Why always me?
I hope writing has the power to ease my current headache. I am not the kind of person who gets easily irritated or frustrated. But I cannot get rid of the feeling of not being respected and kind of discriminated against if my landlord keeps blaming only me for all the problems in our two-floor apartment.
It would be fine if I were not the one who always goes downstairs to switch off the hallway lights before going to sleep, if I were not the one who turns off all the unused lights in my apartment, if I were the only one living in this small apartment, if I were the one who takes a boyfriend home for several nights, and if I were the one who enjoys confronting the landlord or getting tit for tat over unpleasant things.
I believe I am mature enough to know how to behave well and handle things. I know well that the relationship between a tenant and a landlord is not always easy, if not quite complicated. I always try to get along well with everybody in this apartment and with the landlord, who is my parents’ age, on the basis of mutual respect and understanding.
Last late August, after a month of tirelessly hunting for a place to stay in Boston, sending countless emails but getting just a few responses, going to see several places of nearly all kinds from the top floor in a luxurious high-rise building in downtown to the basement near a forest in the suburban area, I felt lucky to find my apartment which made me feel safe – my first priority – and comfortable when I first entered.
I felt assured also because the landlord looked serious, level-headed and sincere. My three American friends, who accompanied me to see the house on the day Irene Hurricane made her way to Boston, had the same impression. I still remember at the time, my Bulgarian-American landlord telling me “just call me if you need any help.”
Before moving in, I waded through the lease to understand the rights and responsibilities of a tenant, and what I should and shouldn’t do during my one-year stay in his apartment. Before signing the contract, my landlord said again that the whole apartment was an all-women place, and the internet was available, we just spent 10 dollars each month.
On the first day of my stay, I found out only the second floor is for females and there are four men living downstairs. To use the Internet, my two American roommates and I each had to pay nearly 40 dollars for what was called Wi-Fi installation. And starting this month, we will be charged a full price of nearly 25 dollars/person/month after six months of enjoying the 50-percent discount. However, these things were just a little disappointment.
What made me upset was that at the start, the landlord refused to give us the keys to the main door on our floor. He said the front door downstairs was enough for security. How could he say that when at least three times I returned home and saw the front door wide open? I really felt insecure whenever thinking of the possibility of our apartment being intruded, because the house is close to the main street. It took me a week to convince him to provide the keys. My friend, who came to see the apartment with me, also urged me to talk to the landlord. He only agreed when I said I would pay for the fee of making new keys.
Last December, the light in the kitchen grew very weak, dimming the room and making my near-sighted eyes sore. I asked him to change the light because it was not a compact bulb and wasn’t detachable. I could not describe how shocked I was when he said the light was still in very good condition and our common area was well-illuminated. Once again, he only agreed to change the light when I suggested I pay for the change, and stressed my eyes could not bear the dimness. I felt glad my roommate living in the room facing mine showed up and echoed my viewpoint.
I really don’t understand why he keeps coming to see only me and nagging at me all what he calls unfair to him. He keeps making me feel that I am the only tenant who has to take responsibility for everything in this apartment. Yesterday, I came out of my room and sat in the kitchen to read emails with the light on. All of a sudden he came and said why I left the light downstairs and the light in the kitchen on in the daytime when the sky was so clear and beautiful. He said last month he paid more than 20 dollars for power bills than usual. That was the third time in three days he nagged about that. He stood and kept repeating that for more than 10 minutes.
Up to this extreme point, I felt the need to let him know frankly how bad I felt. I said I can explain the difference in February’s power bill. It was because all but one tenant in this apartment returned home during the Winter break, I wasn’t here for a month. I bet the power bill in January was much lower. Everything gets back to normal when we all get back to school, and it’s winter which explains the higher electricity use. I said I should have asked him to refund the utilities I did not use during my absence.
I said we were not informed of the months when the power bills were lower, as well as the percentage of utilities in the rent. The utilities are included in the monthly rent which means I also pay for them. I said I have a right to use the light when I find it necessary for my activities, especially when the natural light outside cannot cover the whole common area. I said I am always the only one who goes downstairs almost every night to turn off all the two lights in the corridor but I can’t make sure they are always off because the guys downstairs always turn them on when they return home. I said I feel very frustrated in being repeatedly blamed for all these things. Why didn’t he gather all the tenants to complain? Why did he always keep coming to see only me? I asked him from now on not to talk to me like that, I feel discriminated, especially when my roommate and the guys downstairs keep taking their lovers home and having them stay for several nights, he knows that well because he lives right in the basement but he did not complain to them at all. He used to tell me at least three times that his apartment is not a hotel, so do not take boyfriends home to stay overnight.
When I called my family and told them all these things, they advised me to hold back because I am his tenant and he might do harmful things to me. I do not agree because I do not stay here for free and the U.S has strict laws. At this point I need to speak up for what’s right, especially when my two roommates keep shying away from talking to him because they do not understand what he says, because English is not his first language. I want him to understand I am naturally gentle but I know how to protect myself when necessary.
Yesterday, after hearing me say all these things, he just walked away. Right after that, I sent an email to him and co-sent it to my two roommates, in which I said I want to have mutual respect and understanding, and asked him to stop treating me like that. No response from him, but my roommate hoped he understands my frustration.
Though my apartment is quite wonderful when it comes to transportation and safety, I am considering moving out if he continues nagging at me and keeping an unpleasant eye on me. I have paid almost 800 dollars/month for the rent and always pay it before the first day of the next month (in the lease, he says we can pay the rent from the first to the fifth day, but he always rushes my roommates to pay right on the first day). All I expect is respect from my landlord.
Is my expectation unreasonable?
(My 191st day in the U.S)