I've been trying to rent one of my duplex units for two months. We've tried various means of marketing it, including hiring a rental manager who appears to have done nothing more than post an obscure sign for his company on the lawn. Part of the problem is that we're putting it on the market at a time of year when relatively few people move. With the holidays fast approaching, we started to get impatient. We finally decided to post our own sign, and finally started getting a few calls.
This weekend a likely prospect showed up. A young woman (I'll call her Emily) took a look at the place, and was very enthusiastic. "It's so clean and spacious! I haven't seen anything this nice!" Since moving to the area a month ago, she, her husband, their three small children AND a large dog have been sharing one room in a budget motel while they look for a house to buy.
"I can't take being cooped up in there one more day," Emily said. "I can't even put the baby on that filthy floor."
We offered the couple a three month rental agreement. That would tide us over the holidays, when the rental market was likely to pick up, and would be a great mitzvah for this pleasant family in need. The rent they would be paying us would be less than what they were paying for the motel; it would take them at least two months to find and close on a house; they would be able to spread out and relax in comfort. They even had a fenced yard for the dog.
It seemed like a win:win for both parties, and we expected them to sign the agreement and move in today.
We were surprised to get a tense call from Emily this morning. "Dale doesn't want to move out of the motel," she said. "I'm still talking to him about it."
As the day wore on, my partner and I wondered how Emily's conversation with Dale was going, There was not one doubt in our minds that Emily would quickly prevail. After all, as the old adage goes, If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
At three the phone finally rang. Emily was sobbing. "Dale won't let us leave the motel," she said. "He says it won't kill me and the kids to stay here another few weeks."
That didn't make sense to us, and we couldn't help expressing our surprise.
"I know it doesn't make sense," Emily said, "but he's the boss."
I felt a frisson of fear at these words. Were Emily and her children (and their large loveable dog) safe?
My partner said, "He's gonna pay for this later."
I thought about some of the men of the manosphere who brag about their ability to exert dominance over their wives, and the other men who complain bitterly about women who "frivorce" them. I thought how Dale may have won this particular "battle" but is likely to wind up losing everything. I thought about how people fall out of love, so often, because over time their needs and desires have been dismissed by the partner with more power.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
|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!