My new roommate arrived ... with mom attached!

She goes out while her mother stays in the house. It feels weird, and a little creepy.


Cary Tennis
July 6, 2007 1:19PM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I live with two roommates, both of whom are going to be away for part or all of the summer. One of them decided to sublet their room -- this isn't unusual in our area. We only spoke to the subletter, a college graduate and intern, over the phone. She showed up to move in on Monday with her mother, who, they informed us, would be staying temporarily because the roommate had been ill. At first, we were told this would be overnight. Then it became a couple of days. Yesterday, she informed us it would be through the weekend -- this makes it a week.

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I attempted to explain to the mother and roommate why this made me uncomfortable, given the lack of notice. The mother claims the girl has a serious health condition (she won't clarify), and she doesn't feel right leaving the girl alone at night right now. Meanwhile, the girl is going to work, social functions, etc., while the mother stays in our house.

I don't know what to do. My roommates, who made the arrangements, are now out of the country. I'm frustrated from a selfish perspective that I have to share my house with a mom (even my parents usually stay in a hotel when they visit). I'm nervous that I'm going away this weekend and leaving our house in the hands of now not just one, but two strangers. And I don't like the feeling of helplessness that comes from not knowing how to get the mom to leave -- what if I come back this weekend and she's still there?

The woman seems perfectly nice, claims she's leaving soon, and doesn't understand why her presence is an imposition. The girl is defensive and secretive about her health problems.

What do I do? Try to get them to leave? Demand rent for the mother, if she stays longer? Suck it up, as the girl is apparently sick, and this is a minor inconvenience to me? Am I being completely selfish -- after all, this is the woman's mom, not a random guest. I hate getting off on the wrong foot with a roommate I'll have for the summer, but don't know where to draw the line.

Reluctant Host

Dear Reluctant Host,

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You can't know with absolute certainty what actions will produce the best outcome because you do not know the true nature of the mother and daughter.

But try this. Ask them if they have signed the roommate agreement yet. If they act surprised, tell them that you do this routinely and if they were not informed, it must have been an oversight.

Then give them this sample roommate agreement. When they read it, they will see that the "guests" clause in it stipulates a maximum guest stay of seven days. It also requires 24 hours' notice for such a guest.

Also ask them if they have photocopied copies of their driver's licenses and/or passports to give you. If they act surprised, tell them that it is a routine that all roommates follow.

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In the best of all possible worlds, the mother will see that she has overstepped; she will apologize for not giving you more notice and agree to leave within seven days.

She may, however, stipulate that since her daughter is sick, an exception should be made in their case.

If that happens, tell her you sympathize with her situation, but that an open-ended stay is not acceptable. Offer an extension of two or three days, and suggest a nearby hotel. Ask her what day she will be leaving.

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If you get resistance from them, or sense that they are shady characters, you may want to cancel or postpone your out-of-town trip. If you must go, you may want to have a friend or family member come and stay in the house while you are gone.

After all, it's unnerving to have people in your house that you don't know. It's especially unnerving to have a mom in your house that you don't know, because there are alarming similarities between moms and seasoned con artists. Both are brazen. Both act as if there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. They both tend to take charge in stressful situations whether they have the required expertise or not, and both are used to coming up with bogus excuses for doing things their own way. They think on their feet with blazing speed, and their complicated pseudo-logic is known to cloud the mind. Con artists and moms both have elaborate sets of rules that don't make sense. They both engage in hocus-pocus crazy talk. And they both know how to seize authority through sheer force of will, and in seizing authority paralyze the opposition.

But since, as noted above, you don't know their true natures, you have to make judgment calls based on probability. Luckily, the universe, while perverse and obstinate in many respects, does appear to follow laws of probability. These laws indicate that most people are not psychopathic ax murderers or con artists posing as a mother and daughter in order to murder you in your sleep or empty your house of all its furniture and jewelry while you are away for the weekend but are, to the contrary, bumbling, inconsiderate, burdened with unspecified anxieties, unmindful of the expectations and difficulties of others and concerned mainly with the comfort and convenience of their own little lives.

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So I would treat them as basically reasonable people who simply need to be told what the rules are.

Still, if you hear them sharpening the kitchen knives, get out of the house immediately.

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