Thursday, September 20, 2012

Feeling Like an A**hole

So this is a little bit complicated, but please stay with me. I could use a little... something. Support, I guess.

Before I moved, I rented an apartment in Brooklyn. My lease started in February, but obviously I couldn't try to close on my new apartment on any given day or even month... it was hard enough to close as it was. So I just didn't worry about the apartment.

Once I finally had my closing, I started to think about the apartment. I wanted to avoid breaking the lease if at all possible because that could conceivably cost me thousands.

The last time I left an apartment before the lease was up, I went to talk to the super to let him know my plans. His response was, "Are you crazy? Why would you tell the management company that you are leaving? Just find someone to sublet! They will never know. I will certainly never tell them."

I slipped him a tip before I left and all was well. Management was none the wiser.

The move before that, I lived in a brownstone and was friendly with the owner. I was moving because I lost my job when our funding was cut. I thought he would be sympathetic, and I guess he sort of was... he only charged me my one month deposit, instead of one month's rent and the deposit for breaking my lease. Lucky me.

So this time around, dealing with a nameless management company once again, I figured I would just make a handshake deal with the super, just like my last move.

I mentioned that I was planning to sublet to my nanny, when to my surprise, my nanny mentioned that she and her brand new husband were interested in the apartment. He came to see it the next day and was enthusiastic.

It took a few days to track down the super but eventually Nastya located him and gave him my "thanks for all your help" note with $100 tucked inside. He came upstairs and she explained to him, in Russian, that she wanted to stay there with her husband until the lease expired. Then they would get a new lease.

Please keep in mind that I gave him the $100 as a gift before we discussed any of this. I also gave him a $250 tip last Christmas. The tip was not contingent on him agreeing.

Well, he had a huge grin on his face and said, "yes, yes, of course. No problem. Keep the apartment past February, if you want! That will keep the rent down. Just between us! No problem!"

Since I've never seen anyone from the management company, I wasn't worried.

I bet you know where this is headed.

A few days after they moved in, the super came to see them at 9:30 at night and told them they needed to call the management company at 9:30 the next morning or "the marshall" would come and evict them.


I called management the next morning at the appointed time and the person I needed to speak to wasn't even there!

He called me back several hours later and was brusque and unfriendly.

I explained that I had needed more space and had moved one block away, but that my nanny was staying there with her husband, and that my nanny was babysitting my daughter there during the day (this part was not true).

He countered that the super said he had "never seen this woman before." And that I needed to vacate the apartment. And that they were welcome to apply for a new lease. And that I needed to email him the date that the apartment would be empty.


First I emailed and said it would be empty that day, thinking that the sooner I was out, the sooner Nastya and her husband could move back in.

But on reflection, I realized that that might leave them needing to move their stuff that day. I was hoping they could go and apply for the apartment and, once accepted, "move in" without actually ever moving their stuff out. Despite the fact that the super lied about not knowing her, I figured he was the one doing the apartment inspection and at least he could let them leave their belongings there.

So I emailed back and said, "on second thought, I will vacate the apartment on September 30th. My nanny would like to fill out an application for a lease."

He wrote back and said that was fine.

And then the super approached Nastya on his own and "generously" told her she could stay in the apartment through the end of this month (September).

Two days ago, Nastya's mother in law returned from a trip to Russia. She explained to Nastya, and subsequently to me, that we didn't have to go through with this. She used to be in the real estate business and she said that if I tell them I've living there, they can't prove me wrong. I could say that I only go there at 2 am, and they have no way to prove I'm lying. And that I'm entitled to have my friends be there when they want to. (My lease says that management must be informed in writing if anyone outside of immediate family is living there.) She said that as long as they deposit my checks, they will never take me to court because it's not in their best [financial] interest... and that it could take years to evict me even if I didn't pay my rent. And I'm not contemplating not paying the rent! As long as I'm paying, they can't do anything about other people being in the apartment. And that it's not against the law to have more than one apartment.

We talked a long time, and finally I agreed that it didn't seem they would have a legal leg to stand on. They might know I wasn't truly living there, but they couldn't prove it. And as long as they were getting regular rent checks, why would they bother with the expense of trying to prove wrongdoing, presumably in court?

So that night, I wrote management an email saying that I was planning to stay in the apartment after all.

Within a few minutes, I received a response, "I will start legal action against you because you have another apt and there are other people living in the apt. if I have to start action you will be responsible for all legal costs and it will affect you [sic] credit .

I guess I should mention that I received an email from Experian on the very day this drama all started, saying that there was something on my credit report, so I don't know why he's threatening me with this now, given that he's already done it. (I hope to contact the credit bureau and contest it, but won't bother until this is all sorted out.)

Anyway, the sheer ugliness of this hit me like a blow.

I don't want to throw away, potentially, thousands of dollars on breaking a lease. But neither do I want to live with the threat of legal action hanging over me.

But now I've brought my beloved nanny into this sordid mess.

She and her brand new husband (married one month) have wavered on their plans. At first, they were so angry at the super for lying that they planned to move out. But seemed unhappy when I tried to coordinate other folks seeing the apartment. Then they decided they loved the apartment, and would stay anyway, but would apply for the lease. Only it turns out they have no credit history, so they would have to use one of his parents as a guarantor, so were nervous about that.

Today, Nastya tells me they have been looking online all along for apartments but haven't found anything.


What? I thought they wanted to stay, but meanwhile, they've secretly been looking for other places.

And now, when I tell Nastya that I think they should just apply officially, she says that her mother in law says they won't be accepted because they were illegally subletting.

I suggest they not tell management that they were the ones in the apartment. After all, management has no clue who is actually there... they never set foot on property.

She agrees. But says they will look for other places this weekend. And if they don't find anything, they will apply for my place on Monday.

I suggest that they apply for my place on Saturday and look for other places at the same time... no point in delaying. And it only increases their options. And offer to send any leads I see for other apartments in the meantime.

She agrees.

What the f*ck have I done?

More than the thought of losing thousands of dollars (which I can afford in the sense that we won't go hungry, but may mean I don't put anything into the retirement fund this year), the terrifying thought that we could lose our beloved nanny is on my mind.

Yet I can't game the legal system, even for her.

Oh, how I regret what I've done.

I called her up and she didn't answer, so I imagined the worst, of course. That she's angry at me and considering leaving.

But she called me back a little while later and I offered up a completely jumbled apology, "I'm so sorry... never meant to put you in this position... never imagined... I mean, the last super told me I would be crazy to NOT sublet... but now I've put you in the middle... and you're so important to our lives... but I can't spend every day afraid to answer the phone... and I can't lie in court... It's just me and Calliope... I can't be stressed all the time I'm with her... afraid to answer the phone for months on end. "

Thankfully, she took pity on me, and said, "Abby, don't worry."


The thought that we could lose her is terrifying.

Not that her assurance guarantees that we won't. Reading the SMC Forum yesterday, an SMC shared that her also-beloved nanny disappeared practically without warning. And like countless mothers before her, she never thought that would happen with her nanny. I would never think my nanny could do that... if not for knowing that it has happened to so many others.

But I feel like her saying not to worry means that she's not so upset that she's imagining going anywhere at the moment.

So I offered to pay the difference in the rent, from what I had to paying to what they would be paying with a new lease, which management said would be $100 more per month, until February, when I would've started a new lease.

I don't know if that's enough. I thought it was generous.

I just don't know what the right thing to do is anymore.

And to top it all off, I yelled at my baby tonight. For the first time, really, except once in her first month of life, when she wouldn't sleep (before I discovered the whole sleep-begets-sleep, don't-keep-her-awake-for-more-than-an-hour thing). When she couldn't understand.

Now granted she had just thrown her spoon for the umpteenth time. She had been worse than usual with throwing tonight.

However, she's also snotty and exhausted. She skipped her morning nap today for no discernible reason. This is the first time she's skipped it. And she has a constantly running nose. And looked peaked and wan and tired.

But about the sixth time, thinking about the situation with Nastya, I actually shouted at her.

She burst into tears.

Of course I relented, then, and gathered her broccoli-covered face between my hands and kissed it repeatedly. When that didn't help, I took her out of her highchair and cuddled her in my lap. Then she stopped crying.

So one more reason I feel like a huge a**hole tonight.

I'm really hating myself right now. Or rather, I'm really angry at myself right now. And I don't know how to fix this.


  1. Oh, how horrible! My life in NY was similar to this - bad supers, illegal sublets, legal action, evictions, ugh!!! I'm so sorry you're going through this. I can't imagine your stress level!

  2. I wish I could offer support but I think you (and nanny) should vacate and take your lumps for not going with your lease (especially since it sounds like you're anticipating a financial loss anyway). They shouldn't have to prove you wrong about living there (not saying you're considering anything) but just be honest, everybody vacate, settle it quickly and move on. You sound like it could stress you so don't let it drag out. Stop dealing with the super!

  3. Your not a bad mom, it happens. She knows you love her. Wish the apartment issue was that straightforward.

  4. Oh Abby! This sounds just terrible. Not any fun to deal with the apartment thing on its own and then to worry about your nanny is overwhelming I am sure! Hope you are able to find a good (and affordable) solution.

  5. First off Abby, if this is only the second time you've yelled at Calliope then you should get Mother of the Year. Move on from THAT!

    Second, what a mess, how horrible. I have no words of wisdom on that whole NYC apartment thing. I'm not even sure what a super does. I don't know, I think you have to go with your gut you said you don't want to be afraid to answer your phone for foreseeable future etc. For me that would say it all. I would do whatever I had to do to get this taken care of legally with as little more muss as possible. Though I realize there are two issues at hand...(1) your mess with this super person/mgt team and (2) your nanny caught in the middle. I'm sorry friend. I hope you figure something out soon.

  6. Ugh, how stressful. I agree to go the legal route, even if more expensive, to not have to stress about it. I hope it all works out with your nanny.

  7. Oh I wish I had answers to help with your apartment issues but it sounds exactly like the kind of situation I'd find myself in!!

    As for yelling at Calliope, as guilty as you feel, try not to be so hard on yourself. I would bet the bank that she doesn't even remember. With head hanging, I admit to yelling at Elena more than twice (not a lot but more than twice)...but I love on her WAY more & that's what she'll remember.

  8. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. Don't be too hard on yourself. It sounds like with your apartment situation you were just trying to work something out that would benefit both you and your nanny, and unfortunately it didn't work out.

    And please don't be too hard on yourself for yelling at Calliope. I think we've all been there. She'll be fine. But I know that frustration of having stressors push you to the point of not being able to parent the way you want and sometimes doing things you regret. The day I yelled at Annelise to the point she wouldn't even look at me, I was heart broken. It was the day I decided I had to start sleeping. I thought I had "broken" her for sure, but we bounced back. The situation was probably more upsetting to you than to her. Your a great mama. Hopefully this apartment stress will end soon.

  9. Ugh, I know the guilt of yelling at your child - but it really is worse for you than it is for her!

    I have no words of wisdom for your apartment situation, but it sounds like you did what just about anyone else would have done in your situation, and got screwed. Try not to beat yourself up about it too much. (((hugs)))