Roommate question - Am I being a jerk?

So, I just moved in with a new roommate. She’s been living here a while, and her family actually owns the house - we’ve been good friends for a bit and since her old roommate moved out, I agreed to move in.

However, since I’ve moved in I’ve discovered that there are a few things that bug me, and she has proved pretty unwilling to change anything in the house. In particular, I am bothered by the bathroom, which has disgusting, smelly, peeling wallpaper dating from the 80’s shiny-flower era. I feel like this is pretty unsanitary and I want to either strip and paint it myself, or have the ‘landlord’ (her Dad) do it. Honestly, I would expect any landlord to address this.

She says it’s unnessecary, and doesn’t want to bother, even if I would do all the work involved. Also, she says I should have told her this before I moved in. I don’t get why a person would not want to fix something like this - it’s really gross! It also concerns me that it is setting precedent for not fixing other things in the future because it she can’t be bothered.

I’m already a little concerened about our roommate relationship, and I just moved in! I don’t want to ruin our friendship, or make living here uncomfortable, but at the same time I feel like as a paying tenant I have the right to complain about and ask for improvements to things I find objectionable.

So, what’s the deal - am I being a jerk? Is she? How do you go about living with someone who is both your landlord of sorts and your roommate?

Oh, hell no. She is clearly going to lord over you the fact that Daddy owns the house and sounds like it’s going to be over stupid, unreasonable things. If I were you I’d call Daddy up, tell him that I have made a horrible, horrible mistake, and that I must move immediately and I also must have my security deposit back. If he refuses, I’d sue him for it. Let’s see how her bullshit plays in court. I’d contact the ex-roommate and see what her experiences were and use that, too. I would not fuck around with her for one more day.

Well, did you see the bathroom before you moved in? If so, I have to agree with your roomie - you took the lease, as it were (even if it’s not a formal written one) under the conditions the apartment was in. If you were renting from a stranger, they wouldn’t be beholden to change anything that wasn’t agreed upon in writing before you signed the lease - barring actual safety issues. It’s not clear to me whether you think there’s an actual danger to the wallpaper - mold, for instance, or whether you just think it’s tacky. If it’s actually dangerous to breathe in there, then yes, you’re right to insist that your living space be made safe. If it’s just a matter of ick, then yes, you’re being…well, I wouldn’t say jerk. Entitled rock-the-boat-er is closer.

To me, this single incident isn’t such a big deal. Yes, the OP saw the condition, I presume, when he moved in. It’s the way the roommate is dealing with the situation. Sounds like she’s being deliberately controlling and unreasonable. To not even let the OP do it themselves? It’s a big warning sign that this is how she will handle every disagreement about the house- “This is my house- if you don’t like it, you can move.” That’s the part I would have a big problem with, if I’m paying just as much as she is.


Well, I’m not sure if there is mold or not. It does smell weird, and I suspect moldiness. My issue is with the condition of the paper, not the patten. The pattern is just proof to me of how old the paper is - it’s not like something they put in recently.

Having said all that, I appreciate your viewpoint - I have thought of this too. I realize now that I should have looked at the place closer before I took it - I always just looked at it as a friends house, not a potential apartment. So, some of the blame is certainly on me.

I don’t think you are being a jerk but I think you are being unreasonable. You should have checked out the apartment before you moved in, and if the bathroom wallpaper did not meet your standards you should have mentioned this to your friend before you moved in, or just not have moved in to begin with. Further, you are this girl’s roommate, and you need to co-operate with her with regards to requests to the landlord. Many people are perfectly happy to live in low-end apartments in exchange for low-end rents, and clearly she is one of them. And regardless of who is right or wrong, the landlord is her dad, you’re non gonna win this one. I would just adjust or move.

ETA: that oops up there was me. and most apartments take an adjustment when you first move it, maybe give it a little longer.

I’d like some more data before deciding. Did the OP see and accept the conditions prior to moving in? What is the rent structure, and how does it compare to similar rental properties in the same market? Is the OP a n00b to living away from home?

The rent is comparable to other places around here. I have been renting for about 10 years, in various cities.

I think the big strike against me here is that I didn’t take such a close look at the place before agreeing. This is definitely my own fault, and I accept that.

I should add too that the bathroom wallpaper is just one thing. I’m concerned for the overall situation - I don’t want to be that jerky roommate that everyone seems to have at least once in their life. I wanted to get some opinions before I pressed on in this issue. So far, the response is mixed, which is … interesting.

I see what you’re saying, I do.

OTOH, I’m imagining myself in the roommate’s place. One roommate just moved out, another in, the dust is barely settled from the packing boxes, and now she tells me she wants to tear apart my (sorry, I’m trying to think of it as “ours”, but this is all so new and frankly, she doesn’t even know where the extra toilet paper is kept yet!) bathroom for weeks while she replaces the tacky wallpaper? Does she even know how to take down wallpaper without messing up the walls? Dad was pretty pissed when the last roommate tried to put up those shelves and put a huge hole in the drywall. I’d just rather not deal with this yet.

Maybe it’s just the haste that has me (and her) balking. Maybe if it was brought up in a couple of months, after the OP has shown herself to be a reasonable and accommodating roommate, it would be better received.

Well, if the paper is coming off, it shouldn’t be too hard to tell. Find a particularly smelly spot and peel a bit of the paper away. Are there funky colored patches or spots on the back? Then that’s mold (mold “eats” the adhesive on the back of wallpaper.)

If there is mold, like I said, then her Dad needs to know. Mold in a bathroom isn’t just a health problem on its own, it’s a sign of much bigger problems, like leaking pipes inside the wall. If he’s anything better than a slumlord, he’ll want to take a look and fix that pronto, before something lets loose a tsunami and the ceiling beneath the bathroom falls in. (Been there, done that, no fun.)

Thanks for clarifying. I asked because I do a lot of absentee landlord property maintenance, and some people have expectations that aren’t reality-based. Example: a helicopter Mom expected us to put in a gas stove to replace the perfectly functional electric range, because her little snookums was “used to cooking with gas”.

Hard call-can’t really say. Good luck.

It’s peeling wallpaper and that’s something which should be fixed, whether you said something about it upon signing the lease or not. You also volunteered to fix it yourself. A landlord could hardly object, unless they’re a slumlord.

Your “roommate” should shut the fuck up. Does she even pay rent? Or are you basically paying her rent to daddy?

I’d keep things between you and the actual landlord, and leave her out of it.

Weeks to replace wallpaper in a bathroom? That should be barely a weekend project. Even with having to take the tank off the toilet long enough to paper behind it and maybe a cabinet or three off the wall.

ETA: danceswithcats: helicopter mom?

This is very much a case where no one is obviously right or wrong, in my opinion. If someone wanted to fix up my house for me (and I could be sure they’d do a good job), I’d tell them to go ahead immediately. On the other hand, no one but me gets to make decisions about my house (and I imagine your roommate feels it is more her house through her dad than anything).

On yet another hand, yeah, it was like that when you agreed to move in. I’ve never considered asking my landlord for improvements after I moved in - I just didn’t take the apartment if I didn’t like it. Your landlord is required to keep an apartment up to sanitary health standards, but after that, anything else is a bonus.

I’d say I wouldn’t push it, but I would also look at it as shades of things to come - you are definitely a junior partner in this apartment.

I’ve never asked a landlord for improvements either, but I certainly have asked if I could paint, etc, when a place was in bad condition - usually they are more than happy to let you clean up their mess. However, I hear what all of you are saying in that it was like that when I moved in, and it’s not my house.

I guess it’s just different for me because in the past I have always had roommates that were just roommates - and they always wanted nicer stuff as much as I did.

Oh, and I do know how to strip wallpaper/paint.

I actually don’t think that is relevant, if dad makes a monthly gift of free rent to roomie, then that is between her and her father. OP knew full well the lease was within the family, the time to negotiate OP’s share was before the lease was signed.

I think WhyNot has the right idea, though -

If you approach this with the attitude of “I think the property may have a serious problem” rather than “This doesn’t meet my standards even if it meets yours” then you’re more likely to get the family to listen to you (and i’d be wrong about not winning this one).

Yeah, I tried to bring it up that way - like, having absorbant wallpaper in a bathorom with high use for 20 years plus just can’t be hygenic. Still, I do think it was taken a bit personally, which it wasn’t meant to be.

And I agree about the rent - I didn’t ask what her deal is with her Dad, it’s not my business. I have no qualm with the rent I’m paying - I have a problem with not being treated as a partner.

You want a guess as to why she doesn’t want to fix it? I could be way off base here, but maybe she’s afraid this is just the first step to you going all interior decorator on her house. What’s next? “This place needs new carpeting, and those curtains are tacky, and don’t you think mauve would be a good color for the walls in here, and that couch has got to go, and…”

This is her house—her home, her environment, her personal space, an extension of her self—and you come in and start telling her what’s wrong with it. I can imagine why she might feel threatened.

Heh-I heard that term on NPR only a few weeks ago. Helicopter parents are the ones who hover incessantly over their kids, making decisions for them, and effectively preventing their growth via self-reliance and internalized problem solving skills.

Wiki definition here.

Heh. It’s obvious you’ve never lived with my father. :wink:

(Yes, I agree with you about “should”. My experiences with reality have made me a lot more skittish, however!)