A Cardboard Box Under The Overpass Is Starting To Look Real Nice

, , , , | Friendly | April 23, 2020

I’m at the end of my first year of college, and I’m trying to figure out a living situation for the next year. Student housing is limited, so nearly all sophomores have to live off-campus. I find a friend of a friend, [Roommate #1], who needs another roommate for the coming year, and I agree verbally to move in with her and [Roommate #2] at the end of the summer. 

[Roommate #1] has a very minor disability. There are some reasonable accommodations that need to be made, but she also uses her disability as an excuse to get whatever she wants. The apartment has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, with one of the bathrooms attached to one of the bedrooms. [Roommate #1] tells me and [Roommate #2] that because of her disability, she will need a bedroom and bathroom to herself. She also decides that there’s no need for her to pay a higher portion of the rent, as the disability isn’t her fault. [Roommate #2] and I are first-time renters unfamiliar with how rent is divided, so we both agree to it.

Over the summer, [Roommate #1] and [Roommate #2] have a falling out. I only hear [Roommate #1]’s side, and it makes [Roommate #2] sound like the worst person in the world. [Roommate #2] moves out of the apartment.

Since neither of us can afford to pay half the rent of the apartment, [Roommate #1] and I start looking for another roommate. The search doesn’t go well. A few people I talk to seem willing at first, but as soon as they hear they’ll be living with [Roommate #1], they lose interest. Being young and naive, I don’t take this for the huge red flag it is.

I’ve started hanging out with [Roommate #1] so we can get to know each other before living together. The red flags keep piling up, but I keep ignoring them. One day, [Roommate #1] asks me to come to the apartment; she’s still living there with the roommates who are moving out at the end of the summer. I find her trying to hang a shower curtain across a corner of the living room.

Me: “Hey, [Roommate #1]. What are you doing?”

Roommate #1: “I’m trying to see if it’ll work. There’s something I want to talk to you about. I crunched the numbers, and it looks like I can’t afford a third of the rent. So, I was thinking we could look for two more roommates instead of one, to live in the second room together. Maybe people will be more interested that way, and it’ll be cheaper rent for all of us.”

Me: “Um, okay. I guess that works. But I thought you needed a room to yourself?”

Roommate #1: “Oh, yeah, of course. I’ll still be in the master bedroom by myself.”

Me: “Then… where am I supposed to sleep?”

[Roommate #1] gestures toward the shower curtain.

Me: “Hold on. You want me to sleep in a corner of the living room behind a shower curtain… to lower your rent?”

Roommate #1: “It’ll lower your rent, too!”

Me: “I’m not the one who needs that. If you want lower rent, then you sleep behind the shower curtain!”

[Roommate #1] launches into a long tirade about her disability. I have a family member with the same condition, so I know that a lot of what she’s saying is BS. There’s no medical reason why she can’t share a room; she just doesn’t want to.

Eventually, she mentions something about “the ad.”

Me: “Wait, what ad?”

Roommate #1: “Oh, since we weren’t having much luck on campus, I put out a [Website] ad. I’ve already got a few responses!”

I suddenly picture myself spending a year living with [Roommate #1] and two complete strangers while sleeping behind a shower curtain in a space barely big enough for a single bed, yet still paying the same rent as someone with a private room and bathroom. I finally reach a breaking point.

Me: “I’m sorry, but this isn’t working. I’ll find somewhere else for next year.”

Roommate #1: “No, you can’t! You agreed, so you’re legally required to pay rent for the whole year!”

Me: “No, I’m not. I never signed a lease.”

Roommate #1: “A verbal agreement is a contract!”

I left rather than get into an argument with her and quickly looked into whether I was on the hook for rent. I was not. And as luck would have it, I had an email in my inbox saying that my spot had come up on the student housing waiting list. I immediately accepted the offer.

But that was not the end. [Roommate #1] kept hounding me. She called and texted so often that I had to block her number, showed up at my current residence at all hours to yell and pound on the door, and even came to my place of work. Her harassment got so bad that I wouldn’t want to live with her even without the shower curtain and [Website] roommates.

At one point, while trying to get her to leave me alone, I claimed that my mother — who’d be paying a portion of my rent — forbade me from living with strangers off of the Internet. So, of course, [Roommate #1] found her contact information and started harassing her, as well. This only ended when I contacted the Dean.

Shortly after that, I received my student housing room assignment, along with the name of my roommate. By complete chance, it was [Roommate #2]. When we met to talk about what had happened, we found that [Roommate #1] had been bad-mouthing each of us to the other behind our backs. It turned out that we got along great, and we lived together for the next three years with no problems.

We never found out what [Roommate #1] did about her living situation, as she had been told to leave us alone or risk expulsion.

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