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Dear Urban Diplomat: Help! My roommate’s kombucha lab is swallowing our apartment

My roommate got into kombucha brewing earlier this year. At first I supported the hobby, but it’s gotten out of control. After some success trading a few bottles on Bunz, he’s turned our apartment into a scoby mill. Our kitchen counter is completely overtaken by jars and I came back from a vacation this weekend to find one concoction brewing in the bathtub. What’s the best way to stop the bacterial takeover? —Microbe-Aggressed, Kensington

It’s fair to ask your mad-scientist roomie to cool it. His entrepreneurial spirit is admirable, but turning your apartment into his own personal laboratory is inconsiderate. Set some clear boundaries about how much space his brewing is allowed to consume—say, one fridge shelf and a portion of the counter—and designate the rest of your home a buuch-free zone. If not for yourself, it’s your moral duty to intervene on behalf of the poor people of Bunz, since there’s no way that bathtub is a sanitary fermenting vessel.


Dear Urban Diplomat, I’ve been renting my apartment for five years and haven’t had any problems with my landlord—until now. She wants to renew my lease, but she’s upped the price by $100 more than the legally allowed increase. When I brought it up, she said I can either accept the terms or leave. I’m worried because my contract says the landlord can terminate the tenancy at any time, as long as she gives 60 days notice. Can she really send me packing? —Turf War, Yonge-Eglinton

Good news: there’s no need to ask your mom if you can move into her basement. Your landlord’s threats are just scare tactics, so don’t let her bully you out of your money. If she really wants you gone, she’ll need an order from the Landlord and Tenant Board. As long as you don’t give her a reason to evict you by, for example, skipping out on rent, committing crimes on the property or trashing the place, she has no legal case against you and will have to settle for the standardized 1.8 per cent increase.


Dear Urban Diplomat, I work at a company without a dress code, and a colleague has started “ironically” wearing Hawaiian shirts. I can deal with the blinding patterns, but as the temperature has risen, his neckline has plunged. It seems like every week he leaves one less button done up. At this point, his robust chest hair is fully visible. I’m not a prude, but it makes me uncomfortable. How can I tell him to button up? —Dressing Down, Forest Hill

As distressed as you might be by your colleague’s poolside Ace Ventura aesthetic, it isn’t your responsibility to spearhead the button brigade. No one is forcing you to check him out, so divert your gaze to someplace less hirsute. If he ups the stakes and starts coming to work in attire that lets it all hang out, ask your higher-ups to handle the broader issue by establishing some sort of office dress code. Clear guidelines will help employees decide where they can let loose—and what they need to keep to themselves.


Dear Urban Diplomat, At a birthday dinner outing with a few friends last week, we took our server’s recommendation and ordered the special—a giant porterhouse to share. He didn’t tell us the price, but we figured it wouldn’t be that much. We were wrong. When the bill came, we were all stunned to see a $400 charge for the steak. We ended up splitting it, but I was annoyed. Does the onus fall on the customer to ask for the price, or is it the responsibility of the server? —High Steaks, Mount Pleasant

While it is a server’s responsibility to know what’s on offer and communicate that to customers, trying to keep the hungry masses satisfied at dinnertime can be a challenge, so it’s within the realm of possibility that he forgot to mention the price. Still, a $400 detail is a big one to miss. There’s no recourse for your bank account now, but you could have mentioned his colossal sidestep when he brought you your bill to prevent other restaurant-goers from falling prey to the same mistake.

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Dear Urban Diplomat, My neighbour’s teenage son fancies himself the next Slash. He’s constantly rocking out in the garage and recently got a bunch of friends to join him. They’ve been putting together a “set list”—a.k.a. playing the same four songs sloppily and repetitively. They never jam late at night, but I can only listen to “Sweet Child of Mine” so many times before I lose it. I asked if they could take their rehearsal to the basement, but my neighbour refused. Do I have any recourse? —Noise Will Be Noise, East York

Personally, I’d pick up a pair of earplugs and cut these band bros some slack. Sure, they might be rubbish now, but practice is the only way they’ll get better. If you’re really on the brink of a breakdown, you can keep a log of all the offending jam sessions and file a noise complaint with the city. Making anyone listen to Guns N’ Roses on repeat does seem like an infringement on a person’s human rights, but it’s up to city officials to decide whether it’s a legitimate disturbance.


Send your questions to the Urban Diplomat at urbandiplomat@torontolife.com

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