Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Wants Roommate's Boyfriend to Pay Bills

DEAR HARRIETTE: My roommate’s boyfriend spends more time at our home than at his own. He sleeps over, cooks, showers and does laundry here. Since he uses our resources, I proposed asking “Jake” to contribute to bills, which we split evenly. My roommate freaked out and refused to even acknowledge that I had the right to ask. How else could I have started the conversation? -- Up Front, Miami

DEAR UP FRONT: Generally, no good comes out of these situations, I’m sorry to say. Of course the boyfriend should share the costs, but getting your roommate to put her foot down on that is usually a losing battle. The one time that you can get traction on such a situation is if the landlord steps in and says that anyone living in the apartment for an extended period of time must pay. But that works only if you have something written into your contract to that point, or if your landlord and you have enough muscle to guilt the boyfriend out. Otherwise, what often happens is that hurt feelings come to a boiling point and somebody moves. So, get ready.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My landlord has been walking into my house unannounced. Being a 20-year-old woman, this unnerves me, and I don't know how to approach my landlord about this behavior. He is also a police officer, so I feel stuck on how to react to him. These visits are to remind us of bills and to not have parties in the home, but a text would suffice. How do I get my landlord to respect my rights as a renter? -- Closed Door, Rochester, New York

DEAR CLOSED DOOR: You have the right to be in your apartment by yourself without your landlord coming in. Period. It will take a bit of courage for you to address your landlord, but you must do it. For starters, speak to him and let him know that it makes you uncomfortable that he comes into your space unannounced. Ask him to stop.

Secondly, hire a locksmith. Yes, you should spend $100 or so to get an additional lock put on your door. Your landlord may not appreciate this, so don’t tell him. Unless there is a clear stipulation in your contract about locks, you absolutely can do this. Do your best to organize the locksmith at an hour when your landlord is not likely to be home, to cut down on any friction that may come. Get a top lock added to your door. When he questions you about it, remind him that you felt uneasy with him entering your apartment without permission. Tell him that it works much better for you to communicate with him by phone, text or email. Ask him to respect your privacy by engaging you in one of these ways. It will be very important for you to follow his house rules after this, because he will likely feel embarrassed and angry about your assertive stance. Go for it, and document his behavior, too!

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)