Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Thursday
Jun092011

Landlord Jackpot

The name kills me. Land lord. Lord of the land. I've had all kinds of landlords. They can be, well, you know, you 've had them too. They can be enormous douchebags.

Last month I accidentally left $2 off our rent check. I'm not sure why. Maybe because it's a weird number in the first place. It's not a nice, round number but includes a small amount for something like sewer rights or some such thing he probably made up and we also pay rent for each dog. Anyway, he sent me a bill for $2. Dude. We have done a lot of work on this house. Serge has, anyway. We brought the lawn back to life, which cost approximately eight million dollars in water bills, we landscaped the front yard, put in bark chips, rocks and bushes - it was all originally weeds. Every Wednesday and Sunday for the past month and a half we deep clean the entire house then load the kids and dogs in the car and abandon the premises so this guy can have an open house free of our Bielanko brand of chaos... And this guy bills us $2?

I have it on good authority that we are awesome tenants. Serge's boss rents houses and apartments and, apparently, if we hand the keys to our current home back to our landlord next week without taking a giant dump in the tank of a toilet, (an upper decker, to those of you who, for some reason, are familiar with the term 'upper decker') or pissing on the carpet in the closets, we are in the top tier of home renters.

A $2 bill? Come on, is all I am saying.

So it was with great trepidation that we agreed to rent a house clear across the country that - not only had we not seen the inside, which I think we can all agree is an important part of agreeing to move in anywhere - but we haven't met the lords of our land. I mean, what if they stockpile automatic weapons and grenades (a very real possibility in the country) and use Confederate flags for curtains? Turns out, we pulled the handle and the machine rolled out all cherries. We have hit the landlord jackpot, y'all.

As I type this, the Lord of my Land is ripping up carpet and refinishing hardwood floors. And while the floors were drying? He put in a "mountain stone flower bed" and planted annuals. I know this because he sent me an email telling me so and saying he can't wait until we get there and do we like to sit by fires and drink beer? Do we like to drink beer? Is Anthony Weiner's last name unfortunate? What I'm saying is OF COURSE WE LIKE TO DRINK BEER.

Friday he's going to plant some grass near the aforementioned flower bed and clean out the garage. The Lord of our Land, not Congressman Weiner - although he could probably use the work soon. Landlord's wife, who I have been exchanging emails with, could not be nicer as well. She is ripping down wallpaper, painting and they bought a new fridge. A new fridge! Are we being Punk'd? Is Ashton Kutcher going to jump out of a closet when we get to Green Acres?

The Lord of our Land signed off his email with "The back yard is nice and long. You may do anything to it you wish; fire pit, garden, whatever floats your boat." And then he said I better call him and The Lady of the Land when we arrive so they can "come down to help ding up the walls and door jams moving furniture in.."

What kind of alternative landlord universe have we fallen into, y'all?

Anyway, I know a $2 bill is far from the worst travesty inflicted on renters, so what kind of landlord horror stories do you have? And, more importantly, how did you know that an 'upper decker' isn't the top floor of one of those red British buses? EXPLAIN YOURSELF!

Reader Comments (28)

Amazingly enough, out of all the places I've rented (about 18 or so) I've never had a horrible landlord. The worst one was a guy who refused to give me and my ex our deposit back even though we cleaned and painted the entire house, fixed a ton of stuff, and moved out a day early as new people were moving in. His reason for not giving us the deposit? The AC stopped working AFTER we moved out and he blamed us for not changing the filter, which was bullshit. The best landlords were a couple I rented a house from a few years ago. They refinished the hardwood floors for me, told me I could paint the walls any colors I wanted (and I did), let me have pets with no extra deposit, and fixed anything that broke immediately, which included a water heater and heat and air unit. They lived right next door but never infringed on my privacy and were super nice. THAT is how all landlords should be.

I hope your move goes well and your new landlords continue to be awesome!

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth B

I haven't ever had a BAD landlord, just some that were questionable.
One was a slumlord - student slums, tiny place, crappy carpet.
The most recent landlord before this one said that the improvements my dad made (he added a shelf over the door in the bathroom, and a shelf in the closet - BECAUSE THERE WAS NOOOOOOOOOOOO STORAGE IN THE PLACE!!!) were good, and he wasn't going to charge me for it. And then he did. I thought that was a jackass move.
The guy this time is a great landlord. I can call him and immediately things are fixed. YAY! Soon, though... no more landlords. I think. :D
So glad you landed in the alternate universe you did!!

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle

Our last landlord charged us to rip out the carpeting on the third floor after we moved out that was beyond crappy when we moved in. Otherwise, no real landlord issues. We have high hopes about the upcoming landlords. They're old hippies who will knock $100 off each month if we pay in cash. And added a door for us.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy B

ugh, our landlord is miserable! my husband and i moved into a new place on march 1st. we have a baby on the way, and our last place just wasnt adequet to raise a baby in. so, long story short.. we rented a 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath with a garage house.

first of all, we showed up on move in day with a truck load of our stuff, and the landlord hadnt even STARTED packing or moving her stuff out. whats more aggrivating is that she acted like that was fine. she had the garage jam packed, floor to ceiling, with her stuff. so it was unusable for us. there is no basement, and no attic so the garage is our only option for storage, and we had a lot to store.. extra stove, fridge, a piano, holiday decor.. etc. so, we were forced to keep everything in the babys future room.. in turn, keeping us from being able to get that room ready for baby. lastly, the .5 bath, she had the floor torn out of it because her cats ruined it or something.. she PROMISED to have it finished by the time we moved in. well guess what.. no dice!

so, in short.. the garage was unusable, the little bedroom was unusable and the .5 bath is all torn up and its disgusting and pretty much unusable. and less importantly, but still relivant, she still had a couch in the little bedroom, and her washer and dryer and dirty clothes and other various items in the laundry room.. ANOTHER unusable space! we literally lived in our bedroom for over a month!

it took her until may 23rd to finally clean out the garage!! she would blame the weather or not having a truck.. we even offered on multiple occassions to let her use our truck.. my pregnant ass offered to box stuff and my husband was more than willing to help load and unload.. she wouldnt bite.

she finally flat out told us that she wouldnt be moving anything until warmer weather. and "thats just the way it is" as if we we wrong for complaining about the situation! so i tried to atleast get her to realize how much we were paying compared to what was usable space to us and negotiate a temporary rent reduction. she wouldnt hear it.. like i said, she finally got her stuff out may 23rd.. there are more stories like the water heater breaking and the cold showers we took for weeks because she couldnt be bothered.

ugh! needless to say, we are in the market for a new place. i just HATE to move 8 months pregnant now. you really lucked out with your landlords.. we, unfortunately, found ourselves renting from the anti-landlord!

best of luckto you guys with your move!!

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterarle jimenez

When we moved out of our house in LA to move here our landlord kept our security deposit because we didn't leave the yard the way it was....um.....we left it AWESOME whereas when we moved in it was completely pruned back to within an inch of its life. Apparently we needed to pay her for the fact that plants grow?

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim

I have had almost all good landlords in the past....I would send your jackass landlord 200 pennies.....who cares if it cost $3 to send it;)

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkacy

What IS this upper decker loo of which you speak??! I need details, or pictures, or something!

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterS

Omg, my gross ex boyfriend told me what an upper decker was and I made this face D:

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterevanderz

The upper decker of a loo is the cistern.
Would you like me to send you 123 English Pennies (exchange rate for $2.00) do you think your landlord would find that irritating

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersaffron

dude, your new landlord sounds awesome!!

I once had a landlord so stupid, he lost the first rent check immediately after he left our walk-through meeting. and then he got the lease wrong THREE TIMES... 1: he got our address wrong. 2: he got the address wrong in a different way. 3: after that, he corrected the mistakes and then somehow changed my fiancee's name (not misspelled, but literally the wrong name)!!! years later, he tried to send an addendum to our lease. who does tha?! he never followed up when we refused to sign the addendum. this guy was so epically stupid. we loved our house, but we could not stand him.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteramy

My one and only rental experience started out great. Nice, elderly couple with a HUGE (I am guessing around 4000+ sq, foot) Victorian was renting their second floor. They lived on the first floor and their 40-something daughter lived on the 3rd floor. The rental agreement was about a 1/2 thick. Rent due the 1st of the month and the only utility I was responsible for was heating oil. No pets. No social gatherings with more than 4 people. No noise after 10PM..and on and on. I read the entire thing and I didn't mind all the rules. It was no problem, really. I was 20, going to school and working a million hours a week anyway. I just needed a place to sleep, shower and do laundry. And for such a big and beautiful place to live at the end of a dead end street in a picturesque neighborhood, with rent that was equal to most studio apartments in the totally shitty areas of town, I couldn't see passing it up, so I took the second floor apartment. The only furniture I had was a small bistro table with 2 chairs, a bed and a dresser, so it was an easy move in and keeping the apartment clean was a breeze. Everything was great the first couple of months but then winter came and I received my first oil bill. It was almost $400 (that was a lot for 1987). I couldn't believe it. I never turned the heat above 60 and I kept the doors to the two rooms I wasn't using closed. After that bill I bought a down comforter and turned the heat down to 55 but the huge oil bills kept coming. I set up a meeting with the landlords and while sitting across from them at an enormous table in their formal dining (where it was so freakin hot you could have hatched baby chicks), I came right out and asked the them if I was paying the heating cost for the entire house. They insisted I was not and the heating cost was so high because the house was built in the early 1800's and not properly insulated. They also told me that was the reason behind them not charging for electricity. Little comfort for someone who probably didn't even use $20 worth of electricity per month. After freezing my ass off and paying more for heat than rent I gave my 30 day notice. I ended up moving out in less than 2 weeks but the month was already paid. I spent my last day there cleaning the apartment from top to bottom, even dusting the unused rooms. It was immaculate. Cleaner than when I had moved in and had to spend a whole weekend dusting, vacuuming, sweeping and bleaching the stains out of the white sinks, bath and toilet. That evening I gave them a walk through, pointing out all the things I had done and handed them the keys to the apartment. They seemed taken aback by how clean everything was and as I finished showing them they told me how it really wasn't necessary for me to have gone to so much trouble. Two weeks later I found out why they said that. I received my deposit minus $200 with a note itemizing the professional cleaning costs. And just when I thought it couldn't get worse, I received an oil bill for over $600. When I moved in with my boyfriend (now Husband), I kept the same oil company and gave them a forwarding address, so the full bill from my former apartment, i.e the WHOLE DAMN HOUSE, came to me because apparently the landlords put the heating bill in the tenants' names and didn't remember to remove my name when I left.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJuli

dude, I don't have a landlord story, but I just have to say, getting upper decked is one of THE worst pranks ever pulled...we had dookie re-circulating for a good 2 weeks after a party...

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkaren c

We had a landlord not credit our rent check because we paid it 10 days early (but they cashed the check right away) and then bill us for it about 3 months later, with late fees for all three months. We had to bring in a copy of the check and a letter from our bank verifying they'd cashed it, and then they didn't fix our broken dishwasher for 70 days. We called every week, got the run-around, they claimed they never got our messages about it being broken, the parts were ordered, etc. At least when the idiot upstairs neighbors plugged up the plumbing and our bathroom sink backed up through the wall and over about half our bedroom floor they paid for a plumber right away. That's about the only thing they got right. One of our neighbors who really wanted a 2 bedroom was told none were available when the two above ours were vacant the entire 13 months we lived there. Our first landlord was awesome and it's been more or less down hill from there. Maybe we only have to rent one more place before we can buy our own place!

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

We just moved 4 months ago and boy do I have a story. Just thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach. I have never been more relieved to be out of a place and thankful for the fantastic landlords we have now.

Our last place we rented through at management company. We loved the owners but they did not want the hassle of managing the space, hence the company. The company was great to work with, at first. After 2 years of being perfect tenants the time came to move.

We found our new place really quickly so we were going to have to pay rent on both our old and new place, hoping to get it rented so we could get some of our $ back we gave them our notice almost 6 weeks in advance. The said that they would work with us to get it rented quickly, etc. but they stalled and stalled and stalled. We did EVERYTHING to get it rented, posted it on Craigslist for them (they would not do it), let people in who came to the door, EVERYTHING.

Well, when the time came that they were going to lose money by having tenants they got their act together and starting asking if they could show it on 5 minutes notice, Multiple times. By this point we were mostly out of the place so no big deal.

But they decided that they were going to show the place one evening with out even letting us know. They broke a door, left doors unlocked (we still had things in the house), walked through the just cleaned carpet, left lights on, etc. We would of never known but went back late that night to put the garbage out and realized what had happened.

I called them the next day to ask about it (where we live, what they did is completely illegal) and the owner of the management company proceeded to SCREAM at me on the phone for 15+ minutes totally bullying me and calling us uncooperative and difficult tenants Then later in the day they (a different person) had the balls to call me and ask if we could let them in so they could show it because the person who showed it the night before illegally took the key home with him!!!!!

Needless to say my lawyer husband (one of his specialties is landlord tenant law) got involved. Lets just say when we turned in our keys (early because we were SO DONE) we got an apology from people there and a full deposit back.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPatsy

One landlord refused to wire the house he had split into two apartments separately. And so we were responsible for splitting the utility bills in half and trying to drag the payment out of the other renter each month. Can you say illegal?

One decided to call my mother (small town) and tell her he had seen me drinking a beer. Excuse me? I was legal age and I wasn't in a car. That landlord really creeped me out. I kept checking to make sure there were no spy cameras in the apartment.

The other memorable landlord made me clean the tracks the windows slide in with q-tips. I also had to try to wax a 50 year old floor (not "no wax" ) with paste wax and no floor buffer. I was so frustrated I was happy to move into our own home after that.

In other words, landlords usually suck the big one. Sometimes you get a good one, but it isn't very often.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commentert.j.

At my first apartment the tub/shower drain wouldn't drain. This was 18 or so months after moving in with me paying my rent, on time, every month. The manager couldn't fix it so he had to call and get permission from the landlord for a plumber. Every morning I took a shower in standing water - so gross.

This went on for SIX weeks. I finally looked up his name and found out he was a big wig on the county fire department. I sent him a letter detailing the issue and his refusal to fix it with copies going to his boss, the county health department and the tenants rights department. Two days after I sent the letter I got a call from work from my building manager stating that they wanted to enter my apartment right then and get it fixed!

My other story is from when I was living with my fiance. I would get home before he did and the door was unlocked. I asked him about it and he knew he didn't leave it open but said he'd double check when he left the next day to make sure it didn't happen again. Well, it kept happening. Door unlocked, things moved, a window open. It was disturbing and weird.

Then my fiance told me he had asked around and found out from other tenants that it was happening to them to and it was the manager - he'd even been caught but it didn't stop him. I'm an older sister and Italian so I give really good stink eye. I made sure to give him the stink eye every time I saw him. I even wrote letters to him letting him know that somebody with a key was entering our home. I figured it would embarrass him and stop.

Well, eventually I got to the route of the problem. My fiance, who worked really close by would come home for lunch. He would eat the lunch I made him and then have sex with other women in our bed!! He would LEAVE the girls there when he went back to work and they were the ones leaving the door unlocked, windows open and moving stuff around. Nice. No, he was no longer my fiance.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreenInOC

I forgot to say, I think Kacy and Saffron's ideas for paying your landlord are brilliant!

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreenInOC

I once had a crazy old lady landlord. I moved really quickly for a job and had no time to find a place so I ended up renting a room from her. I had many issues with her, but they would fill a novel, so I'll just share the bill related issues...

I'm not a clean freak, but I like to keep tidy. And, you know, shower and keep my clothes clean. This caused issues. Apparently, me doing laundry and having a shower every day was unacceptable because the water bill was now too high. According to her, showering a couple times a week was acceptable and there was no reason to clean my clothes unless I had worn them numerous times. I ignored her instructions and kept showering regularly and doing laundry, lol.

She then started telling me I owed her huge amounts for long distance calls because we shared a phone line. I paid the bill for a couple months... I usually used my cell for long distance and had people call me back so that I wouldn't have to worry about reimbursing her, but there were a couple times I DID use her phone for outgoing long distance so, being young and stupid, I thought that maybe her phone plan had super expensive long distance, not understanding that what she was charging me was completely unreasonable for the few minutes I was on the phone.

Right before I moved out, she tried to wring another fifty bucks out of me for 'long distance'. By this time, I was long past being polite so I told her to phone sask tel and get a detailed bill that I could see. This caused a screaming fight. She called every few weeks for almost a year looking for her 'long distance money'.

Another good one? The pipes in another place once exploded into the basement. I had to rent a pressure washer and hose my room mate's recent epic dump off the walls and floor because my landlord was in a different city and couldn't make it to the house for a week and my roommate refused to help. He actually complained about the smell of bleach. Because, yes, the smell of SHIT is better :S

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Don't have any bad landlord stories... but could write a book about neighbors I've had (two deaths, at different times in the same apartment....)

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

OH MY GOD... You guys are KILLING me!!!

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who...

I don't have any landlord horror stories, but just wanted to say that I am excited for you guys. This new house sounds amazing and full of character. Also, everytime you write about your house or moving, I think of "Pan Creations by Serge." ahahahhaha
which was a hilarious post, btw.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterleyla

So, this was back when my husband and I were moving out of the apartment I'd been living in when we first met. We'd found a place somewhat closer to downtown SLC (Foothill Apartments, maybe you've heard of it) and everything was going as planned--packing, moving prep, etc etc. The week of our move, we got a phone call from the manager telling us the place had flooded after a big storm, and they were so sorry, were going to replace the carpet, etc etc. We laughed it off and told them "It happens," and continued with our moving plans. Once the apartment was fixed up after the flooding, we brought in many items of my husband's furniture (stuff that had belonged to his grandfather) and a large collection of books.

Then, ON moving day, we show up late at night with trucks filled to the brim, unlock our front door--and the apartment has flooded again. : / No one called us. No warning. The carpet was torn up with fans blowing underneath. Many of our books, ruined or damaged. A few items of furniture were ruined or damaged too.

So, we were FURIOUS. Exhausted. Bleary eyed with moving stress. Pets in the car. Shit in the car. Bone tired. It sucked balls, basically.

I called the manager and asked what was going on. This time, because I was legitimately frustrated, she got defensive and standoffish with me. I asked for a different apartment. She didn't have one. I asked for compensation. She refused. I asked for an explanation--she had none.

We had to live in the flooded, water damaged apartment with our animals and our belongings (not unpacked, but for essentials) for a month, before a place opened up upstairs. We never received any kind of credit for what happened, and from then on the manager and staff treated us with like...unbridled hostility. When I went to the office at the end of our miserable stay there, they actually CIRCLED me like I was Godzilla O__o, when I'd never so much as raised my voice at these people. It was so bizarre.

BUT the best part was, their solution for the flooding was to put in a wall of sandbags at the entrance of the building--then leave them there for the rest of the year, causing standing water to gather around them with bugs and debris and who knows what else. Eventually the bags weakened under the sun and bust open, so we had a huge wall of white, busted sandbags surrounded by a moat of grossness, at the entrance to our building. It was outstanding.

Many other issues with that place, but the flooding is still something my husband and I recall with "Oh, those wacky days" kind of astonishment. I will say we got the last laugh, though--if you check apartmentratings.com, their approval percentage is something like 12%. I'm still subscribed to the reviews, so every few months I'll get another scathing dissertation on the many ways Foothill sucks at life. : P

June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOnce

After the housing slump, we became unwilling lords of the land. SIGH! We've had 3 groups of tenants now (the 3rd in place currently). Each time after the people moved out, we have had to COMPLETELY redo the interior of the house.

The last people were the worst. I agreed to let them out of their lease 3 months early, but told them that I was due to have a c-section the VERY NEXT DAY, so if they could please leave the house in decent shape we would be eternally grateful. They agreed.

Well, it took about a week and a half for us to get out to look at the house after they moved out (baby and all), and the dirty hellions left a fridgeful of food that had since molded into unrecognizable lumps of disgustingness, had done NO cleaning whatsoever in likely their entire time living there, and tore the carpet to smithereens. Three and a half months later, after my parents kicking in LOTS of time to help and my husband spending EVERY weekend at that house (which GRRR, new baby!), it was ready to rent again. The work we had to do consisted of: repainting the entire interior of the house (OMG they were dirty scuzzbags), replacing the flooring in the entire house (new laminate flooring instead of carpet this time), a whole weekend spent cleaning and sanitizing the refrigerator, and I will not even go into all of the other weird crap we found while getting stuff done. I guess I should be thankful that the structure of the house was still intact at least?

We are hopeful this time that we finally have some good tenants.

So sure, there are bad landlords, but I suspect many bad landlords are bad because of their past experiences with tenants.

June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim Q

So we were out at the pub last night and the bartender told us his tale of renting woe:

He has lived in the same apartment for 19 years and came home from work one day to find the building padlocked shut with all his stuff inside. The reason: His landlord did not pay for electricity or gas throughout the entirety of winter so the utility company has locked the building up to keep the landlord out. The landlord has no plans to pay the bills and so the tenant now has to move.

The good thing, the utility company has a program that will help the tenant offset the costs of relocating and they will help him sue the landlord to get three times his security deposit back.

But, 19 years??

June 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

I'm with Kacy. You'd better leave 200 pennies on the counter when you leave :)

June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany

Another vote for the 200 pennies. Or a $2 bill.

June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAl

Swoon. I adore your blog. It's entries like this that make me so happy I stumbled upon it. :)

Sounds like you're heading off towards the promised land. Hope it is even more wonderful than it seems to be!

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

In the midwest, we call 'shitting in the toilet tank' a 'top shelf'.

June 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

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