I spent a week listening to the boy noises downstairs, because my son was leaving for a long-anticipated trip to Japan, and I was preoccupied with sending him off. But the following Monday, I vowed to start making calls, which I did. I remember calling three or four numbers from the newspaper and signs I had seen driving to and from work, hearing the rent amount and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and feeling discouraged. I dialed one more, sure that it wouldn’t be a good fit either. A lady answered the phone and we talked for a minute or two about her 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, fenced yard, $995 per month house in the school district, when I stopped her to ask about pets.
“Oh, I have never accepted pets before, but what kind do you have?”
I explained about Sabrina. The lady didn’t seem deterred, gave me the address to drive by and take a look. I did and called to meet her at the house the next night to see the inside.
It was perfect (compared to what I had seen in the past and what I knew was available). It had big closets, an updated kitchen, big rooms, it suited us fine. I knew I wanted the house! I filled out the application that night and we arranged for me to drop it off in the house’s mailbox the next day so she could pick it up.
Then, the nightmare began. I must say that I already didn’t like this woman. She was a paranoid (perfectly suited for being a landlord!), home-schooling (I should’ve run like I normally try to do from these people), stay-at-home, 47-year-old mother of two small children who had opinions about everything, including me, my son, my dog, my life, and, actually, every word out of my mouth. But I thought to myself that she would go away! After all, she was only temporary during the pre-move-in process. Ha.
When I called the next morning to let her know that I had completed the paperwork and would drop it in the mailbox on my way home from work, she said, “Well, I’m going to be in your area running errands this evening, so why don’t I just drop by your apartment?” I panicked. Nobody comes to the apartment. It’s just not a place I like to have company. “What’s wrong? Why is this a problem for you?” (ACK!) “No, it’s not a problem at all, I’ll call you on my way home from a 4pm meeting at a client’s office.”
Without knowing the details about the woman, a friend assured me that she probably just wanted to check for dog odors, which was completely understandable. I was convinced, after the minimal conversations with the woman that she really wanted to see how I lived! Still thinking that I should go overboard to get this house, I went home and cleaned like a mad woman.
And she never came over. We met at a bank half-way between our houses because she was too tired after her long day to run any errands. At her request, I brought my freshly bathed dog, so she could determine her acceptability.
And so, she interviewed the dog. She didn’t like the length of her nails and wasn’t reassured by the looks of her propensity to shed. “You really should cut her nails more often,” were the exact words, I believe. (She’ll go away soon, she’ll go away soon.)
She called the next day with several words of wisdom about my application. It seemed that the events of my life weren’t quite up to her expectations. “Why did you work there less than a year?” (I’m a contractor, you loon. I’ve told you that repeatedly.) “You really should pay this bill that your ex-husband owed, so it won’t be on your credit.” (One more “should” and I’m coming over there.)
The next day, she called because she needed proof from my apartment that I could early terminate the lease with no penalty. She had received a fax back from them verifying residency that showed that my lease didn’t expire until December. (We have discussed this, you whack job.) I agreed to drop off a copy of the lease clause in the house’s mailbox that afternoon and call her to tell her it was there for her to pick up.
I should’ve recognized clue #999 when for the second time, I found her in the driveway of the house. (The current tenants had not moved out yet!) I handed her the paper, to which she said, “This is just not normal. Nobody does this. We certainly wouldn’t do this.” And added that she needed a recent pay stub for proof of income. “Do you have a cell phone?” (You freak.) “Yes, I do. Why?” “Well, you could’ve called me and I would’ve brought it to you rather than my having to drive back home to get it and bring it back here.” “Oh, well, then, if that’s a problem, you can fax it to me tomorrow. I’ll be in my home office all day doing paperwork anyway. I had just hoped to make a decision on the house today, so I wouldn’t pay for another weekend ad.” (And that’s my fault?)
The next day at Kinko’s, I copied the check stub because it was yellow and appeared dark to me, even after lightening it on the machine. I called her to tell her I was faxing (as she instructed me to do), but told her I’d stay on the line with her in case it was still too dark to read. “Well, there is a lighten button on any copier. You need to push that button until it is light enough to read.” (If I lighten you, will you disappear?)
After all that, she called Sunday night to offer me the Taj Maha…I mean, house. My happiness wasn’t what I thought it would be. I asked for a copy of the lease I would need to sign so I could have that before turning in my 30-day notice to the apartments. “Well, I have never done that before. I planned to meet you Tuesday night, because I am busy all day Monday, to sign everything. You shouldn’t give notice until the end of the month anyway.” (More should’s.) She argued with me about giving a 30-day notice to my apartment complex. She was sure that they wouldn’t accept any day other than the beginning or end of a month. I was sure that any day would suffice. If I gave notice on the 15th of a month, I would vacate on the 15th of the following month and pay only for that time period. (After discussing this with her real-estate-lawyer husband, she called me back to concede.)
But more importantly, she sent the lease via email and it confirmed every last suspicion I had. Not only was the tenant responsible for all appliance (including the garbage disposal) and plumbing repairs (using her plumber), and one of their definitions of default was not paying rent for 5 days at which time she could assume immediate possession and move the tenant’s possessions (while this isn’t pursuant with state law, the fact that she had put it in her lease was alarming), but there was a paragraph about “Owner Access” that screamed at me:
“Owner, Owner’s agents and Owner’s prospective lessees, purchasers or mortgagees shall be permitted to inspect and examine the Premises at all reasonable. The exercise of Owner’s reserved rights of access shall never be deemed to be a trespass or a constructive eviction of Tenant. Owner may conduct unannounced inspections of the Premises at any time and from time to time.”
I emailed back that I could not sign this lease. I also left her a voice mail specifying the reasons. She emailed an amended lease (note here that I did not ask her to). Nothing was changed except for a clause about frozen pipes only being the tenant’s responsibility if her plumber deemed that it was due to the heat being turned down in the house. (I didn’t understand it either.) She also volunteered to provide a reference for me (from whom I never heard).
Again, I emailed back that I could not sign, specifying the same reasons. I also said that, since the process had taken so long (which I saw as her delays), I would not be willing to move in as quickly, not wanting to pay a full month’s rent on the apartment now that we were 10 days into this process.
She emailed one final time with “a final amended lease”. It was a 4-page (when printed) rambling email about my failures in the application process.
“While I am willing to make clarifications and have spent a couple of hours doing so thus far, we do not negotiate Lease provisions with our residents.” (who asked ya, you mental case.)
“It would need to be understood up front that everything that ever arises (if anything does) is not open to several days of negotiation, and perhaps that IS understood, and I am merely getting an odd impression from the extensive nature of your inquiries up front.” (I know! How dare I question you!)
“The way it works is that we give you the use of our $150,000 (approx) home in a nice area for a period of time (Lease period, renewable at our mutual decision). In return, you abide by our Lease provisions. Period! If this isn’t going to work for you, now is the time to tell me that.” (Done. Three days ago.)
“I will go ahead and further clarify and amend the Lease for the final time, and forward it to you.” (Uhhh, what about that “Period!” part?)
And upon opening the attached, supposedly amended lease, her final owner access clause stated:
“Owner, Owner’s agents and Owner’s prospective lessees, purchasers or mortgagees shall be permitted to inspect and examine the Premises at all reasonable times. The exercise of Owner’s reserved rights of access shall never be deemed to be a trespass or a constructive eviction of Tenant. Owner may conduct unannounced inspections of the Premises at any time and from time to time, should owner reasonably determine that unlawful activity or breaches of the Lease are being committed on the property.”
I wrote an insulting email to her, sent it to myself and cut my 10-day loss.
I ignored a voice mail from her previous tenant (the reference) that I received 5 days later. He sounded weirder than she was.