Tuesday, August 19, 2014

No Dogs (Or Cats) Allowed?
Am I discriminating against crazy cat ladies?

My partner and I rarely argue. (The dynamic between us is more along the lines that I kvetch, and she jollies me out of my ill temper.) I joke that there's no point in arguing because she's always right, and she placidly agrees -- in fact, she has a bumper sticker to that effect -- but it's no joke really: She usually is. I may have the "book-larnin," but she's got the practical "School of Life" smarts. So when we do disagree, I have learned to consider her point of view very carefully (and then proceed to do whatever-the-hell I want).

And right now we are arguing about cats and dogs. Not the relative merits of the two species, of course, since we both love all kinds of animals, including bunnies, burros, pygmy goats, and geckos, but whether or not to allow prospective tenants of my rental property to keep pets.

Although my partner is imploring me to put a "no pets" clause into the lease, I am loathe to deny anyone a companion animal (nor deny any animal the chance of a good home). OK, she says, but at least specify "no cats." She has a point: Cats are said to be more destructive than dogs when it comes to carpets. But what about neutered cats? I know my readers, no doubt being veritable cat hoarders themselves, will have something to say about this, so do weigh in and educate me. I've never kept a cat myself.

Before I had a dog, I had my parrot, but I quickly learned not to let her out of her cage unsupervised: In less than five minutes, she took a four inch square chunk out of the cutting board. That was twenty years ago. Do you think the landlord has noticed by now?

Of course, children are potentially more destructive than either cats or dogs. I can't very well turn away renters because they have children, can I? And boyfriends or husbands who take their anger out by punching the drywall are more common than you might think. One guy recently told me about a model tenant whose boyfriend set fire to the building in a fit of pique. Well, I guess that's what insurance is for, and I can't very well confine my market to childless celibates!

I'm a newbie landlord, and full of doubts. I certainly don't trust my own judgment when it comes to assessing a stranger's character. I could write a tragicomedy about my disastrous history of sketchy room-mates.

I have a lot more experience as a renter than as an owner, and although I never intentionally damaged my landlord's property, I wreaked more than my fair share of havoc. Now all those episodes are coming back to haunt me:

There was the time I decided to dye a dress crimson in the bathtub. No amount of Bon Ami and elbow grease could restore that tub to its former pristine porcelain glory. For the remainder of my lease, my bathroom resembled a murder scene.

Then there was the time I was living in a poorly insulated shotgun flat in Milwaukee. When the temperatures plunged to forty below, I had the bright idea of sealing up the doors and windows with duct tape. By spring, that duct tape was, well, a permanent fixture.

I cracked a number of glass refrigerator shelves by placing hot pans on them, and replacing those shelves -- if replacements could be found -- isn't trivial. I also scorched a beautiful butcher block the same way. I once shattered a bidet by dropping a bottle of Clinique astringent in it. One Easter I was dying eggs in my living room and knocked over a big bowl of green dye and vinegar onto the brand new, cream-colored wall-to-wall carpet. I worked on that stain every day for a month: It would disappear, only to later resurface, again and again, like some ominous message from beyond the grave in a horror movie. And I even managed to set fire to the wall of my massage studio in a freak candle accident (I was able to smother the flames by whipping the sheet off my startled client, a clear violation of Washington State "draping" regulations).

Other than that, I was "the perfect tenant." Well, at least, I usually managed to pay my rent on time.

I've decided to get a property manager to vet prospective tenants. I haven't a clue how to run a credit history, criminal background check, or draw up a proper lease. It's well worth paying a professional for these services, at least initially.

As for the "no pet" clause? For now, I'll go with "One small dog allowed; no cats or ferrets please," and hope David Futrelle won't hold it against me. 

Meanwhile, I leave you with this video making the Facebook rounds. I have already watched it three times today, and I'll probably watch it three more times tonight, because it makes me so dog-gone happy. Dogs just wanna have fun!


  1. Wow, super exciting property stuff! Congrats, Cinzia!

    Allow me to make an exhortation on the behalf of our feline friends: Mine have cause no property damage whatsoever besides a ton of hair (which keeps me busy, but between a professional-quality air filter and copious Swiffers, we manage to struggle through it).

    I live on the 2nd floor of a 3 story house; my landlord lives on the 1st and initially, my lease was M-T-M and NO PETS. It was such a great place and I was living catlessly at the time, so it seemed like a good plan. After being here a while, I really did want to get a kitty companion.

    I had already done my best to be an exemplary tenant, always paying ahead of time and being a peaceful neighbor. Then I decided to step it up: paying rent 2 weeks early plus leaving baked goods that were his favorite kind (fudge brownies) at my landlord's door.

    Then: Due diligence. Through the grapevine I found out that a few renters back, there HAD been a person who had a cat previously. A-ha! I casually asked my landlord about L and her cat, then brought the subject around to me getting a cat. I had compared pet rates in my neighborhood and offered to add a generous extra to my rent as a "pet fee."

    It turns out all this was unnecessary: My LL was totally cool with me getting a cat, since he's never home anyways, and the cats are so much less destructive than children. (Apparently a family had tried to grow a garden ON THE FLOOR of one of his rental properties. As in, they put mounds of dirt on the kitchen floor, added seeds and started watering! O.O)

    In comparison, a sweet cat was child's play (guess that term sounds ironic, haha!). So it was NBD, I didn't even get a pet fee. Then when the first sweet cat had gotten quite lonely for his tribe, I asked permission for a partner-in-crimelessness (well, besides bloodthirsy bird-killer) for Sweet Cat #2.

    All in all, it has gone well! I think the main thing that mattered to my landlord was having a conscientious tenant, more than the kitty issue. Once he saw that I was extra dependable, plus offering to do stuff like let in repairmen, etc, when he was at work; the cats were a small price to pay!

    1. PS, I don't know how far I veer into "crazy cat lady" territory, but I was able to fool my landlord enough at the beginning, haha! I had written an ad seeking housing on CraigsList and had attached my resume, a "rental resume," a list of references as well as samples of my work.

      So even before I had met him, there were filters in place to demonstrate that I wasn't going to be quite like this even with a cat:

    2. There's a thin line between "hoarding" and "rescuing." For a while I did fostering for a dog rescue group. When the number of "unadoptable" dogs reached four, I knew it was time to draw the line... But I'll confess, watching "dog rescue" stories is like porn for me: I want them all!

    3. Zosimus the HeathenAugust 20, 2014 at 7:44 PM

      I've a relative (a cousin of my late father) who lives only a block or so away from me and is the male equivalent of a crazy cat lady. There have been times when there have been several dozen cats living at his property, and although I can understand why he does it (being a cat lover myself), it does make his house smell, even from the street, and he invariably has the local council take the majority of them away when the neighbours start complaining. It's sort of sad.

      Since the demise of the family cat some five years ago now, I've been longing to get another* cat myself, though wouldn't do it where I'm living now (which has a no pets policy in any case). My current place is simply too small, and my next door neighbour too much of a busybody, for it to be a practical (or even terribly appealing) idea here.

      *Two actually. My plan is to get a boy and a girl, at least one of them black, and call the first Tabun and the second Sarin. (Yes, I plan to name them after chemical warfare agents! I'm weird like that.)

    4. The bottom line is, of course, all relationships are built on trust. Prove you are trustworthy, and everything is negotiable.

  2. Oh, noes, a cat fight... ;)

    The video is priceless. Especially the Great Dane (?) who walks around and wistfully watches the pool festivities while afraid to get in himself.

    1. There is one of those at every party. Nothing a bit of "game" wouldn't cure, though.

  3. Zosimus the HeathenAugust 20, 2014 at 8:01 PM

    Talking of bad tenants, the local newspaper here once ran one of its periodic stories about horror tenants, which contained some rather amusing examples, such as the Satanists who left blood and shit and other unmentionable things around the living room after engaging in some ritual there, and the bikies who changed the oil in a motorbike's engine indoors (and then, having evidently decided that that hadn't caused enough mess, sprayed beer all around the place and threw meat pies at the ceiling!).

    In my own case, I haven't been too bad a tenant, although I did find myself throwing up all over the living room carpet one night, just after moving into my place (a brother of mine who's living in the States came home for a visit, we went to the pub one night, and I had way too much to drink). Thankfully the carpet cleaner I bought to clean up the mess the following day did as the label on it boasted it would, and left no trace of the previous night's disaster.

    1. "meat pies on the ceiling" is probably the ONLY thing I'm not worried about

    2. Zozimus, you know, my offer still stands: Next time you're in the PNW, look me up! We'll (endeavor to) show you a good time!

      And the offer extends fo all my "gentle readers," BTW.

  4. Having had both dogs and cats, I'd say that (altered) cats are infinitely less destructive than dogs. And both are infinitely less destructive than kids. ;)


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