My roommate failed to pay the electricity. Time to talk to the landlord?
April 22, 2018 9:00 AM   Subscribe

My roommate did not pay the electric bill, apparently we were far overdue to the point where the electric company was about to cut electricity. Should this be something I should bring up with the landlord?

I've done an ask about my roommate/the current housing situation I am in before, here. Sad to say that things had gotten worse.

My roommate was out of town starting last Thursday, and when I got home on Friday evening, I noticed a letter on the counter from our electric company, stating an intent to disconnect service if my roommate did not pay a certain amount by that day. The letter was dated April 6. This sent me in a mad panic, and I immediately called the electric company, using his name and account number, to ask if the overdue amount was paid. No, it was not. I texted my roommate and told him, and he was like "oh shit, I'm in a meeting, I can pay it after, or you can go ahead and pay it now, I'm in California (we live in DC)." As the electric company was closing in about only two hours, I elected to pay the balance required to continue service. I was told there was also an outstanding balance as well. I was fuming and livid - I had narrowly escaped us from losing service, over the weekend, when I would be home alone. This was majorly irresponsible on my roommate's part. I asked him to pay me back the full amount that I paid, as the letter said that the overdue part was from October to February, and I had already paid him for February. (I'll elaborate a bit more below.) He gave me a vague answer, saying that he would go over everything when he comes back to DC.

Short back story: my roommate did not ask me for my share of bills until two months after I moved in - he kept postponing. Finally, he gave me the amounts for each month (2xelectricty and 2xInternet), and said he did not pay the gas bill yet. I transferred the amounts to him.

On Friday, he showed me a screenshot of his bank account with the search for the electric company... apparently he only paid them once back in March, so what happened to the money I sent him? He made it sound like it was more than the agreed amount that I already transferred him. He made it clear at the time he asked me for the two bills, that the amount was for the two months.

This situation is making me very, very, very anxious. I am very fortunate that I saw the letter, and got home in time to call the electric company... narrowly avoiding losing electricity for the whole weekend. I had no idea this was happening or about to happen. I paid the required amount to "reconnect" (thankfully we were not disconnected yet!), and haven't gotten that money back. I don't know if I ever will get that money back. I pay $1200 per month for this, a substantially larger amount than my previous place, and this is what I have to go through? It really disgusts me, and I'm afraid my roommate will try to rip me off for more money. I also checked our Internet XFINITY bill on the TV, and it was also past overdue... again.

I'm very nervous about gas, too. My roommate tended to leave the fireplace on often during cold weather, even recently, and it'd seem to be off, but I'd see that it was actually on the lowest setting/pilot, overnight and even for days. He hasn't even asked me yet for the gas bill, and I'm very afraid it'd be in an astronomical amount. I don't even use the gas that much - I rarely cook at home because it's so dirty and disgusting here (and I don't like to cook, so there's that), and my room wasn't heated that often.

So, here are my questions:

a) Should I bring this up with my landlord? I don't want to sound like I'm "tattling", but this was a very serious situation. Being overdue is one thing, but to the point where electric service was almost about to being cut off... that's major, and my safety could have been put at risk. What if I had medicine that needed to be refrigerated? (I don't, just saying) What should I say?
b) My lease, as mentioned in the previous question, has a 30 day notice clause with no penalty. I'm trying to find another place, so could I use this situation as justification to break it a bit early? (If not, I'll just pay the full month of May and treat it as "karma" money.)
c) If the gas bill(s) for the past 3 months are too high, could I negotiate with my roommate and ask that I only pay the "market rate", especially that I didn't even use gas that much? (When I first moved in, he said gas would be $10/month. I have a screenshot proving this.)

I'm trying to find tenant advocacy services here in DC to help me with this, as well as a deaf services organization, but right now I'm feeling in over my head. I don't want to pay crazy amounts of money to subsidize my roommate's negligence, but I don't want to risk being taken to court, either, if he feels I didn't fairly pay my share. I have screenshots of all our conversations, etc., which should hopefully serve as proof/help my case.

Somewhat irrelevant braindump: he has had a Capital BikeShare bike parked in the house for days now. I shudder to think about what he owes them.

This situation is completely new to me, and the opposite of what my previous living situation was like - my landlords (who managed all the bills/utilities) created a spreadsheet with a detailed breakdown of bills, which made it easy. Everything was paid on time. Some people suggested I take over the utilities here, but no way - I'm not staying, and I don't trust my roommate to pay me back as far as I could throw him. All utilities are under his name - my landlord does not live with us. (Water is part of the rent.)

This has been a huge source of anxiety for me all weekend, although I've cooled down and am now trying to find resources that can help me.
posted by dubious_dude to Human Relations (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Everything you say here, while aggravating and annoying, is not actionable. In other words, there's nothing more for you to do, particularly if you're moving out.

1) If utilities aren't included in your rent, your landlord isn't going to care if the bill is paid or not, so there's no point in telling them.

2) If you give 30 days, that takes you to the middle of May, so you'll have to pay you May rent regardless.

3) If you're moving out, I would not worry about the gas bill at all. If your roommate is this lax about bills, and the gas bill is in your roommate's name, he sounds like the kind of person who wouldn't even think to mention it to you so why bring it up?

I would stop fretting about the bills that are in your roommate's name and concentrate on finding a new place pronto.
posted by lyssabee at 9:12 AM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


a) No
b) No
c) He already said it would be $10/month, just keep to that.

By 'last Thursday' do you mean April 12th, or 19th? If this happened three days ago, and your roommate isn't back in town yet, then it's not surprising he hasn't paid you back or gone over these matters further.

It is unnerving that this occurred, but please know, if the electricity had been shut off, the electric company is open over the weekend. You would have gotten in touch and resolved it the same way you did on Thursday.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:14 AM on April 22, 2018


What sort of action are you hoping for the landlord to take? I haven't had this exact experience but in the past when I've had issues with roommates bailing on me and leaving me to cover their share of the rent, the landlord didn't really care, just put pressure on me to pay the full amount myself.

Your roommate's behavior reminds me somewhat of mine, as a person with ADHD who went undiagnosed for a long time and who struggled with money and staying on top of the bills. So far what you've described suggests disorganization and flakiness, but not malice.

You know them best of course, but I'd consider just telling them "I was really stressed out by the turnoff notice. Would you consider using automatic bill pay in the future?"

Or just focus on moving out.
posted by bunderful at 9:15 AM on April 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


By 'last Thursday' do you mean April 12th, or 19th?
19th. The incident happened on the 20th, however.

It is unnerving that this occurred, but please know, if the electricity had been shut off, the electric company is open over the weekend.
The letter said the customer service line was open M-F, so that's why I thought it was my only option to call and settle that amount on Friday evening.

As for the landlord, my friend suggested I talk to him, to give him a heads up.
posted by dubious_dude at 9:17 AM on April 22, 2018


I can’t imagine what possible reaction a landlord would have to this other “ugh, that apartment is having drama, why won’t they keep me out of it.”
posted by samthemander at 9:23 AM on April 22, 2018 [50 favorites]


Breathe.
Breathe.
Breathe, again.

Your landlord doesn't care, I'm sure. Do you have a lease with the roommate, or did you sign a lease with the landlord?

- Send the roommate a text and ask for the $$ he owes you every day. You won't be paid back, but keep asking.

- Assume he is late on all other bills and find a new apartment.

- He doesn't have it together enough to sue you. He will not come after you in court. I one million percent promise this.

Who has your deposit? If it is him... he may no longer have it. If it's the landlord, give proper notice and do whatever you need to do to get your deposit money back at the end of your lease.

Hey! Do you have some sort of appropriate deaf carbon monoxide alarm? Can you get one?

This happens all of the time, it happens to everyone. You're not a bad person, this isn't happening to you because you did anything wrong. This is adult life. Look for a new, more responsible roommate. That's all you really have to do.

BTW...

I'm pretty sure the guy left the bill out so you would freak out and pay for it, so uh, focus all of your energy on finding a new roommate situation and move out.

I am so profoundly sorry for the tremendous amounts of anxiety you experience. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it go away. I implore you to take the adult steps of seeking professional support. Therapy for adulting skills, an exercise routine, emotional support, a good multi vitamin. There are meditation techniques that aid the physical and emotional results of trauma and stress - get a practice going. Massage is good if you can tolerate it. Self care. You have reached the very grown-up stage of requiring regular self care and I hope you make this an important part of your life.

Be well. Breathe deep every time you catch your thoughts spiraling out of control. Breathe.
posted by jbenben at 9:24 AM on April 22, 2018 [30 favorites]


My heart breaks for you, dubious dude. I can see how this was upsetting.

Your landlord is not a referee, so, no, don't mention it. This is a thing that can happen in life. You already got in touch with the two parties that it involves: your roommate and the electric company.

Here's the bottom line: Please consider the amount of stress and heavy weight that living with others has placed on you over the years. I can see it from your question history.

You may also find someone who can help you work on your anxiety and your reactions to things like this. (The right professional can make a big difference! Ask me how I know.)

Use all of that past angst and this incident to make living alone a priority.

Can you imagine how much better your life would be? I can.
posted by veggieboy at 9:30 AM on April 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


Do you have a lease with the roommate, or did you sign a lease with the landlord?
Landlord. I paid the deposit to the landlord.

The reason I broached the possibility of bringing this up with the landlord is because my friend suggested giving him a heads up of the situation, as the electricity going out could have caused the house physical damage (water leaks from a melting freezer, etc.), and to give him a heads up as well of the negligence. The friend was also a bit "biased" because the landlord does have a deaf baby, so she felt he would be more helpful towards me. Bad advice, maybe?

Also, what if my roommate, on Tuesday (when he gets back), asks me to pay him a large amount of money but does not give a clear explanation? I do not feel comfortable living here as is, I would feel uncomfortable and anxious getting home and having him be there. Any suggestions on how to cope with that?

And, yes, I am searching for a place alone.
posted by dubious_dude at 9:33 AM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yes, the gas bill is going to be astronomical. It’s also not your problem because you’ve been paying your share as agreed and the bill is in his name. He doesn’t have any basis for taking you to court. You have the screenshot, that’s all you would need. But someone who can’t even remember to bring the BikeShare bike back isn’t going to take time to pay $150 to the county courthouse .

Move out. Pay whatever you need to pay to get out of the lease, and find a place where the bills are bundled into the rent if you’re more comfortable with that. Done. Let the guy own the consequences of his actions.


Also, what if my roommate, on Tuesday (when he gets back), asks me to pay him a large amount of money but does not give a clear explanation? I do not feel comfortable living here as is, I would feel uncomfortable and anxious getting home and having him be there. Any suggestions on how to cope with that?


What if he does? Tell him no way. He can ask you to fly him to the moon but that doesn’t obligate you to start looking for jobs at JPL. At worst you can insist that he document all the expenditures and then come up with a damn good explanation about why you’re responsible for his fuck-up, and then you still say “Now that I have all that information, hell no” and then you move out and never see him again.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:39 AM on April 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


The bottom line is that your roommate literally can’t force you to pay anything. Make sure not to leave your checkbook or debit card laying around where he can find it, but yeah, short of theft and forgery, he can’t do a damn thing. He couldn’t even force you to pay your own rent.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:43 AM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


If he doesn't pay you back for the electric bill you paid, you could propose applying the amount owed to you to the next few gas and Internet bills until it balances out (propose it or just do it, but document it.) or if the bill was so large that it would take months for it to even out and you expect to be gone before then, keep asking for repayment, but he sounds like someone who's bad at keeping track of things and might welcome this as a solution. If this is all between the two of you, separate from rent and not involving the landlord, I'd do that.

if you have a $10/month gas bill agreed to and documented, I don't understand what he would be asking you for money for, and if he did you'd just say no and remind him of the agreement. since you have a fixed rate, it doesn't matter how high his gas bill is as long as your physical safety's not affected by him leaving things on. that's his problem.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:47 AM on April 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Sorry for all the threadsits! Wanted to add more info and spurts of thoughts as I process all this.

Yes, the gas bill is going to be astronomical. It’s also not your problem because you’ve been paying your share as agreed and the bill is in his name.

He said in March (when asking me for the electric/Internet bills) that he hadn't paid gas yet... so technically I didn't pay my share (yet). My concern is that my share will be very high, especially when I didn't benefit from it. Should I insist that my share is $10 based on what he originally told me the estimated monthly payments would be, and pay that ($10x month)?

What if he does? Tell him no way. He can ask you to fly him to the moon but that doesn’t obligate you to start looking for jobs at JPL. At worst you can insist that he document all the expenditures and then come up with a damn good explanation about why you’re responsible for his fuck-up, and then you still say “Now that I have all that information, hell no” and then you move out and never see him again.

Nice in theory, but while I'm actually still living here, it would be VERY uncomfortable and awkward. I don't know if I can find a new place that fast enough. I already have bad anxiety as is, so I'm not sure how to stand my ground with him, and in a nice, non-confrontantial way. I'm also concerned about the impact this will have on my parcopresis, as well. I hope that makes sense.

Once I'm moved out, that'll help, but I'm concerned about the interim while I'm still living here.
posted by dubious_dude at 9:47 AM on April 22, 2018


If he doesn't pay you back for the electric bill you paid, you could propose applying the amount owed to you to the next few gas and Internet bills until it balances out (propose it or just do it, but document it.) or if the bill was so large that it would take months for it to even out and you expect to be gone before then, keep asking for repayment, but he sounds like someone who's bad at keeping track of things and might welcome this as a solution. If this is all between the two of you, separate from rent and not involving the landlord, I'd do that.

He asked for $125x2 for Jan-March (2 months) for electricity... that would then have been divided between us, so $63 for my share for 2 months. I paid $240 to "unlock" the electricity on Friday.
posted by dubious_dude at 9:49 AM on April 22, 2018


Your share won’t be high, because you agreed to $10/mo and you have proof of it. You give him your $30 and then he pays the rest, no matter how high it is. That’s how it works.

Secondly, you require him to show you the bill. He can’t just ask you for money and you don’t have to pay what he says. You only have to pay what was agreed.

Thirdly, since you already paid his share of electric for the last 3 months, HE owes YOU. You can simply tell him that you’re deducting that and therefore you’ve already paid your share.

Nice in theory, but while I'm actually still living here, it would be VERY uncomfortable and awkward.

Yes. It will be uncomfortable and awkward. It is perfectly okay that it will be uncomfortable and awkward, because HE did this to himself by ignoring the bills and running them up. Nobody is doing it to him. You will not die, it will not kill you, you will spend a few weeks ignoring each other and having bad feelings and then you will move out.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:56 AM on April 22, 2018 [15 favorites]


I am a landlord. I've had tenants bring up roommate problems to me before and the thing is, there is nothing I can do! I am not their parent or their boss and I have very little power other than eviction, which is hugely expensive and disruptive and only makes sense if the tenant is not paying rent or damaging the property beyond what a security deposit can cover.

Having said that, you should bring it up to your landlord as a courtesy. Just mention that you are not expecting them to mediate your dispute but just letting them know what's been going in case the unpaid utilities default to the property owner in your jurisdiction (in ours some do, some don't) or in case utilities get switched off during the time of the year when it means pipes freezing etc. A short note like that is going to let the landlord know that you are a good tenant and a decent human being which will go a long way when you need a favor (assuming your landlord is a decent human being as well). Who knows, if your roommate has been a pain the landlord's butt, they may ask the roommate to leave and you to stay on!

Good luck with your situation, your roommate sounds like a bit of a nightmare.
posted by rada at 10:02 AM on April 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


Oh, and don't let him deduct the $30 for the gas from the amount he now owes you. These need to be separate transactions. Pay him with a check with a notation in the memo portion, or however you want to document it.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:03 AM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


And remember, if anyone deserves to be angry and pissed about all this, it is YOU, for paying the bills in good faith while he is being an irresponsible deadbeat. You should be thinking right now, “You don’t get to be mad at me for not cleaning up your mess. I’m the one who gets to be mad. YOU owe ME for getting YOU out of the electric bill problem. YOU need to kiss MY ass about this.”
posted by Autumnheart at 10:03 AM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


The bills are in your roommate's name; it's his credit rating that's on the line ultimately.

If he's willing, have him set up automatic billpay and be done with it if that's an option. If it's not an option, then you sit down with him together on the first Sunday of every month, or whatever, and conduct a bill-paying ceremony. Either way, you have a small sit-down party now to go over the bills together.

He told you gas would be $10 a month; if it comes out to $15 or even $20 then I'd pay it, but anything more gets a gentle nah, you told me $10/month, and if I'd known I would objected to it earlier.

These are all confrontations you need to have, but they don't have to be combative. Don't talk with him accusingly as though he's The Enemy; assume or pretend that he's an absent-minded professor type or has severe adhd or something and speak with him accordingly.

(By the way I know he should have kept you up to date on the bills, not to mention paid them. But you're also an adult and you know you can expect the utility companies to bill monthly or bi-monthly; it's your responsibility too to make sure you stay on schedule. You both bear some responsibility if there hasn't been a conversation like "hey, I haven't given you my share for this month's bills; what did they come out to, let's go over them tonight.")

But ultimately you're moving out soon, so even if he isn't cooperative in setting up a system that works for both of you, it's not the end of the world. (Even if it feels catastrophic, it really is just inconvenience. Your friend's judgment seems on the catastrophic side as well - defrosting freezers do not in general cause damage to anything but the food that was inside - so take their advice with that grain of salt.)
posted by trig at 10:09 AM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Re: gas-- you say that he left the fireplace on 'pilot.' Someone with more experience on a range of gas fireplaces can feel free to correct me (and I don't know the design of your specific fireplace) but lots of gas fireplaces are designed to be left on pilot all the time if they are in regular use. I also don't understand what you mean when you say "my room wasn't heated that often"? Is your primary heat gas or electricity? I assume your room was heated in some way throughout the DC winter?

Also, when he said $10 for gas, what exactly did he say? Did he say "Rent is $1200 with electricity and internet split down the middle, and then you'll pay me $10 a month for gas" or did he say "Utilities are split down the middle, gas is usually like $10 a month"? I only ask because the first arrangement seems a little odd and the second is much more common in my experience.
posted by geegollygosh at 10:14 AM on April 22, 2018


You really really need treatment for your anxiety. This situation is annoying, and I can see why you'd be annoyed, but it is not that big of a deal or that difficult to handle.

Your roommate is a bit of a flake. He is probably not trying to scam you. Instead, he is disorganized and bad at paying bills. If he doesn't repay you for the money you put out on electricity, you will just leave that money out of your rent.

If you get a place alone that you can afford, it makes sense to move out early and let this (disorganized) guy pursue you for any potential rent (he won't). But if you are contemplating moving back with the terrible abusive people you used to live with, I suggest that you stay put.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:15 AM on April 22, 2018 [12 favorites]


Should I insist that my share is $10 based on what he originally told me the estimated monthly payments would be, and pay that ($10x month)?

No, because estimated payments are estimated payments. If it's much higher than, say, $30 a month then you should say something. Otherwise, it's normal for winter payments to be higher than payments for other seasons.

Since he is flaky, I would ask him if you can just assume that your share of the gas bill is $10 a month and then be done with it, instead of paying an actual share.

You're very irritated right now, and that makes sense, but generally you should not use irritation over one issue (however righteous!) as a reason to start looking for other problems and fights to have with someone. It's called "borrowing trouble" and all it does is escalate conflicts and stress you out.

Also, your friend is giving you super terrible drama-tastic advice and you should ignore them.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:19 AM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Also, when you feel your fury rising, remember that this roommate at least has not brought a federal raid into your living space. This is a fuckup on a more ordinary scale, that many of us have been on either side of.
posted by trig at 10:20 AM on April 22, 2018 [9 favorites]


Also, when you feel your fury rising, remember that this roommate at least has not brought a federal raid into your living space. This is a fuckup on a more ordinary scale, that many of us have been on either side of.

Yes, exactly. Since you've had such horrific and traumatic roommate experiences before, you're coming into this one really hyped up to have a big terrible fight, and ready to get screwed if you don't protect yourself. This makes sense given your history, but I am telling you that this is a really typical situation and most of the time does not mean anything but "some people are flaky."

(My electricity bill is a couple of months late right now, actually! My autopay expired and I just didn't notice until today. It happens.)
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:23 AM on April 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Re: gas-- you say that he left the fireplace on 'pilot.' Someone with more experience on a range of gas fireplaces can feel free to correct me (and I don't know the design of your specific fireplace) but lots of gas fireplaces are designed to be left on pilot all the time if they are in regular use. I also don't understand what you mean when you say "my room wasn't heated that often"? Is your primary heat gas or electricity? I assume your room was heated in some way throughout the DC winter?
Pilot as in the gas fireplace's "blue light" was lighted underneath the fireplace, and it still felt warm to the touch, but there were no flames. When I checked it looked like it was set to 1 (lowest), or pilot, not sure. He did use the fireplace a lot, though, sometimes at very high temperatures. Also, for my room, I vaguely remember seeing during winter that the themorest was showing a low temperature, and that my room wasn't warmed when it was cold outside, so my room didn't get much heat.

Also, when he said $10 for gas, what exactly did he say? Did he say "Rent is $1200 with electricity and internet split down the middle, and then you'll pay me $10 a month for gas" or did he say "Utilities are split down the middle, gas is usually like $10 a month"?
My landlord said $1200 for rent, which included water. My roommate gave me a list of what bills we would divide, along with estimated payments for our share. He said gas would be $10 a month.

But you're also an adult and you know you can expect the utility companies to bill monthly or bi-monthly; it's your responsibility too to make sure you stay on schedule.
I did. I asked him about bills in February and he said he would get back to me (and he did, in March).

You really really need treatment for your anxiety.
I agree.

And remember, if anyone deserves to be angry and pissed about all this, it is YOU, for paying the bills in good faith while he is being an irresponsible deadbeat. You should be thinking right now, “You don’t get to be mad at me for not cleaning up your mess. I’m the one who gets to be mad. YOU owe ME for getting YOU out of the electric bill problem. YOU need to kiss MY ass about this.”
Yes. If the electricity was cut off for real, then that'd mean a $35 deposit plus some money upfront from him to restore it. I basically saved him $35.
posted by dubious_dude at 10:23 AM on April 22, 2018


> Pilot as in the gas fireplace's "blue light" was lighted underneath the fireplace, and it still felt warm to the touch, but there were no flames. When I checked it looked like it was set to 1 (lowest), or pilot, not sure.

I have a gas fireplace and I leave the pilot light on all winter. It's annoying to light, so for me it's worth the few extra dollars a month for the convenience. I think this is normal behavior.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:41 AM on April 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


At the same time, I would say that a little righteous anger is useful for putting yourself in the right headspace for how you handle this. I get the sense that the overwhelming instinct is to capitulate and do whatever he asks just to avoid conflict, which is NOT what you should do. You’re not the one making it weird by not picking up his slack. If he tries to pull out the puppy dog eyes or make you feel like you’re the one leaving him in the lurch, you say, “This one’s all you, dude. You wouldn’t even have electricity right now if not for me.”

Using that bit of righteous anger to let things BE awkward is helpful for getting through that awkwardness, while not assuming responsibility for someone else’s problem. You *don’t* have to pony up and make everything better. Return that awkwardness to sender, as Captain Awkward would say.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:42 AM on April 22, 2018


I have a gas fireplace and I leave the pilot light on all winter. It's annoying to light, so for me it's worth the few extra dollars a month for the convenience. I think this is normal behavior.

Thanks. I wasn't sure, it's my first time living at a place with a gas fireplace.

Another hypothetical question... if I end up moving out, and my roommate tries to tell my landlord that I didn't pay my share of bills, etc., what recourse should I have? My fear is that my roommate will try and make me look like the bad guy to the landlord, and the landlord may try to pursue payment from me for him. I also am not sure what impact the landlord would have, if any, on my credit. He asked for a credit check, but it was a passive one, I don't believe that my rent payments are reported (I use Venmo to transfer him rent per month). Just want to know in case it gets that ugly so I can be equipped to protect myself (yes, that's what I always do).
posted by dubious_dude at 10:56 AM on April 22, 2018


Pilot as in the gas fireplace's "blue light" was lighted underneath the fireplace, and it still felt warm to the touch, but there were no flames. When I checked it looked like it was set to 1 (lowest), or pilot, not sure. He did use the fireplace a lot, though, sometimes at very high temperatures. Also, for my room, I vaguely remember seeing during winter that the themorest was showing a low temperature, and that my room wasn't warmed when it was cold outside, so my room didn't get much heat.

Right, so, I see you making your case here in case your roommate is terrible towards you about this, and that's fine, but it doesn't seem necessary yet.

Rhetorical question: is there something more enjoyable that you could be doing right now? Like going for a walk or hanging out with friends or something? That is probably a better use of your time than thinking more about this.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:56 AM on April 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


Does your lease have clauses that address utility payments? If not I don't see what your landlord has to do with it.

What you need is copies of all the years' bills and the receipts or confirmations that they've been paid, plus the check stubs or whatever record you have that you've reimbursed your roommate. If you paid in cash and didn't ask for a receipt... that's unfortunate, but it's still not clear from your description that your roommate is a bad guy such that he wouldn't be willing to write on paper or in response to an email that yes, you are indeed all paid up on the following bills.

(I'm not sure how you can go from having gotten all squared up in March to being threatened with shutoff in April, so again: you need to see and photograph the actual bills and payment confirmations for every month (or get a copy of the electronic records if that's how he pays things.)

But if the bills are in your roommate's name and your landlord is indeed out of the picture, I really don't think it's something you need to be concerned about. (But I don't live in your jurisdiction and maybe someone will have different information.)
posted by trig at 11:14 AM on April 22, 2018


The lease has this clause:

Tenant will pay all utility charges, with the exception of water, which will be paid by the landlord.
posted by dubious_dude at 11:16 AM on April 22, 2018


The bills are in his name. No one can come after you for nonpayment. Let him take the hit on this. Speak up for yourself. This is not your problem to solve.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 11:52 AM on April 22, 2018 [11 favorites]


I would try to get a copy of the utility bills from whatever period you have been giving him money for the bills (which he obviously hasn't been using to pay the bills). Confirm that you have actually paid him your half of those bills, then wash your hands of the whole deal. You could screenshot your bank statements to prove that you paid him, but even that sounds like overkill for this guy - he won't remember if you paid him or not! If you paid him your share of the money, and he elected not to use it to pay the bills... that's on him. You may never get your $240 back, but don't pay him anything for the rest of the month or month and a half you live there (just keep saying, "I'll get back to you" like he does to you) and hopefully that will bring you closer to squared away.
posted by raspberrE at 11:56 AM on April 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


The utility bills are not in your name. Pay with a check or get receipts for any payments you have made. It is customary for a copy of any utility bills to be available to you, so you know you are being charged your fair share.

Get a How To book on roommate situations, surely such a think exists? Your roommate sounds flakey and a little sneaky (I think he left the bill out so you would sort that out) but he seems within the norms. You need to learn skills! If you had the skills to advocate for yourself, this might not be freaking you out so much. Go to the library, find books on adulting and roommate best practices. Work on yourself, not the roommate.

As I understand it, you should probably VERY DISPASSIONATELY notify the landlord that you are looking for a new apartment because your roommate is a slob and has not been paying the utility bills on time. Or not. It's just stirring up drama. You might let them know to see what sorts of accommodation they can give you as far as the 30 Days notice.

Overall, you are responsible for your situation. You can and should learn adulting skills so you can advocate for yourself with your deadbeat roommate... But your roommate is HIGHLY likely to continue being a slob and not paying their bills. It is entirely appropriate for you to find a new living situation in these circumstances since your roommate is a slob that doesn't pay their bills. This is how adults handle things.

All the other stuff you are thinking about is anxiety freaking you out. I agree you should go do something enjoyable right now instead of ruminating. Go for a walk, go exercise. Go be in nature if possible. See friends. Go to the library and get those books. Take a hot shower. VACUUM!! Vacuuming is awesome for your mood.

Seriously, though. Get out outside and enjoy the day. This will work out OK. Stay calm.
posted by jbenben at 12:14 PM on April 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


The lease has this clause:

Tenant will pay all utility charges, with the exception of water, which will be paid by the landlord.


This means that the tenant is responsible for setting up an account with the utility themselves, as opposed to the landlord having an account for the entire property and acting as a go-between for the tenant.

Your roommate set up that account and bears that responsibility since it’s in his name. As far as your landlord and the utility are concerned, your obligation doesn’t even exist! You don’t owe the landlord for the use of this utility, nor do you owe the utility company. At best, you have a gentleman’s agreement with your roommate to contribute to HIS utility bill. But there is no mechanism for either the landlord or the utility to come after you for your roommate’s utility arrears.

There are some good lessons in all of this, where if you know you’re a responsible person, it benefits you to put the bills in your name so that you can be certain that they’re paid in a timely manner. And secondly if you have a flaky roommate, they have no legal obligation to pay their share unless the bill is in their name (like if they’re on the lease, it’s a joint account, whatever). If a bill was entirely in your name, and you had a flaky roommate who refused to pay their half, you would be SOL (unless you want to try small claims court and chase them down to pay the judgment if you won, huge PITA).

In this case, all the advantages are on your side because the bill isn’t in your name, you have evidence of a pre-existing agreement, and you can just pay your $30 to your roommate and walk away.
posted by Autumnheart at 12:32 PM on April 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


If you choose to continue living there I suggest just getting the electricity out in your name. If you DONT continue living there then definitely don’t.

I had a similar issue happen in college. I had been paying my roommate for electricity and internet and found out much later that these bills were not getting paid. The eventual solution was for me to just go down to the electricity office in person. I could be in charge of all the payments and also know if there was any issue because of it. It was a really simple process and basically they were happy to get the name of someone who would pay consistently.

It sounds like you may be better suited to living on your own though
posted by raccoon409 at 2:06 PM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Do NOT offer to pit the bills in your name. You do not need to be in the position of tracking down your roommate every month to get the bills paid.
posted by jbenben at 2:35 PM on April 22, 2018 [11 favorites]


Hello Dubious_Dude,

I’m as anti therapy and drugs as they come (you know, willpower should get you out of most situations et al.) but in your specific case, my sincerest advice would be to seek professional help so you can manage your anxiety.

Going from one crisis to another is really no way to live. This week it’s the unpaid electricity bill, but it’s almost certain there’s another crisis looming since your lease expires in June and you’ll be in a position to have to decide whether to renew it or move out.

I’d even print all your questions to bring to the therapist so he/she understands how exhausting it must be to be so strung up ALL THE TIME.

I wish you well!
posted by Kwadeng at 10:41 PM on April 22, 2018 [8 favorites]


I have lost count of how many AskMes you have posted over the years about your problems with various roommate situations.

You are clearly someone who needs to live alone. I think you will never be able to relax until you have total control over your home environment so that it can be somewhere you can take refuge instead of just another source of stress.

Please figure out a way to afford it (perhaps a good future AskMe topic?) and make it happen.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:42 PM on April 23, 2018 [11 favorites]


I strongly agree. Not only is it perfectly OK for some people to feel happier when they live alone, it is extremely probably that you are one of those people. Please prioritize a solo living arrangement for your own mental health.
posted by samthemander at 6:04 AM on April 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


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