Help Me Harriet! is a weekly advice column where Harriet respond to your questions about life, love and whatever is on your mind. This week’s reader is stuck on a high-priced lease with the roommate from hell and needs a way out… and fast!
I’m a 32 year old heterosexual woman. I recently got out of a long-term relationship and, since my ex-boyfriend’s name was on the lease, I needed to find a place to live. The rental market is crazy right now, so I couldn’t get a lease on anything. I needed something, and ended up taking a 1 year sublease out on a room in the old Hearst Mansion. It’s a little out of my price range, but the market is so wild right now that I had to push my budget.
I’m in love with the place, it has lots of original millwork, built-ins, even hidden passages! What I’m not in love with is my formless, soul-eating new roommate, Teyollocuani. TC, as I like to call him, isn’t your typical roommate, but I tried to go in with an open mind. There are some upsides to living with him; he doesn’t have big parties or play loud music. He doesn’t even use the kitchen or the bathroom, which is great. I realized pretty quickly, however, that he is a real nightmare to live with.
TC apparently doesn’t sleep, and is up all hours of the night. I know what he does with his time isn’t any of my business, however the blood curdling screams at 3 in the morning have ruined my sleep. I haven’t gotten a good night of sleep in weeks! It’s affecting my performance at work and my boss “doesn’t care” about my living situation. TC doesn’t do any chores. We agreed that since I’m the only one using the kitchen and bathroom, I’d clean those, but there are tons of common areas. Just last week, I had to clean up one of his Jackson Pollock red paint splatter parties in the living room. Then he did it again the next night! I’m sick of cleaning up his messes. Whenever I confront him about any of this, he just screams at me in primordial tongues from deep within the void.
What’s more concerning is that I haven’t seen my cat in several weeks or my friend Anna who came over for a girls’ night last Tuesday. TC had one of his painting parties that night and I’m worried that she may have walked in on it and then he said something hurtful to her and that now she doesn’t want to talk to me anymore because of it. I’ve thought of going to the Tenants Union to see what my rights are. I’m concerned that if I file a complaint and he gets evicted that I’ll lose my place to live, too, since I’m subbing. If I just bail, I’m breaking my sublease. With the housing market the way it is, you need a perfect rental history to get anything, and that’s only if you can even find something! Do I have any rights here as a subleaser? Help me Harriet!
Dear Screwed Subtenant,
Looks like you really are stuck between a rock and a hard place! You aren’t happy with your living situation, but are worried that any solution might leave you out on the street. Before you go nuclear, I’d suggest having a real sit-down and addressing things with TC. This may just be a case of him not understanding how serious these issues are. You may want to go in with some notes to make sure that all of your points are addressed. Remember that you are a new person in his space, so he may also have some issues to discuss about your living arrangement. Try to go in with an open mind and an open heart. If TC won’t talk or isn’t receptive, it might be time to find a new rental (as intimidating as that may be). You may need to consult your local renters rights laws or a real estate agent first, to make sure you aren’t hurting your credit score or rental history.