Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ashley and Lulu advise themselves

Lulu: So we haven't actually "posted" a "letter" lately. We have been having conversations, I think, but also I am lazy?

Ashley: And it’s more fun to talk about new ones.

Lulu: Well, here; I feel like the LW and Margo are being unnecessarily harsh in this first letter:
Dear Margo: I find myself in an unfamiliar territory asking a "stranger" for advice but I need someone outside of my circle to evaluate my situation. I had worked hard on raising my credit score for years in order to achieve my goal, which was to purchase a home. When I was finally ready to initialize my dream, I moved in with my aunt in order to save money. When looking for a house, I made my aunt come along, as it would be something we (she, my brother and I) would share. We sat down and had a discussion about splitting the mortgage and bills before I purchased the house. As the owner, I felt it fair that I naturally take the lion's share of the mortgage while they would only need to pay $300 per month. We've been in this house for almost a year, and with the exception of one month, I've had to ask my aunt for her share every month! After the third month of asking, I sat down with her and explained that when she paid her share late, I was forced to put it in myself. She indicated she understood. And yet, I'm here asking for advice because she is still not paying her share. I think she has control issues. (Her daughter recently had a baby, and she buys things for the baby so I know she has the money. She just chooses not to give it to me in a timely manner.) — Desperate
Margo responds:
Dear Des: Money and relatives always have the potential for conflict. Given the situation you describe, I would tell Auntie that you are no longer able to carry her, you are uncomfortable prying the agreed-upon "rent" out of her, so you have decided that if she does not contribute on the date agreed upon, you will have to look for a new third in the house, and perhaps she can live with her daughter. She will either start paying on time or she will leave, most probably not on the best of terms.

 — Margo, pragmatically
Lulu: So the homeowner asks for the rent? It seems like the aunt might be forgetful.

Ashley: Yeah, she says that she has to ask for it. I would set up an automated email and see if that works.

Lulu: Right, I mean, try reminding her before you kick her out.

Ashley: She is reminding her, I think that’s the status quo. And yeah, the aunt's behavior is annoying. I can see why you wouldn’t want to remind her every month, because you have to wait to see if she'll remember, then you have to remember to check, then to remind, then wait for the check. So much brain power.

Lulu: As tenant you should pay rent when it's due, but there are things to try before eviction.

Ashley: Absolutely. I have a list!

1. automated reminder email

2. ask for a year's worth of rents (then you have to remind only once a year)

3. set up automatic transfers through online banking

Lulu: Yeah, the automatic reminder is the first thing I thought of. It just seems like the aunt isn't necessarily forgetting out of malice, so even an in person reminder doesn't have to be stressful.

Ashley: An in person reminder is stressful though; not the actual reminder but that you have to remember it. The LW is right that it's not her responsibility, malice or no malice.

Lulu: Right also possible but your suggestions are much better: billing for late rent, or, as my building puts it, a "discount" for on-time rent.

Ashley: Hah! Rent-with-interest.

Lulu: But I'm all for systematic workarounds for people's forgetfulness, because I require those in order to live.

Ashley: Yes. Yes you do. And I'm on the LW's side here, because I'm always the one reminding you to do things. But I wouldn't kick you out because you always forget to take out trash!

Lulu: Dude. We should have set up an automatic reminder email for that.

Ashley: Yes that did not occur to me.

Lulu: Me neither.

Ashley: Well we are dumb. Or we've gotten smarter over the last year?

Lulu: But I am always looking at my email so it would have been great!

Ashley: Or... we're better at fixing others people’s problems? Even when they are our problems?

Lulu: Creepy life parallels are creepy.


  1. The real question here is - what happened to the aunt's place? The LW moved in there to save money, and both she and her aunt moved into the new place? This seems strange to me.

    I'm also curious if "moved in with my aunt in order to save money" means that she wasn't paying rent to the person she is now demanding rent from! That might explain passive-aggressive lateness in the aunt's own rent-paying.

    As a habitually late payer of rent, I am clearly on the side of the aunt. Reminder emails are a good idea, setting up automated payments is a better one. Writing checks is Stone Age technology, people, and if you aren't a doddering old lady like all of my landladies are, have been and will forever be, there isn't any good reason not to move forward to a simpler solution. Never go to the bank again!

  2. You always make good points we don't respond to because we are too ashamed we didn't think of them ourselves.