1. Wood floors. I use to think wood floors were the bee’s knees. If I did’t have dogs, I probably still would. No matter how many times, I sweep, vacuum, and mop there’s always enough hair coming up to build my own pug. God help me, when the sun slants through the windows just right it looks like the floor has never even seen a broom. Until I lived with wood floors, I had no idea how much filth wall-to-wall carpet hid. Ignorance is bliss. I miss that.
2. Window air conditioners. Window air conditioners are loud, dirty, and don’t work particularly well. I have two of them, which means I have two rooms that are sort of cool-ish and the rest of the house which is basically uninhabitable most of the time. Don’t get me started on the bigs, dist, and occasional black mold the damned things seem to breed. Central air is officially a must have in my next place. Failing that, I’m moving to Northern Maine where the subject of air conditioning is purely academic.
3. Green algae. Two sides of the fabulous Rental Casa de Jeff never get direct sunlight and as a result the siding on those sides seems to have sprung fourth with a remarkably aggressive colony of green algae. It looks God awful, but since you can’t see it from the road, it’s mostly my own private shame. It feels like something I should attack with gallons of bleach and a pressure washer. At present, though, it’s not quite annoying enough to make dragging a pressure washer up a ladder seem like a good idea.
I picked up the mail this afternoon and seeing a letter from Delmarva Power, opened it assuming it was a bill for having the service turned on or for a partial first month. I was, of course, wrong. It was a “final notice” to the previous tenant. A final notice in the amount of $2,141 and change. Seriously? Two questions come immediately to mind… 1) How exactly does someone rack up a $2000 electric bill and 2) Why does Delmarva Power let someone rack up a $2000 bill? At first I was angry as a customer, because this is the kind of irresponsible deadbeat that everyone who bothers to pay their bills ends up paying for in the end… because lets face it, the power company is going to get their money one way or another.
After my moment of capitalist outrage, I had a brief flicked of understanding about why the property manager seemed to be so blasé about getting things done to the house. If they stuck the power company with that kind of bill, how much back rent did they owe? The natural expectations would be that after getting hosed the first time, the next tenant would pull the same act so deferring maintenance would almost seem natural. As a landlord, I can relate to that feeling. As a tenant, though, I know I’m going to pay my bills passing sympathy I had for the landlord and property manager evaporated quickly enough.
There’s plenty of backstory to go along with this, but for the moment, we’ll just say that the property manager is supposed to be here tomorrow to start addressing the laundry list I sent the owner yesterday. One or both of them is probably pissed off about this situation, but I doubt there in the same league of peeved that I’ve been in for the last few days. We’ll see how it goes.
The transition from homeowner to tenent hasn’t been what I would call smooth. As a homeowner, I probably established what most would consider slightly exagerated expectations for service and reliability. When things broke, they went to the top of my list of things to fix, I either went to Lowe’s for the appropriate equipment and supplies or called in the trades to get the job done. As a tenant, obviously the process is a little different. I call the property manager and leave a voicemail. I wait a day. Then I call again and follow up with an email. Then I wait a day. Then I call again and usually manage to talk to him on this third attempt where he says “oh yeah, I’m working on that. I’ll be over tomorrow.” And then we wait some more.
As it stands as of this morning, I’m waiting on six different things to happen: 1) The former tenant’s junked Ford Expedition is still sitting in the driveway. That was supposed to be moved out sometime around June 6th; 2) The 19 inch television sitting on the deck that the property manager says he wants to take to his hunting camp. It’s been rained on three times in the last two weeks. Yeah, that will probably still be sitting there a month from now; 3) The wire dog run was supposed to go at the same time he picked up the Expedition; 4) The garbage disposal went out early this week. He still hasn’t acknowledged the messages I’ve sent about that; and 5) The $100 washing machine that he said had been rebuilt will do everything a washing machine is supposed to do… except drain the water once the tub is filled. I left a voicemail about that yesterday, but when I drove by the manager’s place on my way to the laundromat yesterday afternoon his truck and boat were gone, so there’s not much chance he was paying attention to that; 6) The moldy wall has been nicely cut and hauled away – but that leaves the small matter of having a large part of the basement I can’t do anything with until, you know, it has actual walls again.
The actual owner lives in Germany now, so once I dig up his address Monday morning I’ll get a message off to him. I’ve tried being the good neighbor, but since that doesn’t seem to get results worth a tinker’s damn, I’ll have to start being the sonofabitch neighbor who beats on the letter of the lease. This should be fun.
One of the least entertaining aspects of moving is the fact that I’m about to be the owner of two homes that there’s virtually no chance of my ever living in again. That sounds ok at first blush. Property is property, right? The real estate market always comes back, right? Right? That’s not really the down side, though, as at least intellectually, I know that at some point in the future I will be able to sell at least at the break even point. The real kick in the teeth is that at least for the forseeable future (5 years under current laws), one of these houses counts as a pure liability no matter how good a money make it is as a rental property. It seems that the fine people who make the laws and implementing regulations have decided that rental income doesn’t count as real income (except for tax purposes) until it’s been actively rented for at least five years. What that really means is that I can’t use the rental income from the house here to help me qualify for a loan on a new house. Don’t worry, though. The government is happy to treat the those funds just like regular income for tax purposes, so they’ll be sure to get their cut. Awfully nice of them, don’t you think?
I’m pretty ok with needing to rent when I get back to Maryland. Alot has changed in five years and I’m not really an expert in the northeastern part of the state. Having some time to feel out the area is probably for the best. It would still be nice to know I’d be in a position to buy if the right property and the right price happened to come along. Not much chance of that. It seems mortgage companies are a little skittish these days about writing four mortgages on a single income. Go figure.
All on the home front isn’t doom and gloom, though. It seems the property manager I’ve hired has been doing strong work in the last few days. She called tonight with a strong lead on someone who is very interested in getting into the place as soon as I can manage to get my stuff out of here. Since it hasn’t made the listings yet, I’m hopeful that’s a good sign for getting someone in here and paying the bills quickly. The mortgage writers might not consider it real income, but their accounts receivable department will sure thinks it’s the real deal. That’s a box I’ll be extraordinarily happy to have checked as quickly as possible.