Sunday, September 29, 2013

Landlord Hell, final edition

To add insult to injury in the Landlord Hell situation, my renter, decided his contract didn't matter,  left his junk in my house - leaving me with a headache, tremendous bills and countless nights without sleep.   I rented to this guy because he makes an extremely good salary and has a very respected job on the Washington State Ferry System.  

At first, he agreed to pay me off $500 per month if I would reduce the amount due.  I said I'd work with him and greatly reduced what he owed me.  But, "He Decided" he didn't have to pay me after all.  Besides, according to him, it was MY decision to evict  the strange guy HE had moved into my house.  HE had nothing to do with that!

And then, it seems there is some maritime law making it impossible to garnish the wages of ferry workers' wages for bills of this kind.  WOW - call me surprised!  Would you think an important job on the ferry would mean you'd be MORE apt to pay your bills, not less?  And why does the law protect the crooks who work for this system?  But, he is hiding behind the law, refusing to pay a dime of the bill he owes me.  (Oh, and somehow, he thinks that because he is paying his girlfriend the money he owes her that he doesn't have to pay what he owes me.  I know - I don't  understand that logic either.)

Of course, the girlfriend isn't making payments either and she also signed the contract.  Sigh.  What a mess.  I'm not done with either of them.  At least I'll get a judgement against them so anyone researching them in the future will know they are deadbeats.

Landlord Hell, chapter 3

In the midst of Landlord Hell, I put in a plea to a Newfoundland Dog group I'm on.  "Please, someone make me laugh about this situation I'm in!"  I begged.  And, "Does anyone have any creative ideas for removing these people?"

Now, understand that when you are going through something like this you get various responses from people……..  "I'd offer to help, but I REALLY don't want to." Or,  "Anything I can do, let me know.  In fact, I know two really big bad guys who love a challenge and they'd be glad to pay these guys a visit…."

Dog fiends from all over the country wrote in with their suggestions and thoughts.  There's the ever comforting "We had a neighbor years ago who was murdered by two of her scummy tenants, real low life.  She was in her sixties and they burgeoned her to death."  (That helps!)

OR "Do Not be alone on your property. Seriously!"

Then there was "Hopefully you will only be left with a laughable mine when the renter decided to put a witch curse on me by putting Monopoly money and a rhyming curse held up onto the living room wall with a railroad spike driven through it." 

A friend in Boston had this to offer - "My x evicted squatters in my house by taking off all the screens and the windows in mosquito season, and pitching a tent outside the house but tramping into the house at all hours to use the bathroom." 

Several people bemoaned the fact that my 100 pound Newfoundland was 2,000 miles away so I asked to borrow a couple from a friend for "protection".  She asked if I wanted the two that were fraidy cats or the two that would lick someone to death!

A few suggested this might be an excellent time to call in an exterminator.

I had actually settled on redoing the windows - taking the upstairs windows all out, delivering them to the dump, and then "realizing" I didn't have the right sized replacements.  See if the cold November air would encourage them to move on…..

Or moving in a group of other squatters - maybe a motorcycle gang.

Obviously what I was facing wasn't new or even uncommon.  A friend in Texas wrote "Actually there was a legal case here recently regarding a squatter - evidently testing a new law. They found the guy guilty, thank goodness!  He had moved into a home while the owners were in Houston getting cancer treatment for the wife."  

(God, people are low!) 

Another woman wrote, " I was reading about a lady in the paper who bought a condo and couldn't move in right away.  When she arrived, a squatter was there and she has been trying for months to get her out.  The owner had to move in with her to claim her rights but the squatter wasn't budging.  She is even demanding money for 'fixing' up the place!"

As my mom would say "this is a learning experience", and I admit that sometimes I look at situations like this as a cosmic kick in the butt to make a few life changes. If you are guessing, YES, I'm having second thoughts on being a landlord.  I don't think I have the backbone for this kind of frustration.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Landlord Hell, chapter 2

When last we left this poor, feeling pretty abused landlord, the judge has ruled that the squatter and his pals are to leave my home.  But, for that to actually happen, there are more fees to pay to get the sheriff to actually show up to remove the bums.  (Of COURSE there are….!)

To be honest, at this point, the Squatter has promised to be out of the house Saturday, December 1.  There does seem to be activity being made towards that end, but he tells me he is spending that night in my house again.  Seems he painted his new digs and doesn't want to sleep with the fumes.  I'm thinking to myself "I don't know if my tenant hit you - but I'm ready to give you a good wallop!"

But, the next day he does, eventually, clear all his stuff out and is gone, taking his buddies with him.  BUT, that is not the end of my drama.  Tenant still has stuff in the house, he owes me nearly $5,000 in back rent and legal fees and because the place is such a mess, there is no way I can re-rent it.  I did, however, have a couple come to me that was interested in renting my personal space in the basement.  So, with everything else going on, I painted, gave away 95% of everything I owned, put in a new oven and when I could no longer walk or function, hired someone to finish cleaning as I had to return to Kansas.

Though, we now have a new kink!  Seems the tenant, who legally hasn't been released to come back to the house and has said he isn't returning, decided to do just that.  The couple renting my space in the basement heard him upstairs, went to investigate and were met with an hour of exaggerated stories about the Squatter - saying he is going to return, he's a felon, he's got keys to every door in the place…  

Now, I fully explained the situation before they signed the lease, but the tenant has them needlessly terrified.  They leave in tears and refuse to move in.  Now I'm glad I'm in Kansas and not there because I'm ready to punch the tenant's lights out!

And, the saga continues………  As I scrounge through my meager bank accounts trying to pay the mounting bills associated with this rental mess,  I know it actually could be worse.  So far, no great damage has been done to the actual house, no one has been killed, no blood flowed.  But, I'm not calling it over until it is, indeed, over - and it is not.

The frustrating thing to learn through all this is how the law leans - crushing the homeowner at every turn.  So many times during this ordeal I heard "call the police!  It should be that simple and that is what they are there for."  But, it isn't so.

For a bit of comic relief I watch Pacific Heights - the movie where an evil Michael Keaton moves into an apartment, refuses to pay or leave and proceeds to make life hell for his landlords.  I've read the comments: "the law isn't really like that.  The police would remove him" some naive people have said……….  Wrong!  It happens every day.  I just hope that years from now I can look back and laugh at this…  but I'm not holding my breath.

Landlord Hell, chapter 1

"They write horror movies that are not this bad!" I've muttered to myself and any poor sap unfortunate enough to get near me these past 2 months…….  I've become a walking nightmare myself - life is too short for this.

It began with a phone call from the friend who was living in my basement apartment in my Washington house while I've been gone.  "Karyn, I don't know if you realize this but your (upstairs) renter has moved out.  I talked to the new renter tonight….."

"HUH?"  I was just home 3 weeks ago and, aside from a mountain of yard work that I had to tackle and drains that needed some persuasion, everything was pretty much fine.  My tenant hadn't mentioned moving….  And WHO was this stranger who had moved into my home?  And HOW did he get there?

It started out naively enough, I suppose.  My tenant moved in with a girlfriend and when they broke up and she moved on, he thought getting a roommate would be the perfect way to save a few bucks on housing.  BUT, the guy doesn't seem to be cut out for roommates and, according to his side of the story there was a disagreement over paying rent.  A couple calls to the police, a few too many drinks, something tossed into a mirror, possibly a couple punches hurled - and the next thing you know, the tenant is being dragged off to jail in handcuffs and - Your's Truly is mired in landlord hell.

Seems in the state of Washington, when there is a 'domestic dispute', the offending party is removed, tossed in the pokey and banned from returning to their home for months until the blind woman of "justice" has done her thing.  (And, given what all this set in place for me, the landlord - - the keyword is "blind" and lady justice is, frankly, a bitch.)

The landlord has no say in these matters - so I'm left with a guy in my house I don't know, haven't checked out and who "knows his rights" - meaning, he can squat in my house without paying rent until I pay a boat load of cash to get the courts to remove him.

This seems serious so I fly back to Washington (and you know if I get on a plane, it is SERIOUS!) to oversee things.  

Course, I didn't count on coming back to my house to find my squatter friend has decided that my place would be a grand location to host a couple of his pals.  Best guess - he found them at one of the missions in Seattle.  There were, after all, cushions in the back of their beater car, perfect for sleeping on, and one of the men offered up that he hadn't worked for years!  (A comment I had no trouble believing)

The police were of no help.  They won't remove someone from your home just because some stranger moved into your house and decides your home is a flophouse.  If you are afraid to be sleeping in an apartment in the same home - well, they offer that you can go sleep with a friend, or they will come to your aide if you are harmed but not before.  

And, I didn't feel comforted overhearing a phone conversation by one of the buddies in which the terms "when the cops showed up" and "bail" were used - - a lot!

After weeks of legal work and frustration, my day in court came.  The judge looked at the paperwork and had some trouble with it.  ("Aah, gee….," I'm thinking.)  When clarified, it seemed that, in his mind this was not so much a tenant problem but a trespassing issue (I am starting to really like this guy!) but he admitted that the police wouldn't remove people if they don't have a black mask over their faces.

But, with his signing of the eviction papers - my troubles are still not over…..

(to be continued…..)