I mentioned in my goals for 2013 post that Jake and I wanted to move. In the last couple of weeks, however, there have been some extenuating circumstances that led us to start looking at rentals. Before I get to the circumstances surrounding our move, however, a little bit of background.
When Jake graduated from law school, he moved to our current city. Giddy on the high of an almost six-figure salary, he rented a large home with a pool in a suburb 45 minutes from downtown, where he worked. A year later, I finished my program and moved in with him. It took me about two months to get a job, and it turned out to be a really long commute. And although I plan on driving my car into the ground, I have a really low tolerance for commuting.
I couldn't stand driving an hour-and-a-half each way, on the freeway, during rush hour. Plus, the home was expensive. So we moved to a cute 2/2 condo that was only 3.5 miles from my job and cut our rent by about 30 percent. Almost right away, however, we started having problems.
The flood when we moved in
About two days after we moved in, I noticed that the carpet in the master closet was wet. At first I thought that Jake just went in the closet after his shower. But when I put my hand down, the carpet was drenched. Not only that, but the wall was damp as well. Our pipes had gone pop in the night!
Turns out, the laundry room was on the other side of the wall and the washing machine had been leaking into the wall ever since we moved in. And our new landlord didn't use a property manager. Or answer her phone. Or email.
We called a water remediation company on our own in the meantime. When we finally got a call back from the landlord with the home warranty information so we could contact a plumber, the remediation company also had an estimate for the job they were doing. It was about a thousand bucks.
The landlord made us kick the remediators out of the house without completing the job. Then she refused to pay for the work they had done already. The remediation company sent me to collections, since they had the address and I was the one home when they came by.
Jake agreed to represent me pro bono and sent a letter to the remediation company arguing that the bill was not my responsibility and requested that they bill our landlord instead. Our landlord's husband, who is also an attorney, also sent a letter on my behalf saying that the bill was not my responsibility. The collection calls stopped and we figured the hard part was behind us.
A plethora of problems
Sadly, the hard part was just beginning. Obviously, our landlord has never thought about renting from the tenant's point of view. Here's a sampling of other things that have gone wrong in the five years we have lived here:
The landlord stiffed the plumber the $50 deductible for the home warranty when the washing machine broke and we made a service call to have it fixed. He had to take her to small claims court.
Our storage unit leaked and all the banker's boxes and everything in them was ruined.
The a/c went out in August and wasn't properly repaired for two weeks. (Remember, where I live it's 110 degrees at that time of year.)
The roof needs to be replaced and every time it rains, every doorway in the house leaks. Profusely. We have a stack of beach towels on standby to put in every doorway since we have carpet.
Because of the roof problems, the paint in the master bedroom has started bubbling away from the ceiling. If you touch the ceiling in that room when it rains, an entire bucket's worth of water bursts onto your head (we learned that the hard way).
Our breaker box shorted out and almost started a fire in the middle of the night. We had to call the fire department, throw all the pets in the car, and sleep on the floor of our friend's house for two weeks until it was repaired.
Our kitchen faucet leaked, and there was standing water on our counters for almost six months until the faucet was replaced.
The heating element in our oven wore out and almost started a fire. We paid to have this fixed on our own after almost three weeks after the landlord finally told us the home warranty “wasn't an option.”
This is in addition to the fact that our condo is too small now that Jake works from home. We did convert our spare bedroom to an office. However, there are only two closets in our house and neither of them are large enough to store his records (he has to keep certain hard copy records for a minimum of five years, and they take up a lot of space). They're currently stacked in our dining room.
The last straw
As you can imagine, we're tired of a landlord who can't be trusted to make proper repairs in a timely manner. We'd pretty much decided to find a new place and give our notice. We were even kind of excited, since we started renting our current place right before the economy crashed and could now get a much bigger/nicer place for what we are currently paying. But what helped us finally decide was…
Coming home on Monday afternoon to find a Notice of Trustee's Sale taped to our front door. Our property is being auctioned off in December. Now (perhaps not shockingly) this is not the first time our condo has entered foreclosure. It happened about a year and a half ago and the landlord was able to refinance. This time, however, we don't care if she is able to refinance or not. We're finding another place and moving!
I've been squirreling money away in a goal-oriented savings account since my side gigs started taking off. We have the funds set aside for a security deposit, first and last month's rent, and movers. Plus, since we paid last month's rent when we moved into our current place, we won't need to pay rent here in December. Thank goodness for emergency funds!
This experience is part of what has soured us on renting. Do you have any post-Halloween rental horror stories you'd like to share?
Author: Honey Smith
Honey Smith has been reading GRS since at least 2008, right when she got her first â€œrealâ€ job and started getting serious about finances. She and her husband Jake are in their mid-30s and recently bought a home together. Currently, she manages graduate programs at a large state institution, and he is an attorney at a mid-sized firm.
Between them, they have paid off approximately $30,000 in consumer debt since she started writing for GRS in 2012. However, they still have nearly $200,000 of student loan debt, so she will continue to chronicle their debt-paydown journey. In addition to personal finance, Honey is interested in vegetarianism and cooking, gardening (despite living in the desert and having a black thumb), issues in higher education (including the student loan bubble and the slow death of tenure), and animal rights; however, her heart lies with fantasy novels, trashy TV and Skyrim.