Monday, February 23, 2009

Rental Disaster

Mike and I lived in this apartment building for almost five years in Brattleboro. It had been meant to be a temporary move but we kind of got stuck there. It was really small and on the third floor of this old building. The rent went up every year but it had an indoor garage and an elevator. Plus we had the convenience of being in town. But last summer the landlady was showing the apartment next to ours and she took our welcome mat and a sign we had on our door about our dogs and hid them in a stairwell so prospective renters wouldn't pass the place up because they thought some dog-owning hippies lived next door. See, the mat had a little gnome guy and a bunch of flowers and mushrooms on it but it was cute and inoffensive, I got it at Target for crying out loud. And for real, we are dog-owning hippies so shouldn't they be aware we live there anyway? Our dogs are pretty quiet and we don't have big parties or blast music and cook garlic all day. But anyway, she didn't say anything to us she just took the mat and hid it but she didn't put it back. I knew she did it because I left my apartment and the mat was there, I came back a half hour later and she's showing the apartment next door and the mat is gone. Well, my immediate reaction wasn't actually that she took it. I just thought somebody took it. So I was standing in the hall talking to myself about the mat - like I exclaimed, "What the hell, where's my mat?". And she was in the apartment next door showing it which I didn't know at first. So she flings open the door and asks me what the problem is. I told her somebody took my mat and immediately her face got all tense and snapped, "I didn't take it". That's when I figured it all out that she had moved it. But at that moment I just sort of let it go and went inside and thought about it. But as time went on I got kind of pissed and so I called and left a message on her answering machine saying that if she had just asked me I would have moved the stuff myself. So anyway, she didn't like my message at all and her husband calls me back flipping out that I am accusing his wife of stealing and I better keep my mouth shut or he'll evict us....why don't I just shut the fuck up....keep my drug addict mouth shut....etc. He was wicked offensive even though it was obvious he was drunk it still made me cry because the tone in his voice was so harsh. So after that incident things weren't exactly cordial between us. Eventually Mike talked to Hugh(the husband, landlord) and led him to believe we had the whole conversation of him screaming at me recorded(We didn't). So he told us that we didn't have to pay rent while we found a place but that we needed to find another apartment.
That was actually cool because we really wanted to move to a bigger place anyhow and now we didn't have to pay rent for a few months while we looked for a place. The only thing we were worried about was how many dogs we have. When renting it's difficult to find people who will rent to dog owners. So not long after we knew we needed to move, a couple we had met at the Greenfield, MA clinic called and said they had an apartment for rent above theirs and we could have our dogs there and only pay first months rent. I should have known better because we had given these people rides before and I knew they weren't perfect but I thought at least they were clean and their housing situation was stable. They had lived in the same house for years, the whole time we had known them they lived with their mother. I guess I just assumed that they had everything under control because they mother at least seemed well-functioning (she died a few months before we moved in). And the people who had rented the apartment previously were really clean-cut, had kids, two cars, pretty normal - not the type I would figure would be okay living above crackheads. Apparently they weren't because it came to light later that they hadn't been paying rent for a while, and knowing what I do now, I don't blame them.
So, obviously I wouldn't bother mentioning them if we didn't decide to take them up on the offer. My natural inclination is to trust people and give them a chance to prove me wrong. I'm beginning to see that this approach may be causing problems for me. Anyway, idiotic I know, but we took their word on how "nice" this apartment was. We had seen their apartment (It's a two story house with an apartment on each floor) and it was alright. It was pretty big overall, the actual bedrooms were rather small but the kitchen was big and they had a small yard with flowers and a fence so our dogs, they said, could go outside. They told us the one we'd be renting was nicer than theirs and they wanted $900/mo and heat, cable/internet, plowing, trash, garage space were all supposed to be part of the deal. I figured it may not be beautiful but how can you lie about some of that stuff, it's either there or not, it's not like we're not going to notice if there is no cable or, say, heat. Yup, that's right, heat. After we had moved all our stuff in (it was Sept 1) it began to get cold, we're in Vermont after all, and I started looking around for they way to heat the place and I was at a loss. No vents, no thermostat, or radiator - nothing. So we asked, and they simply explained that we were to plug in the electrical heaters stacked in the closet. I don't know what other people think but if we were paying our own electric bill how is electric heat included in the rent unless we take the cost of the electric used for heat out of the bill? But heating a three br apt. with electric heaters could easily be over $900/mo. So, we tried to make the best of the situation and looked at different options to heat our place. We should have just packed up and left then, honestly. I don't know how we could be so daft. Instead of sensibly leaving, we made payments on a new pellet stove figuring it would be an investment in the long run because we can take it with us when we move. It took us until November to pay the thing off. It was over two grand for the stove and the hardware needed to attach it to the wall and vent it outside and a pallet of pellets. They admitted that they had said heat was included and it was agreed that we would take the cost of pellets off rent each month. Oh, yeah.. I didn't mention that they have no heat in their unit except for a kerosene heater in the kitchen and a few electric heaters. Maybe I'm a sissy but I don't think those electric things do any good - unless it's your only choice - they suck. But they have a furnace, they own the house. Around the beginning of January they finally got 150 gallons of fuel delivered for free through SEVCA (a local organization helping 'families in need'). But then the furnace ended up breaking down after a week and they told the same place that they were renters thinking they would get more assistance than if they were home owners. But, of course, the clincher is that if they were renters then the landlord would be responsible for fixing the furnace. Which SEVCA told them clearly. The landlord would be required to fix it because it is illegal to rent an apartment out that has no source of heat.
The point of all this ranting - I don't know. I'm just so mad at the situation I got myself into. And I keep thinking about all the bad decisions I've made over time. Whenever there are two roads before me, I will, without a doubt, choose the most damaging and difficult. Obviously, there is no cable/internet, the garage space comes and goes, and the yard is filled with their huge dog's poop. So our argument is that the place is not worth $900/mo (keep in mind we are NOT in NY, this is Vermont-stuff is cheap). It needs to be painted, it leaks, and their cats poop in the hallway and we have to hear them fight all the time - I say $600 minus the cost of pellets. Am I being unrealistic? Is that unfair? Please comment if you agree or disagree with me, what would you do? Besides never have moved in in the first place.

1 comment:

Robb said...

Besides never have moved in in the first place.
.. Yeah, well, that was an obvious one, wasn't it? {8-O
.. Are the 2 of you planning on presenting a rent decrease to this couple? If so, I'd strongly suggest a lot of research into what kinds of landlord/tenant regulations there may be in, where are you, Brattleboro VT? A quick Google found no references to landlord/tenant obligations for the area (which to me is a very sad thing). Perhaps there is more legislation you could use based on VT laws.
.. You need to prepare a "battle plan" before going to your landlord. eg:
Reduce the rent due to xx law that states that the "landlord provide adequate and safe heating of the rented premises"... etc
.. Get your "poop inna group" before going forward. Have your justifications and arguments on hand to present your case as solidly as possible.
.. Are you being unrealistic or unfair? Morally, absolutely not! Legally, well, there's the rub. What are the local, county, or state laws? What did your lease state? Lotsa shit you gotta look into because morals just don't cut it in today's society. It's all about the law.

Here are some web links I discovered:

.. The last one may be your best bet for gathering info. Good luck on your way thru this mess. Spring will arrive soon (and all that dog poop in the backyard!! ick...)

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