The Vine: January 7, 2009
I write about the lovely Robert, who is not actually our landlord, but the legal caretaker for our absentee landlord's buildings and tenants (absentee landlord lives in Europe).I lived with three wonderful roommates in a pretty nice flat in Boston for one year.Things started getting annoying as soon as we filled out the rental application, and have now reached their climax.I will elaborate as briefly as I can.
When we arrived at the place, we found it a mess.The previous tenants not only didn't patch up the holes in the walls, they left a bunch of heavy furniture there, as well.Also, the things we had requested be fixed (missing floor tiles, missing window screens, broken screen door, broken glass on our deck door, rotting windowsill in shower, broken power outlet, one roommate's bedroom door wouldn't shut, etc. ) hadn't even been touched.
When we approached Robert, he gave us The Form — I'm not sure what it's called, but it's a pretty typical inspection form to be filled out by new tenants regarding the shape of the property — and told us that the things would be taken care of within the week.He also told us to move the furniture ourselves, which we did with great difficulty.
One week turned into one month, one month into six months.After six months, the really dangerous things were fixed (the wall was so rotten that it could have collapsed, and the broken glass was fixed), but the rest were left just as they were, despite various requests in the form of friendly reminders to actual legal threats.
Our lease ended as of this month, and we all moved away, me halfway across the country, one to Europe, and two to better situations in the same city.However, the drama still continues.Enter the Security Deposit Saga.
I left my very large bureau in the apartment, explaining to the person subletting my room that she should call Salvation Army to take it away if she didn't want to keep it.She agreed, but forgot.I felt badly about it, as it was a big pain for my roommates to get it out of the place.One roommate, let's call her Elise, spoke to Robert about what should be done with it.He gave her very specific instructions about how to get it out, where to put it on the curb, etc.
Roomies followed instructions to a T…except it looked like Robert had given them the wrong instructions, because the city, so he says (and it's probably true), fined him $275 for having trash on the curb, or something like that.
Now Robert wants to take this money out of our security deposit, and we are livid.We feel that we did our part by asking him how to go about disposing of the bureau, and that it's not our fault if he told us the wrong thing.He's being very cool and smooth as usual, explaining that it'll take him the entire MONTH to "figure out" how to "fix this mess," before giving us our deposit (whatever part of it he sees fit).
Now, finally, the question: what is the most hassle-free way to get our rightful amount back, what with two of us gone? If I still lived in Boston, I'd haul his sorry butt to small-claims court, but even then, I don't know if I'd have a leg to stand on.I mean, we can't prove that we followed his instructions, even though we certainly did.
I know it's not a huge amount to lose, in the long run, but none of us is rich, nor do we enjoy getting screwed.Do we have any options? Are they worth it? Should we just be mad and get on with our lives?
Slum Landlords Should Live In Their Own Apartments, Dammit
This is one of those "fool me twice" situations where you have to admit defeat and move on to the next thing.I don't love recommending, in this economy, that you guys just eat the $275, but you can't prove in writing that you disposed of the bureau as instructed; even if you could, as you point out, you'd have to come back to Boston and physically take your ass to small-claims court, which takes time; and it's over $275, which I assume you'd split four ways, after which it really isn't worth it when you stack it up against the time/emotion investment.
And part of what you want here, the money aside, is for Robert to get an official, institutional comeuppance for sucking as a caretaker, which is completely understandable — and the most irritating thing about people who do not act right and do their shit like they're supposed to is that they almost never get it.You punish them somehow, get the money, fire them, whatever, but it's not like they go, "Ohhhh, okay," because if they had that capacity?They would act right to start with.
So, let that part of it go, and assess the rest of it: the likelihood that you'll get the money back without having to go through with a small-claims threat; the likelihood that that would work; how much more time and energy you want to sign over to this guy.Unless you're looking at a much higher net number, I don't think you want to bother.You can send one more letter, and cc it to an amenable lawyer friend so Robert thinks you've retained counsel on the matter.If that works, great; if not, vow not to live under those conditions in the future, and drop it.
I have an etiquette question for you that I don't think necessarily has a "right" answer, but I'd love to hear your opinion.
I'm a freelance writer/editor who has worked from home for about five years. Right now, all of my assignments come from regular, long-term gigs.
I'm seven weeks pregnant with my third child. In a month or so, I'd like to start notifying my clients. The jobs are as such that it's very likely that I'll still be employed by each company when it is time for me to give birth. I haven't worked out the details yet of the amount of time off I'm going to take, but I figured since a lot of my work can be done ahead of time, I can come to an agreement in advance with each individual client. I have every intention of continuing to work after the baby is born.
In some cases, any contact I've ever had with any of these folks has been through email only. I've been with one company since May and have yet to speak to anyone on the phone. For this particular employer, I have two bosses.
So here's my question: How do I share my little announcement? It seems little strange to tell people such big news (big to me anyway) in such an impersonal way. On the other hand, since I've never actually spoken to my editors, it seems weird that the first time I pick up the phone is to say I'm pregnant. Am I overthinking this?
Any advice you or your readers can offer would be greatly appreciated.
At least working from home, I don't have to worry about my morning sickness giving it away too early!
First of all, congratulations, and I hope you're not too sick of saltines.Heh.
I would make the phone call; I'd always rather err on the side of too formal, and while calling instead of emailing might seem like it's making too big a deal of things, you also don't want to make too small a deal of it — because I think your real concern is not the actual etiquette of the announcement, but what the announcement might prompt.
Maybe I'm wrong and you're confident that nothing will change with your clients, which is great — but if that were the case, I feel like you wouldn't be anxious about how to tell them.Do you think they'll assume you can't handle the workload, and give your assignments to someone else?Are you worried about how much time off you should tell them you'll be taking once the baby arrives?
Again, if these aren't concerns, just ignore me, pick up the phone, and give them a heads-up — although I'd wait 'til you're further along, both for the obvious anti-jinx reasons and because, as the due date gets closer, you'll have a better idea of where you are on various projects, what work has to get done ahead of time exactly, and so on.
But if they are, maybe do a little rehearsal of your plan: remind them you've done this before (this is your third child, so while it's always a hectic time with a newborn, you do at least know what to expect); outline your plan for covering the workload before and after you deliver; think of any other concerns they might have and come up with a response to parry them.
This probably is not a big deal; I can't speak for other editors, but honestly, I don't assume that work isn't going to get done due to some outside factor unless or until it isn't getting done, so if this announcement were made to me, I'd be like, "Awesome, congratulations!Let me know if you need a sub," and that would be the end of it provided you didn't blow any deadlines.
Call up the relevant editors (in the case of the job with two bosses, pick the one you've had more contact with, or for whom you work more directly); give them the news, and let them know they're covered on your work; resist the urge to over-explain.
I need some advice on what could turn out to be an awkward situation.
Some background: My friend and I have been alternating babysitting for a third friend for a year.It's just one day a week for about four hours, the child is a toddler and great fun, but it is always at the end of a long workday for us, stretching our workday from eight hours into 12. We don't get paid, more like we trade favors for each other — we babysit, she watches our pets when we are out of town, that sort of thing.
We offered to babysit at the start of the year when she lost her regular babysitter, but now we are realizing that we are the long-term childcare.My question is how to tell her that we no longer want to babysit, without ruining our friendship?
I don't want to be Mary Poppins just because I'm single
Each of you, preferably separately so she doesn't feel ganged up on, needs to let your friend know that you're sorry, but you won't be able to babysit on a regular basis anymore.Don't use the word "want."Use the word "can't."Don't elaborate or make up excuses; you just can't do it.You have a job already, and you just don't have the time.
If she presses you, point out to her gently that this is in fact work that people get paid to do — and you do not get paid.Occasional cat-sitting is, I'm afraid, not the equivalent of minding and entertaining a toddler for four hours a week, and if she wants to stop doing that in return, well, you'll get a cat-sitter — but having you guys cover her every now and then is one thing.Assuming you'll do it every week, when she used to pay someone to do it, is another.And it looks a little bit like taking advantage.
She probably knows this can't last, or maybe she just doesn't realize that it's kind of presumptuous of her at this point not to have replaced her regular babysitter instead of leaning on you, but whatever the case, if you don't want to do it anymore, tell her you can't — and don't agree to another month's worth because you don't want her to get mad, either.She gets one more week, to give her time to set something else up; after that, you're done.
Tags: etiquette friendships kids roommates workplace