It is hardly worth me listing the awful things that went on at this particular house. I could go on and on. But the beginning and the end of the tenancy show the most awful examples of ehell, the rest was fairly pedestrian in contrast. By the way, for those readers who hate it when people don’t assert themselves, I hate that too. But I’m English (hate to make a fuss) and was young and passive… this experience totally beat that out of me.
I was 21, just out of University and had been offered a fantastic job at a world famous institution in London. I was asked to start in two weeks time. It was my first real job and without any other commitments I agreed to the start date. I began a house hunt as I couldn’t realistically commute from my home village. Not knowing London very well the task of finding somewhere suitable: affordable, commutable and safe (!), was daunting to say the least. Friends who had graduated a year before and were settled assured me it would be fine. Seeing as there is such a high turnover in London I would surely replace someone in an existing house share without a problem.
I found a house quickly, and was all set to move when I was basically messed about (an ehell story in itself) by the tenants of a house in East London. Panicked I renewed my search.
I managed to find a lovely house in Clapham (South London) the same day and took the hour and a half journey from my village to view it immediately. S, the current tenant, who showed me around was really bubbly and went on about how great everyone in the house was. The picture she painted was like an episode of Friends, with hi-jinks and a lot of love. S reeeeeally didn’t want to leave but had just lost her job and had to go home to the Midlands, hers was the room on offer. She was looking to move out the next day. Seeing as I was desperate and had planned on moving that day originally it all seemed to come together. The house had 5 bedrooms, but the landlady wanted only 4 tenants for insurance, tax and compliance purposes. The other tenants were 2 Irish boys, who I met there and then, and a girl E who wasn’t there. As E and S were childhood best friends, she had asked S to judge who she would get on best with. There were other people looking around at the same time (which was incredibly awkward, and almost like an audition), but S pulled me aside and said “we like you best, and I know you and E will get on so well, do you want my room?” I was so pleased, relieved and to be quite honest a little flattered to have been picked that I said yes. The landlady came over to check me out, she asked about my job and approved. She said she was relaxed about the date we paid as long as we were consistent and it fell before her mortgage was due. She was recently divorced with young children and needed cash (dodgy but I felt for her as I grew up in a single parent household). She lived on the same street so we could walk to her house and give her our rent individually. She said she would come over with a tenancy agreement when I moved in.
I arrived the next morning having hauled my stuff with my boyfriend by train from my village and across London transport (not pleasant – but I couldn’t afford a van rental). I arrived at the house at 10am. S met me at the house and was very excited and bubbly as before. She said her dad was coming to pick her up at 11am, he was on his way. I walked into my new room to find it was very much still S’s room. Not a thing had been packed, there was no sign that she was even going to start. When I move I dress casually – generally your appearance is the last thing you consider when you know you’ll be lugging stuff about and cleaning and unpacking. But there she was all dressed up, hair and makeup done. She’d clearly spent the morning preening – it was galling. I couldn’t understand her priorities. I asked if she needed any help with getting stuff to her dad’s car when he arrived or anything else before he arrived (basically offering to help pack without trying to draw attention to the fact she hadn’t started yet, which could have embarrassed her.) “no no its fine, my dad will do it” was her blase response. It didn’t seem to occur to her that my boyfriend and I were there for me to move in – which I wouldn’t be able to do ’till she had moved out. It was really quite inconsiderate. But with only an hour to wait for her to leave I said nothing, an hour didn’t seem so bad. I gave her a cheque for her part of the deposit and waited for the landlady to bring the tenancy agreement.
About 20 minutes later S got a phone call. She came back into the room screeching that she’d just been offered another job. “OHMYGOD ITS AMAAAAAZING. I don’t have to move now… oh no, but what about you?” I said I’d have to move back home, that she was still on the tenancy and I would just have to commute for a while until I found somewhere. I congratulated her on the job. She turned to me and said no, she couldn’t do that to me. She hadn’t accepted the job yet, and she had to consider it. She said she should honour the commitment and agreement we had made. What a lovely person, right? Anyway, she added, she could just crash at the house as there was a spare room. The housemates wouldn’t mind, we just wouldn’t tell the landlady. It would only be for a few days. I felt uncomfortable about this as the landlady was clear about why she only wanted 4 people and said she should speak to the landlady when she came. When the landlady arrived S pleaded with her to let her stay. I could see the landlady was reluctant, but she said okay, as long as S paid a 5th of the rent pro-rated for the time she spent in the property. That it was not a permanent thing – she had a week maximum. The landlady would keep the tenancy agreement as it was until S moved out. S would keep my money for her next deposit and I would get mine when I eventually moved out at the end of the lease.
So S brought her stuff out of her room with my help, and her dad had to turn around and drive all the way back to the Midlands. The room was messy. But I’d no idea of the true extent. I went to the local shop with my boyfriend to pick up some cleaning materials – the housemates owned none. S was upstairs when we returned and my boyfriend went to make tea. I walked into the bedroom to see she had cleared the last of her belongings, and was confronted by a HUGE bloody stain across the mattress! I could tell it hadn’t been there that long. Horrific. I was embarrassed for her, she had said nothing and acted as though nothing was wrong. I went about hiding it, before my boyfriend could see it. Somehow I felt ashamed of it. I expected S would come in and clear it up. I approached her with tact and mentioned the room was a bit dirty (hint hint hint), but S acted as though there was no problem and went out. On reflection I think this was down to the fact that she was a filthy individual and had no concept of cleanliness. I was a total doormat, but I couldn’t leave it there so with utter revulsion cleared it up as best I could. I cleaned the room to an inch of its life before setting it up. I would have taken the spare room but S was in it and I thought I could move into it after she left in a few days. I really should have insisted we swap rooms then and there.
So now that she was staying for a few days the truth (her version of the truth) of the house all came out. The boys, she told me, were awful. Messy. Inconsiderate. S and E loathed them and had really tried their best with them. Having just cleared up the most horrific sight I’d ever seen I took this with a pinch of salt.
Fast forward a month and S hadn’t left despite us asking her to go. I soon learned that E was never going to be a friend, she was controlling and dramatic. Rarely there but totally over the top and highly strung when she was, she was unpleasant to be around. Apparently her junior role in marketing was the most stressful job ever and me and the boys (a structural engineer, a hedge fund manager and a political aide) couldn’t understand what pressure was like! E made next to no effort with anyone despite us asking her out for drinks or offering to make house dinners. Despite being supposed “best friends” whenever E was away S would bring men back (particularly one E disapproved of) and sleep with them in E’s bed. They didn’t socialize together and bitched about each other constantly. The boys on the other hand were lovely. Yes they were a little messy, but nothing out of the ordinary. In fact it was the girls who lived up to S’s description of the boys. The house had two bathrooms. The girl’s bathroom and the boy’s bathroom. I quickly took to using the boys because the girls one was truly awful. Of course when theirs got so bad they’d use ours, so I’d spend ages scrubbing the filth they left behind in their old one so we could use that instead. I had gotten over my initial passiveness and would tell them to clear up after themselves but to no avail.
Things came to a head after I had been there for 3 months. One day the landlady came over and started shouting at us about rent. She said she had allowed S to stay on the proviso that she actually paid rent, which she had failed to do for the entire time. She said she was taking a risk having her there and was really upset as S had assured her it would be for a matter of weeks. S refused to move and threatened to tell the Inland Revenue (UK Tax Man) that the landlady was evading tax. It was devastating to see the landlady’s face, as she was confronted by such a nasty, vindictive and manipulative individual. Me and the boys backed the landlady. S had no justification for staying in the house. E could only say how stressful it was for her to have the conversation – but really I think she was avoiding saying anything against her supposed best friend.
I called the landlady later and told her that I had walked into a minefield that I hadn’t signed up for. I could put up with E (just) and the boys were lovely. We’d had no knowledge of the fact that S was not paying rent. As S was holding the landlady to ransom and with my name not on the tenancy it would be easier if I left and she could deal with S without the threats. The boys would attest that I hadn’t been there if asked, I didn’t know about E. She said she didn’t blame me for how I felt. It was an awful mess. She had seen how lovely I kept the place it was a shame to let me go and offered my deposit back out of her own pocket. I refused and assured her I would make S pay seeing as she had lived rent free and with my deposit in her account – she finally did pay but only after I found someone to replace her. I moved in with my boyfriend and spent the next three years commuting a heck of a distance, which whilst costly and tiring was far better solution than putting up with S and E. 0805-11
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S sounds like a manipulative moron, however your landlady sounds like a piece of work herself. My mother was a single mom for several years, however she lived honestly and paid her taxes every year. Good for you OP on getting out that situation. I too had some interesting roommates during my college years, and it wasn’t until I met my husband that I wanted to live with someone else.
I learned early on in my now lengthy life to never join another in circumventing any law. My experience involved an auto accident but the lesson I learned then applies here. Once a person like “S” gets you to agree to go against, or even around, the law you are trapped. Never do so. You will get further and further into difficulty. If it means walking away from a seeming great opportunity, do so. It always ends badly.
That was really bad of S, however the landlady, despite being a single mum should have done everything by the book as she would only be taxd AFTER expenses. If she had got OP to sign a contract then S would have had no leg to stand on – okay the landlady may have had to pay a bit more tax but she wouldn’t be out of pockect completely if S HAD to pay.
I think OP you just chalk this down to expiernce, next time, politely put your foot down and inisit that the landlady gets the tenancy and it’s done properely. That way everyone who has a legtimate reason to be in the house knows where they stand. I have to say I would not live in a house which I did not have a tennancy for. I would have stayed a week and used that time to find somewhere else.
Also the OP, E and the boys are witness to blackmail which is a criminal offence. Okay S isn’t demarnding money but she is still blackmailing the landlady at the landlady’s expense and getting something for free. Had the landlady been more professional and got OP to sign a tenancy agreement and had ended S’s or had chosen to rent the 5th room out, this wouldn’t have happened.
As for being English I am English and wouldn’t like to kick up an unnesccary fuss however complaining when there is cause to that’s fair enough.
Ugh, what an awful situation to live somewhere that makes you unhappy. I had the same USA version! I was a grad student and moved in with a young girl whose parents had agreed to pay the rent. When my family and I showed up to move myself in….her junk was all over “my” room! She hadn’t cleaned out a single item. The shared full bath wasn’t clean and I could go on and on about other transgressions. That first site of the room for both me and you was a tell tale sign of major inconsideration to follow for sure!
Stories like this are the reason I’m terrified to have to find a roommate if I get accepted in to one of the school’s locations I applied for at a far away location. (The school I applied for has multiple, I applied for the same program at 3 to up my chances of getting in. Local and two farther away). If I get in to the further away location, I’d have to find a roommate / rent a room and I never want to go through what OP has.
I’m sure this taught you to become assertive though, now OP so at least something good came out of the situation.
Wow…if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s this: the people who are the most overly sweet to you are the ones you should watch out for.
And I’m amazed at how nasty two women who are supposedly friends are. Are people *that* lonely these days that they’ll put up with things from friends and family that would lead to murder if a stranger said or did?
Sorry to say, OP, but getting ‘messed about’ by one’s housemates is more common than not when one is young, naive, and not yet prosperous enough not to need housemates. Cleanliness, common courtesy, even honesty are rare commodities. Landlords/ladies are always either bullies or have a sob story. Your situation, while no doubt an absolute nightmare to you, wasn’t really horror-movie material.
The OP never used the phrase “horror movie” in her submission. That’s from the title, and OPs don’t title their own submissions (generally). We can’t blame the OP for being overly dramatic if she was not.
I just managed to avoid a crazy roommate situation, thanks to bumping into the roommate moving out. The homeowner lived there, and rented out two spare bedrooms. When I called, she told me how great everyone was, and that the woman moving out was leaving because she was getting married. Tired and depressed over the previous room rentals I had seen, I hoped that this might be the one.
When I arrived, there was a young woman packing things into her car. I approached her and said, “Are you the roommate who is moving out? Best wishes on your wedding.”
She looked at me quizzically, then said, “I am moving out, but I’m not getting married.” We conversed for a few minutes, and she kindly explained that the landlady was instrusive and possibly crazy, always coming into her room, going through her things, monopolizing her time, wanting to be best buddies, yelling and screaming about perceived slights. The girl seemed very nice and honest, and desperately wanting to get away. I thanked her for the information, but decided to go ahead with meeting the landlady, as I had committed to it and I wanted to check her out for myself.
The landlady was creepy. She got very friendly very fast, complimenting me on my appearance, my speech, everything. It was very uncomfortable. She continued with the lie about the girl leaving to get married. I stayed for about fifteen or twenty minutes, saw the room, then left. I called later and lied, telling her I had found a place closer to work. I pity the person who rented the room. And I am forever thankful for bumping into the ex-roommate.
I agree with Leslie Holman-Anderson. While OP’s story is real bad and must have been pretty annoying for her, it surely is not a “horror movie material”. Believe me, I have heard much worse from some of my friends.
BTW, I wonder why the landlady didn’t put OP on the lease and let S say as a guest for one of the inmates. Guests are usually allowed to stay for a while, and the landlady doesn’t have to pay tax for them. Plus, someone like S cannot blackmail her because the the sheet is clear.
I feel for OP, and her landlady. They both got manipulated by someone seemingly very nice. I agree that everyone seems to have a roommate horror story, or landlord horror story. I rented from one lady who was absolutely crazy. The place was supposed to be furnished, nothing was ready on move-in, she had all sorts of crazy, illegal clauses in the lease (the worst of which was the weekly cleaning inspection). She and her husband lived the next block over and had a terrible marriage, which they would hide out from by just coming over to the apartments when we weren’t there and going inside (also illegal in our state: once you rent it, the tenant has privacy rights and you have to give 24 hours notice of your intent to go in there unless it’s an emergency).
The worst was on move-in. I was still setting up my stuff and had some of it in the dining room/vestibule. I went to get more of my things, and through the doorway to the bedroom, I saw this crazy woman asleep on the mattress in there WITH HER DOG, UNDER THE COMFORTER I’D BROUGHT. I made her get it dry-cleaned.
@Caper, don’t let fear of terrible roommates stop you from attending the program you want to be in. I’ve had some wonderful experiences too. If you get a good one, it can be a lot of fun. I think more common is just being like two ships in the night. My first college roommate came to school with one of her BFFs and spent most of her time hanging out with her. There was a time when I didn’t see her for a week, though I could tell she’d been there. She was a nice girl, and on the extremely rare occasion we were both in the room, we got on just fine. Besides, even if it’s not fun to live through, it IS fun to compare stories later in life!!!!
I’m sorry that you’ve have such bad experiences, Leslie Holman-Anderson, but I have to disagree with your statement. I’ve never had a bullying or sob story landlord (although I have had some horror roommates).
This story seems better suited to myverywostroommate.com
It’s unfortunate what happened, but lesson learned. Multiple-roommate living situations are often more complicated than just two people sharing a place (or so my own experiences have gone) and as soon as people start doing things off the books, disentangle yourself and move on.
Ah, Echo — you misunderstand. That’s not just my experience –I’ve actually had few roomies — but includes many stories from friends.
I had but two crazy roomies before I decided to live alone. One was a thief, which was annoying but minor, since we were all in college and didn’t have much for her to steal: sugar, a roomies’ bra, and my ladies razor .
The second one surprised me as she was a dedicated Christian, as am I. However, I did not know that no Christian could ever attend a movie because some movies are bad movies and, even if you are going to see “Snow White”, someone who knew you were a Christian might not know it was not a bad movie. They might think you were seeing a bad movie, and then you would be a “stumbling block” to their conversion so you can’t go to movies. Okay, no movies.
What made me move out was when her mommy moved in. She served “Terri’s” plate of food because “Terri”, at age 22, did not make proper food choices. They slept in the same bed, and called me in to stand in front of her closed bedroom curtains while mommy stood outside to see if a rapist could see in at night. And then I noticed four, (yes, four,) additional locks they had installed on her bedroom door to keep the rapist out.
I showed a friend of mine the additional four locks. He said, “Isn’t that wishful thinking?” I replied, “No, if she ever gets a guy in there, he’s not getting out!” I still think it’s funny- but I left. She told everyone it was because I “had low morals.”
I agree with Leslie Holman-Anderson. I scarcely know a person who has share housed and doesn’t have a story or two. (Aside: Check out the book/movie ‘He Died with a Falafel in his Hand’)
My own worst story has to do with a sharehouse in Leytonstone, London. I’d been living there for several months and it was a nightmare but my room was nice and I didn’t have much money. The landlord did the wiring and plumbing himself. The place was always dirty because nobody would clean it. And one of my housemates was a cocaine addict.
Things came to a head when I was woken up by screaming at 7am on Saturday morning. Turns out the addict had had a friend stay over. The guy had woken up, walked into my other housemate’s room while she was on the phone, and urinated on her bed. He was so out of it he thought it was the toilet. Ewww. In the ensuing fight, it came out that the friend was staying with us because he had nowhere else to go. You see, he had just been released from prison for a gang-related murder.
I moved out shortly after that.
Although S was the real snake in the grass here, the landlady didn’t sound too stellar, either—she should have been forthcoming with all the proper paperwork, taxes or not, to protect both her tenant and herself. Some of the worst deals you can make are ones that aren’t committed to paper, even (nay, especially) among friends and family! As another poster had suggested, S could have been classified as a guest for a while—which by that point, she would have been HAD all the proper paperwork been signed. Also as another poster pointed out, I hope the OP learned her lesson about allowing someone to drag you into something questionable or illegal—and I will add that the person luring you has an ulterior motive and WILL turn it around on you in the form of blackmail in their favor, just as S did here. That’s why they want you to conspire with them in the first place—it generally gives them the upper hand and a layer of protection.
I’ve been lucky to have good roommates, so I have no real roommate horror stories to add, but just know that anyone you live with is not going to be perfect and will do something to rub you the wrong way. Just as long as it’s not dishonest, illegal, or so offensive to you that it’s a deal breaker, be prepared to learn to compromise on a lot of things.
@Cat – that reminds me of a subletter I had once. My roommate sublet her half of the room over the summer to a girl who sure seemed nice at first. She stayed all of 3 days. The first night, her bed wasn’t there so she slept at a friend’s place. The second night I slept at my boyfriend’s place. We never slept in the same room at the same time. This is important.
So imagine my surprise when she left on the third day and told the landlord I was a horrible roommate because my boyfriend came over in the middle of the night every night and I also kept her up all night “chanting to Satan.” Yes, she tried to have me evicted on grounds I was worshipping Satan and possibly sacrificing animals (I’m not, and no I didn’t). Fortunately my landlord was awesome and told the girl even if I were a Satanist, she couldn’t evict me based on my religion. Then the landlord got a long nasty letter from the original roommate’s father with all this false information about me in it as well.
Both girls were strongly Christian, so it’s possible their objection to me was just that I was not. I’m pretty sure there’s a rule in the Bible about not making up blatant lies about other people, though.
I don’t know why the OP didn’t just move into the fifth room when she saw S was not ready to move out at the appointed time. That would have eliminated the lazy S/bloodstain problem.
Landlady shouldn’t have been goaded into entering the shady arrangement with S. Once S made the threats, she should have immediately thrown S out (and thrown out S’s belongings, and anything she’d defiled with her filth, onto the outside curb). If S actually went through with reporting Landlady, Landlady could explain that S was a squatter. S would have had plenty to lose by reporting Landlady, so I think it was an empty threat.
Not much can be said about E; she just sounds like an unpleasant person altogether.
Poor Landlady, but I hope she learned her lesson and found some better tenants.
Bells: I love it! I am not sure how one goes about worshipping Satan, but most guys, if he came over in the middle of the night and all you were willing to do all night was to chant and to sacrifice animals, would find another girlfriend. A man has his limits, after all. “Geez, baby, one more hamster and that’s it or I’m going home!”
Religion and psychology seem to draw some odd people. Mind you, a lot of us are normal. I have always been very religious (no idea as to from where it came as my Protestant parents were Easter and Mother’s Day Christians), and I am pretty much middle-of-the-road in everything else.
I did one have an Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister tell me I “was the antithesis of everything she believed”, but she was mad that our Catholic school principal told her to ask me how to teach theology as she was turning the high school kids off.
@ Leslie Holman-Anderson: I do agree that some landlord/ladies are right characters but some are professionals who are fair in their bsuinesses. In my second year at university I had a bad landlord who didn’t invest in the property, but me and my housemates learnt from that and found a good house for our third year and that landlady was a professional. She had the bills sent to her house and then she would divide them between the 5 of us and add it to the rent. This stopped the problem of tennants not paying their rent and leaving at the end of the year.
I also think the word “horror” and “nightmare” are pretty interchanagble. S was being particulary visious and manipulative when she threatened to blackmail the landlady and incrediably lazy when it came to the housework. Yes, some differences in opinion between housemates is expected but somethings aren’t such as what S did: not paying rent is serious. The OP might have been worried about what S was capabale of doing. Although I am surprsied that the OP didn’t just find somewhere else to live and only stayed there as long as she needed.
@ Cat and @Bells – IMO, cultural differences is probably one of the top causes of roommate troubles. I had a room mate, who did not want room mates who were non-Americans because she felt like a “minority” (forget the fact that all four of us in that apt. were from 4 different countries). The next year, she requested the landlords (this is an on-campus apartment) and got American roommates. She went around telling anyone who would hear that I am not and people from my country are dirty and hence I am the cause of all the mess in the house. I wonder how my side of the apartment was always clean wherheas her side, which was separated by a living room was always dirty; and the whole house magically became clean when my roomies were out during vacations and I stayed back (because it wasn’t economical for me to fly home during every vacation). Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against Americans. In fact, I even engaged to one; but my complains were against the crazy room mate.
I can’t understand why the other tenants didn’t change the locks and pack up S’s stuff for her? Also-
1. Was this a house with House of Multiple Occupancy regulations? This would mean that having only 4 people rather than 5 is a major legal issue and that health and safety regulations were not being met.
2. The landlady effectively returned S’s deposit when she moved out of her original bedroom. OP was entitled to the return of her deposit by the landlady because this was the original agreement and any financial issues with S were of no concern to OP.
3. An oral tenancy agreement in England is allowed but difficult to back up, although any landlord who does not request two references, a deposit and that you sign all the relevant paperwork on the day of moving in should set major alarm bells ringing.
4. The landlady pays tax at the end of the financial year for the income from the property, S’s threat seems somewhat suspect to be honest and it sounds like the landlady doesn’t really understand her tax position because letting out a property in the UK can be a great tax break if you utilize it properly.
5. I’m not sure about eviction regulations in England but in Scotland the tenant has to have been in arrears for three months before action can be taken, then they are served an eviction notice and it can take three months more to get them out. It sounds like S had signed a tenancy agreement for a set amount of time, when she wanted to move out before that time was up the landlady had told S to get a new person to take over her room. As the landlady did not change the contract when OP moved in, it sounds like she had no power to evict S because S was still under the terms of the tenancy agreement. The easiest way to get rid of a bad tenant is to wait out the end of the lease and then evict them on this basis rather than take them to court.
This situation was entirely the fault of the landlady for not taking control of the situation and putting the paperwork in place – which is all free to download online so you don’t need pay any money in solicitors fees. The OP was in no way responsible and was, frankly, fleeced out of her deposit by the Landlady rather than S whose major crimes were to be selfish and irresponsible – not unusual in a young tenant!
Took me awhile to get through this story 🙂 is the OP really have any responsibility for S not paying her rent? And other than the dirty bathroom, it doesn’t really sound all that bad, does it?
And this is why you should never rent without a written agreement. I don’t know why that landlady didn’t just draw up the paperwork when you agreed to move in- it would have saved you and her both a lot of trouble.
My first rental house was 5 bedrooms, so my friends and I naturally assumed it was for 5 people. The landlord didn’t correct us until after we’d signed the lease and moved in. Then he told us someone had to leave their phone number off the college registry because we were only legally allowed to have 4 people there. Of course we complied because the alternative was that someone had to move out and rent would go up for the rest of us!