December 19, 2005

Citizen's DNR

I am calling for the establishment of a "Citizen's Do Not Resuscitate" program.

Much as ordinary citizens sometimes require the power of arrest, I believe there are some people in life so unworthy of extraordinary measures and care, that, should they in fact go into some sort of medical duress or perhaps require much hustling about over a gurney by EMS, with shots being prepared and replacement organs being flown in, that you should be able to step in and say, you know what, doctor? Thanks anyway, but you can put the paddles down. This one's not worth it.

I mean, God forbid and all that, and we'll never actively wish anything bad on anyone, certainly, but, let's be honest. It's time to let them go. They weren't meant to linger long in this world. God has called them home, etc., etc., so put away the atropine. You did all you could. Or rather, you did all that I, as issuer of Citizen's DNR, think you should, considering the person in question.

And maybe it will not surprise you to learn that the first people I am placing on the Citizen's DNR list are - the new Landlords.

Yes, there has been another Landlord incident, sort of a jumbo one involving not only New Landlord(s) but Old Landlord all within minutes of one another one night.

I don't think they were actually in collusion but I do think a sort of low-grade psychic link exists between people of this sort, so that if a chance comes around to combine their crapulence into one unified assault on logic and fair play, they will be subconsciously moved to do so.

It was the kind of multi-incident that makes one search through the remaining unpacked boxes to find out where the hard liquor is stashed. I am not going to recount the details, because this is already close to becoming a single-issue blog lately.

(And I have spent much mental effort in the last weeks trying to determine if my perennial Landlord Woes are something that I repeatedly bring down upon my own head. I ask myself, am I the tenant equivalent of the airline passenger who shows up to the gate drunk and disorderly, and then complains bitterly when he gets bumped from a flight or makes the ride in handcuffs? No, I don't think so.

I WILL admit to being slightly over-sensitive around these situations. But I also think we have drawn the Old Maid card perhaps a bit more than our share in 10+ years of renting.)

So, without getting into too many details, let's say that there was a maintenance issue in new apartment, and when we brought it up we were responded to with a high level of condescending idiocy on the phone (as I have reported before in these pages); that even though the faulty appliance was our own, Landlord was sent for, because I wanted to be sure; that he arrived and was immediately defensive, rude and, yes, condescending, making it very clear that he thought we were trying to bilk him in a spectacularly shoddy manner; and, having misjudged my own tolerance for such behavior on this particular night, my outrage dial quickly went from around 2 right up to 11, and I told new Landlord loudly and with some unfortunate word choices what I thought of his attitude.

It was the kind of incident where everyone gets really quiet for a few seconds after your comment. It was the kind of response that he richly, richly deserved, but which I still wish I hadn't let fly with quite such vehemence. Three weeks into our 52-week obligation at the House of Five Owls, I have firmly established our relationship with Landlord(s) as contentious and adversarial.

I am bothered that I lost my temper, but more than that, I am bothered that I am so easily bothered by these people. When will I be able to spot someone for what they are and then never expect anything but the minimum from them? Instead I always feel surprised, like the rug has been pulled out from under me.

Dealing with people like this is always like calling someone, getting into a conversation, and then realizing you've been talking to their answering machine. OH, you think. I've been wasting my time on a device totally incapable of higher emotion. Someone left this message here that was meant to FOOL me into thinking there was a reasonable human being on the other end. How silly I feel!

The call from Old Landlord came not two minutes after this unfortunate episode, I swear to you. And if you had told me on that morning that I would end the day considering HIM the more reasonable of recent landlords, I would have laughed - but there it was. I was almost comforted by his relatively civil words, even though he was still pushing this no-deposit thing.

I had just put Professionally Threatening and Certified Letter in the mail to him that morning; but I admit that, faced with enemies on both sides, I decided to take the easier way out. I asked him to come up from his earlier "offer" to at least 3/5ths of the deposit, so that we could both avoid unpleasantness - and he did.

Well - at least I've closed on that one. Now we just await what further drama may come our way in the next 49 weeks.

Posted by Chris on 12/19/05

You are not alone in your sh-- house luck - believe me, we could fill reems. Hang in there and good for you! There have been times in my life when a certfiable sh-- fit has paid off. Yours may as well.

Posted by: Vickery at December 20, 2005 9:36 AM

December 12, 2005

It's Landlord-Suin' Season Again

God, is it that season again? Isn't it strange how time just seems to FLY the older you get! The days are getting shorter, the leaves are starting to change, there's a chill in the air, the Landlord tries to keep the security deposit... Ah, the cycle of nature. So comforting in its regularity.

It seems like only three years ago that we had to sue Landlord, and of course two years after that that our money plus some more came back to us. How does the song go? To everything there is a season! Turn! Turn! Turn!

Old Landlord says, you guys were such good tenants. But oh! I cannot give you this money back because... uh, you were late on giving me notice that you were leaving. Um, I mean, you messed up the counters. I mean, these holes you left in the wall were too big. Yeah, that's it, that's the one I'm going with.

I says, you do what you have to do, I'll do what I have to do, I'm not arguing about it.

Old Landlord says, what do you mean by that? Let's not let this get ugly. Tell you what - it took $2200 to repair all the damage you people did, but I am generous and I will return half of your deposit.

I says, no, I'll take the whole thing.

Old Landlord says, do you want to see the pictures?

I says, no thanks, we took our own pictures, which we're giving to a lawyer.

Old Landlord says, if you want to handle it that way, you'll get nothing.

I says, you do what you have to do, I'll do what I have to do, I'm not arguing about it.

Old Landlord says more but it all amounts to the statements above. (This is the Radio Shack Landlord - he repeats himself a lot.)

And so it begins - again. Stay tuned.

Posted by Chris on 12/12/05

Again with the crooked landlords. Cripes.

Somewhere in heaven there is a place for you where nothing is broken, you don't have to pretend that you share your apartment with the people living above you, things don't roll off of tables because the building is falling over, there is no water leakage, doorframes are wide enough, security deposits are due to YOU, and all of your services that you pay for as a tennant are handled without question. And in that place, all of your old landlords are your tenants.

Not to mention... the alleys are free of stray couches and shoe stealers.

Posted by: Big Fat Brian at December 12, 2005 11:19 AM

Jesus mary and the lord. What the hell is up? It's like you're flypaper for bad landlordery! Anything we can do to help? (I like to say that when I know there's nothing I can do)

Posted by: friend jessica at December 12, 2005 12:07 PM

I am equally flabbergasted by this new (old) news. I would like to offer my vast legal renter's knowledge to assist you. But, I don't have any. I guess you're SOL. Good luck. Anyone know of a good place I can dump a used sofa?

Posted by: KLUGULA at December 12, 2005 1:29 PM

Don't you know that you're not supposed to sue landlords after Labor Day?

Posted by: relpek at December 12, 2005 3:44 PM

SC is at the bottom of every list ever posted, BUT the state does have a Landlord/Tenant Act that completely protects the tenant's rights. Call your State Board of Realtors and see is something like that exists in a progressive state like California. They should have some good suggestions on getting YOUR deposit back. annie mae

Posted by: annie mae at December 13, 2005 7:06 AM

Here's what you do - in addition to upgrading the photo shop software, write a book on landlord management - oh, I forgot who I was talking to! - write a book on landlord MISmanagement. You'll make a fortune and will be able to send lots of money to Alabama!!!!

Posted by: lvm at December 16, 2005 9:02 AM

December 7, 2005

Things My Landlord Actually Said

"Stoves are for cooking." - The gas stove in our new apartment is extremely old and has small flames that are actually visible right down in the middle of each burner - something we have not seen before with pilot lights and which we only discovered after we left a cookie sheet on top of the stove to let something cool. When the cookie sheet wound up scorched even though the stove was off, and when an accidentally-placed dishtowel nearly caught fire, this was LandLady's response.

"Have you been in your bathroom?" - Five days after we'd moved in, Landlady came by to ask if we were missing a toilet paper spindle. When I responded in the negative, she looked puzzled and asked me this.

"Nobody even uses that machine to be buzzed up." - LandLady's response when I asked for the third time to have my phone programmed to be able to buzz people up through our security gate. Ironically when I left my apartment minutes after she said this, I found the cable man had been trying to buzz me for ten minutes.

Posted by Chris on 12/ 7/05

What is it with you and the landlords?

I have never known anyone to have so much trouble. It's just not fair!

You are flypaper for freak-landlords!

Posted by: Big Fat Brian at December 8, 2005 6:37 AM

Friend, I simply present the facts - I let you be the judge.

Posted by: Chris at December 8, 2005 9:21 AM

February 7, 2005

The request you have made includes concepts which are beyond my comprehension

More in the Adventures of the Man Who Doesn't Make Sense!

The landlord / tenant honeymoon has ended, as we knew it would, and by honeymoon I mean the period when Landlord is asked to do nothing but cash the checks.

Let me once again marvel within these pages that all landlords seem cut from the same cloth. Their type cuts across all traditional geographic / socio-economic / religious boundaries; we have had Southern, Mid-Western, Polish, English, and now Iranian landlords, and they have all been... exactly the same.

I think if there is one commonality the human race has that may pave the way for world peace, it is not that we all love our children or that we just want to live our lives; it's that everyone agrees, tenants are made to be screwed.

So someone in our neighborhood discarded a couch in our alley. This is rude, because as you may know, no garbage man is going to take that thing away. After it had been left there for a few weeks and through several rains, the person finally moved it themselves. Thirty feet away, to behind OUR building.

Several months go by. I take a deep breath and call Landlord.

ME: Someone down the street left a couch out behind our building, and the garbage guys won't take it away. Can you make some calls and take care of it?

LANDLORD: Who has done this? What is their address?

ME: I don't know who did it or where they live. I just know that it used to be behind the building one down, and then they moved it behind ours.

LANDLORD: The regular pickup day is on Thursday.

ME: Yes I know, but the garbage guys aren't touching this thing.

LANDLORD: Do you know the apartment number of the person.

ME: No. The only thing I know for sure is that it did not belong to anyone in our building.

Note: This is the truth. I really did notice that the couch started out down the alley, and migrated to its current location. I made a special point to put it in my "lead" to Landlord because I knew if he suspected it came from one of us there would be much tribulation as he sought the owner amongst his flock.

LANDLORD: There will be some cost to have it moved.

ME: Yes, I imagine so, and I'm sorry. But we do need it moved - it's been rained on, it's mildewy I'm sure, and one day I noticed a homeless guy sleeping under it, right next to our dumpster.

LANDLORD: Where does the person live who has the couch?

Something I've noticed with Landlords of all backgrounds is that you can talk to them and ask them questions, but they are like a toy robot that Radio Shack might sell; the package claims it has Voice Recognition™ and can answer back, but there are really only about three responses recorded on their microchips. At this point you've heard everything Landlord will or can say.

ME: Wha-? I do not know who it belonged to. I just know that now it is behind our apartment, and needs to be moved. Do you know that somebody was here the other day looking at apartments, and when they saw this wet couch lying there, not to mention the demolition across the alley, they weren't interested anymore?

Note: This is a lie. No one came by looking at the apartments. By mentioning it, though, I was trying to do two things: 1) Tie this into Future Tenants, which a Landlord theoretically cares about, and not make it about Present Tenants, which they don't; and 2) find a way to segue into the next problem I wanted him to deal with, which is the apartment building across the street which has been demolished, but only to a point; the shell of the building still stands, or rather, slumps, into our alley, spilling plaster and wood out into the street, and in general making the alley look like Kosovo.

LANDLORD: There are no apartments for rent.

ME: Yes, well, the point is, I don't believe anyone would WANT to rent one when there's so much junk in the alley.

LANDLORD: We have no availabilities at the moment.

ME: Whether there are any available right now is ACADEMIC. The POINT is there is so much junk in the alley-

Here I stopped myself. OK, I tried to lie and it didn't work out. My mistake. Now I'm talking hypotheticals with a Landlord, which is a little like trying to get one of those Radio Shack robots to walk up the stairs. It won't happen no matter what it says on the box.

ME: OK, well, the point is, can you call someone and have the couch taken away?

LANDLORD: They should know not to leave these things in the alley.

ME: I agree.

LANDLORD: What is the building number of the person?

ME: Again - I do. Not. Know.

Note: I try very hard to simplify, simplify, SIMPLIFY the HELL out of the message when talking to Landlords, because one little extraneous piece of information can send them swirling forever in some logical loop.

To that end I WAS going to just call and say that there was a couch in the alley - origin unknown. But I really felt I had to inform him that it did not come from OUR BUILDING, lest he completely abdicate responsibility.

LANDLORD: I will call about it. There will be some expense.

ME: I know.

LANDLORD: The pickup day is on Thursday.

ME: I - thank you.

Not a promising end. It sounds a little bit like either he thinks the garbage guys are going to get it, or that I'm paying for it to be specially hauled away, both of which absolutely will not come to pass. So we'll see.

I'll report more on what I'm sure will come to be known as The Couch Incident on Friday.

Previous adventures with Landlord here, and in Operation: Go West.

Posted by Chris on 02/ 7/05

This is why you need to keep Jay Leno's address and phone number handy. Leno left the couch there. He pissed on it and left it outside.

Posted by: isaac at February 7, 2005 1:23 PM

You've given me an idea - maybe my next call should be to him, impersonating a member of the local news team, doing a story on slumlords.

Posted by: Chris at February 7, 2005 1:39 PM

And as we all know, the pissing and the leaving is an excellent way to 'distress' props.

Posted by: friend jessica at February 7, 2005 2:19 PM

I might be the only person in the world who has actually won a battle with his landlord without having to take them to court. Tommy and I were moving out and the landlord had already sent guys to paint when we still had one day left on the lease. The painters told us not to clean up because we would get in their way. So we don't. The landlord sends us a letter saying we will only be getting half of our deposit back because we didn't clean the oven and fridge. Through much yelling, apologizing and haggling, I ended up getting the full deposit back. He sent it with a card telling me that I was screwing him over! Tenants: 1 Landlords: 1,000,345.

Posted by: Rich at February 8, 2005 8:15 AM

He must not have attended the Landlordification ceremony where they have their sense of guilt removed. What a break!

Posted by: Chris at February 8, 2005 4:50 PM

April 7, 2004

Nice Job to Have #5

The latest on the great Theatre Rental Adventure: I sent a terse, professional fax to Mr. Three Penny that he could take his theatre and shove it, in toto, up his butt. Am I happy that he also has a previous signed fax from me that I want to give him money for a certain date? No. But it's out there and maybe he's not a litigious person. Last night I went to the Chicago Actor's Studio and put down a deposit for that space. It seats one hundred and has its own projector, which I'll test this Easter in lieu of thinking about how He has Risen.

It is an old place and has long given up the right to even be called "dingy." I think we're well into "seedy" territory at this point. But, it is there, money has changed hands for a certain date and time, and I have a piece of paper stating same.

Am I now magically relaxed because I have a piece of paper with my signature as well as the theatre manager's? No. Not until I press a button on May 2nd and light hits a movie screen, followed by sound coming from speakers, will I relax.

So in theory this stage of the theatre Rental Adventure is over, but you will not be surprised to learn that to my list of Nice Jobs to Have, which previously included only: 1. Insurance Agent, 2. Landlord, 3. C.T.A. Attendant, and 4. Offsite Data Storage Specialist, I have added 5. Theatre Owner.

Posted by Chris on 04/ 7/04

July 2, 2003

Our Feudal Lords II

(Check out part 1 below. )

Then came the big snow of '00, I think it was. The downstairs unit was unfinished and unheated, and our pipes froze. We were without water for ONE WEEK, and didn't have complete running water (to laundry) for ONE MONTH. During the initial week, he suggested we just use the bathroom over at another of his properties a block over. And as for laundry, wasn't there a laundromat just four blocks away? All this was suggested as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

We stayed in a hotel for a portion of the Without Water Week, which he agreed to. Then he said he'd only compensate us to the amount of what our rent would break down to on a daily basis - around $26. Is there a hotel in America that has such rates?

Again, what we let him get away with was ENORMOUS - it actually makes me madder at me than him. To my credit, though, it's hard to contemplate hiring a plumber and taking it off the rent when I have no money to pay the plumber. He had us over a barrel.

So we left, and when it came time to get our security deposit ($1000) back, he told us essentially to get in line with the rest of his creditors. At that point I was mad enough that I found the money to sue him. At that point I was willing to spend more money than I got back.

No lawyer in Chicago is interested in taking on a case involving landlords and unreturned security deposits, take my word on it; even those that have WE SPECIALIZE IN UNRETURNED SECURITY DEPOSITS in their ads. There's not a lot of money in it - that's why landlords can get away with it. It took us around three months to figure out we weren't getting paid, then something like six months to find a lawyer that would take the case. Then another six months to keep our lawyer interested in the case. And then another six months to get Landlord to show up to the trial, because all you need do as a landlord to avoid these things is to either not show up or to show up without a lawyer.

Around two years or so later we got a check for something like $1900. I believe another $700 went to the lawyer.

4. Current landlady. She's very nice and personable. Everything is fine as long as her job is just cashing the checks we give her. Any repairs are met with delays and denials. Our apartment (again, a basement level) has flooded twice. Meaning, the carpet in the center of the apartment was wet and splashy, everything in the closets was wet, cardboard boxes turned soggy. Big mess. She balked when we suggested she simply replace the carpet and pad underneath rather than task us with wet-vaccing it out. You know, I don't know much about fungus and mold, but I don't think it's good for you and I think it really really liked wet carpet pads. And we had to fight to get them replaced.

One more small but telling incident:

The upstairs tub started leaking and making the ceiling soggy. No big deal really to me, but her repair people (relatives or immigrants - never professionals) made a hole - for exploratory and diagnostic reasons - in the ceiling. That hole stayed there for two months while the task was forgotten. Again, minor. But then one of her relative / immigrant workers knocked over and broke a candle holder in our bathroom whilst working in there. Again - MINOR! No big deal. But they left the broken glass all over the floor. Didn't bother sweeping or picking up or anything. That was bad enough, but the worst part was her reaction when we asked her about it. She said she had no idea who had done it, and anyway she couldn't promise that this sort of thing wouldn't happen occasionally.

Landlording - it must be nice! Property ownership and minimal effort! The law favors them at every juncture, so there's really no need to follow up. The security deposit is a nod-and-wink signing bonus - they can keep it. They can ruin your credit rating with no recourse, and you can't leave the lease without danger of lawsuit. I believe if you check you'll find that Chicago landlords are legally within their rights to demand "First Night" privileges with your new bride, so grooms be careful where you honeymoon. And anyway, our landlord beat the soles of our feet with a wooden stick the other night, but since it was no wider than the thickness of her thumb, she's actually in the clear.

So I have no trouble at all believing that a porch wasn't up to code, or even coded at all.

Posted by Chris on 07/ 2/03

Our Feudal Lords

This Chicago porch thing. It hits hard because those three-story porches are so ubiquitous, and if you don't have one then you've been on one in the last three days, and at a gathering on one of them probably within weeks. It's terrible. My mind occasionally turns the subject over and I try to picture what the placement of people must have been for the toll to be so high, but that's useless information to dwell on. it's the sort of thing the Sun-Times or one of the Red _____ supplements might diagram for us.

I don't want to start a bum-rush of neglectful Chicago landlords over this thing, because that seems like a reactionary thing to do, but...

Next to insurance companies, there's no group I'd love to see get it stuck to them more than Chicago landlords. The amount of bad luck we've had with ours over the eight years we've been here is uncanny. It has to be a karmic thing; Wife Ami and I must have been either a despotic King and Queen in a former life, or perhaps a pair of Chicago landlords.

A brief rundown of the Troubles We've Seen:

1. Out in the burbs landlord: A corporate managing group. It was the summer that was as hot as 40 hells, and the AC unit kept breaking. So they kept replacing it with the broken AC units from other apartments. This was the summer I realized how people could in fact die from the heat. On one night if Ami hadn't forced me to leave with her I'm sure I would have gone into a coma. Boy, we thought we had it bad, even when they quite willingly released us from the lease early. But then we met...

2. First Chicago landlords. Up on Oakley Street just south of Irving Park. The location for my first real short. Our first garden-level apartment. The landlords feared that someone in the neighborhood was going to call the inspector on them because there was only one exit to the apartment and should have been two. So they told us that in the case of an inspector, they'd need to remove our stove and pretend that we lived with our upstairs neighbors. Irritating enough, but when we asked how they'd compensate us for the missing utility of a stove, they said "But you don't cook every DAY, do you?" Somehow we got out of this lease early too. I believe they were happy to see us go, as they wanted to hike the rent. Boy, we thought we had it bad, until...

3. Second Chicago landlord. Down on Erie Street just west of Hoyne. Whew. Now this guy WAS bad, as evidenced by the number of issues I'll list. In retrospect all the signs were there, and we should have paid attention. The place looked good inside, with shiny new floors and a great kitchen (also a location for a short), but outside and on the first floor it was in such disrepair that the place actually visibly leaned. Big piles of rubbish in the backyard. "Oh yeah - I'll get rid of that in a few weeks."

The heat and bathroom weren't working for the first week. It was icy cold, and I was working from home at that point. I learned about typing with fingerless gloves that winter. Could it have been worse? When I think back on how much this guy got away with... how much we LET him get away with because we were naive and unprepared.

From there the problems escalated. A lightswitch stopped working. It was on a parallel circuit with another switch. "So why don't you just use the other switch?" he asked. We had an all-in-one washer/dryer unit. The dryer wouldn't get anything dry, making it just a clothes-spinner, I guess. He suggested that maybe we were overloading it, which we weren't.

Where do they teach these guys this stuff? Is there a prerequisite to be able to sidestep logic and your responsibilities?

(Continued above because Blogger doesn't like big posts and I very nearly lost this whole thing which took an hour or so to write when it gave me an error to this effect, so thanks Blogger and hello Movable Type)

Posted by Chris on 07/ 2/03