Plumber got mad; threatens to not leave
September 5, 2018 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Landlord sent a plumber. Details inside. Him and I had a disagreement, and he started shouting, refuse to leave, and threatened to call the police on me. I have a recording. 1) What are my rights here and 2) how do I protect myself?

I just moved into a two-bathroom apartment in Brooklyn as a subletter. My roommate X is the lease holder.

Toilet in my roommate's bathroom has been clogged, and the landlord sent a plumber.

I was working from home in the kitchen in my PJs when the plumber came in (he had keys), and started asking me some personal questions. He's an older man. I felt uncomfortable, and I was in PJs, so I retrieved downstairs to my room. For the next hour or so I heard a lot of kitchen pots clamoring and the kitchen cupboards opening and closing. I wasn't sure what to make of it, so I texted X at work, and she asked if I could tell the plumber not to use our kitchen stuff in the bathroom.

So I went upstairs, and found that he's been using MY cooking pot to flush the toilet. This pot happens to be something that holds great personal meanings for me, and I got rather annoyed and said he should have brought his own tools. He got very indignant, and started shouting and screaming that the entire apartment is so dirty and "you live like a pig" (it is not spotless, but it is far from a pigsty).

This is when my heart started racing, and I started recording on my phone (NY is a one-party consent state). I said I don't know anything about that bathroom, and whatever is done is done, but please don't use anything else from the kitchen for the toilet. And he got very angry, and started shouting things like "I am a man! and you call yourself a lady?!"--- (I don't, incidentally, but that's beside the point)--- and complained about how dirty the kitchen is. And he shouted on and on for a while, opening kitchen drawers and cupboards, and said that he's leaving and never stepping foot in this apartment. Just before he got to the door he changed his mind, and turned back and shouted that he's a nice person. I said I'm sure he is, and then I asked him to leave. He got very angry and screamed "I will leave when I want to! I am not leaving! I am not finished!" and then proceeded to shout the likes of "who do you think you are" at me. And then he shouted racial slurs at me, and took out his phone and said he's calling the police because I am harassing him.

This is the point where I basically ran back to my room and locked the door and started crying uncontrollably.

I've sent the recording to X, who's calling the landlord right now. Meanwhile, the plumber is still in my home. I actually need to go teach a class in an hour or so, and I can't stop crying. What do I do? What should I be documenting right now if this escalates? How do I get him out of my apartment?
posted by redwaterman to Law & Government (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Also: not that my demographic status should speak for how safe or not safe I feel, but I am a 5'2" asian woman and 33yo.
posted by redwaterman at 11:18 AM on September 5, 2018

Call the police.
posted by RichardP at 11:21 AM on September 5, 2018 [61 favorites]

Jesus christ, I'm so sorry--this is terrifying and horrible. Call the police, and as you're doing it, tell him that you're doing it. Keep your phone on record to capture the call and anything that happens in the background.
posted by tapir-whorf at 11:22 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Absolutely call the police.
posted by cooker girl at 11:22 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Call 911. Do it now. There is a workman refusing to let you leave your own home and you've locked yourself in the bedroom out of fear of violence as he threatened you.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:22 AM on September 5, 2018 [21 favorites]

Please, call the police. 911. You are in an unsafe situation.
posted by anastasiav at 11:23 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Call the police! I'm so sorry this is happening to you! :(
posted by missrachael at 11:23 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm glad you're safe in your room!

How do you feel about your likely interactions with the cops? This is a white man threatening you, he's not going to get beaten or shot. If you feel like you'll be safe if you call the cops, it seems reasonable to call them - you've got someone in your apartment who has threatened you and refused to leave, and you're afraid for your safety.

Failing that, can you get some friends over there ASAP? Neighbors? Ideally male ones and/or big ones? He will almost certainly leave if a man tells him, in my experience.

Also, call your department and tell them that you can't teach (unless you have some reason to believe that this will result in grave consequences). You are in danger, you don't have to teach class.
posted by Frowner at 11:24 AM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

calling now. thanks askmefi!
posted by redwaterman at 11:25 AM on September 5, 2018 [12 favorites]

Also, please let us know you are safe, when you get a chance.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:25 AM on September 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

if you are not still on the line with the cops, have your roommate X also tell the landlord to contact the plumber and tell him to leave immediately.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:27 AM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

You can then call the Met Council on housing tenant Hotline for a deeper dive into your rights as a subletter, your right to a functioning bathroom, etc. [Disclosure: I am a former Hotline volunteer and an active organizing member.]
posted by anthropoid at 11:33 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Okay-- coast clear now: landlord immediately called the plumber and got him out. Thanks so much for the support and clear head in crisis time, mefiters!!!! ❤️❤️
posted by redwaterman at 11:37 AM on September 5, 2018 [75 favorites]

Very glad you are ok!! The landlord needs to change the locks if this guy has keys to your apartment. They will probably complain about this. Insist that they change them.
posted by corey flood at 11:43 AM on September 5, 2018 [25 favorites]

Personally, I would still call the police. Hopefully your situation is over—but if it isn't, if God forbid X leads to Y and then Z happens, then at some point you're going to be asked, "If you were so scared, why didn't you call the police?" You'd be surprised how often that question comes up. Speaking as someone who works on behalf of victims, it's helpful when I can say, "She did. Here's the incident report."
posted by cribcage at 12:09 PM on September 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

Since the plumber is gone, you can try calling the non-emergency line to file a report.
posted by acidnova at 12:14 PM on September 5, 2018 [10 favorites]

In addition to changing locks, it's more than reasonable to get the landlord to agree never to just give the keys to other people. I mean, check the tenant laws where you live, but that's insane and not normal in my experience. If it's not illegal and the landlord gives you a hard time about it, ask him if he wants to be held liable for how those people use those keys.

(And I agree that documenting this with an official report is probably a smart move.)
posted by trig at 12:19 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yep. Call the police, file a report, get landlord to change the locks.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 12:36 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

First things first: I'm so glad the plumber left.

Second things second: a college dormmate of mine (also a petite Asian woman, not much older than you) was actually killed by a contractor under very similar circumstances a few years ago, also in a large American city. Such occurrences are relatively rare, but given that, I echo everyone else's advice to file the police report, get your landlord to change the locks ASAP and to promise to never give out the keys again, tell your roommate, and GTFO until the locks are changed.

Please, both of you, find somewhere else to spend the night until the landlord changes the locks. Don't be alone there until the locks are changed.

(Third things third: ensure you have backups of your video files. Get a friend to make the backup if it's too triggery for you right now.)
posted by Pandora Kouti at 12:52 PM on September 5, 2018 [19 favorites]

In my experience, when someone behaving erratically threatens to call the cops, let them.

I'm sorry this happened to you.
posted by phunniemee at 1:56 PM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

Check your lease. If it allows you to change the locks (or one of them) on the condition that you provide the landlord with the key (not unusual), you could probably get that lock changed tonight or no later than tomorrow. If so, I would.
posted by praemunire at 1:56 PM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Very scary, just to pile on: Please do what you can to change the locks ASAP, plumber sounds unhinged and seems to think he has authority/power over you.
posted by GoblinHoney at 2:40 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

In my PERSONAL experience, cops really, really don't get "mad" or whatever if you call 911 if something or someone feels scary (caveat: I am a middle aged white woman in Seattle).

Even if it turns out to be "nothing," they want folks to call when they feel threatened so they can intervene in as efficient a manner as possible and hopefully head off negative outcomes.

(again, just my personal experience YMMV)
posted by clseace at 8:48 PM on September 5, 2018

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