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The Lee of the Stone?

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I’m amazed at the housing situation in our area… the quality of rentals on the market, what actually passes for a “habitable apartment”.  In the last 10 years of my renting life, I have never encountered such a wide variety of trashy, dilapidated, poor excuses for an apartment or townhouse as I have in the last few weeks.

Our lease expired a short time ago, and we gave our notice to continue on a monthly basis until we could find a more suitable place.  Our former apartment wasn’t a complete dump; on the surface – with 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths, and 1,500 square feet – it seemed luxurious.

There were however maintenance issues, neighbor issues, and of course, landlord issues. (On www.RateMyApartment.com, our complex received a 1.9 out of 10, and was one of the worst rated in the area. We didn’t know this prior to moving in, as it was newly built).

Case in point: I was three days late paying my rent one month. Yes, for shame! I paid the 5% late fee, got my receipt, and put the ordeal behind me…. until a few days later, when I received a court summons in the mail.
It claimed our Management was trying to EVICT us for failure to pay rent.  I called to complain, and was told to “ignore the notice… yes, we have your payment…”

I finally looked at the date on the notice, and it was filed ONE day after our rent was due.   They were ready to evict an otherwise good tenant for being ONE day late??
I have plenty of horror stories to tell about appliances breaking (brand new appliances, supposedly), the problems with our heat and A/C, the $500 monthly electric bills (because local maintenance men were reading the meters wrong)…

When we gave them our notice, and expected to be charged an extra $20 – maybe $50 – extra rent for a monthly lease, as other apartments have done in the past; instead we were charged an extra $150 per month! Our rent was almost $1,000 to begin with.

Anyhow, it doesn’t matter, because as of 4/30 we will no longer be tenants there. With my decision to cut my hours drastically in order to quit using daycare, we needed to find a cheaper place to live.  We were quite ready to make sacrifices: perhaps downsizing to a 2-bedroom, 1-bath, with tiny closets and less cupboard/counter top space..
We knew with our optimal budget, we wouldn’t be seeing another 1,500 sq Foot apartment.

I was prepared, or so I thought.

We looked at a house: it hadn’t been renovated since the early 1900’s. On the plus side, it had large rooms and a nice backyard. It also had buckling floorboards – actually rippling like waves on the Atlantic. There were holes in the floor of the second story (you could see into the rooms below), the kitchen “cabinets” were lacking shelves AND bottoms, the windows were cracked…I can’t even remember all the flaws; they combined into one nightmarish blur in my memory.

 Although for some time afterward, when viewing places even worse (and more expensive!), I dreamed about buying that home and renovating it.

We looked at a townhouse: $650 per month. The doors were missing on the bedrooms. The previous tenants “stole” the doors, explained the landlord.

“Are you planning to replace them?”

“No,” he replied, “but you can install folding screens or hang some drapes in the doorway for privacy.”

Excuse me??

The stairs also lacked a railing on the open side… so that was a definite safety issue. The chain link fence outside had gaping holes torn out, with twisted wires poking everywhere, and the entire thing was completely rusted. I asked about the fence, and hinted that it was a safely liability: “Kids could get tetanus from scratching themselves on those rusty, exposed wires..”

His solution: “You can install a wooden fence up against it, if you want.”

We found another small townhouse, that I almost considered, except that it was located directly beside a Mexican bar, where supposed gang activity was reported by police on a regular basis. A nice place to raise small children.  I couldn’t convince Joe to think “outside the bar”.

We finally found a place last week, that seemingly had only minor cosmetic problems… outdated, worn shag carpet and an awful paint job. We asked the landlord whether we’d be allowed to repaint and install new carpet, and he acted agreeable, although he didn’t offer to reimburse us for the improvements. We just shrugged and felt grateful that we had a decent place at last (and were free to customize it).

We went over the lease agreement, signed, and breathed a sigh of relief.
The other tenants were in the process of moving out, and we had to wait until 4/25-26 to begin our own move.

Needless to say, we were shocked to walk into the kitchen Saturday to discover the appliances were missing. No stove, no fridge… I called the landlord, and he has yet to reply.

Nowhere in our lease, or in our verbal discussions while touring the place, was there any mention that the appliances wouldn’t convey.
Perhaps they were “stolen” as well, but he hasn’t called to offer replacing them.  Seriously, how can they rent a place under “habitable conditions” without a fridge for storing perishable food, or a stove to cook upon?
I can hear the man now: “Well, you can microwave canned soup and Ramen noodles, if you’d like.”
Uh, no, we’d like our rent and deposit back, so we can continue living in this wheat-hole managed, poorly-constructed “new” complex that DOES have a stove and fridge.

It reminds me of the recent J.C.Penney catalog we received.  Do you realize J.C.Penney sells desks without legs?

Basically, you’re paying for a large plank of wood ($149.00) that you can “customize” with legs (set of 4 – $79.00) or 2-3 drawer cabinets. Also the organizers and tray for keyboard are sold separately.
How convenient! I’ve been in the market for a desk, and could never find one without legs or supports of some kind.
I kept pestering the sales staff: “Why can’t you just sell the freaking wood top??”   Well, J.C.Penney finally did their marketing homework and discovered what the customer really wanted. The ability to choose: legs or no legs…

Fortunately, when my son was born April 2nd, they delivered him legs and all… if they had given me the choice, given the pain I was experiencing, I might’ve opted to cut the labor short and forgo all the added extremities. ;)
Of course, I was probably billed for his legs and arms separately – somewhere in the secret medical coding…
The price they quote you is just for the head.

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