If you have followed along so far, dear reader, in the six chapters preceding this one, you will understand me when I say, that I had had quite enough of problems with roommates. I had tried being friendly and generous, I had tried being kind by offering low rents, I had been polite, still too polite, when my rental agreements and rules were violated again and again and again, by tenants whose real point of view was that I should just stay hidden away in my room and leave them alone. Failing in all this, I had tried being more clear. I had tried being crystal clear, in my rules and expectations. In exchange for all these efforts, I had been bullied, disrespected, dismissed, yelled at, lied to, insulted, and sued, and sued again. And during all this time, keep in mind, reader, that I was offering some of the lowest rents available in my area, for my tenants.
Hence, there was something I wanted to say, and say it loud. It was this:
In short, I needed to raise my rents, to take back my power in my own house, and to get rid of the godawful horrible atrocious roommates I had had for far too long, as well as all their toxic bullshit, lies and nonsense!! But before I could finalize these radical changes, and totally reclaim my own house, I had to get my last roommate, Bridget, out of my house.
Bridget: A Great Tenant — Except when She Told me To Fuck Off
In many ways, Bridget was the best tenant or roommate I ever had. She was extremely polite and sweet, and followed my house rules to the letter, completely without complaint. It was her nature to be very detail oriented and diligent, responsible and kind. She also became my friend, something that had never happened with any other of my tenants.
Bridget had been in my house for two years, and had seen the problems I’d had with Jon, and had not only empathized with me during those struggles, but had also offered support. During the time of the lawsuit with Jon, Bridget was there for me, and expressed her contempt for Jon’s lies and scams. This quite differentiated her from all my other tenants, who invariably had felt pulled to side with other tenants (not the landlord) when there was any kind of problem between myself and one of my roommates. I was impressed, I was grateful, and I found this quite unusual, and realized, it seemed to be the very first time, in all the years I’d had tenants, that a tenant actually saw me more as a human being with needs and feelings, rather than an authority figure they felt ambivalent about, who they experienced as getting in their way of having what they wanted, or who was too much older than they and different, to be seen as other than a parent figure.
At the same time as I had appreciated this so much about Bridget, there was a reason why I did not want to keep her on as a roommate, and it was a significant reason. As sweet and polite as Bridget was, as helpful and supportive, and really as very sharp and intelligent and wise — all of these wonderful qualities about her went right down the toilet when we had a little problem arise — namely a manic episode. Because unfortunately, though I didn’t know it when I rented to her, Bridget, like Linda, years before her, had a bipolar disorder.
I first became aware of this, about four months after Bridget moved in, when I was tending to chores in my house, and noticed that many things had been moved around. Shortly I also saw the cause of this, namely Bridget, whizzing around the house, with a new and giddy expression on her face. She was cleaning up, “just doing a little tidying up” she said, with a broad smile. Bless her soul, when Bridget became manic, she did not destroy things or break windows, throw dishes in the trash or sit on the sidewalk and scream. She just flitted frenetically about my house, cleaning up.
As nice as it was to have extra cleaning help, there were other not so nice aspects to her mania. One of these, could be readily discovered by trying to talk to her about her mania. Because, as anyone knows who has a friend or relative with bipolar disorder, they cannot easily recognize when they are in a manic state. Often they deny it completely. So, when I would try to talk to Bridget about what was going on with her, she would become combatative and insulting, sometimes extremely combatative and very insulting and abusive. This was very hard to take, from someone who normally was exceptionally sweet and polite, as well as a supportive friend — to suddenly find that very same person in your house, now telling you to fuck off. In fact, Bridget’s own sister Andrea would later tell me, that she could not stand to be physically around Bridget, during her manic episodes, because of how insulting she became. Andrea would not allow Bridget to come over to her house, when Bridget was manic.
Then too, there was the grandiosity and delusion. In her normal life, Bridget was a student at a local college — and in fact she wasn’t even an undergraduate yet. When I rented to her, I assumed she was an undergrad at the major university in my area, but only found out later that she had been in community college, taking preparatory courses for a 4 year university, for many years. She struggled quite a bit with these classes, various science courses. But when in her mania, Bridget was now leaps ahead, planning her PhD dissertation, winking at me that she knew all the details of the most advanced theories in her field of study. She would also talk about plans she had that were completely delusional — such as how she was going to go skateboarding with a previous tenant of mine, who had moved out long ago and whom she had never kept in touch with. All of this delusion and mania was disturbing to me, and others in my house had been disturbed by it as well.
Bridget’s First and Second Manic Episode
So when I first discovered Bridget in a state of mania in my home, and found that it was impossible to talk her about what she was doing or how she was upsetting others, but instead would be told off and insulted, all I knew was that I wanted her out of my house right away. I phoned up Bridget’s sister Andrea, and Bridget’s mother Lisa, and found out to my dismay that neither of them wanted to take Bridget. They just didn’t like being around her when she was that way. I was frustrated and angry — it seemed to me that when someone has a mental illness, this is more the family’s responsibility to take care of, than the landlord’s. When I insisted that something had to be done, that I could not have Bridget in my house moving things about, insulting me and my other tenants, and refusing to listen to me, Lisa did come over and take Bridget to the hospital, where they stablized her.
When Bridget returned to my house 10 days later, she meekly asked permission to come back, inquiring softly “is it okay if I come back now?” I saw the old Bridget back again and was delighted about that. But I also told her we needed to sit down and talk and figure something out. It was challenging to talk to Bridget about her bipolar condition, in large part, because she didn’t fully believe she had a bipolar condition. Some degree of the grandiosity I had seen in her in mania, remained during her “normal” state, and she felt that she knew more than most any expert about her condition. She did not apologize for the disruption she had caused in my house, but she was willing to start in a group for those with bipolar disorder, to try to get more support. I explained that my main concern was that I could not have her in my house when she was in a manic state — that if she wanted to remain a tenant at my house, she would need to find another place to go during those times. She agreed to this, saying, “I will leave right away — I will find someplace to stay, I’ll go to a hotel if I have to”, but she never did sign the agreement I wrote up for her, in which I asked her to put this in writing.
It was about 6 months later ( and at a time when I was already renting one of my rooms only to short term Airbnb guests) when Bridget had her next manic episode. Tomasso had moved out by now, and I had a new roommate, Lydia, another student, who reported that Bridget was “saying strange things”
and had been sitting on the floor in the hallway, right outside Lydia’s bedroom,talking loudly on her cellphone. I knew right away what the problem was, and was quite concerned about how this could impact my Airbnb hosting, since I already knew that guests can write reviews of their experience, which cannot be removed or changed. So, I immediately went to talk to Bridget, telling her that she was having a manic episode, and that, as we had agreed, she needed to leave my house until she was back to normal. “I’m not manic, you’re manic!! Leave me alone!,” Bridget yelled at me, and turned on her heels and went into her room. Irate, I knocked on her room door, and she opened it, and stood there and gave me a lecture on how I was not to invade her privacy. When I kept insisting about her agreement to leave and stay elsewhere, she hooted, “I never said such a thing!” and closed the door in my face.
Livid, I immediately dialed up Bridget’s sister Andrea, who was the family member who Bridget trusted most and who I had been told would work with her most closely on this issue. I told Andrea that Bridget was manic again, and that I really could not have her in my house. I explained how Bridget was insulting me, refusing to listen to me, bothering my other housemates, and how this was totally unacceptable. In addition, I had also found that Bridget had turned on the hose in my backyard, and simply left the hose running full blast, all day long apparently. She was also moving appliances around, and destroyed a rice cooker by leaving it on with rice in it for over a week. She left the door to my chicken coop open, potentially endangering the hens, to where I had to put a padlock on it. There were many potential problems with Bridget present in my home.
I asked if Andrea could take Bridget to her house, and though Andrea was emphatic, she would not be around Bridget when Bridget was manic!! She did call Bridget and speak with her, and then phoned me back, saying that she had been able to get through to Bridget to convince her that she was manic, but that Bridget said she had nowhere else to go and could not afford a hotel. I was incensed. If she didn’t have anywhere else to go and couldn’t afford a hotel, why had she ever agreed to that and promised me she would definitely leave my house, “even if I have to stay in a hotel!” Sadly, I realized that when it came to agreements and rules that I absolutely needed to have followed, sweet, gentle and polite Bridget ended up being the same as all the other tenants I had had very serious problems with — she signed onto some agreements and responsibilities that she was unable or unwiling to carry out.
Ultimately, Andrea was able to convince Bridget to go and stay with one of her friends for a few days, but, she noted, Bridget fully expected me to refund her rent for the days that I had asked her to go elsewhere.
Sadly, though Bridget had actually become a friend of mine at this point, and we had gone hiking and to movies and dinner together several times, I realized that I was going to have to ask Bridget to move out. Through the thick and thin, the long and short, the big and tall of it, I had realized — I can’t have roommates who are not my friends, and I can’t have roommates who are my friends — I can’t have roommates at all!!
A change is necessary: no more roommates
I realized a radical change was necessary, in how I ran my house. In fact, I realized that I wanted to do without roommates — but I could not do without renters, since I needed the rental income to pay my mortgage. So my solution was to have renters, who were not roommates. This is where Airbnb came in, and fit very nicely.
After Jon left, I still had two renters — Bridget and Tomasso, although since Tomasso was only in my area for two semesters, while he finished a graduate program, I did not think of him as an actual roommate. Here is how I began to distinguish between a roommate and a renter (or “guest” as Airbnb calls them): a roommate was someone who was moving in for an indefinite period of time, who did not know when they would be leaving. (Who knows they might never want to leave!) A renter or guest, on the other hand, was someone who was only intending to stay for the duration of a specific project or course of study or research, or internship or such. This latter type of renter, because they would eventually be moving on, was much less likely to “stake claims” on my property, or have needs that I was not interested in helping them satisfy in my house.
I realized it was this particular issue which made all the difference in the world. I was now totally uninterested in people who wanted to bring their whole lives to my house, and all their belongings. I was convinced that this was where all the problems originated, since when someone felt that my house was their “home”, there would invariably be a battle brewing either overtly or covertly, over whose home it really was. In the past, I had let tenants become too comfortable feeling that my house was their home. They needed to know much more clearly, that my house was not their home, but rather, it was my home. I realized that in fact, I didn’t want my home to be anyone’s home, except my home. I got my first taste of such renters, with Tomasso and some Airbnb guests, when I began listing on Airbnb, after doing many months of work to clean up and prepare my home for short term guests. And I was enthralled and in bliss with the enormous difference that I experienced, between those who came marching arrogantly into my home expecting and demanding that it was theirs, versus those who came into my home gratefully and politely, respecting it and being very considerate and respectful, because it was mine.
Once I had my first taste of having guests rather than roommates, by listing one of my rooms on Airbnb, I felt like I was in heaven. This was exceptionally blissful — I saw that now, instead of having nightmares and horrors with roommates, I could run a guest house, and have delightful and grateful people over to stay. Really the difference was phenomenal.
I give notice to my last roommate
Once Lydia moved on, who had been in my house only a few months to complete her university program, I then turned that room into an Airbnb rental as well, and now only Bridget remained as my last roommate. I talked to Bridget and explained that I needed her to move, and why, and she sadly accepted this. I didn’t want to give her written notice to leave (the “termination of tenancy” form) because that legal form is so cold and off-putting, and Bridget had been, and still was, my friend. I also wanted to give her plenty of time to find another place to live. Though legally I only needed to give her 60 days’ notice, I chose to give her 90 days to find a new place.
Though Bridget was my friend, was a very honest and responsible person, and she felt obligated to me and actually put a lot of work and diligence into finding a new place, she did not move out in 90 days. In fact she did not move out in 120 days, or even 150 days. Here came another sad consequence of my generosity to my roommates: by the time Bridget was looking for a place to move to, rents had gone up considerably in my area since the 2.5 years prior when she had moved in. In fact, median rents had nearly doubled in my city during this period of time. So, given that she was living on disability income (not on a student loan, as I had first thought), Bridget’s income level was actually no longer adequate to enable her to afford even
a room in a house in my city, at median rent. Hence she was having a heck of a time finding a room she could afford. I felt angry — now it was becoming obvious that I was suffering the consequences of my generosity. I wondered if I would ever get my last roommate out of my house! In all the years I had had roommates, I had never once increased anyone’s rent. I had kept my rents low, wanting to be kind to those who, like me, had lifestyles and values not oriented to the almighty dollar. What I finally realized, was that by offering such low rents, I was causing myself a multitude of problems, such as, that when it was really past time for them to go — that my roomates might say they could not afford to move out, because I had the cheapest rents in the whole city and they could not find another place that they could afford to live.
Finally, after nearly half a year, actually about 170 days after I had asked her to move in no more than 90 days, I was elated to hear Bridget call me with the good news that she had found a new place to live. I was so happy about this, that I immediately volunteered to help her do the schlepping. When moving day came, I was hauling her boxes out, and I was the one driving the big U-Haul truck she had rented. However, Bridget said that over half the things she owned, would not fit into her new space, so we stopped at a storage facility on the way to offload them.
When we got to her new home, I was heartbroken for her. Bridget was happy and upbeat, declaring in an excited voice that her new home had a kitty cat. But I was downcast and dejected when I saw the miserable shack of a house she was moving into, out in the margins of ghettoland in my city — the only place she could now afford. Out right in front of her wretched new home, was an illegally dumped TV and mattress, and weeds choked the decrepit looking block. Opening an institutional looking chain link fence, bowing under viney overgrowth, we entered the property. The cold, miniscule living room smelled like cat pee, and was gloomy and dark. The size of her bedroom was pathetic — it was about 60% smaller than the space she had had in my home, and there was no way she could squeeze even 1/3 of her belongings into the tiny room, which featured a window, covered with a shoddy, stained rag of a curtain, that looked directly onto the neighbor’s ghetto blight.
Altogether, I was so saddened for Bridget, as I continue to be for many renters, who are finding themselves pushed out farther away into the margins, the dilapidated ghettos and suburban hinterlands, because they can no longer afford the rents in my ever more popular urban center. However, I also realize what a bad idea it is for any property owner to try to provide charity care for their tenant, through generously low rents, particularly in a setting where landlords have so few rights compared to tenants, and can be so obscenely victimized by the legal system. As well, I have spoken to many landlords and homeowners with roomies over the years, and they seem to be unanimous in declaring, that when they raised their rents, they got better renters. It was in fact the low rents that I offered that had far more to do with the bad renters I obtained, than I had ever realized!! So, again, my advice to all of you out there who need renters — -please do yourself a favor and run a business, not a charity organization. You’ll thus be more likely to avoid getting the disabled, the mentally ill, the entitled, the disgruntled, the formerly evicted, the slackers, the anti-authoritarian activists and anarchists, and the bottom of the barrel renters of all kinds.
Bridget and I are still good friends, and I expect to remain friends with her, the sweet soul that she is. Life has treated her well, and she has actually been able to move on now from the dilapidated and tiny house, into something much nicer.
There is one odd aspect to Bridget’s life, even when she is in quite a normal state of mind — which is, that she has now been taking “preparatory” science coursework at the very same community college for well on 7 years. In fact, she appears to be taking some of the very same classes, over and over again. I continue to be puzzled as to how long Bridget will be able to believe, and/or convince others, that her real calling in life is to be a Doctorate in Biochemistry, a leading world expert in her field, coming up with new theories on Bipolar disorder and new medications as well, when for the life of her, she cannot seem to get out of community college. But I leave that folly aside, as one of life’s odd unexplained mysteries, and know only that Bridget is one of the sweetest people I have ever known.
My life without roommates
After Bridget moved out, I was clear — there would be no more roommates for me, ever again!!. I had had enough serious problems with roommates to last ten lifetimes.
I call my house a “guest house”, and although I dont’ do only short term rentals, I only rent to individuals who are here for a short to medium length of time, and who I am clear, are not seeking permanent housing. I choose renters who are here for a vacation, a family visit, a short project or course of study, research, a workshop, one semester to finish school, and the like. I make it clear to anyone who rents in my home, that this is my home, and not theirs. I do this by intentionally creating an environment oriented to be a tranquil, retreat-like setting. I have a very clear set of very solid house rules, which are intended not only to maintain the type of environment I am trying to create here, but also to clarify to renters that this is not your house, this is my house, and you are welcome to visit, but not to stay.
I do this for instance, by prohibiting renters from having any mail delivered to my home, or using my address for any purpose whatsoever, such as setting up a bank account. I prohibit them from having any friends over: in fact no visitors may enter my home for any amount of time, even 5 minutes. I prohibit renters from leaving their belongings out in common areas, and insist they use designated storage spaces only. This very much helps with the problem of renters starting to lay “claim” to the homeowner’s space by “marking territory” and leaving their things around. If after two warnings, a guest/renter continues to leave the same items out in common areas where prohibited, their property will go directly into the trash can. I prohibit use of phones in common areas, and prohibit socializing or phone use in my house after 10pm. I also prohibit monopolizing of common areas and if two or more guests start becoming friends and “hanging out”, I direct them out of my tranquil retreat center to a local cafe which is more suitable for such activities. I am very strict about the rules for guests cleaning up after themselves. I don’t allow guests to bring furniture, appliances, or really anything more than 2 suitcases of belongings. In short, I make it quite abundantly clear that it is me who runs my home, not my renters.
Another very lovely aspect to not having roommates: everything in each room of my house, now belongs to me. I have all my own furniture in the guest rooms, and all my own art. I have my books and doo-dads in these rooms, not roommates’ own choice of decor. This means that my house features art by Picasso, Miro and Kandinsky, not idiotic Occupy or Che Guevara Posters and passive-aggressive anarchist taunts at my authority. I dont’ allow renters to hang their own things on my room’s walls, and I prohibit renters from hanging things in windows or on the outside of their room doors — I just dont’ want to see my house starting to be rearranged and any sign of foreign invaders staking claims to my territory.
So there is a very real way now that even though these rooms are mostly occupied by others, they remain mine even when others are in them. This goes a good long way towards allowing me to retain ownership of my entire home, as does the fact that I like to spend time in each of the rooms of my house now, when a guest vacates it, just to keep putting my energy there, saying, “this space is mine!!”
I think it’s often important for women in particular, especially those who have had bully fathers or been marginalized in their own families, to be able to finally take up our space. So, y’all go, girls — and make yourselves very large in your own home, your sacred space. I want to see you being gigantic there! Take up the space that is yours, without hesitation or guilt, but with natural female power. As I experience it, this lovely, mysterious, delicious women’s power comes from Gaia and the earth, and it’s something unique to us as women. So , go gals, get grounded and go touch the earth and recieve your natural inheritance!
Finally, I will point out something that is very central and highly significant to many Airbnb hosts and others do short term rentals — when you rent to someone on a short term basis, they have no tenant’s rights. In fact, a short term renter is not a tenant. I think having read through my story thus far, you will quite appreciate, gentle reader, how much this means to me in particular, as well as to anyone who has had to endure some of the truly beastly and horrific violations and abuse that homeowners have to endure, because in so many regions, tenants seem have more rights in their homes than they themselves do, and end up bullying homeowners about in their own homes.
Hence it is a lovely thing, to know that if a short term rental guest violates your house rules, you can, just as a hotel can do, kick them out the very next day. You do not need to give that miscreant 30 days’ notice. More, if a short term rental guest overstays the period they have rented for, you do not have to file a lawsuit and go to court to try to extract them, and potentially be stalled for 6 months to a year while a vile scammer pulls a sick fraud on you. Instead, you can toss them out on their heinie, and their luggage out on the sidewalk after them. If the guest tries to overstay, they are trespassing, committing a misdeanor crime, and can be arrested.
In my opinion, this is in fact is how it should be for anyone renting a room in someone’s home — that they have no tenant’s rights, and can be thrown out without going to court — in fact it’s my understanding this is the way the law presently is in Ireland and the UK, and it seems to go just fine there. Those who want tenant rights, should get their own apartment. Those who rent in someone’s home, should not have “rights” to stay in that home one day beyond their having made themselves vile pests there and becoming seriously unwanted there. Just like cockroaches or other foul vermin, homeowners need to be able to remove all unwanted tenant-pests right away. (If these words seem harsh to you, please read my last 6 chapters!!)
In short, by having rules in my house that keep guests in their place and keep them from encroaching on my territory or other’s territory, and rules which also, are not those they would be comfortable with on a long term basis or for living permanently with, I help ensure that those visiting my home are very aware of the most important thing, this long sought-after goal which I have finally been able to attain — namely,
My house is mine.