IT HAPPENED TO ME: My Boyfriend Turned Out to Be a Slumlord

Nothing gets you over somebody faster than finding out that they’ve been making money off of you.
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Kathleen Lees
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Nothing gets you over somebody faster than finding out that they’ve been making money off of you.

In March of 2016, Malcolm* and I decided to move in together. We’d been dating for just about four months. It was alarmingly fast, but it felt right. We spent just about every waking second together.

We met on Tinder and had an instant connection, even though our personalities were a bit mismatched. He was much more extroverted than me, always charging the conversation, needing constant stimulation and attention. On our first date, he told me that he had been diagnosed with severe ADD at an early age and needed time-lapse Ritalin to focus.

I was a lot more introverted, on the other hand, and had recently been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Even large crowds at parties sometimes freaked me out. I was much quieter and liked to analyze situations before becoming engrossed in them. In other words, our ideas of the perfect evening were really different. Where I might be wandering around an art gallery with a flask of vodka, he’d be aimlessly shouting with strangers at a sports event. Yet, they do say opposites attract (at least, in the beginning)...

I have to say, Malcolm and I were incredibly attached despite our incompatibilities. It’s like any misgivings on the other’s part made up for it when we were together. When we decided to go out, I became more social, more brave. And I found myself really enjoying it. When we went to see documentaries or art exhibits that Malcolm never would have normally set foot in, he really started analyzing things (or at least pretending to, at the time.)

During the early days, we spent the majority of our time at my apartment. I lived with two other girls, but Malcolm and I primarily hung out in my room. We watched movies, ordered take out and just talked about random things if we hadn’t made plans to go out somewhere. Since our fifth date, we were inseparable. And we started thinking, if we already pretty much lived together, the next best thing was to actually move in together. I really cringe thinking about it now.

I had lived in an apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn for the past three years and seen roommates come and go, but I’d fashioned the place with paintings and drawings I’d made. I always kept it clean, and I was friends with the super and the landlord. They helped with repairs and apartment issues — the occasional bug or heating problem in the winter. However, the room was rather small and wouldn’t be large enough for the two of us and my cat, Tutu.

Before I moved in to his apartment, he was always boasting about how he didn’t have to pay rent. I thought this was sort of weird, but I didn’t question it. He "knew someone,” he said. He was just lucky, I thought. “We” were lucky, now.

Of course, Malcolm’s apartment wasn’t my ideal living situation, but it was one of those “fixer-upper” types, I thought. He lived with a lot more people than me: five total. That I didn’t mind so much, other than the fact that there was only one bathroom, which looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in about two years. The kitchen didn’t have a working stove. And Malcolm was, for lack of a better word, was a bit of slob. His room, which was at least twice the size of the room at my apartment, had some stale pizza boxes, old magazines, dirty clothes, tons of electronics and a king size mattress with no sheet on it. It reminded me of the few mornings I’d taken the walk of shame out of a frat house. Except Malcolm was 34.

He assured me that we could clean up the apartment together before I moved in and make it our own. And as an extra treat, he would only charge me half the rent for a recently vacant room that we would put my extra things in. Instead of the full $1,000 for this room, he would just charge me $500. and he would pay the other $500 since he didn’t have to pay rent.

I trusted him and never asked to see or sign the lease; I realize how incredibly naive this was looking back. I also never saw the utility bills while I lived there either, but blindly gave him money at the beginning of every month.

When I first lived at the apartment, I did little things to make it seem more homey. I put sheets on the bed and covers. I put my paintings on the wall. I made a cleaning list in the kitchen thinking that others would pitch in with the common areas. He didn’t mind, and he encouraged it. He helped me clean, also. Things felt good. Living together felt relatively easy.

However, things fell apart rather quickly.

I noticed early on that there was a mouse problem. Mice were eating through any food that wasn’t put in a closed container in the cupboard. 

Malcolm assured me that he’d talk to the landlord. Someone did come to spray for mice, at which time there were literally dead mice everywhere. In the cracks of the doors. In the cupboards, and even in the bath tub. I distinctively remember having to kill mice in the bath tub with a broom once so I could take a shower. 

There was a mice infestation in the entire apartment complex.

There was a mice infestation in the entire apartment complex.

I could have maybe lived with that, I think, because New York is known for its assortment of creepy-crawly creatures in apartment buildings. But by June, I was the only person taking any initiative to clean or do anything. The chores list I had made —primarily for him and I — was only being completed by me, and definitely not by anyone else who lived in the apartment, whom I rarely saw.

And worst of all — but not surprising — the quirky eccentricities of our different personalities no longer made us compatible. It made us incredibly ill-matched.

He no longer wanted to compromise on doing things. He never wanted to do anything with me anymore. Everything I did was boring to him, and he was chronically picking fights and making excuses to hang out with exes.

By August, the relationship was over, and I told him I was moving out. The last week I was there, he even made me sleep in the room where we stored my things on an inflatable mattress with a hole in it. No matter how much I taped that mattress, I would still wake up in the middle of the night on the ground. I will never forget those nights for the rest of my life.

Thanks a lot, dude.

Thanks a lot, dude.

But what bothers me even more is coming across the lease on the last weekend he was out of town at the end of the month, right before I moved out. The entire apartment — with all five rooms — cost a little under $2,000. 

Nothing gets you over somebody faster than finding out that they’ve been making money off of you.

I knew a “friend” of his from college was moving into a smaller room down in the apartment and that he was charging him $800 for the room. I made sure to put the lease under his door before I left.