So I moved into some really nice digs last month. It’s a brand new townhouse that was just built by my landlord (literally, I moved in as the dust settled), with whom I have a very positive relationship. She’s actually a very nice, very accommodating woman for whom I have a lot of respect. (Heck, her and her husband have built over 200 houses in Whitehorse; that commands respect!) The house is a bit big for my needs but it has an awesome space for my office and the rent is affordable.
My only misgiving is about my landlord’s no-pets policy. I’ve always lived with at least one cat in my house. In fact, I had a cat until I moved in here. She’s been with me almost since I moved to the Yukon 14 years ago. But in signing the lease with my new landlord I made the conscious decision to say good-bye to Beatrice. (I did try to negotiate an exception with my landlord, to no avail.) Yep, sad stuff.
My perspective on the matter was simple: I’d made an agreement. Whether it’s legally binding or not was irrelevant. (Personally, I find the law in general is too-often irrelevant.) What is always more important is the moral obligation. I made an agreement with another person. It’s up to me to uphold my end of the agreement. If I start lying to one person, where does it end? I had no choice but to say good-bye to my cat.
I’ve got new neighbours, though, who’ve just moved in right next door, and they brought their cat. They have the same landlord as me, and they signed the same agreement as me. They made the same commitment as me. Clearly, however, they don’t recognize the moral obligation that agreement formed. They lied to our landlord so that they could move in.
So I’m in a bit of a moral dilemma about this: should I tell my landlord?
Certainly, I have an amount of anger at the fact they’ve chosen a moral path that I could have chosen. After all, it’s just a small lie, right? It’s not hurting or bothering anyone, right?
But on the other hand, I have a lot of respect for my landlord and I want to maintain a good relationship. She has her reasons for preventing tenants from moving in with pets and I respect them.
If I tell my landlord and she forces them to get rid of their cat, then I’ll be perceived as the asshole neighbour and that will colour the relationship with the folks next door. However, when my landlord discovers the cat in my neighbour’s house, she’ll probably know that I was aware of it and didn’t tell her; in effect, that I was complicit in the lie. She won’t look favourably on this, I’m sure. (I certainly wouldn’t, in her position.)
That’s the crux of the matter for me: assist my landlord to enforce an agreement and protect her property and my reputation; or enable my neighbour to renege on a contract they’ve signed in order to maintain neighbourly relations? What would you do?