Saturday, May 15, 2010

A renter's dilemma...

I'm moving soon. It's definitely not my favorite activity. Something I actually loathe doing. It's more the actual packing and unpacking, and the mess. And I say that knowing I will hire some strong, strapping (no pun intended) men to lug my heavy stuff down from a second floor apartment and drive four blocks just to put it back in place in an apartment on the first floor, but very similar in floor plan.

The dilemma is this: My current landlord is an ass. The lease and the vacate notice are riddled with conditions and clauses that, if they wanted to get technical, they could easily keep the one-month security deposit I paid a little over a year ago when I leased the place. The biggest "catch" is that I am to clean up the apartment (including appliances) and upon their inspection after I "vacate," they will determine if I get my deposit back.

Hmmmm. Guess they didn't inspect very closely when I moved in. It wasn't what I'd pass as "ready to move in."

Specifically, there was crud in the bathtub, along with pieces of grout and caulk (since they had supposedly just remodeled the kitchen). I know, what's the bathtub got to do with the kitchen? Good question. Whoever painted the walls neglected to use painter's tape and there was brush marks and paint spills on all the woodwork and the newly refinished hardwood floors. They didn't take a moment to at least try to wipe up their sloppiness. Oh, and the floors. The new lacquer finish was already bubbling when I moved in.

More? The smoke detectors didn't have batteries in them, the doorbell didn't work, the light fixture outside my storage locker in the basement didn't work (still doesn't), and there was not a washer drain stand pipe. I had to buy materials and build my own out of PVC pipe.

Oh, and the garage? It was so full of junk that I couldn't drive my car into it. They finally did clear out the garage, but it took them over six months to do so. Then I discovered that the garage had no electricity, so once you manually close the heavy garage door at night when coming home, you had to grapple and feel your way to the entry door. A few months ago, bricks from the inside layer of the wall started falling off and nearly hit my car's hood.

Did I mention that the basement is intolerably moist - with mildew on the stone foundation? It has a place where someone (lowest bid handman) connected a copper water pipe to a PVC pipe without the proper fitting. It leaks incessantly and the basement floor is always wet in that area. Plus, this building has the old, quaint coal bin doors. By the way, that's where my storage locker is. That's the place where I can store valuable things, locked up. The metal bin door isn't caulked or sealed in any way, shape or fashion. You can see sunlight, which means water comes in when it rains; freezing cold in the winter, and every four to eight legged thing the rest of the time. I've had to spray bug killer and bought a dehumidifier for the locker that runs non-stop -- just to keep my things from getting mold and mildewed.

Another sore spot: my current apartment (nee my home) had new vinyl double-pane windows. But when winter came, I noticed a terrible draft around all of them – not to mention all the exterior doors, which probably is to be expected in an older building. But new windows? So I checked, since I have a pretty extensive background in home remodeling and have had two homes with newer insulated windows. Guess what? The lowest bid handyman neglected to caulk around the window frames, which means that while the double pane windows will keep cold out, the gap between the window frame and the window's four edges were leaking like a sieve. Yep, rather than complain and see nothing happen, I caulked them myself, which made a noticeable difference in comfort and natural gas bills each month.

Yes, I've complained verbally and in writing many times about all of these things. Each has been ignored or given lip service repeatedly. That, my friends, is why I'm moving. That is why I'm engaged in an activity that I do not want to do, really. Nor do I relish the time it will take away from more productive endeavors.

So, what about my new digs?

Well, I was very careful to find a place that is well-maintained, clean, dry and had owners who understand the value of all that, first, in finding someone to rent it, and two, keeping them happy and comfortable. The bonus is that the new apartment is a bit less expensive each month. Win-win!

So, caveat emptor! Just like buying a new home where you have to watch the builder scrupulously for cutting corners, forgetting to do things you paid for, or overlooking entirely, renting an apartment can be trying too.

The thing is this: Why do people renting properties feel they have to protect themselves so much from abusive renters, when they clearly are abusing their renters? Now we know another reason consumers insist on consumer protections. I'll step down from the soap box now.