Edited questions from Apartment Life, Sara Gebhardt's online discussion about rental issues.
Q Rockville: How do I politely tell my much-younger housemate that not only is he messy (food left behind in kitchen) but that he slams doors and otherwise does not respect normal good behavior?
When he moved in, he asked whether there were there any rules and I explained that other than nonsmoking, there weren't any specific rules but that we were to be bound by good behavior. Apparently we disagree as to what that means.
I basically think he doesn't watch himself; I'm not sure if this is unconscious rebellion. I need his half of rent economically, but I could get another roommate because I am the leaseholder.
A Maybe politely explain that you expect him to clean up after himself in the kitchen and to be gentler on the doors. See if he follows this advice before you do anything more drastic, like berate him for being young and careless. In fact, don't ever get mad at him; simply tell him -- after giving him a chance to shape up -- that you are thinking of getting another roommate.
Ann Arbor, Mich.: I signed a one-year lease on my apartment that ends next May, but circumstances have changed such that I am now looking for a house or condo. Any tips for negotiating an early end to my lease? The lease is silent on the matter (e.g., no early buyout provision).
The easiest thing to do is to assist your landlord in finding a replacement, so that he doesn't lose a month's rent due to your early termination.
Largo: My girlfriend and I had been going out for about six years. I moved in with her. And now we're breaking up because she is a total headache. I want her to reimburse me for all the work I did on the house. Am I asking too much?
I hope all you did in her apartment was some minor painting and hammering. I'm sorry your girlfriend is a total headache, but you may be out of luck in getting her to reimburse you for work you most likely did out of love for her. Just in case, maybe you could broker a deal with her if your relationship is intact enough. She may be willing to negotiate, assuming that the work you did was substantial and that she doesn't think you're a total headache, too.
Fairfax: If I break my lease because I need to clean out my cabinets and shelves every week for the pest control, am I obligated to pay the fee for breaking the lease?
You could try to get your landlord to waive the lease termination fee based on the repeated visits from pest control. But if the landlord disagreed, you would have to prove to the housing authorities that you were living in unsafe or unhealthy environs. It's possible, but it might take some work going down these avenues. And you never know unless you try.
Sara Gebhardt's Apartment Life column appears biweekly in this section, and her Web chat appears monthly on www.washingtonpost.com. The next chat is scheduled for Oct. 6 at 2 p.m.