I Feel Like a Jerk for Complaining… Gonna do it anyway

Welcome. You are about to hear me complain about my landlord and rental agreements and fecal matter. This post isn’t about books and my adorable kids aren’t featured. I don’t have it in me to fashion something brilliant or witty or oozing social commentary. This is just good, old-fashion complaining.

Here goes….

When I started dating Sam I lived in a small brick town house in walking distance to work. The rent was $600 a month and included water and pest-control. It had two bedrooms, one bathroom and it was in a nice location. Yeah, there were things i didn’t like: carpet, small oven, no room to hook up a washer and lugging my laundry to the end of the 24-unit complex to wash clothes. But all things considered it worked great for just me and the kid. Even when Sam moved in we had plenty of room. Then we married and I was pregnant with Atticus. I knew we had outgrown the town house and I began looking for a rental home.

I soon learned we had several options:

1) Something in our price range of $600-$700 a month in a gang-riddled area in sad slummy homes

2) Something in the nice historic area of town (where I work) for $1,200 to $1,500 a month

We sat down and made a list of what was important to us: under $700 a month, 2-3 bedrooms depending on the size of the house, ceiling fans, being in a nice area, etc…. Impossible. Absolutely impossible. One day my mother-in-law saw an ad for a 3 bedroom house in the good area of town for $650 a month. We jumped on it.

And I loved it. The home I rent is in a quiet area, but in walking distance to shops, my work, the hospital, etc…. We have a laundry room, pantry, kitchen, living room, study, bathroom, and two bedrooms upstairs. Downstairs we have “the man cave,” a bathroom, and another bedroom.

When we signed the lease agreement I had this tiny twinge of doubt. The landlady would only do a month to month lease. She is elderly and lives alone and had issues in the past with folks starting out as great tenants and then moving in family members or getting dogs or playing loud music. I understood her fear and I told her I was fine with month to month because I knew that she would see we are quiet people and we weren’t going to be bad tenants.

I didn’t realize a month to month lease would have me by the gonads. I did not realize that her son handles all the repairs and that he is an insane person. David is the bane of my existence.

We don’t complain because we are afraid she will end our lease and we will only have one month to move. We’ve been here for nearly 4 years and we’re still on a month to month lease. Listen to some stellar advice we’ve had from David:

  • On a kitchen drawer that was broken when we moved in and he promised to repair, “you’ll need to buy wood glue.”
  • On the roaches, “flick the light on fast and they leave. It is what I do at home.”
  • On the bathroom that mildews from no ventilation, “towel down the walls and ceiling after bathing.”

We’ve repainted the bathroom with mildew resistant paint. We called an exterminator. We got a dehumidifier for the bathroom (and after 3 years of prodding he put in a vent).

In other words we’ve dealt with stuff because the cheap rent outweighs the frustration. Add on to this all the times he comes by unannounced (once even when I was breastfeeding Persy and boy was that awkward). We caught him standing on our porch reading the fat-lady underwear catalog in our recycling bin. I try very hard not to make Psycho analogies but OMG he is a creeper.

Then this.

Friday morning we woke up with water and fecal matter all over the basement. Sam’s art supplies and art books are ruined. It got into Hope’s room. We couldn’t use the bathroom. I went to work even though it was my day off because work has bathrooms and coffee. We called the landlady. The plumber came. Final verdict: roots growing into the line outside.

Fine. It is repaired. Then I tried to talk to my landlady and her son about clean up. First he said, “do you know how expensive getting a plumber is? That cost me hundreds.” Yes, David. Sam and I went out in the night, dug up the back yard and used our magical Vegetarian earth powers to cause roots to enter the septic lines so we could splash in excrement upon waking. You’ve caught us.

I told them that we would handle the physical cleaning up (when I realized they weren’t planning on cleaning it up) if we could rent a wet/dry vacuum and get cleaning stuff and then they could just deduct that amount off the rent. They laughed in our faces. Nope. Nothing off the rent. No help with cleaning. No reimbursement. NADA. They said they aren’t in charge of our personal property, THEY ARE ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PHYSICAL CARE OF THE HOUSE. Right, I would say poo-water soaking into the wood of the home and inches of fecal matter covering the toilet and floor counts as “physical care of the house.” Oh yes, and David STUCK HIS FINGERS IN THE TOILET, PULLED OUT A PLOP OF BROWN OOZE, SMELLED IT, AND SAID IT DIDN’T STINK.

But what can we do?

If we push the matter and complain, then they can refuse to renew our lease and we will only have a month to move. I’ve looked and we would end up in an apartment complex further away from work. I love living in a house and I would love to avoid an apartment complex.

I feel like a tool complaining because some folks don’t have a place to go, but I am having a terrible time.

Last night we had a wonderful night staying with friends. Today my parents are handling the three little peppers while I work and Sam cleans the basement. However we’re worried. Worried they won’t renew the lease. Worried this will happen again. Worried my husband will have a heart attack from anger.

What sucks is we are really good tenants. We’re quiet, we’ve never been late with rent, and we follow all the rules. The one thing they held against us is that sometimes the lawn looks untidy. That’s it. The one strike against us.

What do I do blog world? Suck it up, look for something else, drink myself into oblivion? I know what I am doing; I’m making notes because I’m pretty sure David-Poopfinger will be in my novel. Whenever I write it.

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13 comments

  1. Ugh, this sounds like a horrible situation. In the UK we have the Citizens Advice Bureau, who are a charity that help people with anything to do with money. They have helped me with a landlord issue in the past, although nothing as extreme as yours. I wonder if you have a local equivalent that could negotiate for you?
    Hope it all gets sorted soon….

  2. I think you are more than justified in complaining – your landlord’s attitude is outrageous (whether it’s hers or her son’s). They should definitely be paying for the clean-up, and allowing you to deduct the costs from your rent seems a perfect solution. Does your lease say anything specific about situations like this? (I just re-signed mine yesterday, and I know I should have read it more carefully.) I don’t think they would be liable to replace personal property, but definitely to clean up.

    I know how difficult it is to find affordable housing in areas you want to live in, especially with kids. Here in Houston, much of what I think of as “regular” housing, including apartments, are being replaced by “luxury” condos and mcmansions that rent/sell for what i think are outrageous prices.

  3. Oh my God! Call Legal Aid now! That way they can help you recoup some of the costs and tell you what your rights are. Yes, you’re getting cheap rent but at a cost to your sanity! We’re in California and here, most of that could have been deducted from the rent even if the landlord says no.

    David is a freak!! Ugh how creepy!

  4. I think what fig and thistles needs are solutions that alleviate the problem and at the same time, not get her kicked out of her home because it’s proximity to her work and shop is fine and she hates apartments. I can think of none right now – the reason I’m expatriating more on what she wants so anybody can give her just that. Hey Fig, I wish you best of luck with those two, you’ll need it.

  5. Ugh, what a nightmare! I TOTALLY understand not wanting to move into an apartment after years of not sharing walls. In my experience, at least, the apartment complex management was pretty responsive as far as fixing things goes (or at least, paying for an exterminator to come a jillion times because the tenants above us had given us fleas…) I wish you the BEST luck!

  6. I absolutely hate this for you. I know the frustration of renting and NEEDING that low cost. Saving your sanity (and your quality of life!) will be more important in the long run. While I would try not to anger them, I would have one eye on the classifies for a new place ALL THE TIME. Which I’m sure you do. Thinking of y’all. Seriously sucky way to treat tenants.

    1. Yup. I am certainly searching for a new place. The university may have a house with a fenced in back yard for rent in the next 6 months. Maybe I can sign a crazy long lease and get it for cheap.

  7. First of all – WHERE do you live?! I live in Massachusetts and $650 a month would buy me a shoebox in a bad neighborhood. Secondly – have you consulted with a lawyer? It sounds like you would absolutely have a case to either get everything cleaned up without suffering some sort of consequences or at least ensuring that you won’t get kicked out high and dry.

    1. LOL. Northeast Georgia. The cost of living is way less than in Massachusetts! We have things cleaned up and we had a “come to Jesus” as we Southerners say with the landlandy and her son. He apologized and is working to fix everything. I’m hopeful this was just a case of a bad weekend for everyone and things go smoother in the future. I am keeping my eye out for another house to rent. We’ll see what happens!

  8. Surely there must be some sort of legal action you can take. That is absolutely ridiculous. Keeping roots from growing into the plumbing system should not be your responsibility when you don’t even own the property.

    I don’t know what to tell you other than to keep your eyes peeled for another place. There are great perks to your current place, but it’s hard to justify all of that when facing such crazy landlords. Sanity and a sense of privacy/not getting creeped on would be worth an extra $100 or $200 a month to me.

  9. UGH. I am catching up on blog reading this morning. This whole situation is ridiculous. Doesn’t the university have houses all down the block? If so, I hope one opens up for you.

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