Tuesday, May 21, 2013

the long and terrible saga of being a renter

It started a couple of weeks ago with a crash.

When we moved to this house, we wanted to find a place in which we could hang out for several years.  We wanted a nice house where we could live, raise our daughter, pay off our debts, and then look for a place to buy.  This house, in other words, was always a long term option.

The first few times we saw our landlords, they told us several times about how they were worried about holes in the wall, how the previous tenants had left tons of nail holes. This was a little puzzling to me...after all, how hard is it to fill a hole with spackle?  The husband mentioned those 2 sided tape picture wall hangers, so I went out, bought a bunch, and used them to hang most of our art.

A little over three weeks ago, one of them failed.  A picture fell of the wall, tearing off the paint and the drywall paper.  I immediately sent our landlords a message explaining what happened.  I asked if they wanted us to go to nails, or if they'd rather us continue to use the wall hangers.  I assured them we wanted to be good tenants and take care of their house.

No response.  A week later, I sent them a text message.  Several days after that, I got a reply saying she would send me a proper response via e-mail.  Several more days passed.  After two and a half weeks, I sent another e-mail.  I didn't actually get a response until Sunday, and it was fairly brusque and rude.  We left a few messages.  Later in the evening, they finally called my wife.

It was, I thought, a good think my wife talked to them...she is able to stay much more calm than I.  But as the conversation continued, I saw my wife's face contort, and I saw her make "are these people insane?" gestures, and I knew there were issues.  As it turned out, the landlords thought we "were excessive" in our demands.  They thought we called in for too much maintenance.  They thought that we should take care of all the building maintenance ourselves, and that they shouldn't have to do much of anything other than cash our checks.

This puzzled me, particularly because the last time I asked for maintenance, it was because we had noticed some loose bathroom tiles, and the garage door would not open.  As far as the tiles, I thought this was a natural matter for the property owners.  I thought they would be concerned about water damage.  Yet it took them two and a half weeks to fix the tiles.

After the phone call ended, my wife told me that they would rather not renew our lease because of our excessive demands.  As our lease ends June 31, this essentially means we have 5 weeks to find another place to live, secure a new lease, and pack and move all our stuff.

There are several problems with this.  First, we live in a college town, and pretty much 98% of the rentals are student-oriented.  This means they are in student ghetto areas...and these places are not really conductive to raising a child.  But it also means most of the leases are tied to the school year...so there's pretty much nothing available immediately.  Our current landlord said they would be open to doing month-to-month for a little bit, but they would raise our rent if we did.  Yay.

The second problem is actually trying to find a new place.  I took two hours Sunday to drive around the town, noting every "for rent" sign I could find.  Most of them were for this one rental agency in town, but they had some really nice properties, in really great areas of town.  The only problem was that when I went to their office Monday, they told me most of the places with the "for rent" signs weren't actually for rent.  They put the signs up (get this) as free advertising.  They only had two properties for rent which fit our needs.

I spent some time searching on-line, but that's really no help. Most of the landlord websites would've looked archaic in 1998.  Moreover, they're not up to date at all.  I found a great place on one company's website in a gorgeous neighborhood, but when I called that rental company, they told me the house had been rented for weeks, and that they in fact only had two places available (as opposed to the ten or so on their site)...and both available places were in the student ghetto.

The third problem with this is the quality of some of the rentals.  We found one place in the paper, so we set up an appointment to see it.  When we did a drive-by last night, we saw that it 1) had no front yard, 2) had a moderate back yard facing an auto repair shop, 3) was right next to the railroad tracks, and 4) looked beat up and dingy.  Yet they were still asking a lot of money.

Right now, I have three visits set up.  The first one is via the rental agency.  The house is in an okay neighborhood, but the building itself looks rather run down.  The second is also via the rental agency;  this one looks nice, is close to both City Park and downtown, and is in a nice neighborhood...but it is $100 more a month than our current lease.  Both of these places aren't available until August, which makes them a little more challenging.  The third is a private place across from place one;  I don't know yet when it's available, and it does look nice...but we would have to rely on on-the-street parking.

Of course, this has me in a bit of a panic.  I really don't want to rent a duplex or an apartment after living in a house.  I also really want to find somewhere nice where my daughter can safely play outside.  And I really don't want to keep renting from our evil current landlords any longer than necessary.  Most of all, I really don't want to live anywhere other than Bowling Green.  This is where I want my child to grow up.

And if we have to move (a process which I hate with a passion--I'd rather have a railroad spike drove into my forehead), I don't want to settle for a place which sucks and which we'd want to leave after a year.  I want somewhere we can hide out for a few years (which is what I thought we were getting in this house).

There are, however, so few choices available, and our time is short.  I'm not thrilled with any of our current options.  I have a few outstanding phone calls, though, and I'm hoping one of them comes through.  But for now, I'm trying not to panic.

I am, incidentally, also spending time trying not to freak out about having to pack up and actually move all our stuff yet again....but that's another post.

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