Is my landlord breaching "reasonable enjoyment"?
June 10, 2024 6:45 AM   Subscribe

After living in unsafe environments my entire life, I finally have moved to a place that I thought was going to be safe. However, there are some things that have happened in the (just over) month I have been living here. Due to a history of traumatic experiences, including living experiences, resulting in anxiety/PTSD, I am not sure if I am making mountains out of molehills, or if these occurrences are actually not okay. I have a great therapist, and we are working on boundaries, and trusting my gut, but currently, I still struggle with these.

I just wanted to provide a TW re: SA, break-ins, abuse to preface.

Some history, to provide context to this question.
-I grew up with a narcissistic mother, who expected me to meet her needs, and was often explosive when I didn't. She was abusive in every way. When I was about 8, I woke up with one of her male friends standing over my bed; I wont go into details about the rest, but she accused me of making it up, or when she would acknowledge it (because the same thing happened, with the same man, to one of her friends daughters), she would blame me for not speaking up more about it. Her narcissism, and victim-blaming/gas-lighting/abuse has caused a long history of putting everyone else's needs before mine, and people-pleasing/playing "the nice girl" to save myself from others' reactivity.
-I moved out on my own as a teen. Every living scenario I have had has been unsafe, some worse than others. In 2019, I was living in a basement apt. with a friend. The upstairs tenant suffered from addiction, was selling illicit things, and having people that were unsafe over constantly. It was loud night and day, different people coming and going, approaching us. The police did nothing. Our landlord offered to move us into one of his temporary units until upstairs tenant was evicted; it is a long process. My roommate declined, and stayed with her bf. I moved in. Within the first week of living there, I woke up at 0300 to a man I had never seen standing over my bed. Thankfully my best friend had been staying with me, because I already had insomnia/fear of staying in new places. The apartment had cameras, and when the police found out who the man was, and that he had previously SA'd his own granddaughter, he did go to court, but was released.
-From there, I moved in with a classmate in a different city, as I decided to return to university, and it was all I could afford. This building had dr** dealers, police were there almost every night, domestic disputes. However, the worst part for me was that my roommate was incredibly messy (would throw garbage on the balcony instead of dumpster, would leave cat puke/poop on the floor from her cats, didn't change litter, clutter everywhere), and did not respect boundaries. She would be on me the second I got home, or if I was in a common area, she would start complaining to me for upwards of an hour, even when stating I had to go. I had set boundaries, but they were never respected. Any time I was home, I was isolated to my bedroom other than to cook dinner, because of the mess, smell, and lack of boundaries. I was in a dark place and feeling helpless. I lived there for about 3 years while in school.
-While living in this apartment, I began staying at my (now ex) boyfriend's place most of the time, and avoiding going home. The relationship was abusive, and he was struggling with addictions, which made it chaotic, but somehow it still felt safer than where I was living, because it was clean, he was gone to work most of the day, and i had my own space without noise.

Which brings us to present day. I had been looking to move as soon as I could afford to. Graduated school, began working a decent-paying job, saved as much as I could. I found this place, in the middle of nature, across from a river, and fell in love. The only caveats being that the landlords also live on the property, and that the price of rent is 40% of my income. However; the rent price was on par with anything else in my area, whether it was sketchy, or nice. It was worth it for me to pay this much in return for me having somewhere to feel safe the first time in my life. This was a place where I could finally live alone, peaceful, and the landlords seemed like a friendly, caring, older (somewhat retired?) couple.

The issues began somewhat slowly; My parents (dad & step-mom) helped me move in. The husband would interject himself in conversations, and linger around offering to help. No problem, he's just being friendly. But it would continue even after politely declining. First few weeks, any time I was walking to or from my car, he would be there. He had advised me before moving in that I would "sometimes" see him walking around the property, doing maintenance. Every time I was outside, he was there, and would begin talking to me. I do take responsibility for engaging in conversations longer than I should have, and over-sharing, as I do this as a defense mechanism. The landlords have a dog, which they know I love, so at first it seemed to just be "oh the dog heard you coming up the driveway and wanted to say hi." But then, he continues to linger as I have my hands full of bags; asks if i have more in my car, and even after politely declining help, he would begin to bring bags to my door. Again, maybe just being neighbourly.

The first time something felt quite "off", was the landlords asked if they could do a walk-through of the apartment, when I had only been there 3 weeks. They stated it was to make sure everything was in working condition/ show me where things are. Okay, no problem. I figured it would be a half-hour thing; I had plans after. It began with the wife asking the husband if he wanted to go over "his list" first, as she knows he likes to go hiking with the dog by a certain time (he takes the dog for about 4 walks a day).
He begins by questioning why i have my curtains closed most of the time, stating that I'm missing "the view." I explained that I have had some bad prior living situations, and it takes me a bit to feel comfortable (because he walks by my place over 10x a day). He makes the comment that "have you tried looking at the windows from outside with the curtains open, you can't see anything", while in the same breath saying "all you can see is the reflection of the kitchen table" (which, if you aren't looking in my windows, how would you know). I again responded, that I had some unsafe living environments, and - feeling defensive now - that I had a break in. He says "well maybe you aren't hanging out with the right people." Which stopped me dead in my tracks. The wife said nothing. He continues to go around the apartment, telling me which way to have the fans going, to leave them on at all times, and that i'm not to turn the AC below a certain temperature, and that he has control of the AC (I have my own thermostat, but I think he has the breaker in his house?) and he will turn it on when it gets warmer - this comes up again last week when it's 36 C outside and he asks me if 'i think i'll need' AC that night, me saying yes, then him giving excuses as to why it shouldn't need to be on. I pay all inclusive. This whole thing left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Other odd things that have happened in the last few weeks
-I have had a friend or my parents and nana over, and when we are outside, he will interject himself each time and linger. He uses the dog as an excuse. My patio is kind of between the units, and when I was outside with my parents and nana, he texted me "Your driving (dog's name) nuts". Which i'm assuming he was saying because the dog was at his front door, excited that he could hear me. I felt panicked, and didn't know what to do because he was standing at his front door with the dog, so I turned around and addressed them. Same thing when my friend and her daughter were over; in the backyard, taking photos of a butterfly; I hear his back door open, and he is just standing there with the dog, staring at us, waiting to be addressed.

-He gets up and moves his car at 6am every morning, from his parking spot, outside my living room window. His parking spot is maybe 20 ft away from there. He leaves the car parked there until he leaves at 730 for the first walk. His car stays parked there most of the day. I can't even guess a reason for this. He walks from his house, goes into the 'mud room', which is a shared space (my laundry room is there, his mud room, wife's office - but he has to go through his front door to get in there) every time he goes for a walk. It is a door you have to slam, so it wakes me up in the morning, and because i've insomnia from past experiences, I'm unable to get back to sleep; so i'm barely getting any sleep each night.
-He will text me throughout the week asking to take my garbage, to which I decline because he takes the garbage and empties it in a trash can in a local park, and i'm uncomfortable with him going through my garbage. We live in a rural area, so have to pay to take garbage to the dump.
-I had a male friend over from out of town last weekend, we were going for brunch and he met me here, the landlord made a comment to him along the lines of "she doesn't stop talking" and another implying that I am not very intelligent.
There are other things, but this post is already a novel.

It's gotten to the point where I am now keeping my curtains closed at all times, and trying to run to/from my car so he doesn't have time to come out to talk to me, because i'm not exaggerating when I say it is 9/10 times i exit/enter the house, he is there. I've been giving shorter responses the last few days, trying to keep it polite and professional. Even yesterday, I was leaving to meet a friend for brunch, heading to my car and I hear "there she is!" and see him coming from the garage with the dog. I said hi to the dog, hi to him, got in my car and left. My friend came back with me after brunch to hangout for a bit, we weren't even fully exited out of our cars when I see him speed-walking towards us. I thought maybe he was coming to tell her to park elsewhere? But he walks past us, says "hi how are you doing" "good thanks" and walks into his garage. We went in my apt, she watched him go into the garage, grab a tool, walk past our cars (not into his place), turn around and put the tool back in the garage, then go back to his place.

I'm tired of feeling like a prisoner in my own home. I'm changing in my closet in case he is outside and can see in. I'm waking up at every noise. I'm getting fully dressed in the morning instead of just wearing pjs because i know he is parked outside. I panic going anywhere because I know i'll be accessible. I'm getting ready in the dark in the morning in case he's in the backyard. I'm no longer sitting outside on my back deck or front step because I know he will be there.

I just need some suggestions on how to set some boundaries. Am I being paranoid and past experiences are clouding my judgement? Even if he is just a 'lonely man', I don't feel as though that's my responsibility. How do I politely set a boundary that I just want to be left alone and enjoy my space, and have privacy, when it is technically /their/ property. Moving is not an option for me right now. I'm in a year lease. I can't afford to. I'm crying myself to sleep each night, feeling defeated, isolated, and afraid; guilty like I should've known better. Frustrated, feeling like the simple answer would be to "just set boundaries", but not knowing how to ask for those things without causing problems for myself, knowing that they hold the power in this dynamic.

Thank you to anyone who reads this.
posted by hiraeth_ to Human Relations (53 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The first time something felt quite "off", was the landlords asked if they could do a walk-through of the apartment, when I had only been there 3 weeks. They stated it was to make sure everything was in working condition/ show me where things are. Okay, no problem. I figured it would be a half-hour thing; I had plans after. It began with the wife asking the husband if he wanted to go over "his list" first, as she knows he likes to go hiking with the dog by a certain time (he takes the dog for about 4 walks a day).

I'm sorry; I skimmed some of your post. For now I want to say, this is wildly unprofessional and disrespectful of your time. Plus the personal comments. You are not wrong for wanting to have boundaries with these people.
posted by BibiRose at 6:53 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]

holy crap. full disclosure I skimmed your post but what I read is absolutely bonkers. Those are not normal things for your landlord to do.

If you were in a position to move, I would recommend you do so. I understand that you are not.

First off - What are the terms of your lease? What does it say about ending the lease early, mediating disputes, filing a complaint, right to peaceable enjoyment? I would get clear on these first and foremost.

Secondly, can you do or delegate to a friend/family any research about your state or town ordinance/resources for renters? Ex. I’m in Boston and there are a number of offices and resources that can provide clarity on how renters can utilize their rights.

Additionally, if this applies, does your employer offer an EAP (employee program)? Mine have always had a free legal resource option for a 30 min consult with a real lawyer. Kind of like a pro bono Q&A. You could ask about how you could break your lease at no penalty in a case like this, or what other options you have.

Also - I definitely understand the “just set boundaries!” is way easier said than done esp. with a trauma background. That said, I think in most cases, even if you follow the above, you are most likely going to have to be extremely clear with them about adjusting the most direct and uncomfortable interactions. You maybe can’t do anything about the bizarre car thing, but the hovering and comments about your routines you can address. Hopefully someone else can chime in about how to have that convo as I need to hop offline.

Best of luck, thinking of you!
posted by seemoorglass at 6:57 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

I think this sounds super fricking annoying and inappropriate but probably not actually dangerous to you.

A substantial minority of small-time landlords are like this, especially if they live on the property. They basically still treat the rental unit like it's part of their own home and they are doing you a favor by allowing you to visit. They don't appropriately incorporate things like operating costs (for the air conditioning and trash removal) and wear and tear into their prices which leads them to routinely overstep about minor things.

This may be manageable by maintaining aggressive boundaries, which sucks to have to do in your own home! But I would be surprised if taking legal action (beyond early breaking of the lease and finding someplace else with less-annoying landlords) will help you with these people. Even if they are staying within the letter of the law they're still going to be incredibly annoying and boundary-crossing.
posted by mskyle at 7:03 AM on June 10 [35 favorites]

I went straight to your description of the current situation, because that’s all that matters rn I think.

I don’t think you’re overreacting. Their behaviour (especially his) is unacceptable. I agree with mskyle that you do hear of small-time landlords like this. They can’t get their head around the fact that the house they own is your home.

Is moving an option at all?
posted by rubbish bin night at 7:09 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

This is suffocating, regardless of anything that happened previously. Break your lease and get out and away from this man.
posted by 41swans at 7:15 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]

The landlord is a creep. I'm sorry. I think you should move when you can. If you can afford to break the lease I think you should do so.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:24 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]

I've had multiple neighbors who have been retired people who are lonely and try to get way too involved in things/are not afraid to ask nosy questions that I don't owe them answers to. I will say that with time we got used to each other's ways of interacting and they ended up being some of the best and most helpful neighbors I've ever had. However, I feel like the difference is your landlords actually might have too much control over things that are none of their business (like you running your AC) and that's a harder situation to get used to each other in.

This is just my impression of him from much less context than you have, since you're looking for perspectives: he is cheap, extremely extroverted and does not have enough emotional intelligence to think things through before he blurts out whatever is in his head/lashes out when he feels insulted. So personally, I would not feel emotionally safe around him but I don't get any major red flags about physical safety from what you say. (The window thing is a yellow flag I'd say, but kind of goes with the massively nosy thing).

I'm sorry you have had such awful experiences in the past, I would feel the same nervousness for my physical safety that you do in your shoes. I know you said you aren't able to move right now, but would it be possible to eventually save up for your own home? No one else needs a key if it's your home. I think that would really feel so much better to you. If not, maybe continuing to move around as your leases come up until you find a landlord who will be responsive when you need them to fix something but otherwise mind their own business. Asking around could be a faster way to find one of those.
posted by Eyelash at 7:29 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]

We could litigate over every detail, but if your landlord's behavior is making you uncomfortable on a recurring basis, you're almost certainly picking up on something real. I'm not sure how long you have left on your lease and how your finances are--it's probably okay to tough the term out if you can't afford to break the lease and move right now, but when it expires, you should move (and ignore all sweeteners that may be offered to stay).
posted by praemunire at 7:31 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Your landlords are a bit bonkers and I think looking for a new place is wise. I will do the PTSD breakdown for you though (bearing in mind that I am going just on information here obviously) so that you can talk some through with your therapist.

1. Finding the 'finally safe' place - I want this for you! The only lesson to take away is that small time landlords are often a bit weird and if a place is super nice but below market rent there can be reasons for it (not saying the rent was a thing here, just saying.)

2. Two much talking - I own my home and I have a neighbour like this. It sounds like a) you are handling it fine now and b) he will continue to boundary-bust on this. Being retired probably doesn't help because he has too much time to worry about your business.

3. The walk-through - I would also have a bad taste in my mouth. I would say though that the curtain interaction to me comes through as a survivor-PTSD vs. male in our society interaction. For you when he asked about the curtains it was going straight to this HUGE issue and trigger you very understandably have about men appearing over your bed. (!) For him, it might be some kind of cultural thing about air and sunshine, or any number of things.

I am NOT suggesting you said anything wrong, but your answer was addressing the first. A firm "that's how I like them" or "I avoid sunlight sometimes as it gives me headaches" would have probably shut the conversation down. Instead, for you, it became about 'please-understand-my-privacy" and for him it probably was more about some weird thing about 'my-wife-and-I-have-considered-our-tenant's-privacy.' I would put this as a slight yellow flag about him - he's kind of a know it all, and it's a bit weird, but it doesn't mean he's a creep.

But your adrenal system is all PTSD'd and so this will (understandably) have put you on high alert. You cannot look for him to address this. There are no magic words to fix it.

The A/C stuff is very typical small landlord this-is-my-property stuff; people are weirdly controlling about these things and have Ideas about when air conditioning should start, etc.

4. The lingering - notice that your language here has shifted. I absolutely believe you about the interaction and I would not want to put up with it, esp the texting about the dog. But you are describing his actions as a lot of intent. To me this says either your gut instincts or your PTSD-brain are driving and it's really up to you which you believe once you centre and calm down and everything. But it may not matter, see below.

5. The car moving/mudroom - I don't think this is the right place for you because this kind of interruption is going to keep triggering you, regardless of his intent. I wouldn't love the mudroom thing. I think this is a deal breaker.

6. Garbage - keep doing what you're doing.

7. Man this landlord is a jerk.

8. Closet/waking up/clothing/prisoner - this is your PTSD for sure, and again, could be an instinct. But you can't live like this REGARDLESS.

Diagnosis: I think this has gone past where simple boundary-setting will fix it, even if your landlord is just the kind of nosy, entitled guy that my neighbour is. This is because you share so much space, and there's a power differential.

So my view is, you don't need any further justification. If you can move, I would. From your description, I don't think you're in any danger (bearing in mind I am just some internet person.) I just don't think this is a good environment.

If you have to stay please follow up and I can give some suggestions, but I think it will be like swimming upstream to stay ahead of your triggers in this environment.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:31 AM on June 10 [19 favorites]

I just want to add that until you can move, keep managing. Stay calm, maintain your personal boundaries. Stay polite but aloof with the guy. Reject offers of inappropriate, unwanted help with a "no, thanks." Perhaps put his "helpful" tendencies to work by saying that the door needing to slam should be fixed because it wakes you up, and if he could sort that out it would be helpful.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:36 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]

Best answer: What is the wife up to during all this? Do you have a cordial relationship with her? Sometimes with long term couples like this the wife is the one who is much better able to communicate and work with others, and can be a sort of interface between you and the husband. Can you maybe talk to her, particularly about the door banging in the mornings because that is a more run of the mill shared living space issue. If working with her produces a good result, you might be able to address some of the other nonsense.

I think that your fears about being looked in on are reasonable considering your backstory but it’s unlikely that anyone is going to lengths to get through your closed curtains. If you have the money you might invest in some very opaque roller shades, since those won’t as easily get displaced by accident - if you get ones with white on the back they can do a great job to help insulate your space and keep it cool, which you could use as an explanation if your nosy landlord asks. It definitely sucks though that you can’t enjoy the view, and you feel so trapped.

I think it’s a combination of being repeatedly triggered and this guy being legitimately problematic. I would worry about him too, because I’m old enough that just statistically I’ve known enough creepy dudes. I don’t think you should ignore or repress the fear you feel, but I do think that it is not the extreme danger that you have experienced before. Again, if you can speak with the wife, let her know he makes you uncomfortable and needs to accept your need for privacy at home, she may be able to rein him in. It’s shitty that it’s ever the responsibility of a woman to control asshole men, but we work with what we can in a given situation. This is of course assuming that the wife is not also an asshole.

Do you have a friend who might be able to stay with you for a few days to help you come down from your super heightened state of anxiety? Or maybe you could spend a weekend at their place? Your lack of sleep is undoubtedly contributing to everything and I think if you can get some good rest and reclaim some feeling of immediate safety it would really help you to navigate the difficult conversations ahead of you. Also definitely check if your job provides any resources you could use.

Please remember that it’s amazing how much you’ve accomplished already and all that you have had to endure. To me it sounds like what might be best for you is a big commercially owned apartment building with good security and a unit on a higher floor. Reliable maintenance, utilities clearly explained and provided, a manager in an office or a doorman, an expectation of leaving neighbors alone and maintaining privacy. Keep an ear to the ground and an eye open to look for a place like that, even if you can’t get out of your lease right now. Sometimes having a plan for the future is what can get you through the indignities of the present.
posted by Mizu at 7:37 AM on June 10 [11 favorites]

Reject offers of inappropriate, unwanted help with a "no, thanks."

I would add to this - when possible (e.g. if offers come in a text) it's OK to just completely ignore this stuff.
posted by mskyle at 7:38 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]

I agree with mskyle - he sounds annoying, but most likely harmless. I do think you past experience is impacting how you're reacting - for example, doing a walk-through after moving in is pretty standard in my experience, and I also once had a landlord who instructed me how best to use the fans for temperature control in different seasons, wanted to watch us turn on the gas heaters, etc. I have also had landlords where they paid all utilities but then were weird about it. I get why the curtains comments would bother you, but it's entirely possible he thinks he's just being helpful.

In short, your landlord situation isn't great, but I'd try to approach it as a nosy neighbor problem more than a safety problem. I also don't think you have any legal standing here. You could ask for a sit down meeting with him and his wife, perhaps with a friend/parent to support you. I think it would be reasonable to ask them if they could make an effort to give you more privacy - "I know you're just trying to be friendly, but I really would prefer to be left alone. I can also manage garbage on my own and would prefer you to only text me in an emergency situation." If he texts you non-emergency stuff in the future, just ignore it. I think it would be reasonable to bring up that the door slamming is waking you up - can he adjust his routine a bit to prevent that?
posted by coffeecat at 7:44 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I think that’s what is going on is they are small time landlords who have had a bad tenant in the past, and also don’t really understand their legal obligations as landlords. People do really weird things to apartments sometimes and they are probably afraid of that. However from my own experience small time landlords and PTSD just don’t mix.

The thing about wanting your curtains open - they want to see in your house not for prurient reasons but just to see that you are taking care of the place. That’s also why they wanted to come in three weeks after you moved in.

They also view this as more akin to a house share than a pure rental situation. They want you to be friendly and “neighborly” because that makes them feel more like they’re doing a nice thing for this nice person and less like the landlords they are. The “caring” part of this is acting up - they want to have a vaguely parental relationship to you. You do not want this. Unfortunately there is no socially appropriate way to navigate this that won’t leave them hurt, and hurt landlords often do stupid and even more annoying things.

The AC and trash thing are because he is frugal. In his mind, he sees dumping in the trash can in the park as cost saving, and would feel bad if he didn’t offer to you as well. He doesn’t understand why you don’t want to do it and there is no way you can explain it without insulting him. The AC thing is absolutely frugal dad energy from someone who is not your dad.

Your PTSD is likely going off like a alarm bell not because actual danger but because the intrusiveness doesn’t allow you time to feel safe and have a place to retreat to - mine would be similarly in your situation. But I do think you are safe here, so I wouldn’t move unless it was to somewhere equally safe but better otherwise.
posted by corb at 8:14 AM on June 10 [23 favorites]

Chiming in to say that as someone without PTSD I would find this super annoying but not threatening. My partner currently lives in a very small building with his landlords downstairs and they very much have a vibe of wanting to be roommates/buddies/grandparents?? with everyone in the building. A lot of stuff like this goes on. They've lived in/owned the building for like 45 years and have a lot of FEELINGS about it, and also a lot of what John Hodgman would call Weird Dad Systems in place.

I agree with everyone above though that this doesn't sound like a place YOU can be happy, even though it's probably objectively quite safe. But since you say you cannot move, some thoughts:

not knowing how to ask for those things without causing problems for myself, knowing that they hold the power in this dynamic.

Boundaries are not something you ask for; they are how you respond to behaviors. Setting boundaries in this situation might mean, for example, deciding how you will reply to any comments about your curtains being closed and then sticking to that reply, even when your body starts to make you feel like you should get defensive or start fawning etc. "I have things arranged how I like them, thanks!" and just repeat as needed. "Hi, how are you! Gotta go" and then going. "No thanks, you can leave those groceries there."

The second part of setting boundaries is that when people persist past your stated wishes you have to actually hold them which will feel rude at first. (And certainly women are held to a higher standard in this regard, and expected to cave or fawn rather than Be Rude.) So if he keeps bringing bags to your door you will have to repeat, No, please leave those in the car. If he keeps talking you will have to repeat, sorry, I have to go, and get in your car.

This is hard and will feel uncomfortable but it will almost certainly not have actual repercussions for you; your landlord may think "hmph well SHE isn't very friendly" but that's not a repercussion. He is as bound by the lease as you are! He cannot just kick you out legally overnight because he doesn't think you're his friend. I think your past experiences have taught you to believe that you need everyone to like you or you're in danger. However that is no longer true. You don't need him to like you to be safe. They have power but also responsibility, basically. And you PAY them, so you actually don't have zero power yourself.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:45 AM on June 10 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi guys! First off - can someone tell me how i respond to comments on here, this is my first post. I see your comments and am so appreciative.

I just wanted to add a couple additional points
-They are/were both realtors/brokers, so know tenancy agreements well,
-Although they have a 'no pets' clause in the lease, which is not legal. i've thought about getting a dog for protection, but afraid if the dog were to bark, they would claim 'reasonable enjoyment'
-they have made suggestions? that, since we are on a well, to limit my shower time, and even set out rules about the laundry - keep the washer door open after completing a load, removing the compartment where the detergent goes after completing a load, empty the water out, etc. But the shower comment causes additional anxiety, as I used to get yelled at as a child for leaving lights on, running water too long, etc.
-I have a great therapist, and am waiting to speak to her, however she is off for a few weeks
-I've tried speaking to friends and family, but at this point feel guilty like i'm a broken record; people just suggest to move, or "maybe he is just lonely" since they have not been through similar things
posted by hiraeth_ at 8:51 AM on June 10

Response by poster: Last addition, promise :p
-I pay all inclusive. I've always been a good tenant; I don't party, don't have loud guests over, park in my own spot, and am very clean.
-My friend had a great suggestion yesterday; i had to switch phone providers yesterday, because we live so close to the border, the provider I was with had 0 service, because it would only connect to american towers. I had to get a new number as well. She mentioned asking the landlords if we could do email communication going forward, because maybe that would keep them from messaging me constantly. So I sent an email stating that I was having issues with my phone, and would prefer to communicate via email going forward. The wife has sent me 3 emails since then (less than 24 hours), asking if i have tried contacting my provider, if i have my data roaming on, etc. I have only responded twice, just continuing to be polite by stating "yes, i have, email is the best communication for me going forward." Because i suck at boundaries, and don't feel comfortable saying "I want to keep a paper trail because all these weird requests have not been made in writing."
-I work from home part of the time; i'm an RN and i do in home assessments with patients, but otherwise i'm at home doing the admin stuff. They rarely leave the house, other than the husband taking the dog for walks.
posted by hiraeth_ at 9:00 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

First off - can someone tell me how i respond to comments on here, this is my first post. I see your comments and am so appreciative.

AskMeFi actually discourages responses/back-and-forth - it's more of a "ask your question, then take what you find useful" kind of situation.
posted by mskyle at 9:13 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

If it's in your budget--could you offer to kick in an extra $X per month in order to cover some of the frugality issues so he'll leave you alone about them? (I agree about moving if/when possible)
posted by rivenwanderer at 9:13 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

can someone tell me how i respond to comments on here, this is my first post. I see your comments and am so appreciative.

Generally you respond with two things: clarifications or answers to information questions, and once things have been resolved, with an update on how things went. Welcome!
posted by corb at 9:16 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

So many others have made good suggestions this feels minor, but here goes: when you take out your groceries, lock the car. Walk away, because you've got to get frozen stuff in the freezer. I hope somewhere between a breezy "no thanks, I'm good!" and an icy "I've got it covered" combined with turning on your heel, he gets the drift. But lock your car.
posted by kate4914 at 9:19 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @rubbish bin night
Totally fair, it's a long post; the bit before the current situation just offers some context as to why my fear may be heightened.
Unfortunately, moving is not an option. I pay 40% of my income to live here. I had to pay first and last. With the rental market being how it is, what I am paying would only allow me to move back to a basement apartment, sketchy apartment, or roommate situation, which takes me back to square one
posted by hiraeth_ at 9:20 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

You don't owe people explanations. That just gives them something to argue against. The best answer to the curtain question would be "I like it that way" with a smile.
posted by wheatlets at 9:27 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: @warriorqueen Thank you so much for hearing me and taking the time to respond. This was really helpful.
The rent isn't below market value, but I totally understand that point! They had one tenant previous to me, and have said she was never home/often at her partner's, and how they appreciate having someone living here.

"But your adrenal system is all PTSD'd"
You hit the nail on the head. I think so many things have happened in such quick succession that I have not been able to get out of fight or flight the last few weeks, and am viewing everything out of 'protect your safety at all costs' lens. Same with the dog/lingering comment. My anxiety is so heightened that i can no longer differentiate between a normal action or a threatening one.

Unfortunately it is not an option to move. I am paying 40% of my income, in a year lease. I had saved up as much as I could from previous paycheques to be able to afford a 'safe space.' With what I make, 40% of my income is on par with other rentals, however, those only include roommate situations, basement apartments, on unsafe buildings, which I do not think I can go back to doing, which is why i feel so stuck, hopeless, and like i'm hanging on by a thread. I would love any suggestions you have. I am thinking an outdoor security camera would bring me some peace, but afraid that drilling holes for the brackets could be considered 'damage'. They've stated no pets, which I know isn't legal in my province, but I am afraid that if i were to get a dog for protection, they could claim interfering with reasonable enjoyment if the dog were to bark. They have keys to my door/the passcode, which is part of the reason i'm on high alert/unable to relax or sleep at night. I know this is legal for landlords, and that most likely what has happened in the past wouldn't happen again, but the man who broke into my apt a few years ago got in by someone giving him the passcode to my door.
posted by hiraeth_ at 9:34 AM on June 10

This sounds to me like a landlord being overly social and pushy instead of just having a business relationship with you. You are OK to be annoyed by this - I would be too - but I do not think they are trying to harm you.

I think you are either going to do work to firmly and politely set boundaries (eg keeping convos to a length you are OK with, giving simple and boring answers to questions about curtains), keep putting up with this until you tear your hair out, or find another place.
posted by zippy at 9:36 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Large, confident male with PTSD here.

While I’m not seeing signs of physical danger, the situation you describe would be absolutely intolerable. You are being forced to accept regular invasions of your physical and psychic space. You are not going to feel safe in those conditions.

While not as bad as your previous situations, this situation is going to wear you down. You don’t need this grief right now and it Does Not Matter if the landlord is within his rights or not.

(Well, as a practical issue of moving out it may matter, but emotionally his rights or motivations are a sideshow. You are what matters.)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:44 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]

I have only responded twice, just continuing to be polite by stating "yes, i have, email is the best communication for me going forward." Because i suck at boundaries, and don't feel comfortable saying "I want to keep a paper trail because all these weird requests have not been made in writing."

You can just say you're preferred communication is email without giving a reason. If they press you, you can say "I like being able to look back on correspondence as a memory aide, and I find email less disruptive to my attention."

Since it sounds like part of the problem is also the number of times they contact you per week, I think you can ask "Hi, unless it's an emergency can we please keep all correspondence to a weekly email? I find this helps me stay organized - the weekend [or whatever] would be great, as that is when work allows me to have the time to deal with household management."

I am thinking an outdoor security camera would bring me some peace, but afraid that drilling holes for the brackets could be considered 'damage'.

This is a reasonable thing to ask them about.

They have keys to my door/the passcode, which is part of the reason i'm on high alert/unable to relax or sleep at night.

A basic door-stopper wedge is cheap and easy to use.

-they have made suggestions? that, since we are on a well, to limit my shower time, and even set out rules about the laundry - keep the washer door open after completing a load, removing the compartment where the detergent goes after completing a load, empty the water out, etc.

If these minor details are not in your lease you don't have to follow them, legally speaking. Obviously if they are easy enough to do, why not do so to keep on friendly terms, but with the shower if it's not in the lease I'd just smile and say "Ok, will do!" but not worry about it.
posted by coffeecat at 10:07 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]

It might help to be more neighbourly, but on your own terms. Bring them baked goods once in a blue moon, go over and chat with them once in a while, but the rest of the time don't stop to chat. Smile, act happy to see them, and say you're busy/on the way to do something/gotta go.

If they keep chatting after that, repeat that you need to go and leave. If he's standing there waiting to be addressed, ignore him. If he interjects into a private conversation, acknowledge him long enough to say hello and then turn your backs to him and keep talking. If you're sitting on your front steps, say hello and then tell him you want some quiet time to yourself or turn away and focus on your phone/book/put on headphones/whatever.

The key is to seem pleasant and not defensive when you do these things, which will be a lot easier once you fully internalize that you have the right to do them.
posted by wheatlets at 10:07 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]

This is a comedy of errors where there are good intentions all around but a mismatch of communication styles. Right now you're all locked in a spiral where the more anxious and avoident you are, the more anxious and intrusive they get. My hope for you all is to get over this awkward initial phase and chuckle over it later someday.

You mentioned that oversharing is a defense mechanism. This probably activated their "protect and teach" mode. To stop that, you'll have to tip the balance the other way. Listen when they share their problems, and then put the focus on those ("how's your back? try some ice. see you later!") Engage in some care-taking behaviors ("Here's some blueberries. They have antioxidants and fiber. Gotta take care of your health!") For the car and the groceries, say "this is my arm workout! I need it." then flip it "you don't have a hat on. you gotta wear your sunscreen. it's so important."

Right now you're big unknowns to each other. They need reassurance that the house won't burn down, take on water damage, get an ant or rodent infestation, or get raided by the police. You know these are unfounded fears, but they don't. If you avoid them, they will get more anxious. Take it as a mission to allay their fears while shaping the relationship to your own needs.

They were trying to be polite about communicating expectations by not assuming you knew nothing. So they went with observing from the side and only correcting what you didn't seem to know. This was stupid and annoying. It would have been better for them to just tell you everything up front. Unfortunately, it felt like surveillance and control to you. They didn't know any better. Forgive them for that.
posted by dum spiro spero at 10:28 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Thanks for the follow-up.

I think the attempts you are making (dog, security camera) are still solutions being found by your very smart Tiger Survival System and are still assuming there is a tiger.* They are responses to an actual threat from the landlord, and not a response designed to calm down your fight or flight system. (Although petting a dog can help.)

I would suggest the following:

- remind yourself that you are not helpless - you can drive away or go stay with a friend if you need to.

- burn off adrenaline by exercising or going for walks or head out to the library and read a pleasant book there for an hour. Go see a movie. Staying at home scared is not actually helping anything; it's keeping you in the fight or flight state of mind.

- if you need or want blackout curtains, you can get them...but you can also remind yourself that if you are living your life in your apartment, with or without curtains, that's okay. There is a big difference between someone accidentally looking in while you are sipping your morning coffee, and a molester coming into your room to look at you. I sometimes catch glimpses of what's on my neighbour's televisions or see their kids jumping on their couches and there's nothing bad happening.

- I hear you on the issue you had before. Given that, maybe something like a the aforementioned door wedge or a door security alarm (the kind that hangs from the doorknob) would give you some assurance.

But again, I'd be careful about feeding the tiger protection system. You are spending a lot of time on addressing its assumptions and it doesn't sound like a lot of time caring for yourself and creating fun and pleasant experiences to help your system settle back down.

* I recommend thinking about completing the stress cycle, although while you're right in the throes of past-based PTSD it probably will take more time than that.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:36 AM on June 10 [11 favorites]

This is really tough, and I wish you the best. I wanted to speak to a few things: the washer and a possible dog

keep the washer door open after completing a load, removing the compartment where the detergent goes after completing a load, empty the water out
It sounds like you share laundry, which is a difficult situation. If it's a front loading washer, leaving the door open might be because they've had mold problems in the past with the door closed. This is something we have had to get ourselves in the habit of doing at my house too. I agree with others who are saying that this sounds like a situation where the landlords think of this as a houseshare more than they think of themselves as landlords, and they are probably fussing at you over the things the previous tenant did "wrong" in their estimate.

if i were to get a dog for protection
I really want to discourage you from getting a dog, especially for protection, especially if you aren't a very experienced dog person. I am a huge dog lover. However, having a dog will give you a lot less flexibility and might make it harder to find a suitable new situation. Also, a dog that sees the neighbors all the time will probably think of the neighbors as friendly folks -- or, the dog will bark anytime they see them. Both won't get you what you want. And, again, while I adore dogs, they are a huge responsibility.

More generally, you said that you work from home often. Is there any way you could take a few days and work out of a coffee shop or library or friend's house? I wonder if being away from home for a few days might help your nervous system settle down a bit.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:54 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]

Window - Here is a lovely window privacy film that looks like stained glass. It's probably a good idea to tell your landlords, proactively, when you install it a) how excited you are to decorate the place, and b) how amazing it is that it just attaches with static cling, and used no adhesive.

Alone time

Idea for a communication strategy:
  • I'm an introvert and it's been a thing my whole life
  • I have to be a super-extrovert at work
  • It's exhausting - really exhausting
  • I *have* to recover and have time without human interaction
  • If I don't someone could literally die
  • What do you think is the best way for me to let you know when I need to not interact?
  • Have these conversations separately with the husband (maybe first) and wife (and report how the conversation went with the husband, and ask _her_ if she has additional advice for not hurting his feelings but making sure you can really have the privacy you need).

Explain that you are an introvert and need a lot of time where you don't interact with people (even waving or gesturing, because they use the same parts of the brain). Also explain that your job requires you to not only talk to people constantly, but in situations where they are stressed and you absolutely have to be kind, process every stressed comment through a "they are sick or in pain" mental process, and also constantly take in details from their words and appearance, remember them over a long period of time, and synthesize all that into decisions that, over time, can literally be the difference between life and death. So, the human interaction part of your brain is absolutely exhausted most of the time when you're not working, and even more if you happen to be working at home.

Then _ask them_, each individually, what is the best way for you to signal to them when you really need to be not spoken to or interacted with. Tell them you know this is unusual, but the demands of your job, combined with the fact that you are an introvert (plus, perhaps, unspecified other life stresses), mean that _if you don't have this time to just focus on your own, be alone, and feel like nobody needs you to even say "hi" or wave, the accumulated stress could lead to you making mistakes at work and causing harm to someone's health, even perhaps a child.

This will work even better if you can preface the whole discussion with stories/examples -- without violating HIPAA obviously -- of sympathetic-sounding patients who you helped or who would have really been in trouble if you forgot to wash your hands or if you hadn't narrowly averted that medication mix-up, or even a true story about a different hospital that had a large fatality rate due to nurse errors.

The car at 6 AM thing
  • Compliment him on being an early riser and taking such good care of his dog
  • All dogs should have that much attention and activity - it's a shame not everyone can do that, but you are really happy knowing that [dog name] is having a really good life.
  • By the way, is that why you move your car every morning at 6 AM? Are you doing dog training at your usual parking space or ... I know that's probably not it, but I just hear the car being moved every morning bright and early and it would help to know what's up. What ambitious activity are you doing that makes you move the car?
  • Thank him for the information. End conversation unless he starts asking you questions.
Later - one or two days later:
  • Thank him for telling you the reason the car is being moved.
  • Tell him that you understand that changing that routine will be a huge imposition on him, because [explain in a way that incorporates the info he gave you], and also of course it's his property and he's probably used to doing what he needs to do however he wants, which is normal, of course.
  • Return to the theme of you needing quiet, respite, and solitude in order for people to not die.
  • Whatever his goal is in moving the car, ask him if, as a favor, he might consider just thinking about whether he could [flush the carbeurator | scare away snakes | train his dog to be a good car passenger | whatever] in a slightly adjusted way so that when you go to work to help kids with cancer, you are less likely to have to insert an IV needle multiple times into a sweet 6-year-old girl who is also a cancer survivor (whatever realistic example you have) and/or less likely to forget to wash your hands after changing someone's catheter.
  • "It wouldn't be such a big deal except I'm one of those people who doesn't naturally sleep in, so when I hear a car engine at 6 AM my body wants to get to work immediately -- but I really, really need that extra 2 hours' sleep. It's important for work, of course, but also for me to be able to have a good life in general and be happy."

posted by amtho at 11:20 AM on June 10 [7 favorites]

A lot of this behavior reminds me of things my landlord (and his late building manager, RIP) would try to micromanage. At first I got endless questions about the trash and recycling and their composition, and sometimes the building manager would even dig through it until I started knotting the bag ties like six times. They were trying to avoid getting fined for improper stuff in the recycling and trash, because they did get fined soon after I moved in—from what I learned later, it's due to corrupt trash companies in this area trying to find reasons to charge fines, not so much about me. Also somehow pizza boxes are recyclable here now. It sounds like that's what your landlord is trying to avoid, too, getting charged for trash. But yeah, micromanaging the trash is still super invasive and obnoxious.

And yeah, early on my landlord tried to schedule some incredibly invasive things (like randomly having construction workers come in to remove the bars from the windows while I was out of town) that I said no, absolutely not to—and then the pandemic hit, so they never revisited them. I get why they might have wanted to do that, as I think the landlord is trying to do things to fix up the property and improve its value, but that wasn't a good way to approach the conversation from his end. I think sometimes he sees the potential to get a deal on something and takes it—that's led to suboptimal outcomes, such as how he continues to hire a cheap plumbing company that leaves a mess and gets my stuff dirty when they come to unstop the drains, which has led me to just never message him about slow drains and try to address it myself.

I actually only got some things that had been broken since the early pandemic fixed in the last few months, because I finally felt safer to mention that they were broken and work with the landlord to appropriately schedule a contractor. (Of course something else broke since then, and I'm not sure when it will be fixed, but I'm also not really pushing to have him back in my space.) But since I said no to that big ask, citing city regulations re: notice for entering the apartment, and complained the time I found out at the last minute that they'd have drones outside (to look at the roof, but it could've also let them look into the apartment), they've been a bit better about giving me notice of things. It could definitely help to read up on rental law in your area to have a better sense of your rights (though it sounds like you already have a good idea of some of it!), so you know when to push back and when it isn't relevant. In a weird way, I think my landlord respected that I'd taken the time to educate myself on the relevant laws, as he's kind of legalistic and likes to do things "by the book" himself.

Re: the no pets clause, it's possible that's so you don't get a pet that their dog reacts to, because they would have to deal with the barking all the time if so. In my building, we are allowed to have cats, but not dogs, I think because the building manager used to have dogs and they would react to other dogs. I did grow to appreciate his dogs, as they were like an early warning system when anyone was approaching the property, so I always knew when deliveries were arriving or if anything weird was going on. They might use their dog that way too.

Re: micromanaging water use, yeah, there's been so much weirdness about the old pipes and water usage here too. Classic small-time landlord stuff, but at the same time, there might be reasons for some of it. I also got micromanaged on how long showers were as a kid, so I always chafe against restrictions or questions about shower length too. But this building has old pipes and in the half decade I've been here, the pipes have had all kinds of issues, like showers that went on too long mysteriously causing water to back up and leak out of pipe junctures into the ceiling of the bathroom in the unit downstairs. Apparently landlords also use water usage as a way to catch whether the occupants are doing anything potentially illicit, like subletting or using a washing machine in unit, an idea they probably get from a landlord newsletter. That's annoying, but at the same time, I and others I know have had upstairs neighbors who caused backups in the pipes due to lint from laundry, so it's not an unfounded concern. In your case, maybe there really is a potential issue with using water from the well faster than it's replenished from underground aquifers, or something... Maybe it can lead to drawing in water that isn't as clear? If they bring it up again, it might be a thing to gently ask more questions about to better understand the actual potential issue.

And yeah, I don't control my own heating situation either. Thankfully I do have control over the AC, but when the AC that came with the unit died last summer, I had to use a portable AC for a while, and it was a whole saga trying to get the landlord to replace it and get it installed. But that's also a suggestion: I know money is tight, but could you save up and get a portable AC (or see if you can buy one with installment payments online) so you have more control over the temperature? I can also imagine that they might ask a ton of questions about a big box like that, so maybe it's something you could get a friend to help you bring in at night. (This might be a nonstarter, but it's something to think about, how you can have more comfort in your own space.)

But yeah, for me, eventually I stayed long enough that the late building manager and the landlord somewhat relaxed and started to treat me like a partner in keeping the building in good shape. (It took a realization of his own mortality for the building manager to relax, sadly.) But the landlord still lurks around sometimes and asks the current building manager questions about my friends who come around to visit—while we have a cordial relationship, and I've tried to be friendly to keep that the case, it's also true that he's still a busybody. There's a lot to be said for the "wave and keep moving" treatment, but it will also probably just take a little time for them to relax.
posted by limeonaire at 11:31 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

You mentioned that oversharing is a defense mechanism. This probably activated their "protect and teach" mode. To stop that, you'll have to tip the balance the other way. Listen when they share their problems, and then put the focus on those ("how's your back? try some ice. see you later!") Engage in some care-taking behaviors ("Here's some blueberries. They have antioxidants and fiber. Gotta take care of your health!") For the car and the groceries, say "this is my arm workout! I need it." then flip it "you don't have a hat on. you gotta wear your sunscreen. it's so important."

This is really great. It can (in theory) accomplish a lot both overtly and subtly. The overt is you effectively saying 'no thank you please' and attempting to keep them at arms-length. By turning it around and centering it back on them, it doesn't given them any insight (ammunition) on you.
The subtle is that by turning it back on them with care-taking, they will get a sense of personal engagement rather than explicit rejection and/or worry for your underlying reasons for rejecting their help, and feel like you're interested in them and invested in their ongoing well-being (and therefore not a sociopath).

In addition to sort of monitoring what you're up to, his time out in front of the house as well as the multiple walks around the neighborhood could be him monitoring what the neighbors are doing/what is going on in the neighborhood in general. It's real Edna Kravitz energy and creepy but from a different sort of place.

I would expect that some of the monitoring to calm as you get used to one another.

It does sound like they're looking for a more personal relationship with their tenant than you signed up for, and probably more than is reasonable/acceptable/strictly legal, in general.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:43 AM on June 10 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Gosh, I wonder why the last tenant spent all her time elsewhere. Those landlords would drive me up the wall.

One thought, the dog is learning that every time it hears you, they go outside and play! No wonder it is alerting Landlord every time you are outside. Maybe point that out and ask that they stop reinforcing the Tenant Outside = Dog Outside connection. Maybe at least they'd stop texting you about the dog's reactions, if there's a thing they should be doing about that that isn't bothering you.
posted by mersen at 11:51 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]

Ooo, good call. To add to that, it's going to take the dog time to get used to the way you sound vs. others sound, and realize that your sounds and scents are normal in his realm. (That's one reason why my landlord prefers longer tenancy, apparently, because it made life easier for the late building manager's dogs.) So if he tells you that the dog is going nuts because you're outside or have friends over, that's not your responsibility to handle, but it could be good to mention something like mersen suggests. E.g., "Oh yeah, I bet he's still getting used to having me around! He probably wants to play since we played last time. My friend doesn't want to play with the dog right now, though. We probably shouldn't reinforce the connection between me being outside and playtime, so he doesn't bother you every time I'm outside." Bonus: "As we were talking about, I'm trying to take your advice and get more fresh air!"
posted by limeonaire at 12:08 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I can’t agree at all with the recommendations to engage more, engage in a different way, or be more friendly. This will just invite more interaction. Some of these techniques might be useful to some people, but it doesn’t sound like you are that person.

I suggest you read up on the ‘gray rock’ technique. This technique is for situations when you don’t want to antagonize the person you are dealing with but you want them to leave you alone. You will minimize any ‘reward’ they are getting (either positive or negative) from you by giving them as little reaction as possible. You can select and store up a short list of responses and deploy them as necessary. Some examples:

LL tells you to do something with your curtains, washer, thermostat.
You: ‘Thank you for your suggestion’.
LL repeats more emphatically.
You: ‘I’ll keep that in mind” or
You: Silence

LL comes out and stares at you or wanders around.
You: Can I help you, Bob?

LL asks if he can do that thing for you or if you want that other thing:
You: no thanks, or
You: now is not a good time, or
You: I’ve got it

LL argues with something you request:
You: That’s just the way I prefer it.

LL starts moving your stuff after you say no:
You: please don’t touch my things.
LL: but it’s fine because I’m only helping
You: that’s just the way I prefer it.
LL: but it’s fine because the sky is blue today
You: that’s just the way I prefer it.

LL texts you about anything that’s not an emergency.
You: ignore it

LL complains that you didn’t answer his text
You: sorry. Blank stare.

LL starts talking about his life
You: Good luck with that. Sorry, I have an appointment.
LL: what appointment
You: it’s not important
LL: But what is it
You: it’s not important.
LL: But what is it
You: gotta go!

A key component of this is to practice having a bland expression and a level tone of voice. This man might as well be reciting the phone book for all that this interests you. You aren’t rude or abrupt, you just don’t participate in any back and forth. You don’t give them any information that they don’t urgently need to have so there’s nothing to talk about.

Good luck. I’m sorry you have to deal with this.
posted by bq at 12:22 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]

If it helps to reframe things, the reason the rent is all inclusive is because it would be difficult and costly to add a separate meter to your electricity and water. Much as it would be nice to simply have a separate meter, that's just how the house was built.
posted by dum spiro spero at 12:26 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]

Best answer: bq makes a very good point, and those are great examples and because they're so good I am compelled to add a clarification to my comment: I'm inherently more chatty than most, and a extreme people-pleaser (yay trauma responses) and so the idea of reframing the interactions and/or choosing the terms of the interactions appeals to me. But, my trauma is not your trauma and you are not me. You don't owe anyone engagement/interaction/validation, and like the laminated card in the seat back says, you put on your own oxygen mask first before anyone else's.

I was also working on a good-faith assumption (which could easily be wrong) that the interactions you've been having would settle over time as you get used to each other and not escalate. This is a big assumption and I want to acknowledge that.
posted by ApathyGirl at 12:48 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]

BTW if you do try the 'ask them how to indicate you need more time without interacting' approach, be clear that:

- you don't mean on an incident-by-incident basis. You need to be able to signal one time, or in one way, that you need to be without human interaction for multiple days at a time

- Being approached, or seen, or spoken to and then having to say no or disappear or even indicate in any way -- this is not the same as not having interaction. Saying no in the moment, or even having to do something that might seem unfriendly like staying silent or not answering -- these are unavoidable hard on you and on them and on the relationship. So what you really need to do is avoid you and them being in that position at all.

- Being able to avoid those little mini - interaction situations is why people are willing to pay more to have their own place instead of being housemates or roommates (this applies to having to negotiate over water usage and air conditioning usage - people need to be left alone to make those kinds of decisions when and where and how they want, so they can spend most of their time living, doing demanding jobs, and making _other_ decisions).
posted by amtho at 1:23 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]

You don't need a multi-bullet point list or plan. Just move, girl! You learned something about living with nosy homeowners. Don't feel back about it being another in a series of bad living situations. Because you're just living through the whole variety of well known tales about renting: The Sketchy One, the One with the Filthy Roommate, the One with the Clingy Roommate, and now, the One with the Creepy/Annoying Homeowner.

To quote Paul Simon ...

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don't need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don't need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free
posted by haptic_avenger at 1:24 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I notice that in your question you ask (paraphrased) whether you ought to be setting some boundaries or past experiences are clouding your judgement. I think it's actually neither, or possibly both.

You've had several unpleasant and legitimately scary experiences. Because of that, some things which would be fine for other people are affecting you deeply and badly and are making this living situation untenable.

Do you need to set boundaries? Perhaps you will, but you can start by deciding what changes you would want (such as the switch to e-mail communication, that's a great move) and communicating clearly that that is your preference. Can you go over the various issues one-by-one (perhaps with the help of that same friend?) and figure out what you'd like to ask for?

Is your judgement clouded? To some extent, I think it is - the landlord does not appear nefarious to me. However, that absolutely does not mean you are doomed to feel a prisoner in your own home! Your fears may not be (entirely) rational, but the fear and discomfort is still there and it's okay to ask others to make adjustments. Those adjustments might be inconvenient to them, and that too is okay: it's a way for some of the burden of your past to be shared by the community. (Whether they're aware of the background or not.)
posted by demi-octopus at 1:50 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

When I had a landlord like this I broke my lease and moved, and I made sure the apartment I was moving into was managed by a corporation. I still have issues from that landlord, and it’s been 17 years.

I own my home now, and my experience with the creepy landlord was why I decided to buy. I never want to rent again, but if I had to, I would never EVER rent from an individual, only a corporation.
posted by Violet Hour at 12:00 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, you have PTSD. Yes, they're bad landlords. Both things are true.

You're not sure if they're retired, or somewhat retired?
He thinks he is hard at work 'managing' their property, and she's glad he has an engaging hobby close to home.

Your ["friendly, caring, older" experienced "realtors/brokers"] landlord couple rented to you (excellent rental history; R.N.; quiet, polite, young) to micromanage. You don't warrant this level of surveillance, no matter how close the dwellings sit. Yes, the constant bids for interaction, curtain arrangement criticism, text barrage over established garbage-removal preferences, all of it, is inappropriate, and they're savvy enough to know that. This is their desired dynamic, because JFC if you're a landlord living in the boonies and you choose to rent to a young, single woman, on-site, you make concerted efforts to respect her privacy and avoid even the appearance of odd stalker-y behavior. Please re-read your lease, and consult your local tenants-rights association.

This is a suggestion which requires drawing on your community resources, because at this moment you are terrified and crying yourself to sleep every night.

Is your dad close in age to your male landlord? If you're comfortable with it, and if your dad, and his wife, are comfortable with it, swap homes with them for a couple of days. Invite Dad & Wife, or just Dad, over, and depart the next day for their place. You'll have a friend emergency, get stuck on a case, or have minor car trouble. Meanwhile, your company enjoys the quiet, scenic seclusion of your home. Of course, Dad has time to chat: Walking the dog, that's a great exercise! How many times do you take Fido out, do you reckon? Hey, you might not realize how that front door slams, makes the whole rental apartment shake! Also, couldn't help but notice the car moving business at 6am, wondering what's that about...

It's regressive and gross, deputizing your father to 'out-dad' your landlord, man-to-man, as if you've been somehow praising over-attentiveness — while Dad, already suspicious of the isolated location and "all inclusive" rate, grew more concerned. How landlord's actions around you might look to a peer is supposed to highlight the irregularities and prompt a drawing back/better self-awareness. Currently, you don't have the means to move again, or the strength to re-set expectations yourself. I'm sorry this is happening; you deserve to feel safe in your home, and you had normal expectations. You're paying market price for a place that looked to offer solitude and sanctuary. If people you trust can help 'set boundaries' at this time, until you can move again, lean on them.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:49 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]

I don't think that you owe them friendliness or interaction, particularly with the way they're behaving, and if gray rocking is all you can handle at the moment I don't think it would cause serious harm, but a little bit of friendliness and interaction would make them much more likely to fix things like the loud door.
posted by wheatlets at 3:39 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure whether the reasons you can't move are the expenses associated with breaking the lease or the expenses associated with moving or both, BUT if you are open to breaking the lease I suspect the "not allowing you to use the air conditioning" and "requiring you to take showers of a certain length" issues are the most clearly lease-breaking things you've described.

Heck, you could even just say to them (next time either of these issues comes up, or anything else that denies you full use of your home as detailed in the lease), "The lease is all-inclusive - if that isn't working for you maybe it makes sense for us to end the lease early." Don't say this unless you're OK with them taking you up on it, but they probably won't. Even if they don't take you up on it it's a good way of reminding them that you have legal rights and you know it.
posted by mskyle at 4:34 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If the dog needs that much socializing, the next time they show up and you’re pinched for time, suggest that the landlord add “going to a dog park” to Their Routine.

It sounds like the landlords enjoy socializing, and they need to get that fed elsewhere ask about their hobbies and if they are bad-on-boundaries with a question, you can deflect and say, sounds like a good topic for your bridge/faith/volunteer group, I need to be on my way (in or out) then go.

Do your best not to let these patterns settle. You can say that they sounded disappointed with the prior tenant being away, and you’re fine with being cordial and friendly to solve things like the 6a car start, and they know that you’re a good tenant. If there is a community mediation center near you, you might be able to work out an agreement, including signals for when socializing is welcome and to be avoided- they tend to be sliding scale, not $$$.
posted by childofTethys at 5:44 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Would it help to see that the Tiger is actually several animals in a Tiger Suit?

Breaking it down, the typology is are:
1. Mansplaining curtains
2. Being home all the time
3. Expecting to be introduced to your guests
4. Asking you to be mindful with resources (water, AC)
5. Moving the car in the morning
6. The garbage thing

#1 - curtains: Men are shockingly unaware of what it's like for women. If it is only this one time, chalk it up to cluelessness.
#2 - always home: Have earphones in, make eye contact and give a nod or wave, then point to ears and keep moving.
#3 - lingering around guests: This seems the most surprising to you. It is a country etiquette thing: he needs to meet people entering his property. It's awkward now because he's having to prompt it. Warn your guests that he expects to be introduced but that he is talkative so keep it brief. When he pops up, introduce your guest briefly by name. They can make eye contact and nod, then you're all free to ignore him.
#4 - shower/AC: It's hard when one request brings up a flood of past abuse. You're not that child any more. The best way to get them off your back is to repeat it back: "don't take long showers. got it. is there anything else I need to know?"
#5 - car: They should fix this. It's a reasonable ask.
#6 - garbage: it makes sense, if there's a park there, to dispose of garbage several times a week, not only to save trips to the dump but also to keep rodents at bay. Can you hand him your kitchen waste (esp. compostables) and take the more private stuff (cardboard, letters, packaging) out yourself?

The point is, only #1 has a straight line to a fear of personal safety. Country living is different from city life. By considering each concern separately, things might feel more manageable as you plan your next move. I hope you get to a place of peace and serenity.
posted by dum spiro spero at 9:02 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]

Best answer: There's a lot of useful advice. You say you can't move.

You grew up not being allowed to be strong, have a voice, be a full person with rights. This makes you a more likely target for bullying, being taken advantage of, and boundary-breaking. Me, too. I have been a landlord in a 2-family. Boundary issues can happen on either side. Use this opportunity to develop your boundary defense skills. Boundaries have everything to do with the confidence that you deserve privacy and do not have to justify anything about yourself. Look him up on the web, take some time to assess the actual danger of landlord amd proceed accordingly. He's triggering your stress response, but apply conscious assessment and then trust your judgement.

It sounds like they want to have a deeper relationship. It's possible they feel protective. They certainly consider themselves safe, so when you bring up your need for safety, I suspect they don't think it applies to them. I'd talk about privacy instead. They are likely to have been told by tenants that they want privacy. You do not have to explain or justify your life, garbage, water use, etc. Check landlord-tenant laws, which may say when AC should be enabled.

Step back. Decide what contact you want to have. Landlord is lonely, probably used to being overbearing and intrusive, sees himself as a helper. It sounds like you want things to be cordial. It's a useful skill to use cheerful microaggressions. He He wants to monitor your showering (hell, no. I had 3 young women as tenants, they showered and washed their hair and clothes constantly, that's how people live) so just say, with a smile My shower habits are ordinary and private. If you can learn to tease a little That's beyond landlord scope, don't you think? but that may take time to learn. Be super pleasant in terms of a polite greeting, but keep walking. You park your car, he zooms out, you say Hello, nice day he replies Blah blah, blah, question, concern, etc. and you smile and keep walking to your home. Always appear to be friendly, even as you are walking away while he talks. Wearing ear buds of some sort is a way to reduce the social friction; you can be listening to a podcast or news and be distracted and just nod.

I love sunshine, and for privacy use mini-blinds, which can be set to allow sunlight but minimize being able to see inside, or sheer curtains. The slamming door at 6 am is Hell No. It should be fixed. Get a Google Voice number; it's free, and you can send and receive text, even make calls if you want to pay. I find it easier to manage and super-handy to have a number to give freely.

Please think of the many answers as a community of internet pals looking out for you. I'm sorry you've had such a rough time. You deserve so much better.
posted by theora55 at 10:13 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for the wonderful responses. 🩵 just to answer a few questions I’ve seen;
I am always polite and cordial now, keep the responses to a minimum,
I go for hikes or to the gym to de-stress, 4/5 times a week, and am usually out doing patient visits/assessments 3/4 days a week. This week has been a bit more difficult since I’m covering a different nurses case load, and have had to work 12-8 from home.
On Sunday, I tried to set the boundary about only wanting to email with the wife. I received 3 follow-up emails from her questioning why, and decided not to respond after reiterating my boundary once more.
On Monday, I was getting ready for bed, trying to calm my nervous system by breathing and meditating, when I saw someone walk past my bedroom window, which of course, sent me into a full panic mode, again. I ran to my front door to see if there was a strangers car parked outside. I had turned on the motion-sensor light at my front door, and could see there was a piece of my mail on my front patio table, that wasn’t there an hour prior. So he had come to my front door unannounced, at 1030pm, to drop off a piece of mail.
I emailed the wife, trying to be friendly, but set a boundary; told her that the husband had come to drop mail off unannounced, after dark (the mail had accidentally been delivered to their door, at 3pm- I checked the tracking online). Rolf her it really startled me, not knowing who was on my front step at night time - made sure not to blame him or suggest any negative intent - and that I really appreciate that they have been kind enough to deliver my mail, but going forward, I will collect my own mail from the mailbox, or if something is accidentally delivered to their door, please email me and I will come pick it up, or drop in the laundry room instead if they’d prefer.
She did not respond. This is also the first thing that’s been put in writing- when he told me to keep my showers short, not run the water for too long, keep the fans going at all times in a certain direction, or that he wasn’t going to turn the AC on, these were all in person.

I’ve since been having a friend stay with me- on the couch, so I can get a few hours of sleep before work each night.

I agree with everyone saying that I’m sure their intentions are not bad, however as a female living alone I guess there are certain actions I wished people knew weren’t okay.

Our laundry is not shared, it’s just in our only shared space. There is the landlords mud room, the wife’s storage space, and my laundry. The mud room door is never locked, and my door into that space only locks from the other side, so anyone could walk through there. My friend has suggested installing a lock from the inside- I guess it uses 3M adherent so no drilling. I’ve ordered a wireless security camera for my front door for now.
posted by hiraeth_ at 4:41 AM on June 12

I agree that any access to your space that cannot be locked from your side should be secured with your own locks, at the very least when you're home. There is no acceptable reason for anyone to be able to come into your space unannounced, especially when you are in it. A portable ("hotel") lock in some cases might do.

The landlord should under no circumstances be admitting himself into your space, with you in it or not, without at least 24 hours notice, except in the cases of actual emergencies. Letting himself in to drop mail off is some bullshit.

If you want to get a little grotty, start harvesting paragraphs about access from the landlord-tenant laws in your jurisdiction and emailing them whenever they try to violate them. "I don't want to be contentious, I just want to live in peace. Please note the following."
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:54 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @Tell Me No Lies just wanted to highlight your response and say thank you, as a man, for sharing your mental health struggles, and that your mental health is just as important. It’s really validating to read your response, thank you
posted by hiraeth_ at 4:56 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I read your post, but only skimmed the responses, because I've been in a very similar position. As someone who has lived in a few places where you feel you cannot even walk out your door (or walk around inside your own home without being watched), I highly recommend moving.

Do whatever you need to do to break the lease. Document *everything* that transpires with this person. Put it in your Notes app on your phone, with exact dates and times. It doesn't matter how much money you may lose by breaking the lease, nothing is worth your sanity and mental wellbeing. Trust me, once you find a new place that is safe, you will feel a massive weight lift off your shoulders. You will feel in control of your life again.

Start searching now for new places, go check them out and scout thoroughly. Parking situations, noise from neighbors, any uneasy feelings, take stock of those. If something feels off, DON'T SETTLE. Don't go for it. Don't tell yourself, "Oh, it's only ___ , it's not that bad." Yes it is, and it will probably get worse. Don't crapfit. I'm wishing you all the best in this, seriously!
posted by Jangatroo at 11:58 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]

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