The sideways stink eye…

About once a week I drive past the house I use to rent. To say I have mixed feelings about the place is an understatement. Even with just me, two dogs, and a tortoise living there it felt cramped. The interior was too dark, it was too close to a heavily traveled road, and the mechanicals were all of an age where they just stopped working with little or no notice. Still it had the benefit of having a fence and being available exactly when I needed it. When you’re traveling one day ahead of a tractor trailer filled with your belongings, don’t underestimate just how much availability counts.

Last weekend when I drove past there were at least seven cars in the driveway. Like I said, the place felt cramped with just one of me. I find it hard to imagine what it would feel like inside even if each one of those vehicles represented only one person. It occurs to me that too much togetherness is definitely a real thing. Not my house, though, so not my problem.

The real pain came when I slowed down enough to eyeball the old place. Whoever’s living there now has let the landscaping go. Flower beds are overrun. Fence posts have collapsed. Shrubbery has grown up over the windows. Not one of the trees looks like it’s seen a pruning lopper since mine.

I spent the better part of four years beating what was then an overgrown mess of a landscape into a semblance of neatness and order. Sure, I did it on the cheap – cutting back some things, transplanting others, removing even more and hauling it away or burning it off – but the place was just a rental after all and throwing big money at it didn’t make sense. With a few basic tools and a bit of effort, though, I’d made the place look respectable.

The current residents have apparently given up on all that. It’s probably not entirely right to judge someone by the yard they keep, but I do… especially when it happens to be one that I left in good enough shape that it could be maintained with less than an hour’s work each week. Right or not, that tells me something about these new residents. It tells me all I need to know really.

It’s a damned good thing I’m not the landlord. Fortunately, it’s not my house and not my problem, but that doesn’t keep me from giving the place a sideways stink eye every time I drive past.

Staying put…

If you’d have asked me back around June 19th what I’d be doing this Spring, I’d have give you one of two possible answers: 1) Finding a house to rent that didn’t break every third day or 2) Having successfully picked the all six numbers for the PowerBall jackpot, I am withdrawing from public life to a small, sparsely populated island somewhere in the Caribbean Sea. As it turns out, neither one of those two things is going to be on my agenda for Spring 2012.

It’s not so much that I’ve made a conscious decision to stay put as much as I’ve slowly come to terms with house. After nine months it’s getting that lived in look that comes from finally having boxes unpacked. Cutting out the property manager from hell and dealing directly with the owner has gone a long way towards resolving the upkeep and maintenance issues that plagued the first month or two. The truth is, it’s taken the better part of a year, but I’m starting to feel settled. Just the idea of throwing everything back into boxes at this point and doing it all again so soon makes me a bit twitchy. Besides, I’d always hoped that the next move would be back into a house that Bank of America and I owned together and since that’s not going to happen in the next three months, sticking with the enemy I know seems like the next best option.

So yeah, if the first year was about settling in and getting my footing. This year is going to be all about fixing some of the things that have bugged me, but I didn’t want to tackle because I figured I’d be moving on before being there long enough for them to matter much. Now that I’ve made up my mind to stick around, it’s time to start hacking at those annoyances. In a few weeks when the weather finally turns for good that means a concerted effort to bring the yard into a better state than “eh, good enough for a rental.” If I’m going to be here for a while, it’s time to start putting my own stamp on the place – or at least as much of a stamp as one can place without spending much money. Once the outside is up to standard, maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally get around to turning the basement into something other than a place to store canned goods and cast off furniture.

Or I could just go ahead and get that PowerBall win. That would be fine too.

Thanks old dude…

I spent most of Saturday morning outside laying siege to the trees, bushes, and random foliage that kept smacking me in the face while I was cutting the grass. Sure, I could just duck, but that’s nowhere near as fulfilling as chopping off branches and making nature look you want it to look. While I was standing hip deep in the ditch obliterating a tree that had no business growing there in the first place, I heard a car pull up behind me and a door open. It’s my experience that random people stopping by for anything usually doesn’t end well and I expected a pitch about why I should come to their church or at the very least who I needed to make a donation to some cause or another.

What I ended up with was an introduction to the old dude and his wife who live diagonally across the street from me – nice people who just wanted to stop and say thanks for making the outside of the place not look like crap. Not surprisingly, he brought up the previous tenants who apparently were every bit as worthless as I imagined them to be. Not like that’s a surprise, but it’s always nice to have confirmation. Other than keeping things mowed at a reasonable length and laying down plenty of weed killer, I haven’t actually done much. I should probably be grateful to the last guy for setting the bar so low.

The old dude would be less impressed if he saw the inside of the place with its god awful drywall patches, cut-ins done but walls not painted, doorknobs missing latches, and general lack of even the most basic maintenance. I’m fixing the things I can with the tools and supplies I have on hand, but lord knows I’m not sinking a dime of my own money into this place. I just need to nurse it through the next year or two and then it will be someone else’s problem. There’s very little I can do to remedy a cheapskate landlord or lazy property management, so the least I can do while I’m here is try to prevent this place from being that house that drags down everyone else’s property values by having that nice abandoned look about it. But seriously, thanks for noticing.

Air…

You can imagine my surprise when I walked upstairs a few minutes ago and found the temperature hovering somewhere in the low 80s. The A/C was on after all and even though it’s a smallish window unit, it usually doesn’t have any problem cooling the bedroom and office to something approaching a livable temperature. That is, of course, when the condenser coil isn’t frozen solid. Before I rush to judgement and start raising three kinds of hell about it, I’m going to let the thing thaw out and then run some tests to see if it was just me letting it run too long in high humidity we’ve had this week or if it’s something wrong with the unit itself like a freon leak.

Given the upstairs issue, I thought it would be a good time to check the main wall unit in the living room. I almost wish I could have avoided that experience. After dropping the front cover, I have suspicions that this was probably the first time the cover has ever been off the unit. And there’s not one chance in a 1000 that the filter has ever been so much as brushed off, let alone actually cleaned. Any guesses how I spent the last hour of my Sunday night?

I don’t know why something like that would surprise me about this place any more. If they can’t figure out the big maintenance issues, I don’t suppose there’s a prayer of them paying attention to the details. Admittedly, most of my experience with renting has been in apartment communities, but I just don’t remember those having such problematic upkeep and management issues. I hate the thought of moving all tis crap again, but unless there are some radical changes in the way things are done around here, I’ll be looking for new digs in about 10 months.

On the up side, I just sent the owner a $225 bill for having the Expedition towed. That at least gave me a warm fuzzy.

Rolling boil…

I got an email on Monday night from the property manager (after talking to the actual homeowner) stating emphatically that he would be in on Wednesday (that would be today) to address the laundry list of things that were broken in the house and/or to haul away junk left by the previous tenant. Being 7:30 here in the east coast, I think it’s now officially safe to say that he isn’t coming today. What has been a low simmer most of the week is now a rolling boil. That small bit of sympathy I had yesterday? Yeah, that’s pretty well gone. The good will of being new to the neighborhood and not wanting the first thing I do to be make waves is worn off completely. Now I pretty much want to be a pain in the ass until everything is resolved to my satisfaction. I wonder how many phone calls a day I get before it’s technically harassment?

Tenancy…

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.

Back to good…

Since life is starting to take on some semblance of normalcy again, I thought it was probably time to get back to posting more than whatever passing through wandered into my head. I wasn’t able to get into the trials and tribulations of moving in the level of detail I had hoped to cover, but I think in the next few posts I’ll be able to come up with a nice summary. The fact is, I didn’t remember moving being this traumatic (or time consuming), though in fairness, the last moving from an apartment into a house doesn’t take much effort. Moving into a rental after being use to your own place is a whole different version of complicated… Especially when the place was not quite ready for prime time when you walked in the door. The Previous tenant’s junked out Expedition is still sitting in the driveway waiting to be hauled away. The gas company still hasn’t delivered bottled propane for cooking. And of course there’s always the basement mold issue. I’m doing my level best not to go ape shit crazy about these issues, but I know if either of my properties were ever turned over to a new tenant in the condition this place was in, there would be a property manager looking for a new client. It’s a piss poor business practice and tells me all I need to know about who I’m dealing with.

Thoroughly annoying as those issues are, It’s time to focus on actually going to work tomorrow. No, I haven’t forgotten that I actually came here for a new job… Though that’s sort of ancillary to being back on the East Coast. I haven’t had a “first day” since 2003 so it should be an interesting experience. I’m glad I in-processed last week. At least the agony of the paperwork drill is mostly out of the way.