Can I Pay Less Rent if My Roommates Are Slobs?

The New York Times

Everyone is entitled to live in a space where they feel comfortable. But they also shouldn’t have to feel pressured to do chores they don’t want to do.

Q: I am a professional in my mid-20s, subletting a room in an Astoria apartment. My two roommates, who are on the lease, leave their dirty dishes in the sink and on the stove for days, and ignore my requests to clean up. The last time I asked, one roommate told me she doesn’t like being told what to do. Their mess makes the kitchen essentially unusable. Yet, I’m still paying rent for the common area. I’m planning to move out, but in the meantime, can I ask them to reduce my rent in exchange for forfeiting use of the kitchen?

A: Unless you have a written agreement expressly stating that dishes must be cleaned in a timely fashion, you don’t have leverage to demand a rent reduction, according Andrew J. Wagner, a real estate lawyer in the New York office of Anderson Kill. If you did not pay a security deposit, you could withhold a portion of your last month’s rent for lack of use of the kitchen, putting your reasoning in writing. Your roommates probably wouldn’t take you to small claims court over such a small sum, but if they did, you’d have a good defense.

But rather than go to the mat over dirty dishes, the better course is to accept that this was a bad match and move on. I write this not to dismiss your concerns, but to validate them. How you feel about dirty dishes is a big deal — it reflects core values about how you want to live in your home. You’re entitled to live in a space where you feel relaxed and comfortable, not grossed out and irritated. And your roommates should not have to feel pressured to do chores that are not a priority for them...


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Andrew J. Wagner
New York

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