General Question

nikipedia's avatar

How would you handle this situation?

Asked by nikipedia (27475points) September 8th, 2008

I recently moved into graduate student housing with 2 randomly assigned roommates. Before moving in, I made the initial “hi, what’s up” contact via email and mentioned offhand that I’m not the neatest person in the world (I’m not). They both emailed me back that cleanliness was extremely important to them and were pretty cold and unfriendly in their emails. I never replied, which I admittedly should have.

Fast forward a few weeks: I still have not moved in. The housing department tells me they’re both upset that I am messy and unresponsive. I immediately email them, apologize for not responding sooner, and say I think I did not communicate very well about my cleanliness levels. This time, they don’t respond.

I moved in Friday night. Saturday night, a glass of wine was spilled on the living room carpet. I have done everything I can to get the stain out and feel awful about it. This morning, one of the roommates—who I still have not met—complained to the housing department and was “furious”.

I feel terrible about the carpet. I’m going to have it professionally cleaned. In the meantime, though, how to respond to the roommates? I think their complaints are basically reasonable complaints—I would never get upset over this sort of thing, but I can understand why they would. So is there any way to smooth this over? Or should I just start looking for a new apartment?

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53 Answers

cwilbur's avatar

I’d look for a new apartment, as soon as possible.

People who have a reaction that they describe as ‘furious’ about a spill are not reasonable people to live with.

rss's avatar

I think it’s a little odd that graduate students are running to the housing department instead of just talking to you directly. If this is indicative of their personalities, I would look for new housing. If you think there is something else going one (like they simply have not had a chance to meet with you… though that seems odd) then maybe you can try to schedule a “house meeting” or the like to get a chance to speak with both roommates in person. You will have to be more apologetic than seems necessary and explain that although you tend to be on the messy side, you are more than willing to be neat in common areas etc. You can also propose a cleaning schedule or something so they know you mean it.

If they still are being ridiculous and unwilling to speak to you, look for new housing with no regrets!

dollfacee's avatar

i’d look for a new apartment also.

JackAdams's avatar

Assassination is always an option.

FlutherMother's avatar

When I was applying for college living (20 odd years ago) I had to put all the things like that so I could be matched with a similar. Occasionally the admissions screwed up like pairing my asthmatic friend with a smoker, but they set it right almost immediately. Didn’t you have to do that? Or did they just stick names with names without any clue? Then you and your roommates both lose out. Go to the Housing Department as ask them your options. You definitely need to be with someone who isn’t as rigid. And I can’t believe you haven’t met the people you live with – what kind of housing is this?

marinelife's avatar

Wow, your casual, friendly email seems to have backfired big time, niki. How awful! They are treating you like you are dirt on their shoe on very little evidence.

I would make one more try here (if housing is as hard to come by as I imagine). I would ask to meet with them in a neutral place, say that clearly you all got off on the wrong foot (I would not take all the blame).

I would say something like, “I know it is very easy to misconstrue meaning in emails. Clearly, my attempt at levity misfired. I assure you that I am a responsible adult perfectly willing to step up to the responsibilities of shared housing. From my side, I did not respond to your first emails, because they read as somewhat unwelcoming and I was busy moving. I felt we could work things out when I got here. Now, with one spill, things have escalated to the housing department. I’d like to try some direct communication, because we all need to move forward and concentrate on our studies.”

Then see how they respond. If it is clear that it is not a match made in heaven, I would go in to the housing department and lay it all out as a big miscommunication that seems to have poisoned the well. See what other options they can offer you.

They have clearly overreacted (and reacted pretty immaturely) to the whole situation. You may find that you do not want to room with them.

flameboi's avatar

Move out niki, you cannot live in a place where people do not accept you as the w…. person you are (from an intelectual point of view)... I’m crazy about having everything clean and “in place” but I’m not going to make anyone feel miserable about it…

girlofscience's avatar

To those who are suggesting finding a new apartment… Consider this:

nikipedia would then have to pay more money. The student housing she is signed up with is quite a bargain, and the monthly rate would be impossible to find elsewhere, especially for the area. Also, if she were to move to other student housing, it would be more expensive because of the types still available, and they would not be available immediately.

Also, nikipedia just spent the entire past weekend moving all of her stuff and does not want to do it again.

flameboi's avatar

@GoS
Thanks for the input, but just for the record, I wouldn’t stay in a place I cannot call home, is a point to be considered…

nikipedia's avatar

@FlutherMother: No, they asked us about pets and smoking and I think that’s it. I didn’t think twice because I’ve had so many different kinds of roommates over the years and never had any real problems. I have always felt that two (or three) reasonable people can work just about anything out.

@flameboi: Even if it meant you had to dismantle (and then reassemble) a massive and complicated Ikea bed? :( Of course I’ll do it if I have to—and, as @girlofscience pointed out, pay more in rent—but it would be so much easier if I could find some magic way to smooth things over….

@Marina: That is exactly how I feel. The two girls are friends and are acting like I’m an intruder. I don’t especially want to live with them, but having spent three days moving (with much help) I would so prefer not to do it again…

flameboi's avatar

@niki
Even if I have to pack all over again all my cds and books and clothing and reassemble my Bo Concept furniture, and even if I have to cut some amenities to affort a more expensive place, no doubt about it I’d do it!
you can always prepare dinner for your roommates and apologize (I still don’t kno for what) to make things better and start anew :)

marissa's avatar

I would try what Marina suggested. Also, do you know if these two knew each other before? Is there any chance that they are trying to get you to move out, because the already have someone else in mind they want as a roommate or they think that since the year already started they won’t get another roommate at all?

cyndyh's avatar

This sounds really odd to me for a few reasons.

Graduate student housing of this kind is pretty unusual. Are you in some special circumstance that this would be the case for you?

If both of two random strangers took your email to be of concern and reacted coldly toward you, I’d wonder how you phrased your email. One person having a bad day or a strange reaction to your email is one thing. But two? There’s something else there. An email that says “I’m messy” having them going to the housing department is pretty odd, too.

And if that stain is still there then you haven’t done everything to get it up yet. Have you already rented a steam cleaner? It’s been since Saturday night?

You can smooth things over by taking care of that stain today. I’d even leave a note near the stain saying that you went to rent a steam-cleaner and are taking care of it. Then meet with them in person and talk with them about what’s going on. If you’ve actually spelled out everything you know about the situation here and you take care of that stain and they’re still upset, I’d suggest that it might be something else entirely that you’re not aware of that’s setting them off. You need to find out what it is.

kevbo's avatar

Tell them to go fuck themselves.

Seriously. It’s not you, it’s them, and it’s just as much your space even if you are outnumbered. Stand up to them and let them stew about it instead of you. If they wanted a pristine place they shouldn’t have accepted a random roommate. Kowtowing to them will only give them cause to push you further. Why should you have to do all the compromising, and who the hell are they to be so rude and demanding from day 1?

Also, you may (likely) be dealing with type A personalities, and it may be worthwhile to read up on how to deal with that.

nikipedia's avatar

@cyndyh: Thanks for your feedback. That was very helpful. The unique situation is that I foolishly elected to go to graduate school in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country and the school kindly provided us with affordable on-campus housing.

As far as two strangers—they are strangers to me, but not to each other, so it seems that they may have influenced each others’ emails slightly? Either way, it’s entirely likely that I represented myself badly.

I have done everything within reason to get the stain out. I have been moving nonstop for three days. (It took a hell of a lot longer than anticipated and I am not near finished yet.)

My concern now is that as @kevbo pointed out, if it’s not the stain today it will be something else tomorrow. How much incompatibility is too much? I am totally willing to make an effort to be, say, twice as clean as I usually am, but what if my maximum cleanliness is intolerable to their minimum?

And thanks, Kev. I have tried OxyClean, Shout, and Resolve to no avail. Wish I had thought to buy a throw rug or something to hide the problem until we had a chance to meet. :( I’ll hunt around for that stuff and let you know how it turns out…

jlm11f's avatar

Do all of you have your own rooms? If so, this really shouldn’t be a problem. I would leave a note on the doors of both the girls saying that I would like to get a chance to meet them so if they are free at 8 pm tonight (or whatever time works), then we could all meet in the living room/common room. Then I would proceed to explain the wine situation, apologize for it and tell them how I am already taking care of it. I would also explain the whole email misunderstanding and then nicely, yet firmly, mention that next time they have a problem with me, I would really appreciate if they just came to me with it instead of going to housing. We are all adults here and I am sure we are all mature enough to talk to each other about our concerns instead of resorting to a 3rd party. Then I would ask if they have any concerns about cleanliness or anything, they should air them now. Then state your own concerns if you have any. Perhaps set up a chore list or just decide that everyone takes care of their own shit.

Even though you got off on the wrong foot, I don’t think all is lost quite yet. A face to face conversation can do wonders. Once you get all the serious talk done, and if they aren’t total bitches (and still cold), it wouldn’t hurt to do a little “roommate bonding” by asking everyone where they are from etc etc. Don’t forget to stress how important it is to you that everyone is able to voice their opinion/concern to each other. Do your part and stay neat in the common areas of course. Once you all get busy with classes etc, hopefully this will be a lesser problem. My opinion: this situation can still be salvaged if dealt with tactfully, while still holding your own. Good Luck!

cyndyh's avatar

Niki, if they knew each other before then they most likely, as someone else already mentioned, wanted a friend to move in with them instead of you. Once they know you’re staying they’ll get over it.

If they keep running to the housing department over trivial shit it makes them look like loons and not you. If they keep doing that, they may well be asked to leave instead of you. So, if it continues, let them disrupt their own lives instead of pushing you to move again and disrupt yours.

I do think you need to make an effort to be neater than normal for you in the common areas. I’d still meet with them and try ironing things out, and take care of the stain asap. As in -steam clean it. You might find you can get along fine after things get started. If not, you don’t want to give them any ammunition to use against you over at housing.

allengreen's avatar

Kev—you are my superhero

kevbo's avatar

Thanks, homie!

jca's avatar

yeah, kev’s a rockstar.

marinelife's avatar

@PnL Voice of reason as always. GA to you.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Start keeping track of all communications. Print out the initial e-mail you sent along with their responses. Bring that stuff to housing immediately. Also take a picture of the stain with a digital camera if you can. Keep a file on all of this. It might sound nuts but if it comes down to housing booting one of you, keeping up with this stuff will make it more likely to be them and not you.

Showing housing the initial e-mails will also give them a little background. If both roommates got in touch with them and said you were a total mess before you’d even moved in, housing should know.

As long as you are having problems with them, communicate through e-mail as often as possible. Not that you should avoid talking to them, but e-mail gives you a record of what’s been said back and forth.

As always, be friendly. Your friendly tone against their cold tone is probably important. I know I have a lot of trouble coming off as friendly in e-mails (when I do, I have to work at it really, really hard—my email style is very formal), so they may just be slow to warm to you.

You should also talk to your roommates about the rug. You spilled something on it, it was an accident, and you’re offering to professionally clean it. Frankly, if they are still pitching a fit after that they are being utterly unreasonable. A note of the conversation you have with them should go into your roommate file.

marissa's avatar

@nikipedia, just curious and you may have already said and I’ve missed it, does this ‘rug’ belong to one of them or is this a permanent carpet that is part of the housing?

nikipedia's avatar

@marissa: It is a permanent carpet that’s part of the housing.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that I have no chance whatsoever of winning these people over. I still have no idea what I did to vilify myself so badly from the start but I have been kind and apologetic and gotten nothing but a nasty attitude back.

We had already been discussing setting up a time for a house meeting. I sent them a frustrated but incredibly apologetic email yesterday explaining my side of things and asked if they would be more comfortable with the housing department mediating the meeting. One roommate replied simply that she would like the housing department there and did not respond to anything else I said; the other still has not written back. It just seems hopeless at this point.

So, anyone in the Orange County area want to come over and undo 3 days worth of moving? I’ll buy beer…

marissa's avatar

Niki, I’m sorry you are dealing with this. I’m seriously wondering if there is more to it than them having an issue with your neatness. They haven’t even lived with you long enough for it to be an issue, I wonder if they have ulterior motives. If you do move out, I would think that you should push for the housing department to find you another comparable place, rather than you having to spend more money.

Trustinglife's avatar

@niki, sometimes life can suck, eh?
Sorry you have to go through all this.

jca's avatar

they sound like lunatics.

marinelife's avatar

@nik Wish I could be there to help! Moving sucks. Moving twice sucks really big.

It may not be much comfort, but this is so not you, it is them! I am convinced that a memo detailing the timeline of things to housing would convince the housing department as well.

flameboi's avatar

@niki
Are you attractive? it seems you are
So, if the answers is yes, that’s why your roommates don’t like you! go figure

nikipedia's avatar

@Marina: I think in some ways this is an interesting psychology experiment. Because they went to the housing department first, and because I am the purported messy one, I have already been stigmatized, and they would have to do something REALLY egregious to suddenly turn into the “bad guy”. Like, now that the idea has been planted that I’m in the wrong, the burden of proof to exonerate myself is much larger than the original burden of proof on their part to show that I suck.

Not to mention that from their perspective, I must seem as nuts as they seem to me. It’s a good lesson in communication and how easily that can go awry, I think.

Anyway, we are having a “meeting” tonight. I will post back with full details!

@flameboi: Sure, but not attractive enough to seriously threaten their egos. I use my massive brainpower for that… :)

And thanks, all, for the support.

marissa's avatar

” I use my massive brainpower for that… :)” You are brillant!!! LOL!! Lurve to you for that line. I hope things go well this evening and that there is a way for you to resolve all this.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Niki, good luck tonight!

naebliser's avatar

I think you would way happier moving out, I bet you are already looking by now based on this crap. I don’t think you will be able to beat that rent though. I had to just grin and bear the 575 I am doling out now, but my roommate is surprisingly chill and awesome. Seriously though I think Zach had it right with predicting insanity based on arranging screws in order of height. I pegged them for loonies with the soap chicken.I can come scowl at them for you some time, but I hope you find a better situation.

cyndyh's avatar

@niki: I think you’re wrong in assuming that the housing department already has a negative view of you. They started out with trivial complaints before you even got there. Those aren’t the kind of folks a housing department will take seriously. They’ve dealt with this sort of thing before. Document this stuff and you’d be surprised.

cwilbur's avatar

And at this point you have to decide what constitutes winning in this scenario.

You could have the housing department beat these two people into submission, so that they remain grudgingly silent for the rest of the semester. You could find another spot on campus – college housing tends to be in flux for the first couple weeks. You could find an awesome place to live. You can probably accomplish any of these, but you have to figure out what you really want and pull for that.

The worst case scenario would be for you to “win”—such as, having the two of them told in no uncertain terms that their behavior is unacceptable—and still lose—such as, having to put up with two passive-aggressive people who resent you for the next four months.

flameboi's avatar

@ niki
Oh the brain power…
“Knowledge brings fear”
Mars University motto
Gosh you are brilliant!

jca's avatar

sit down with these bitches and see if you all can work it out. if they can’t and you all can’t come to an agreement, like kevin said, fuck them. there’s probably no easy way out, with your choices, all are difficult. probably the easiest would be to try to work it out and stay. who knows? maybe they’ll calm down. maybe they need some wine, too.

nikipedia's avatar

I got to my apartment today around 4pm.

They had moved my silverware out of the drawer that I had assumed to be community silverware and into a separate drawer.

Fine.

As I was pouring a nice, cold glass of wine, the housing department called and told me both roommates were down there, and could I please come down.

Fine.

I walked immediately over to the housing office. Smiled politely.

“Now, I don’t want you to feel bombarded, but I think your roommates have some things they’d like to discuss,” the housing woman says.

“Look,” I said. “I’m sure you’re both perfectly nice people. But it seems clear this is not a good match.”

“Um, yeah,” Roommate 1 says.

Unfortunately they have nothing until 31 October and it will cost me another $170. So in the meantime, I look forward to avoiding my apartment and walking on eggshells.

The roommates have drawn up a chore roster to ensure fairness. It’s on the fridge. I am considering hiring a maid.

kevbo's avatar

I think domestic disobedience is in order. They deserve to have their suspicions confirmed.

cyndyh's avatar

I just have to wonder what they could possibly be saying. If the carpet can’t be cleaned and that’s a big “if” you pay for that. What else could possibly be enough to run to housing over and over about? Odd.

jca's avatar

fuck those freaks.

marissa's avatar

I would make them squirm. I’d say,” I’m sorry I can’t move out, it is too expensive. However, If you really want me to move out, you can help share the expense, afterall, that is only fair since I am the only one that has to move and we are all responsible for the problem. I’ll be fair and cover my share, if you two are willing to cover your share. 170 divided by 3 is $56.67 per month, but I’ll even round that down to $50 per month make it simple. Since I will needing to pay higher rent for the 7 months (or however long) that I would have been here, that is $350 for each of you. I would like the total amount up front, so that I don’t need to worry each month about whether you will pay your share or not. I think that is perfectly fair, because I will still be paying more than you all since I will be paying $490 over 7 months and I’m only asking each of you to pay $350.”

EmpressPixie's avatar

@Marissa, you might be saying that to make them squirm, but if this situation happened to me, you can bet that’s what I’d be saying and I would mean it!

@Niki, did you have any input into this chore roster? You should have. Is it beyond what a NORMAL person (not you, not them) would consider clean? You should not be responsible for their OCD. If you question the roster AT ALL, call housing and ask for them to make a reasonable timetable of chores. There is no reason to bend over backwards to accomodate hostile roommates. If they “just can’t live” unless their chores are covered every week, then they can do them.

Frankly, this is the kind of situation I’d call my mother about—not because she’s my mum (well, that too) but because she’s an absolute pitbull when it comes to making sure her kids are treated well and fairly. What I’ve learned from her: don’t be afraid to fight for your right to happiness.

There is really and truly no reason that you should have to pay more for your new housing. Something has gone wrong that is out of your control. The higher cost of living should be split between all of you OR the University should cover it until the semester/year break when you can find new roommates. Really, the University should cover it. They put you in the hostile situation to begin with. You may have to push them, but it is not your fault that this has happened and you should not be financially responsible for it. And you should repeat that in your head until you believe it and be ready to fight for it.

EmpressPixie's avatar

I’m speaking here as someone who has had a lot of housing fights in her life, including changing roommates four times during periods where it was supposed to be impossible. I’d also be more than willing to give you a normal chore list for a typical apartment to go from, if you’d like because right now you are acting like someone who has done something wrong and must make amends and from what I can tell, you haven’t done anything wrong at all!

cwilbur's avatar

I wouldn’t avoid the apartment. I’d live there, make a point of hanging out in the public rooms, and smile cheerfully at them as I ignored their chore lists.

You can’t control their behavior or their attitude – but you can control what you do, and how you react to them. You don’t have to let them terrorize you—this isn’t a democracy, and they don’t get 2 votes to your 1.

marissa's avatar

Perhaps you should throw a big Fluther party at your place :0P

nikipedia's avatar

My roommate’s dishes have been in the sink yesterday afternoon. Perhaps I should notify the housing department?

jlm11f's avatar

hahahha you should. and when they look at you like you are crazy, point out to them that you only resorted to such means because your roommates feel the need to complain about similar things to them, rather than you. this should at least help them see the idiocy in their behavior.

cyndyh's avatar

Oh, yeah. I think turn-about is fair play.

marinelife's avatar

And take a photograph and supply date and time stamps. Show the ridiulousness of their behavior. I am sure that you are counting the days!!!!

nikipedia's avatar

I decided to be the better person and invite the two of them to dinner. Hoping that once we get to know each other we can find some common ground and treat other like human beings instead of pariahs who have invaded each others’ territories.

Also I really don’t want to take this f-ing bed apart.

jlm11f's avatar

How did dinner go? Are you bffs yet? ;)

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