Roommate Issue- Am I Being Unreasonable?

Sorry so long…

I am a grad student and I share a one bedroom basement apartment with an acquaintance. We’ve are friendly to each other, but not really friends and mostly just stay out of each other’s way.

It’s not a great arrangement, but it works well enough. We were looking for place from the other side of the country, so we ended up in the first reasonable place that would take us. Our lease is for nine months and will end at the end of May. I view this as a very temporary situation- I don’t see it as a “home” as much as a workable place to crash while I finish my first year and figure out what I’m going to do next.

The apartment has a small wet bar that has been converted into a kitchen. We have a small wet bar sink, a nice two-burner hot plate, a microwave, a full-sized fridge and a very nice large toaster oven. It’s not my dream kitchen or anything, but with a grad student schedule I rarely do much cooking. Most of my meals are of the “sandwich” variety, and when I do find time to cook, what we have works perfectly adequately- I have no problem cooking with what we have. While of course it’d be nice to have a nicer kitchen, I really don’t miss it at all. We live out-of-the-way, so we don’t have a lot of guests or parties.

My roommate, on the other hand, likes to bake. While he doesn’t cook a lot, he does enjoy cooking and having a nice kitchen. He does feel constrained by our minimalist kitchen. We’ve already fought a few times because he would like “us” to invest in nice kitchen stuff, while frankly I don’t care and since i am living on student loans I am really just interested in getting what I need to survive and saving what I can. If he wants to buy nice stuff that is fine, but if I’m happy with what we have I don’t see why I should pay for it.

Recently our landlord has began talking about upgrading the kitchen, installing real cabinets, a stove, a dishwasher, sinks, etc. Our landlord is well-off, and so it would probably end up being really nice. There would be no change to our rent. They are still in the planning stages, and are flexible about when they do this stuff.

My roommate is thrilled.

I, on the other hand, am concerned about the scale of things. My roommate is usually gone in the day, but I take night classes, tend to sleep pretty late, and usually spend the mornings in the house (this may change if I get a job, but no telling what schedule I could get.) I really value my leisurely mornings, and get a lot of reading, research and writing done hanging out in my PJs. I would not welcome the disruption of people hammering and drilling- it’s such a small place that it is essentially one large room. I also am uncomfortable as a women being alone with workmen in a somewhat isolated basement- I might be willing to hang around the house, but I wouldn’t want to take a shower or hang out in my room while workmen were there, which means I’d have to get up and showered and dressed early even when I was just hanging around the house. And in generally I just wouldn’t to be comfortable and productive.

I said I would be willing to put up with a week or two of disruption, but that if we are talking the month or more that a large-scale project would take, I would not be so willing. It’d be a major disruption to my life, for no real benefit to myself, in a place I will be moving out of soon.

Is this unreasonable? Roommate seems to think so. I mentioned that we could ask if they could arrange the work for winter break, when we both will be travelling, and he still didn’t like that idea, saying he wanted the kitchen as soon as possible.

When our kitchen was installed, it was about five days of work over a two week period. I would share your worries with the landlord and rommate, ask that they keep disruption to a minimum with careful planning, and allow it to go through.

Which would disrupt you more, putting up with this or moving out before it happens?

A week or two of disruption sounds fair - a month or more does not; as you say, you don’t care about it, and it would be you being bothered, not him. It’s nice of your landlord to upgrade the kitchen and not raise the rent, but that’s usually the kind of thing that’s done in between tenants, isn’t it?

Also, renovations take as long as they take, and my understanding is that they always take longer than expected.

I think waiting till break to minimise disruption is a pretty reasonable request.

Sounds like he isnt willing to find a compromise, so doesnt bode well. What will he do if you arent willing to do it ASAP?


Honestly? I think you are being a little unreasonable.

Talk to the landlord and get a firm estimate on how long this upgrade will take. This is a kitchen remodel for a small apartment done at the landlord’s expense. I can’t see this taking over a week or two (at most). They aren’t putting in a dream kitchen with an island and granite countertops and a custom tile backsplash.

Workmen in your 1-bedroom apartment for a whole month? Too much to ask of you, in my opinion. However, a week or 10 days? Absolutely reasonable. This is a major upgrade being provided to you at zero cost. If my roommate was trying to block that just to salvage a couple days of sleeping in, I’d be pretty annoyed. May is quite a ways away.

Well, the cost of the inconvenience, whatever that is.

Consider putting a lock on the bedroom door and study in there? Is there perhaps a study buddy you can invite over to hang out [even if they just sit there and read a book and not really study] as a sort of chaperone?

No not at all, there are two people living here not one. Waiting untill the break seems reasonable, the owner wants to do it before you move out so it will be easier to rent when you do.

What for ? Because workmen are horny animals that can’t keep it in their pants :rolleyes: ?

How sexist and classist.

Look, stop being snotty. It is not my issue of not wanting to be alone in the flat while it is being worked upon. I happen to carry a sidearm and would have no problem with the entire front line of the Miami Dolphins romping through my place, I protect myself. I am not going to tell her to get a gun to feel safe, that is over reacting. I am simply suggesting that if it would make her feel safer to study in her bedroom with a lock on the door, or to invite someone she trusts over to keep her company so she is not in a situation that makes her uncomfortable. I do not think that that type of advice is untoward. A locking doorset can be had for about $20 US, and inviting her buddy over for studying can be a pot of coffee and some nice muffins. I could have also suggested that she totally disrupt her life and spend the day in the school library studying there.

She obviously is uncomfortable with the idea of strangers in her flat while she is there, and asked advice. How about coming up with some advice for her instead of snarking at me for offering advice?

A buddy for a week might almost be manageable, a fortnight or a month is less likely to be workable.

Im not sure why people think her idea of doing it around winter break is such an unreasonable compromise, its not exactly years away. Maybe the wording of the choices is causing problems.


I also think a week or two of inconvenience is just one of those things you put up with when you have a roommate. I wouldn’t expect a new small rental kitchen to take longer than that, but of course it depends on your landlord, his vision of the final result and who/if he’s hiring the job out to or doing it himself in his off hours. I’d try to get those things clarified. You may very well find out that he’s planning on doing the work in the late morning, afternoon or evenings anyhow, and your mornings will remain undisturbed.

If it goes a month or more, which is an unreasonably long time for a kitchen project in a space that already has plumbing and electric run, I’d talk to my roommate about a rent reduction for you for that period of time, since it is an upgrade that’s more important to him, and a change to the apartment from the condition it was in when you signed your lease.

Winter break doesn’t sound like a bad idea, but I understand, as an avid cook, why your roommate isn’t eager to wait. OTOH, if they’re in “the planning stages” now, in late October, it’s possible that the landlord won’t have his ducks in a row until winter break anyhow, depending on when exactly that is. My winter break starts Dec. 13; my son’s just before Christmas. December 13 isn’t a bad time to get home improvements done, but just before Christmas is a nightmare time to find a crew at reasonable rates and get them to show up for work. So that’s something else to clarify with your landlord - is waiting until then even reasonable in his eyes? Is it the timetable he had in mind anyhow?

Yes, you could dig your heels in and reason that he and you both signed on for the place in the condition it’s in and that maintaining that is all you have to accommodate, but it’s kinda douchey to do so.

Them doing it over winter break would be ideal, but it may not be possible depending on the schedule of the workmen or company doing the renovation. So yes, the roommate is being unreasonable by not wanting to ask for winter break, but Sven is being unreasonable by trying to put off the whole thing.

We need Roommate Court! Cut the kitchen in half!

I’m surprised that anyone would be annoyed by such a trivial inconvenience. For two weeks you can get up early and do things outside the apartment in the morning. It seems like very selfish behavior to hold up the improvement – which will benefit you (since your roommate likes to bake, who do you think she’ll be sharing the results with?) – just because you like to lounge around in the morning.

You’re coming off self-absorbed, yes. It’s a minor inconvenience which will ultimately improve the apartment for both of you. There’s no reason for you to inconvenience both your roommmate over this. Just because you don’t personally don’t care about the place doesn’t mean you should impose that indifference on them, and it’s not like this will cost you anything.

I say suck it up. This is obviously pretty important to your roommate, and it’s petty for you to refuse to give up a few mornings lounging around in your pyjamas for it.

A week is fine. Two is a stretch. But my landlords are well-off, and when they are not renting the rooms out, the apartment is a part of their personal living space- these upgrades are for themselves in the future more than for us. I have no doubt that they will “do it right”. A little inconvenience is fine, but I’m not comfortable with the “living with the workmen” scenario that I know home improvement projects can morph into. Already they are going to need to tear down the wet bar, tear up carpet and lay tile…I think it will take electricians and plumbers going into the walls if we are talking about stuff like dishwashers…I just don’t see how this isn’t going to be a major undertaking. and it’s a small place- I can never get more than say 15 feet away from the work or entirely in a separate room from it.

Like I said, I take evening classes, and am often in school until 11 or 12 at night. Lately I’ve been getting to campus around 1 PM. So basically I live my days in reverse. Sleeping until 9 or 10 is no more “sleeping in” than going to bed at midnight is “going to sleep early” for someone with a 9-5. The mornings really are my rest/study/clean/get-stuff-done time. It’s not like my life is one big weekend. Having random guys basically in the same room as me (the room doesn’t shut off very well) making construction sounds would be really unpleasant. This would be like you having people doing construction in your bedroom during prime-time.

While I wouldn’t freak out about hanging out with workmen, I also wouldn’t be at ease- I think few women would be entirely at ease in a basement with strangers. I guess the main thing bothering me is that I wouldn’t be comfortable showering (unaware of what is going on, in a room with one exit) and wandering around in PJs. So I’d be looking at disrupting my sleep schedule so I could get ready early to make myself presentable to these strangers in the same room as me and spending the few hours I have at home with construction noise. I could do that for a bit, but if it’s something I’m living with for months…no. All I’m in this for is a place to sleep and relax when I’m not at school. If i’m not getting that for an extended period, it’s not okay.

Anyway, moving out is unfortunately not an option. If I say “no” all roommate could do is be pouty and passive-agressive, which frankly he already is about all kinds of things anyway. He whiny about the apartment all the time, and I don’t see why he can’t suck it up. We are grad students, not princes. What we have is perfectly adequate and whatever inconveniences come with living here are really so petty that it’s barely worth mentioning…how often do you really NEED a third burner? How often do you really NEED to make two batches of cupcakes at once, when you live alone? All this stuff seems like luxuries to me- like me asking him to put up with a great inconvenience to install a nice vanity for me to put on make-up in.

We are only going to be physically in this apartment for six more months, and with a grad student schedule that time flies by. Soon he’ll be free to pick out his dream apartment and pay whatever he wants for it. Why does he have to worry so much about something that is totally workable and extremely temporary? Why does he feel like we need a palace when really what we need is a quiet place to study and crash?

I don’t feel any particular obligation to be nice to this roommate- he’s a bit of a social darwinist and won’t take a moment out of his day to be nice to me or take any steps to make my life more pleasant. I know that’s bitchy, but he’s bitchy to me. I wanted a place that I could share with friends, but the way it worked out it’s just a place to sleep and decompress. Now it’s seeming like it won’t even be that for a significant amount of time.

I’m a grad student, during my first year my landlord was doing construction on the apartment next door and it actually was a huge PITA. Especially if you’re taking classes, you might need 2 or 3 books (or more) and a laptop to do what you need to do and it’s annoying to lug all the crap around, plus you are now bringing your computer into a public place and you have to worry about theft. Yes people do it, but the question is if it’s worth it so someone else can get a kitchen upgrade 2 months early. I wouldn’t necessarily trust a landlord to get the work done in a week in and out, landlords are funny like that.

I did have an office though, and I could work there and keep my computer there, etc. If you have an office that is a point toward being flexible.

If this is in DC, I would be amazed if the landlord can get this done in a week. He’ll need to get permits probably*. Are they going to be running a gas line for the stove? Are they going to mess with the plumbing? Then they’ll need a permit.

I’m kind of wondering from this thread if your landlord has a Certificate of Occupancy for this unit. DC is very picky about what is a legal unit and what isn’t, and the requirements can be onerous. Oftentimes, landlords don’t bother to make a legal unit and then get screwed by the city.

  • The permitting process in DC is painful. Dealing with the DCRA is a nightmare. I’ve heard that they have gotten better, but I’ll believe it when I see it.