roommates to believe them, and told them so...and then they told me).

Not only did I face basically no consequences of any kind for moving out, but the lead tenant actually RESPECTED ME MORE AFTERWARDS. She sent me the text equivalent of "well-played".

Get out get out get out. Get out now.
posted by laconic titan at 3:53 PM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yeah, get out as soon as possible, even if it means going to a hotel for a few nights. Don't give any notice. Stick the key under the mat or in the mail.

Don't look back.
posted by rpfields at 6:43 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

As someone who feared for my safety when renting a room from a friend who threatened not to let me take my things if I left (so I had to move my things out early in the morning while he slept off a night of drinking) then ended up in a fistfight on the lawn when he woke up as I locked up the u-haul... I say get yourself and your things out and into a safe place before you give her any notice, and you are not the asshole here.
posted by davejay at 10:32 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thanks again guys. Just wanted to update that I did as recommended today. When I texted her about returning the keys she erupted into more abuse and swearing. I left the keys at a finally agreed upon place and hope to never hear from her again. Based on how she reacted I'm glad I didn't give notice or it could have been even worse.
posted by perrouno at 8:07 AM on December 23, 2017 [10 favorites]

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