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#798: Roommate’s procrastination is making it awfully hot/cold in here.

 

Captain,

I’m in some troubled and rapidly freezing waters. I live with two roommates and it’s been a peaceful arrangement so far. I lived with one roommate, A, in my last place, and my other roommate, B, is one of my best friends and it’s our first time living together.

We’re responsible for filling an empty fuel tank for the winter, but didn’t realize this until recently.  The financial stress of filling this tank is being felt mostly by B and me (I’m a full-time grad student and part-time server, B needs to save for a car because of Family Stuff), and A is having trouble relating to us since she is relatively sound financially with her off-the-books job and reduced rent (which we agreed to since she had a smaller room).

Because we meet preliminary qualifications, I applied for state heating assistance, but to complete the application I need a social security card from A. Unfortunately, it has somehow been misplaced. A is incredibly lax about trying to remedy problems that might be much higher up on other people’s lists of Stuff To Get Done (ie, paying bills on time, cancelling missing credit cards, replacing a lost driver’s license). I’ve already told her about needing her to apply for a new card, so the ball is entirely in her court.  B is freaking out though, and it feels like there is literally nothing I can do beyond offering to drive A to the office and sit with her while she applies for a new card to ensure it gets done.

Confronting A, or when she gets stressed about out things, also causes her to shut down and lash out and procrastinate even more. B and I are stressed for many reasons, and A also doesn’t seem to understand why we are so pressed financially. Her proposed solution is to ask her boss for the money (and that’s a Hard No from me). B has been venting to me exclusively and it’s harder to handle and try to be the middleperson when I’m also angry and hurt. Long-term solution here is to not live with A again, but for the short-term what can I do to effectively encourage A and express the importance of how much this Needs To Get Done, as well as smooth things over between all three of us?

Sincerely,

It’s getting a little heated, but not the kind of heating we need

Dear Heated,

You can’t smooth things over between all three of you, so, stop.

To be clear, does “A.’s proposed solution is to ask her boss for the money” mean that A. wants to borrow the money from her boss (and have all of you on the hook for paying it back?) That would explain your reluctance to accept her offer, and I wouldn’t accept that option either. If A. is volunteering to cover the entire bill with money from her boss, that’s another story.

Applying for a new social security card takes a lot of documentation and some time and they don’t just give you the new one that day. It can take a couple weeks in the mail.

It’s time to put the ball in A’s court in a different way.

A., I’ve asked you a few times now for a copy of your social security card for our application for heating assistance. Can you be honest with me? What is the holdup?

Ask nicely, and invite her to make you understand the situation from her point of view. I personally am speculating all kinds of scenarios, like, since you mention an off-the-books job and a really sketchy debt scenario maybe she is undocumented and is trying to deflect disclosing that to protect herself. Maybe she knows she’s missing key pieces of documentation that would take too long to get. Maybe it’s mental health stuff that shreds executive function. Whatever it is, there can be reasons that deserve your compassion and inspire you to help find a workaround, but that doesn’t change the fact that you still need a solution to your heating issues. I am not a lawyer and definitely not one in your state, so I can’t speak to legal issues here. If A. can’t get a card, you need to know that so that you can make other plans. If A. can get a card and just… isn’t… for some reason,  I don’t think you are at all unreasonable if you say:

This application needs submitted to the state by the end of November. Please apply for your new social security card tomorrow (I will drive if you want).” 

If A says she’ll do it “later”, say, “Sorry, I don’t believe that you’ll do it ‘later’ without a real commitment to a date & time. I get that administrative things are hard for you sometimes, and I don’t want to make it even harder, which is why I want to do everything today so that we can stop having this hang over our heads.

If she has a shame spiral or lashes out, it’s okay to say “Hey, I don’t want to hurt your feelings or make you feel bad; I want to get the thing done. My only question is, how do we get the thing done?

 

If she still won’t do it, then, “Hey, you are putting B. and me in financial jeopardy and causing us tons of stress because of your procrastination, and things are not okay between us until you make this right.” Then be a broken record.

A.: “How was your day? This was my day…

You: “Cool. So did you get your social security card?

A: “Want to watch a movie? I rented a movie.

You: “Maybe. Where are things on your social security card?

A: “There’s ice cream in the fridge if you want it.” 

You: “Great. Can I have a copy of your social security card?”

A: “I don’t understand why this is such a big deal…

You: “I don’t need you to understand. I need you to do 1-2 hours of work so that this can stop being so stressful for everyone, you included.

A: “I don’t understand why y’all are so pressed financially!”

You: “Wow, what an oblivious thing to say!  We’re roommates, not married to each other, so you don’t know every single thing about my finances, and if I tell you that this is important for me then it is.” 

A: “You’re being really mean about this! Why are you so mean?

You: “You say ‘mean’, I say ‘sick of having to ask you more than once for something that you should have handled by now.’ If you haven’t noticed, things are not okay between us right now.”

If A. still won’t get the card, “A., what you’re telling me is that this is now totally your responsibility. Please write me a check for the full amount of the heating tank with your December rent.” Alternately, “Well, all lessors have to provide documentation for the application, so the other alternative is to take you off the lease.

I hope it doesn’t get to that. Whatever you do or say, if A. won’t help you fix it or fix it herself, STOP SMOOTHING IT OVER. Get very aware of all of your legal rights and potential legal issues here. Have an argument, with raised voices and stuff.

Now let’s talk about B., where your script is, “B., I feel you so hard, you know I do, but I can’t be your venting person about this. I think you should say everything you just told me directly to A.

B., you’re totally right. Definitely tell A. what you just told me.

B., I agree! Like you, I can’t pretend things are okay with A., either, so, go ahead and bug her about the card, too.

I don’t know if your heating situation is fixable without cooperation from A. The part you can control is to stop smoothing relations between A. and B. to stop being the listener/negotiator/middle child. A. gets “Cool story, so, about that thing you need to do“and B gets “Mmmm hmmm you are so right and also that’s a problem for A., go tell her about that” and maybe you chill out with other friends who don’t live with you a bit more until this all works itself out.

I hope it gets both warmer and cooler, if you know what I mean.

 

 

 

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84 comments
  1. Oof, all the hugs. I second the suggestion to give A. a hard date. Like, “I need to submit this two days from now, so I need a social security card from you by tomorrow” (or wev is even remotely reasonable/possible).

    And the “let’s get my boss to help” seems like a strong deflection, like “getting a card is hard, let’s do this other thing instead” and I don’t blame you for not wanting to go that route since it will just postpone the bigger problem.

    All the hugs offered, I’m so sorry.

    • Cecily said:

      I need to replace mine (I think my parents lost it? It wasn’t there when I was grabbing My Documents shortly before graduating uni) and it takes up to two weeks to get it in the mail. I’ve heard that you can get a printout temp thing from them if you go in person BUT the letter I have telling me I need to mail in a copy of my SS card says the SS office doesn’t do that anymore and they won’t accept it, so I think it depends if the place will accept it or not.

      • Sparky said:

        I went to replace my SS card and they did give me a stamped piece of paper to use until I got my card; it seemed very casual, and I don’t know if it would have worked instead of the real card. I was born in New Mexico, and while I was at the SS office the person serving me said something like, “Weird. This says New Mexico but it also says ‘Foreign Born.'” Yes, there is Old Mexico and there is the state, New Mexico, whose citizens regularly have other states refuse to take our money or ship to us, not believing that we are part of the U.S. Seriously. And, the social security office, who should know better, had somehow also made this error. The person helping me thought they’d probably run a program looking for the word “Mexico”. The point was, my coworkers who also needed replacement cards received them within 1-2 weeks. My replacement card arrived 4 months later. By which time I’d found my old card, and was able to complete paperwork at my job to start the new contract. A will probably be able to get a new card in 1-2 weeks, unless there is something she isn’t telling her roommates, but something could go wrong that holds things up.

        • miss_chevious said:

          True story: I lived in New Mexico during the Atlanta Olympics and some friends and I were thinking about going. So I call the number (oh, 1996, how cute you were!) to get Olympics tickets and they ask where I live. This follows:

          Me: Hi, I’m calling to get tickets.
          Customer Service Person: Okay, what state do you live in?
          Me: New Mexico.
          CSP: Oh, I’m sorry, you’ll have to call your embassy for tickets.
          Me: No, I live in NEW Mexico.
          CSP: Honey, New Mexico or Old Mexico, you still have to call your embassy. [click of phone hanging up]

  2. Anna said:

    Oh man, even reading about this, I feel annoyed as hell. I am having trouble understanding how A doesn’t see that not having a SS card pretty much leads right to No Heat This Winter and how that’s not urgent. Like, right now she sees it as your and B’s problem, but it’s going to very soon become her problem too. AND I don’t get why she thinks that borrowing money from her boss is a better solution, unless one of the Captain’s hypothetical scenarios is the actual case.

    So basically, I’m no help and am just as confused as the letter writer. I do especially like the Captain’s advice about re-directing B when she vents to you.

  3. Frost said:

    The roommate definitely needs to step up here. As someone with a lot of mental health problems that tend to make me procrastinate, I can somewhat understand avoiding doing something that feels like ‘a big thing’, but it NEEDS to get done, and the roommate is not the only one who will suffer if it doesn’t get done. They need to get up and just do it and get it over with.

    I agree with the broken record bit – it may feel like nagging, but it needs to get done. If they complain, maybe something along the lines of “Well, if you would get it done, I wouldn’t have to remind you of it so much.” would be in order.

    • Evie said:

      “I agree with the broken record bit – it may feel like nagging, but it needs to get done.”

      Here’s what I’ve learned about nagging since becoming something like an adult – often what ‘nagging’ means is “(often female person) asking anther (usually adult- often male) person to do a (usually) reasonable thing, and following up when they fail to do the thing (and needing to follow up again and again and again…)”

      So there are many caveats, and sometimes someone can be super annoying about how they ask for things to be done (putting things as suggestions when they are set in stone requirements, expecting and following up on things that couldn’t possibly be done yet etc), but many times it just means a person isn’t doing a thing they’ve agreed to/ could be reasonably expected for them to do and instead of either doing it by themselves (perhaps even the first time they’re asked) or explicitly stating why things won’t happen straight away (“I’ll pack up my computer in 2 minutes big sis, I’m just in the middle of reading something right now”, as an example from last night) they just let it go until they are annoyed into doing it or things explode.

      Tl;dr “nagging” often means having to ask a million bloody times for something reasonable to be done that could have been done straight away or clarified with some communication.

      • Anisoptera said:

        100% this. Isn’t it interesting how society characterises (usually women) asking multiple times for something to get done as this terrible unattractive flaw? If the thing isn’t being done, and you can’t ask about it without being a nag, what’s the option? Oh right, you don’t get to have wishes and needs and express those in anything but the most fawning supplicant manner. Ahh.

        “Nagging” = not my favourite word.

        • Andrew Glasgow said:

          You’re just supposed to do it yourself, of course.

        • Brisvegan said:

          Both Evie and Anisoptera, you are so very correct. These comments are bang on and things of beauty.

          Evie, can I quote you in other places? You explain it perfectly.

    • jaynn said:

      I have procrastination issues myself, and I’m having a hard time understanding A here. Yes it would stress me out, and I would certainly react badly in the moment when being confronted about it, but something as basic as BEING ABLE TO HEAT MY HOUSE would bug the fuck out of me enough that it would actually get done. I second the suggestion of giving a deadline–a hard line (versus the fuzzy line of “before it gets too cold”) can be a help, because it’s easier to put off stuff when it doesn’t need to be done Now. But there’s a high bar for being unreasonable here, IMHO, because we’re talking basic physical needs.

  4. e271828 said:

    FWIW, I applied for a replacement Social Security card about two months ago and had the replacement in my hands, via regular mail, within two weeks. The documentation required was not onerous.

    I am aware that for some people, anything requiring making a photocopy of a bill or their ID looms dread-inducingly in the mind, but on the scale of things like this I’ve been involved with (tax audits, passports, immigration, etc), a replacement Social Security card is a snap.

    Finally, taking A. off the lease may be a good idea if she is incapable of dealing with minor paperwork like this (really, this is minor). “Get my boss to help” is a bizarre response to “please give me a photocopy of your SS card so we can apply for fuel assistance before the pipes freeze.”

    • JenniferP said:

      Thanks for the recent details! I’m glad it worked out. The documentation required was not onerous…for you. And two weeks is not a long time unless you need this thing yesterday or risk not having heat for the winter.

      • Cecily said:

        Documentation can be SUPER weird/hard. I’m from a relatively privileged half immigrant family (my immigrant dad had a good employer sponsor and my American mom is Queen Of Getting Shit Done) and I still remember Stuff Being Hard to sort out when I was a kid. And two weeks is definitely a long time for this situation – those heating programs can be super finicky about that stuff.

    • Izzy said:

      Yeah, so when I had to deal with Administrative Hell (which meant contacting almost every single government agency that has ever had cause to know of my existence), the Social Security Administration was the absolute worst. Multiple offices in multiple cities had employees that were openly nasty to me, lied to me about what proof-of-ID/citizenship stuff I needed (probably due to ineptitude, but still), and refused to correct their own mistakes. The IRS practically rolled out the red carpet in comparison. I would not wish dealing with the SSA on anybody. If A has had to deal with the SSA before, I wouldn’t be surprised if she is putting this off because of how shitty the last experience was.

      • Myrtle said:

        Seconding this about the IRS! They have a Tax Advocate department you can ask to be transferred to, who are very nice and thorough. It’s clear they are highly-trained and they give you their ID number at the start of the call. They also have very good documentation of the previous times one has called. Any arrangements they make for you are official.

      • Right. And you have to go to a SS office *in person*, which depending on how hard is is to travel to, how long the wait is, & when you have to be at work, can be a pretty difficult thing to actually accomplish. Especially if you have any expectation of extra run-around due to your immigration status, gender history, other lost documents, etc.

        Obviously A needs to get *something* done to make this all work, but I can see why if ‘just go get another card’ translates to ‘go waste hours of time, which you have to take off from a possibly-precarious job, only to be told no or have a several month wait with many more trips and calls, so we can apply for assistance to get the tank filled if we’re approved down the line’, A might respond with ‘ugh, I’ll just get the money instead.’ (and ofc how reasonable that is depends 100% on whether she’s offering to *pay* for it or just loan the money)

  5. Yes, it seems like there’s something more going on here. The combination of under the table work and no social security card makes me think undocumented. I don’t think that’s generally something you have to disclose to your roommates, but when something like this come up, she needs to tell you if she can’t get a social security card. If she can’t get one, you all will either need to take her off the lease, or figure out how to pay the full amount for heating.

    (I think the fact that you need a social security card for this reduced heating program is pretty shitty of your state)

    • Evie said:

      Not a US person here:
      Surely needing the SS card would be tied to means testing?

      (I admit I could be totally wrong!)

      • untonuggan said:

        Yes that does sound like they would need it so they could check everyone’s tax records and make sure you qualify for low-income heating assistance. Which, if under the table work is happening, could be spawning a freak out about potential tax audits. Or even without the under the table work.

        In my family of origin, any talk about money or budgeting was an insta-fight between my parents so I never really learned good skills for healthy budgeting as a young adult and am having to compensate now because “never opening your credit card bill or bank statements” is not actually a good strategy for having low stress about your finances. Bureaucracy could instill similar panic in your roomie.

        (But, again, the biggest issue is just GETTING THAT SHIT DONE so you have heat, and thus the main issue of the why of it is whatever needs to be done so you can GET THAT SHIT DONE.)

      • Needing the SS card is almost definitely tied to making sure undocumented folks don’t get heating assistance.

      • Elf Krystal said:

        No means testing required. All US citizens get a Social Security Number at birth or when Naturalized as soon as registered, most people can say their SSN by heart. If she has ever filed a tax return, or had regular employment that number should be available to copy somewhere.
        Does the LW just need the number or an actually copy of the little SSN card? Because if she is a regular, documented person her parents should have the number somewhere for tax purposes or for registering for University. In fact, In Massachusetts (my home state) your SSN is your Drivers license number. Not sure about other states. Maybe get ask to see her license if she agrees?

        There is more going here than meets the eye. Maybe she is undocumented, otherwise it should be very easy to get the SSN number from her or her parents. Or from some form in their possession.

        • Courtney said:

          Well, your folks have to apply for it when you are a child, but the incentive is that they can’t claim a deduction for a child (or any related tax credits) without an SSN. I didn’t actually get mine until I was old enough to apply for a job because I am old enough to predate the mandatory SSN for dependents claimed on tax forms rule.

        • KV said:

          I think you’re jumping to a conclusion based on a misconception that the number and card are interchangeable.
          Back in 2007ish, I lost my SS card because it was in my wallet when it was stolen. I had it in my wallet because applying for some jobs requires a SS card, not just the number. I had to go get a new copy of my card, which only got done quickly because I was a teen living at home and my mom pushed me. If she hadn’t, well, I hate paperwork and would’ve put it off as long as possible. There are plenty of reasons someone might not have a little easily misplaced card.

          • Emmers said:

            Oh, I didn’t know this (re: the *card* being required for some things). That’s really unfortunate – but thanks for clarifying!

          • Courtney said:

            The card qualifies as “proof of citizenship.” Usually to start a new job you need “proof of identity” (an ID with name and picture, such as a driver’s licence, non-driver’s state ID card, or a military ID) and “proof of citizenship” (or proof of your right to work in the US if you are not a citizen). Someone from the company hiring you has to sign a form saying that they have physically seen ID that qualifies. It’s also helpful when there are concerns about identity theft–if an identity thief has your SSN, they likely ONLY have the number, not the government-issued card.

          • Sara Crewe said:

            I lived in the US as a foreigner with no right to work (on a dependant’s visa) and I had a social security number so it isn’t proof of a right to work in itself. I think the card was marked accordingly which may be why the number by itself isn’t enough and of course, things may have changed since.

        • Terry said:

          The bit about the SSN and driver’s license number being the same may have been true at one point, but not anymore (MA RMV says it’s been illegal since 2005, per federal law*). IDK how that worked for people who got their licenses before that – I didn’t live in MA at the time, so my license never had my SSN on it. Regardless, it sounds like the card is the necessary thing here, based on LW’s comments.

          *source: https://secure.rmv.state.ma.us/PolicyBrowserPublic/PB/default.htm?turl=WordDocuments%2FTransactions%2Fsocialsecuritynumberasdriverslicensenumber14.htm

          • Elf Krystal said:

            Mine is. But I haven’t lived there for 14 years. I don’t know when that changed then.

          • Deedeebee said:

            It’s gone from being mandatory, to being optional, to not being offered. When I got my MA license, there was a checkbox where you could choose to either use your SSN as your license number or get a random license number.

        • Evie said:

          Sorry Elf Krystal, perhaps I wasn’t clear enough – I’ve watched enough TV to know all US citizens have a SS, it was more that it seems possible that means testing is required in order to access government programs like heating assistance, and the requirement of it in this instance is part of the gov agency’s means testing assessment.

        • Elizabeth said:

          In the USA, a social security card can double as a form of identification. Many employers use it as the “B” list form of identification along with your passport or your permission to work documentation for internationals in the USA. I’m almost positive they’re checking employment stuff with this and they probably want to keep a photocopy in their files, which in many cases needs to be from an original, not a copy of the original.

          ….this has bit me in the butt many times as a student living not-within-driving-distance of my parents’ house. All my important legal documents are there and my parents, bless them, are not known for being organized.

      • Tana said:

        No, the social security card is a tax ID kind of thing. Later you use it for your retirement, but it has nothing to do with need. In the US you need the SSN to get a job. It’s how they track the tax they withhold from your cheque. You can also get disability on your record, but it’s not means tested by any stretch. Everyone has them. You even need one for your kid if you want to take a tax deduction for having a child.

      • I think it differs by state. I do know of some undocumented people who receive assistance and I am not sure if they are using a citizen’s information or if their state allows use of a Tax ID# rather than SS#. Anybody who has a job that is “over the table” gets a Tax ID# regardless if they are documented or not. So it’s possible it varies by state and that one state could require multiple forms of ID to verify citizenship and another state only requires that they can check your taxes (and therefore income) history.

        • Courtney said:

          Yes, in the US nearly all assistance is administered by the individual states, even if it is a federal program. Each state has their own rules, which makes it incredibly complex to navigate.

      • Tin RinRin said:

        I just wanted to say, that as a former Low Income Energy Assistance Program employee, your SSN is required to check how much money you made in the last fiscal quarter (or year, depending on the state). This is used to determine if your below the poverty line or not. Requirements differ state to state. My state just needed the number, other states are jerks about it and make you turn in a copy.

        LW, if A is unable to obtain a SSN card or wont or whatever, (If you haven’t already tried it) try telling the office that when you turn in your application. Talk to a case worker if possible, they can might be able to help you out. They might do something like pay for 2/3rd’s of your tank with the assumption that A will pick up the rest. The office I worked in wound up doing a lot of this sort of thing for people. Good Luck! Deity’s Speed!

    • Emmers said:

      It seems weird to me that she would need her CARD, not just her Social Security *NUMBER.* But I’ve never applied for heating assistance – I guess they need a photocopy, for some obscure reason? Don’t have access to some kind of database, maybe?

      Anyway, A is a jerk (if she’s undocumented, she needs to SAY THAT and help them figure out a solution, not push it off indefinitely – she’d not be a bad person for being undocumented, just for her other behavior). And yeah, it sucks that states seem to be setting this limit on folks.

      • Izzy said:

        I looked at my local utility company’s assistance program, which is run by the city. It required government-issued ID but did not require a SS card. It did ask for a SSN. So I also think it’s a little odd that she would need the card and not just the number. Since people are hypothesizing that she may be undocumented, it’s worth noting that my city’s form said explicitly that the information from the form would NOT be shared with immigration officials. So if that’s a concern, it’s worth reading the fine print.

        • The Awe Ritual said:

          Given various histories, I would not necessarily trust an institution stating they won’t share information with the government.

      • Emma said:

        I think you’re being needlessly harsh to A. If she is undocumented, then revealing that status means risking the loss of her home, job, all her friends, her partner if she has one and her financial security; and being put through the painful process of being deported to a place she may never have lived as an adult, where she may not know anyone or speak the language. To top it all off, she could be at risk of serious violence by law enforcement along the way.

        If that is the situation, and she’s not 100% sure that she can trust LW not to turn her in, I’d say she’s acting pretty reasonably, though she should probably also be looking for somewhere else to live on the DL. She certainly wouldn’t be a jerk in that situation, just someone facing an extremely difficult situation and not handling it in the best way possible.

        • JenniferP said:

          Agreed! If that were the case, what the LW needs to know from A. is “It’s actually impossible for me to get that info right now, so what is our Plan B?”

        • Emmers said:

          Good points. And ^ what the Captain said – “That’s not possible for me to get, for boring reasons I’d rather not go into, so how else can we handle this?” >>> avoidance.

  6. Cecily said:

    So I have an investment account that didn’t have much money in it that I TOTALLY forgot about, and got a letter recently saying that their SSN for me on file is incorrect and I needed it send in a copy of my SS card before December 5 to avoid withholding/the possibility of a $50 fee from the IRS. I got that letter several weeks ago and totally have not done the thing despite living about five blocks from a Social Security Administration Office. This is because of Brain Problems and exhaustion from dealing with a New Job and also working during the office’s open hours. I’m probably going to wait to do it until next Thursday when I go into work later because I’m not getting a card by the deadline anyway (the letter says they won’t accept a temp).

    However, this situation only affects me, and involves an amount of money that I’m fine with swallowing thanks to finally being gainfully employed. If I needed it for not only my fucking heating bill (I live in Minnesota), but someone else’s? You can bet your fucking ass I’d find someone to cover my shift and get that shit done IMMEDIATELY. If A wants to pay for the entire bill herself, fine she can totally do that, but if she expects to someone else to suffer because she won’t do something she doesn’t have the sympathy of someone currently procrastinating on the same thing.

    • johann7 said:

      That sounds like a possible phishing scam; I would advise verifying that the request is genuine before sending anything along, if you have not done so already.

  7. untonuggan said:

    Omigosh, I have all the sympathies for your situation and lack of heat!

    NONE of this is meant to minimize what you are going through with non-heat and the minimizing your roommate is doing is *not okay*. However, as the Captain and others have said about say mental health issues or any kind of executive function (not to mention legal documentation which is another ballgame entirely)…maybe the above can help explain WHY this is so hard for your roommate or concrete steps you/roomies/phone-a-friend can do to make this happen *soon* so you can get fucking heat.

    I also wanted to offer some firsthand experience with both the underfunded-bullshit that is navigating Social Security, as well as a couple of tips for making it more bearable, IF you or your roomie would like it. (I receive federal disability benefits, so.) It is super confusing at times even if you are semi-used to all the morass of rules and such. (FWIW, I blame Congress, lack of funding, and the idea that welfare is an “entitlement” but the estate tax is not versus the people who work there who are really quite lovely but TOTALLY overloaded with their workload. I was initially quite intimidated by going, but if you are polite and maybe throw in sympathy about how busy it is IME you will get decent help, because people sure as hell don’t work there for the money.)

    As I said, I have a disability and receive benefits from Social Security, so I have to go to their offices more than I would like. (I would like to never ever need to go though, so my desired number of trips would be “zero”.) Walk-ins take a long time in the DC Metro area, where I live (like, get there before they open, wait in line at the door, and then wait for another 2 hours before you talk to a human being.) It’s super stressful and I am lucky I have people who will go with me or talk on the phone about confusing benefits miasma for me sometimes.

    However, you can schedule an appointment *ahead of time* and that makes it much more bearable. There is still a lot more waiting because lack of staff (In my region, with an appointment it’s more like half an hour and you can just arrive around your scheduled appointment time? But if they’re booking faaar in advance you may just have to show up with a book.)

    To schedule an appointment is also a pain in the fucking butt, as there is no online appointment scheduler so you have to call the local office (the voicemail boxes for my local contact is always full and that’s if I can get past the phone tree of doom) OR call the 1-800 number which FINALLY has a call-back option which means you need to (a) call when they are open which is often when people are working; (b) have your phone near you. (Before auto-callback, I once sat on hold for an hour and 45 minutes and then the call dropped. That was a very sad day.)

    IF you feel like being awesome and helping with, say, scheduling the appointment, your roomie will still need to be nearby as Social Security will require them to verify that SSA can legally talk to you. Roomie will also need to verify information such as their legal address, social security number (which hopefully they remember), legal name, etc.

    You *can* apply for a replacement card by mail, BUT you need to send originals of things like your Birth Certificate/Passport or special fancy copies from the issuing agency (not a notarized copy). So I personally would not want to trust that to the whims of “the postal system plus an overloaded inbox” (as I’ve sent letters regarding my benefits and had delays in replies).

    Here is the information on what documentation you will need and how to get a replacement card: https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/

    Here is information on how to schedule an in-person appointment, should you choose to go that route: https://faq.ssa.gov/link/portal/34011/34019/Article/3881/How-do-I-schedule-reschedule-or-cancel-an-appointment

    • Brisvegan said:

      Love your ‘nym, untonuggan!

  8. Tana said:

    Social Security cards can be hard to replace if you don’t have documentation. Go to the website about how to replace it, with your housemate. Go down the list of requirements and if she has them put them aside, if she doesn’t help her GET them.

    We went around a circle for months because my sister in law lost her social security card, did not have her birth certificate and you can’t get a passport without an ID any more (sworn affidavits won’t do it.) So to get her a state ID we needed to go and get her a social security card (hard without a state ID, etc.) All that rigamarole to get her a state ID card so she could get paratransit.

    She needed a photo ID to get her new ID and she needed one to get her SS Card too. Luckily she was of retirement age and you can retire online, so she got her retirement letter with her SSN on it and was able to parlay that back into getting her State ID.

    A lot of things send you in circles, to get x you need y document, but you need y document to get x.

    So maybe even if it’s scads of work for you, sit her down and find out where the hold up is. It may very well be that she’s circling a drain because she doesn’t have the proper paperwork to GET an ss card replacement and she just doesn’t have the energy to explain that to you. Also copies of those documents (birth certificate, etc.) can cost from 20-100 dollars she may not have either.

    tl:dr – It’s only easy to get a replacement card if you have things like your birth certificate and a picture ID. Many people do not have these and they can be expensive and hard to get. If she’s here legally but not a citizen she needs way more. If she’s not here legally, you have bigger problems.

    • yeah. My wallet was stolen and my SS card & state ID were both in it. IIRC I was able to get a new state ID because I happened to have a checking account, which not everyone does. Once I had a new state ID I was able to get a social security card. The ONLY REASON I knew what to do was because my brother’s apartment had burnt down to the ground a few years previously and he’d had to get all new ID. (IIRC he didn’t have a checking account but was able to use 1) school records and 2) a notarized affidavit from our mom)

    • Sarah said:

      I am in exactly the situation you describe (in my country of birth), and my gosh it is a pest to deal with: I only managed to cut the Gordian knot of bureaucracy by sheer fluke and get one ID document from which all the others, but if I’d cottoned on to it two weeks later because of a random cutoff I’m not sure it would have been possible period. To sort out the rest of it requires masses of paperwork, dealing with entirely different state ID bureaucracies, and doing so around sensitive issues when my only accessible Justice of the Peace is a hardcore religious zealot. The Captain’s answer was great in addressing the possibility of these kinds of issues, and why it really may not be as simple as it looks.

  9. Whatever the Roommate A’s issues are, the important thing is you need the fuel covered. Captain’s advice is good, and maybe also talk to someone who is an expert on housing laws in your state. Tread carefully, though, you don’t want A getting deported due to mandatory reporting.
    Roommate A could have issues like being undocumented, she could also be flaky or have parents who covered all her stuff until recently and who just doesn’t understand about how critical deadlines are. Whatever her deal is, do not take money from her boss, and if she chooses to take money from them, tell her to get the whole thing spelled out in writing. If the boss won’t, that to me indicates a huge red flag.

  10. Majikkani_Hand said:

    I don’t know A, of course, but I do know that with my own mental health issues, applying for another Social Security card would be the kind of stressful that meant I would pretend it didn’t exist (even though it’s basic paperwork and shouldn’t bother me so), and an offer to drive and sit there would be SUPER HELPFUL. I would be really happy that somebody took control, set a deadline, and basically walked me through it. If you haven’t made that offer, I’d say “Hey, so I do really need that Social Security card. I know you’ve been having issues, so let’s grab the stuff you need (know this ahead of time so you can tell A if A doesn’t know) and head over and get that pounded out (so I don’t have to eat nothing but ramen next month.)”

  11. Courtney said:

    I’m confused by the idea that A may not have an SSN. If A is on the lease, wouldn’t she have had to provide an SSN as part of the rental application? Even the landlords I have had who based their decision to rent to me on their gut instead of a standard renter’s background check wanted the SSN (in case their gut was wrong and they had to try to collect unpaid rent.)

    • JenniferP said:

      Good news, we don’t have to solve this mystery.

    • Rental stuff varies SO WILDLY by locale that it’s sort of pointless to try to impose your own experience unless you have actual experience in that particular city.

  12. Courtney said:

    LW,

    Is the problem that you can’t afford the heating oil *at all* without assistance, or that you can’t afford to pay for it in one lump sum up front?

    If it is the lump sum up front that is the issue, you may be able to get a partial fill on your tank. Years ago, I lived in a house with an oil furnace, and we could specify a set number of gallons instead of “fill the tank.” It may be worth it to call the local oil companies and see which one has the lowest minimum delivery. They should also be able to help you estimate how many gallons you need to get through a month.

    Or, it might be worth talking to your landlord about amending the lease so that oil is included and the cost is spread over the remainder of your lease. (It is in the landlord’s best interest for the tank to get filled. It can actually do damage if the oil level gets too low.)

    If the problem is that you can’t afford the extra cost at all, it might be worth asking the assistance office if there is some kind of workaround because A is being intransigent with getting the replacement card. If you talk to one of their staffers, they may be able to work with you. I’m sure this isn’t the first time they’ve dealt with that.

    I’m not saying that you shouldn’t continue to press A to finish the paperwork and whatever it takes to get the assistance you need. I’m bringing this up because sometimes people who are oblivious to the financial stresses of others NEVER get it, and we’re talking about an issue that MUST be fixed, not an irritant you can tolerate until the lease is up. Keep using the Captain’s excellent scripts, but I strongly suggest that you start looking for some contingency plans in case A digs in and flat refuses to fix her part of this.

  13. eselle28 said:

    It seems like this is a problem that could potentially be solved with money. It sounds like A has plenty of discretionary income but limited ability and/or willingness to do administrative tasks. She does have the smaller bedroom, but even so, maybe a lease renegotiation is in order? If A is willing to pay a rent adjustment equal to the heating bill (and I would strongly suggest that it be in that form, rather than having her pick up the ill herself), would that reduce some of the tension? That way, she could replace her Social Security card at her own pace, and could let you know when she’s done that and rent can be readjusted.

    • Manders said:

      This is a really smart idea. Whether or not A would be amenable to that depends on some details we don’t have, but if for some reason she really would rather pay more money than replace her card, it solves everyone’s problems.

      I admit that I’m very curious about how A is making money (under the table? and she has the kind of relationship with her boss where she can just ask for a very large amount of money?) and I wonder whether there is something not quite legal going on there with taxes/her job duties/her ability to work in this country/something else. Which isn’t OP’s problem or responsibility to fix, but if it could potentially mess up that application bill, OP needs to at least know that those benefits aren’t an option.

  14. carlie said:

    If she is eligible for a replacement but isn’t sure what to do (or is missing documents and knows there’s a problem), you could encourage her to start local with office staff instead of tackling it through 800 numbers or websites. There’s all the stories about bureaucracy, but I recently helped a friend deal with a “need x to get y but need y to get x” problem and it turned out the people at the appropriate offices were really helpful once I sat and explained the entire problem to them, and told me about alternative verification methods I hadn’t discovered in my own research. Also, dealing with the local branch offices ended up being a lot faster than going through online or centralized requests (such as calling the county records office that issued a birth certificate; was cheaper AND faster than going through the state’s main website).

    But yeah, it’s best for everyone if “or you’re off the lease” is part of the conversation, and it’s not mean. If she really can’t deal with being responsible for paperwork, then it’s a kindness to her to not make her responsible for it. She’s the one who has to deal with the repercussions of that and figure out whether she wants to work on that issue or if it’s ok with her to lose legal standing in the apartment over it.

  15. LW798 said:

    Hi all, LW here, I guess I didn’t consider all interpretations of saying A. didn’t have a SSC. She is a full citizen, her card is just….lost. Somewhere. She doesn’t, and her family doesn’t, know where it is. Thank you Captain for the advice regarding B. I’m trying my best to remove myself from the situation. I’m worried about how this will affect the apartment situation long-term if B. blows up at A. because both can hold impressive grudges, and money does odd things to people in general.

    To clarify on asking A’s boss for money: He helped us (A and I) out in our last apartment, and we had to pay it back. So, in this case, still leaves us paying more for fuel oil than we would have to if she spends two hours at an office, which she’ll then be saving us approximately $500 overall. I want to have faith in A that she’ll get it done, and if she does it, it’ll help B. calm down too.

    As for A.’s mental stuff, I’m not a doctor, and she’s never gone to see someone to my knowledge or told me anything, but I have picked up on her moods and behaviors over the last two years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was something going on. I did follow the advice of offering to drive/accompany her to the office, but that was shot down, mostly because I think she feels bad and pressured, which are two things A has never handled well. I do have a lawyer friend, and I think it’ll be worth looking into talking with them about possible solutions to this as well.

    Thank you all for your comments and advice!

    • Neurite said:

      Would it be possible to suggest to A that, if she’s not able/willing to get the documentation needed to get the $500 discount, alternatively she could be responsible for the extra $500? For example, if you do end up going the “borrow money from the boss again” route – as you say, while it will buy you time, eventually it will lead to paying $500 more for the gas. If A strongly prefers this option, could she agree to pay the extra $500 that option will cost?

      Or if she will eventually get around to getting the SSC, but it will take her so long that you’ll need to spring for the minimum fill you mention below in order to be able to live in your apartment, and then maybe by the time the minimum fill runs out, the paperwork actually got sorted and future fills are at the reduced rate – could she agree (in writing, hopefully) to cover the difference between what the minimum fill would have cost at the reduced rate and what you actually ended up paying? It won’t be the full $500, but it’ll be some difference, and if you are only paying that extra because she prefers not to feel rushed and wants to take her time getting the SSC, well, she could have that option for the price of her covering that difference.

      If she is financially comfortable enough to claim ignorance as to why you are putting so much importance on “just money” (ugh), then this may indeed be preferable for her, and it certainly gives you leeway to say “well, if you think money isn’t such a big deal, then covering this shouldn’t be a big deal for you.”

    • You may need to have a serious conversation with A about her either paying the difference between normal cost and state-assisted cost (or if the state assisted is a longer payback period, have her front the money and you and B pay her back), taking care of the SS card, or you and B reconsidering the living arrangement.
      If you do end up just buying the oil yourself or splitting at full price, you have every right to keep the heat as low as you can bear to keep the oil use down.
      I’m not sure there are any other workable options here.

    • I’m really very upset for you, and for the boss in question: if someone borrowed $500 from me and I later learned they wouldn’t have needed it if they’d done some basic paperwork, I’d be very angry and the relationship might well be damaged.

      Lending carries an intrinsic risk that the money will not be returned–if you three got Hit By A Bus, the boss would never see that money again. A silly example but maybe that might help your friend see her actions in a different light? Honestly, it seems like she is being very disrespectful to you all.

      I’m so sorry.

    • Emmers said:

      My shoulders are WAY up around my ears about the way A is treating you right now. (Doesn’t help that a close friend’s brother is dealing with some similar Executive Function issues that will probably put him literally on the streets in a few months, argh.) All the good thoughts your way. I hope A can get her life together and that you can all have a peaceful, and warm, winter.

    • neverjaunty said:

      Do not “have faith” in A. You know, based on how A acts, that this is putting hope over reality because it’s less conflict in the short term.

      Personally I cannot vouch enough for the Broken Record method. In college, I once spent an ENTIRE WEEK where I did not utter a sentence to a particular housemate without including the sentence “By the way, X, don’t forget to do your dishes.” It took him that long to realize that his digging in would not avail him and, if necessary, I was entirely fucking prepared to spend the remainder of the year in which no conversation omitted a reminder that he was blowing off the dishes.

      He was much better about dishes after that.

  16. sagriver said:

    Can you just buy a little bit of fuel as a stopgap measure? I’m just worried about you all freezing while this gets sorted out.

    I have a toyo heater, so when I need fuel I just look into how much I can afford and call the fuel company and go, “Can I get x dollars worth of fuel?” There might be a minium that you have to buy before they will deliver it though.

    • LW798 said:

      Hi there, I discussed this with my maintenance man when this first came up and the minimum tank fill requirement is 150 gallons which is still… a lot of money. I’m prepared to just sort of say “screw it” and pay for that minimum fill because, as so many of you kindly pointed out (and my toes also know) it’s getting too cold to mess around.

      • e271828 said:

        If you do this, can you collect A’s share of this expense in cash up front? Even asking for it (along with the iterative questions about her SS card) might focus her mind on the problem. You cannot not do heat. (Perhaps she is planning on making do with an electric space heater in her own room, but that is not an acceptable option.)

  17. Amy said:

    “Just take her off the lease” isn’t really a realistic option. A lease is a contract among all the parties: in this case A, B, the LW, and the landlord. In order for A to not be on the lease, all four of those parties would have to agree to cancel the existing contract, and then the three who want a new contract would have to sign one. You can’t just cross A’s name off the contract without A’s permission. You also can’t remove someone who lives in the home off the lease without the landlord’s permission. And if the landlord is smart, s/he won’t consent to that, because that would leave her/him with a resident with whom there is no contract, and with little or no ability to hold A accountable for missing rent or damages, and it could increase the landlord’s liability. So no, “just take her off the lease” is not an easier option than her getting her social security card, and it may even be more difficult and require more cooperation and coordination from A than the social security paperwork.

    • Myrtle said:

      Right now it would seem to be in all parties’ best interests to start eviction proceedings on A. That would be the legal way to remove her. She’s choosing to not operate as a tenant in good faith, and jeaprodizing her friend’s comfort and safety. Nothing like seeing the paperwork to put the consequences of choices repeatedly made, in focus for someone.

      It wouldn’t mean you’d have to complete the eviction, (and if you did follow through it can take months.) Nor does it have to be done unkindly. Many cities have moved to having a switchboard of services available by calling “311” and they would be able to get you to a Legal Aid office.

      I’ve also dealt with SSA in person and found them to be very accommodating when I explained I needed things repeated, or that I needed their help completing a form. Swallowing my shame and asking was the hardest part.

      • I don’t think you can evict someone during winter without it being ‘unkindly’, and depending on the terms of their lease, it may not be possible to evict someone who has paid rent consistently, and offered to pay heating expenses in a way the LW would not prefer (which LW wouldn’t prefer for *very* good reasons, but still). In fact, going to the landlord and saying ‘we want to evict A because we require financial assistance to heat the home, and A wants to just pay out of pocket’ could cause the landlord to side with A. Most landlords ime favor ability to pay over fairness.

        I’d agree it’s time to bring ‘…or we need to find another roommate or you need to find another place to live’ into the list of options, but ‘just start some friendly eviction proceedings!’ is…not that. Having a history of eviction can seriously impact your ability to find another place, and will probably cost all parties involved much more than an negotiated move-out or a tank of fuel.

        • Myrtle said:

          That’s a terrific point about the credit history, and one that A should use in reframing her “meh, not my problem” which includes taking responsibility for her mental health.
          As Jen says downthread, this is a situation that could turn dangerous quickly.

  18. slythwolf said:

    I have a mental health executive function thing that causes me to do basically this, especially about things that are stressful for me. Recently I had a thing that I needed to do and I kept letting it go and letting it go and freaking out more and more about it internally, and someone in my life took it upon themselves to harp on me about it until I got it done. I’m not proud to say I got very defensive with this person and there was a small amount of yelling. But once it was done, I felt SO MUCH BETTER, and now it’s over and I don’t have to deal with it anymore.

    I hope A will get this done and feel the same way. Just know, LW, that if she does get upset at you for trying to make sure she takes care of this, that may not last and she may be more upset at herself.

  19. Karak said:

    I have severe anxiety and sometimes cannot handle The Thing. There are many Things.

    LW, you don’t want to do for A for many reasons…but I think at this point you’re out of options. You’re going to take A on the first day you both have time to do this, look up the required info, and nag/force/spoon-feed A into doing this now.

    She may be grateful, she may hate you, but I can guarantee she will be warm while she does it.

  20. Mel Reams said:

    LW, if it helps any you officially have my permission to nag/hound/broken record/relentlessly remind A that you need her freaking SSN already. You do not have to be nice when A is making it difficult for you to heat your freaking home in the winter. I totally understand wanting to stay on good terms with someone you’re stuck sharing a home with until the lease expires, but you’re not going to be on good terms anyway if you’re freezing cold in your own home because she wouldn’t help you get assistance with the heat. If you two end up on bad terms that’s on her, not you.

    Oh, and if you can do something nice for yourself, please do that. I want to be optimistic but I think it’s going to suck to hound A to do what she needs to do and you will probably end up feeling like a jerk about it. You are not a jerk! You just physically *need* your home to be heated. You are allowed to pushy to get your physical needs met. And even if she ends up hating you for it, at least, like Karak said, she’ll be warm while she does it.

  21. shhh its me said:

    LW it may help to print the application and fill it out with her. You can apply for a replacement card by mail (I know its slower but 3 weeks is sooner then never)

    I want to throw something else out there I would feel very very uncomfortable applying for assistance if I was working under the table. Not disclosing that income is fraud and if you plan was to disclose her actual earning then I would be worried about tax evasion. Some people also just have a general resistance to applying for assistance.

    I don’t think you can actually make her apply for assistance, I think its reasonable to ask her to provide information so you can B can apply for assistance. You can also ask for for the $500 difference that not applying will cost you. It’s a crappy thing , but I think all she really OWES you is 1/3 of the heating bill.

    Another option may be to restructure your lease into a lease with a sublease. Apartment is leased to A with an approved sublease to you and B(that way you could be considered as a separate household)

    • Tana said:

      The problem with this is that the assistance people NEED the info on all the people in the house. What if this person actually makes enough so that the household does not qualify for the aid. There’s a legit reason why they have to have this third person on the paperwork. If two people qualify and the third doesn’t, the household does not qualify. Aid is limited after all. And if the other two people cannot afford 2/3 of the heating bill, that doesn’t help even a bit if the other person gives them 1/3. They still would not have any heat.

      In order for them to apply they need her SS Card. That’s the info she has to provide for THEM to apply. So you’re saying basically that she needs to provide the card. Because without it they cannot apply.

      Aid agencies will not consider that separate households if they sublet, because again, shared space. If the sub-lessee makes enough money to not qualify for aid, the whole space will not qualify.

  22. Anisoptera said:

    LW I am super frustrated on your behalf, because I have definitely known people like this. In many ways I am a person like that – I have problems with epic life ruining procrastination (though I usually do get things done that impact other people, which may just mean my brainworms are less severe than A’s) so I have lots of sympathy for A. But whatever the cause of her behaviour you still need heat and money. That’s some pretty basic stuff right there. And I don’t think you should hold your breath on A getting her act together because if she was going to she probably would have by now. The people I know who’ve been like this sometimes grow out of it and sometimes don’t but it takes years either way, during which you and B will have frozen/gone broke.

    It’s hard to have this sort of argument with people because it feels like you should all just agree that this is really important and has to happen. But keep in mind that she appears to be extremely avoidant and lacks empathy for your financial situation and possibly *doesn’t* agree that this is important and has to happen. She also might not have fully internalised that money she borrows is money she has to pay back and might be thinking about finances in a very short term way.

    I’m not suggesting you have to educate her on all this (which will come off as patronising in any case, because most people get this stuff in theory even if they haven’t internalised it or struggle putting it into practice) – just you and B may need to lay out various ultimatums and have some uncomfortable arguments in order to get through to A. As an aside I hope B isn’t just relying on you to do all this difficult enforcing of How Things Are and will actually back you up to A’s face.

    Anyway. Having dealt with people who do this at various points in my life, please come up with a plan for various worst case scenarios. Because I don’t hold out much hope that she’ll get her act together. I know it sucks – you’re hoping things can proceed smoothly and you can get your heating assistance and have both heat and $500 and also go on living in peace and harmony. But you might be about to be out of pocket for heating, and then dealing with all the drama and expense of breaking up the household at an inconvenient time, or living with grim tension for months while you guys get all your ducks in a row re moving house or replacing A as your housemate. Keeping in mind that if you try to evict A you will probably discover that she treats finding new accomodation with the same urgency as replacing her social security card, with a side order of telling everyone else how mean you and B are and how you want to make her homeless…

    Because unless you have the patience and resources to carefully wade through issues like this repeatedly (and it sounds like you currently don’t, at least not for A) I think the best option is to move towards a world where you don’t live with A.

  23. Manattee said:

    This is such a great example of how the Captain’s scripts manage to be both compassionate and practical at the same time and I think creating the opportunity for A to say that there is something else going on (if there is) but without prioritising her needs (or even hypothetical needs) over the LWs is very kind and balanced.

    It’s so easy to slip into ‘what if she has an executive function issue’ thinking and then not press it further because you don’t want to be mean. But I think if you (as I do) have issues (whether they are to do with mental health, docmentation, money, whatever) it’s on you to let people who might be affected know. Like when my mental health problems get in the way of my work, it’s on me to talk to my boss so we can work out an accommodation. A good boss might notice and take the initiative to ask what’s up, but it’s still on me to be honest about it and let them know. So I think that as long as the LW has asked what’s up and has offered reasonable help if needed, then it’s kinda no longer on the LW to be pussy-footing around A just in case there’s a more serious issue at play. You can have mental health issues and still take responsibility for your shit, even if the level of responsibility is just being honest and saying ‘sorry, I’m not able to deal with this because reason.’

  24. Jen said:

    Oh boy. I can hazard a guess as to what part of the country you live in, based on the need for fuel oil and SSN for state assistance. That having been said, weather can turn dangerous on a dime. Have you had a chat with the landlord? Not having oil means a lot more than frozen pipes or a quality of life issue–it’s a dangerous/life-threatening situation if the weather turns to shit and they can’t schedule an emergency delivery. I agree with the others that either A getting removed from the lease or evicted is probably a thing to consider now. Executive function problem or not, y’all need heat. Sorry to be the dark cloud, here, but people freeze to death in crappy weather.

    That having been said, have you looked into any St. Vincent de Paul groups in your area? They honestly don’t care what religion you are (or not): they’re big on providing assistance, and if they have it to give, they will. It might be an option until the state assistance kicks in. (And they might also have resources for other assistance programs, too.)

  25. Consolaré said:

    I don’t understand the problem. I’ve applied for many, many government handouts. All I needed was to write the number on a form. This includes sponsoring three people for permanent residence. The only time I have to present the actual card is for a job. I’m guessing she doesn’t have/can’t get one. And you need a social security NUMBER to be on a lease.

  26. The Awe Ritual said:

    This may be a dumb question, but doea she have any previous jobs or school situations where they might have a copy of the card on file and can be bribed with brownies to photocopy this?

    I do wonder if she may not be uncomfortable with receiving government assistance. But 1. That’s what government assistance is for; 2. She needs to pay her share, which includes what she is keeping you from receiving, if not.

  27. caitie_didn't said:

    I really think LW and B need to have one final sitdown with A to get an actual answer about this SSC thing, while presenting a united front to A that this has gone on long enough and yes, both LW and B are pissed off about it. I would present it as “so, based on your responses to our questions/requests, you are unable or unwilling to get a replacement SSC, right?”. And if A says “yes, that’s correct”, well, first, you know that applying for assistance isn’t an option, and you can move forward. In that case the follow-up questions are:

    1) Do you (A) understand that this means a $500 increase in the cost of filling the oil tank to heat the house?
    2) Can we agree on an alternative solution to get the oil tank filled if heating assistance in not an option?

    There are a few possible solutions here:

    1) A pays the $500 difference. It’s not your business how she comes up with that money; if she wants to borrow it from her boss let her, as long as the boss is clear that this is a loan to A, not a loan to the three of you.

    2) You (LW, B and A) pay for the partial fill-up of the tank; whatever the minimum amount is. Is this enough to get you through the winter?

    3) You negotiate something with the landlord where he/she pays to fill the tank and you pay for it in monthly instalments or something. Landlord only needs to know that filling the tank is presenting a financial hardship at the moment, and that you’re willing to work with him/her to cover the cost, but can’t do it up-front.

    4) LW and B begin looking for another place to live, one that has heat. Yes, this is massively inconvenient and will come with costs that you may not be able to afford. Yes, it’s actually cruel to A to spring on her that you’re leaving. Yes, it will probably be the end of the friendship. But if A refuses to participate in coming up with a solution to the ever-pressing problem of heating the house…..well, not having heat is not an option. And her blithely/obliviously not doing anything about it is also not an option…..right? Are you, LW, willing to throw money at this problem to make it go away and to salvage your relationship with A? You should work this out for yourself before you approach A for a hail-Mary conversation.

    If it gets to the point of option #4, I suggest you read your lease very carefully. We all know that there are usually fees for breaking leases and giving insufficient notice. But in a shared house situation, sometimes the lease can be set up so that as long as one person remains in the house, there are no penalties for breaking the lease (because it hasn’t been broken, technically)- just that the person or persons who remain in the house are responsible for the entirety of the rent and utilities.

    Obviously, splitting up the house and LW and B moving out and finding a place that has heat is the nuclear option. But I wonder if actually sitting down with A and spelling this all out for her will actually force her to confront the possible consequences, while also giving her the chance to explain her side of the situation and participate in coming up with a solution. Once she realizes that LW and B are angry enough about this that dissolving the lease is possible (if LW and B are actually prepared to go that route), she might come to her senses, and realize that option #4 is much more painful, difficult and costly than spending two hours in an office getting a replacement SSC or paying $500 to get LW and B to stop bugging her.

    Basically, the TL;DR is that right now LW and B are trying to solve this problem themselves, I think they need to make it A’s problem to solve.

  28. Shelby said:

    I’m late to the game here but I would bet that A is either 1) lying about not having the card or 2) deliberately procrastinating on getting a new one to keep you from applying for assistance due to the under the table job. It’s pretty clear the assistance agency wants the card to run an income check and the only way to do that would be to pull tax information. I think A is afraid that if someone in The Government realizes she hasn’t been paying taxes, it could trigger some kind of investigation. That may also be why she’s advocating the (rather strange) solution of going to her boss for the money. It may very well be in Boss’s interest to not have those particular questions raised which would explain why a boss would be willing to pay for his/her employee’s heat.

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