Dear Allison,

I’ve been living with the same friend for about six months. Her grandparents pay for her rent. We were renting a place, had to leave because it sold (surprise, surprise) and now her grandparents have bought her a condo and my rent is just part of the mortgage payment. She works nights now and goes to school. Since we moved about three months ago she’s basically turned into a different person. She spends all her time on the couch sleeping or watching television. Whatever she’s doing, she’s complaining though, that’s for sure. She’s always sick, cold, tired, ate too much, disappointed in some feature in our condo, like the garbage disposal switch being too far away from the sink, ordering her boyfriend around in a baby voice or yelling at me for literally everything. She’s negative about everything and super bossy. I don’t really know what to do. I’m sick of moving, but I’m also sick of spending all my time at my girlfriend’s house just to avoid being around my roommate. We used to be friends but she doesn’t even treat me like that anymore. How do you tell someone they’ve changed (and for the way worse) without ending up homeless because she also happens to be your landlord?

—Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,

I’ve always said that the quickest way to screw up even the most solid of friendships is to move in as roommates. 

What really compounds your situation is that your roommate also happens to own the place.

My last roommate was the owner as well and that’s a situation I’m never, ever getting myself into again unless the person is a family member. 

Think about it: Normal landlord/tenant situations usually involve the landlord or rental company being far away enough so that your landlord is not constantly breathing down your neck. Not that everyone who rents is sketchy or destructive, but everyone does things differently and I enjoy having a relationship with my landlords where all they know is that they’re getting rent on time, not getting complaints about me and when I move out the place is as clean as can be and I pay for any damage I have caused that I can’t fix myself.

My last roommate, who owned the place, illegally took money from my security deposit when I left because she still lived there and presumably felt she was entitled to a professional cleaning job because she didn’t bother to bone up on her legal obligations as a landlord. She also made me feel, constantly, like the place was hers and I was just living in it because of her good graces, never mind the fact I was paying an inflated rent price for one bedroom and no storage that was well over what she needed to cover her mortgage. 

This seems to be the case more often than not when you live with your landlord. If you don’t do exactly what s/he wants in exactly the manner in which s/he would do it, you’re “living in my house and you’ll abide by my rules.” If you do something annoying or gross — like come in drunk and pass out on the couch, or your dog sheds all over the couch, or you leave dishes in the sink — not only might there be run-of-the-mill roommate clashing over it, you run the risk of getting kicked out for mistakes that otherwise would only merit a brief talk with another roommate. 

As for the change in her personality: Maybe she’s always been like this and you never noticed it before?

I certainly don’t think it’s healthy for anyone to be up all night working and then spending their spare time stressed about school or laying around watching television. I’m pretty sure seratonin and dopamine levels taper off when you are awake mostly at night and without exercise or sunlight and nature to replenish those supplies. In addition to being tired, she is probably going to act more like someone suffering from depression than she used to. She might even have depression. 

I’m not a doctor, but aside from maybe telling her you’ve noticed she seems miserable and that it does affect you, there’s not much you can do other than make yourself scarce and, unfortunately, start looking for a new place to live. 

Moving sucks, sure, but living in a situation where you feel tense all the time and like you have to avoid coming or being home isn’t healthy for you either. Neither is feeling constantly attacked with little recourse because if you butt heads with your roommate too often or too hard she might kick you our anyway. Moving is a temporary stressor and the payoff of being able to live alone, live with your girlfriend or find better roommates who are not your landlord and do not have the power to kick you out for something silly will far outweigh the finite amount of stress and manpower that moving again will take.

The more you expose yourself to this situation, the more unhappy you will be and the more your friendship with your roommate will disintegrate in a way that isn’t able to be repaired. 

Get on Facebook, or look in the paper and start planning your necessary escape. 

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