Dear Ethel | Issue 15

Dear Ethel | Issue 15

Flatmate bullies

Dear Ethel,

Two of my flatmates are being really awful to me. They turn the hot water off when I’m in the shower, they walk out of the room if I walk in. Yesterday they shoved me against the wall and said ‘sorry’ as if it was an accident. I started to cry and the two of them pretended to cry and called me a stupid c*. Today I went to get in my car and found two of my tires had been let down. I’m scared. Can I get out of my tenancy?

-Free Me


Dear Free Me,

It’s tricky, but yes. Physical violence is not OK under any circumstances. Call the police and talk to them about a protection order! What you’ve described is criminal behaviour. Your flatmates should be held responsible for their actions. 

It is vital to keep you safe. Can you stay with a friend until you can get out of the flat permanently? If you have to go back to the flat, take a friend or Campus Watch person with you. Make sure you’re not alone with the flatmates who are being abusive. 

If you are on a joint and severally liable fixed term lease, you need to find someone to replace you on the lease and the landlord and other tenants need to agree to them. You could talk to your landlord about other tenants interfering with your peace and privacy. In exceptional circumstances, the landlord might apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a termination of the existing lease. If the landlord won’t do anything, you may be able to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have your lease terminated because the landlord has failed to meet their responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act. It is worth getting some free legal advice from Otago Community Law (Filleul St). 

If the flatmates are students, you could speak with the Proctor. All students are bound by the university’s Ethical Behaviour Policy and your flatmates are clearly behaving unethically. 

These may sound like drastic measures but you are in a very unsafe situation. Pop into 5 Ethel B for a chat—we can connect you with other agencies, support you in whatever action you decide to take, help find temporary accommodation, talk to your landlord…anything at all!  You deserve a stress-free and safe flat with supportive flatties. Don’t take anything less. 


Whole lotta love, 


This article first appeared in Issue 15, 2016.
Posted 12:19pm Sunday 17th July 2016 by Student Support.