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I recently moved into a new shared house. There is a property manager who is responsible for finding new tenants and has an individual lease with each person. He is not very fluent in English which has been a bit of a barrier. I think he is new to the job and signed up without knowing what he was getting into. Anyway, he often asks us when we will be home on a certain day. If we say we are out all day, then he just asks when will be at home and free. Often times he does this without making clear the purpose of the meeting. But usually it is to receive a delivery (like a new fridge), let in a maintenance worker or show a potential tenant a room that is coming available.

I work from home. If I am paid I am OK with this. If I am not paid then the property manager should be doing it as it is what he is paid to do.

How do I politely phrase this and remain on good terms with her?

I was thinking

Hello: I noticed you have been frequently asking for my help with maintenance and management of the house. I have written up a proposal where I would take up the responsibilities for pay of $xxx / month.

[insert contract here]

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  • Questions asking for what you should say are off-topic, see our help center. I've edited out that part. With regards to the note you have, can you clarify why you think it's not polite enough, or why it would not help you stay on good terms? Have you had conversations with her about this before, what happens if you refuse to do the things she asks you to do?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jul 29 at 7:25
  • "Have you had conversations with her about this before" no. "hat happens if you refuse to do the things she asks you to do" she phrases it in a way that doesn't really give me the opportunity, she just asks when will I be home. I've tried saying I'm not available but she persists and asks when I will be.
    – user36463
    Jul 29 at 7:55
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    Okay. Is there a reason you've never had conversations about this with her, and are going with writing her a note instead? Is there something about previous interactions that users thinking of answering should know here? And again, with regards to the note you have, can you clarify why you think it's not polite enough, or why it would not help you stay on good terms? What do you think is wrong with the note, why are you asking about it?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jul 29 at 8:02

1 Answer 1

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I think the interpersonal skill you are missing is knowing how to decline to answer certain questions and direct the person to asking the right question.

For example, "when will you be home" is not the same as "when will you be able to sign for a fridge" and it sure as heck isn't the same as "when will you be able to spend half an hour showing someone around an apartment and answering their questions."

Depending on your relationship with the manager and the strength of the language barrier, I would say exactly my second paragraph the next time they ask you when you will be home. If they don't immediately clarify what they are asking, I would continue "when I am home during the day, I am working. At my paid job. I can't take a lot of time from that to help you with your job. I need to understand how much of my time you're asking for before I can tell you when I am available."

I've been working from home for decades and I'm super familiar with people assuming I'm on the couch eating bonbons and am ready and willing to do whatever it is they need done during business hours. My experience is that telling them I'm not on the couch eating bonbons doesn't go over well. Instead I focus mostly on asking why they want to know or what they intend to ask me to do for them. I will remind them once that I am working (as in the previous paragraph) but after that respond to "when will you be home?" with "you mean when will I be available to do you a favour? Depends what the favour is" without repeating the information about how I spend my days.

If this person continues to beg you to help with their job even after you've clarified that you have a job of your own, then perhaps offering to be their paid assistant might be a good plan. But only if you actually want to do that. Don't do it as a way to make them go away. That hurts their feelings for no gain.

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