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Nightmare Rental

 Oh wow, I am so glad to find a community like this. If only I would have found it three months ago, I could have lead you all through the most terrible rental experience EVER step by step. As of now, I have moved, and things are wonderful at my new place with an awesome landlord. Here is my story, or at least some of it, as it is a long one. I have never expereinced this kind of crap before in my life. 

I live in a very, VERY small town. Its a college town, I am a senior, but a fairly unprogressive town that does not in many respects generally welcome the student population. I had been renting a small apartment with my boyfriend, and we found a house with two other friends that was hardley more money, and a lot more room. Plus with everyones input on the rent, we figured we'de save all kinds of money. We went for it. 

The landlord was 72 years of age, and a lesbian. I personally could care less what her sexual orientation is, but it is of amusing relevance as the story continues. Her family is friends of my good friend's family, that is how we found out about the house. The landlord was actually preparing to move soon to live in another state with her female partner. 

Her house had considerable work to be done in it. We were assured that the worst of it would be done by the time we moved in, a month later. Well, one month turned into two months, then three, and we were cool with this, but it got to the point that I needed to know what to do so I could start planning financially to leave our current place. The new landlord told us that it would be the 31st of october (2007) when she would be out. Ok. So I gave my current (and wonderfully nice) landlord the two week notice. Well, when over the phone a week later I informed the new landlord that yes, I had given the notice, she got all pissy with me saying that she didn't say I could do that yet and she may not be ready. I took it all in stride. I am a very patient and understanding person. She said it would have to be now Nov. the second, when she would be out. 

My girlfriend and I, the one whos family knew this woman, went to the house to get the lease and read it then. She didn't have the lease yet, she informed us. THe house was still a total wreck, and not a fraction of the said work had been done. "Those contractors wont come and do the work!" she told us. We said we were OK with some work being done while we lived there (because we REALLY wanted to get in and start saving money). Big freaking mistake right there.  We just did not realize the extent to which all the work needed done. 

Working behind the scenes

One big thing that you should always keep in mind are your allies in a bad rental situation. If you can make everyone like you and turn more people against the landlord or at the very least make the landlord look like the bad evil person it will do you well.

Begin working on people from the moment you arrive. Make friends with everyone living in your building or near you. This will put you on good general terms with everyone and also help you pick those with whom you want on your team.

If there is someone that you are unable to get along with leave that person along as best you can. Don't stir the pot with them unless you absolutely have to do something about a situation. You don't know who befriends who in these types of situations and the last thing you need are a bunch of people grouping together against you when you don't know about it or even supplying a problem landlord with information on you.

When your landlord begins causing problems, use your network of friends to your advantage. They will tell you if your landlord was heard talking about your or perhaps may have asked them questions about a particular situation or event. Landlords are great for sneaking behind your back to find out about things. They are dishonest individuals who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Usually it's money but sometimes it can be information.

Friends could also serve as good individuals to subpoena to court in the event that you have to sue your landlord. These individuals are protected from being kicked out under most fair housing and landlord laws if they provide testimony against a landlord on behalf of someone else. If the landlord does ANYTHING to any of these individuals afterwards it looks a whole lot like retaliatory action (also illegal) and can be proven pretty easily in that particular situation.

Those who are still living in the apartment building after you move out will be able to provide you with valuable information leading up to a court appearance even though you aren't around. Believe me, landlords are all stupid and they all make the same stupid mistakes when their ass is grass and the tenant has possession of the lawn mower. They will dig for information, they will grasp for straws and they will screw up while they are doing it. This can all be stacked against them in court if put together in the right way.

Dirty Deeds--done dirt cheap

Today I will address some quick fixes to some common problems that your landlord may throw at you during move out and provide you with some suggestions that have YOUR best interest in mind. We already know that a lot of landlords are dishonest lying money hogs who will do anything in order to keep a security deposit, get more money or just cost you your time and efforts meeting some of their [unreasonable] criteria.

Discussion points in today's post:
  • Move out: Cleaning
  • Move out: Plumbing
  • Move out: Appliances
  • Move out: 'Redecoration'

I hope that my suggestions will be both helpful to you and your friends and will save you lots of headache, time and money when it comes to dealing with your landlord.

Sharing Dirt: I REALLY Hate my LandLord

Getting out of the dorms last April required fast action. With a time limit, I needed to find an apartment and have an apartment ready to move in to by the last day of exams. It was Chris and I together, and some asshole named Dan -- but we'll forget about him. We found an apartment within our price range and near everything needed for a good time and some necessity. We moved in at the first of April, the place wasn't perfect - it seemed like an artist's perfect place. We paid our security deposit and our rent.

Everything was great until we realized none of the outlets in the kitchen worked and we had to plug our microwave and coffee pot into an outlet inside the back closet doorway. Only two burners worked on the stove. We had no screens on the windows. Of course, Craig, my lovely landlord, came by with mini-screens. The kind that let in bugs but not proper air flow. These things were 7 inches wide - how were they supposed to keep me alive in the summer heat?? We couldn't control our own heat if it ever got cold - which it didn't because the bastards down stairs cranked the heat to 20 (about 75 faranheit). Our bedroom was such that two feet into the door was my bed. We could not open my dresser drawers, and so we had clothes everywhere. The bathroom walls were falling down. There was no fire escape to the second floor apartment, and no back entrance. My door might as well have been made of cardboard.

There was no shower, only the tub and not even a shower curtain. He told me "Most people just go out and get a shower-head and curtain. You should go out and do the same."

I responded, "Umm why do I have to go get it? Can't you just make sure that I have a shower? People don't tend to take baths anymore."

He bought and installed the shower-head and I bought a shower curtain. Everything was okay after that, I could deal with all of the crap not working and the thing about the screens [he never had them installed until my second month of being there]. But then the leaks in the ceiling became more prevalent. We only stayed there until September 15th. We paid a half month's rent and have not seen our accumulating security deposit since.

Craig did these things because he was a real slum lord. The only way I knew how to fight back was to put signs up in our yard protesting against him. That was until I decided to go to the Tenancy Board about him.

To make it worse, Craig lied about his address on the lease. He lied about his address on our reciepts [which was different from the lease, oddly enough], and he lied on the better business bureau website for realtors. The Tenancy Board had him living somewhere in Canada. We had to search stocks and bonds in order to find out what his real address was. To make a long story short, we're going after him for our grand plus (in interest) he owes us from the accumulating damage deposit.

Just felt like I'd share.


How to Get the Dirt on your Landlord!

So, you have decided to be an evil little prick and get the dirt on your landlord so you can get back at them for treating you poorly....well, here's how you go about doing that.  I am assuming that your landlord has not really given you any information on prior tenants, how often they've been taken to court or even any information about any mishaps or bad experiences. You see, this is because your landlord does not want you to know about the bad experiences that they've had. Telling tenants about bad experiences reflect on the landlord and make them look bad or at least raise the question "what's the other side of this story?"

First of all, you should do your research BEFORE you sign anything. This will provide you with valuable information and allow you to make an informed decision about where you will spend the next little bit of your life and what sort of circumstances you may be dealing with.  Sometimes we don't always have the time to do that so not having the time to do the research results in having to collect valid information to present in court to show that the landlord has patterns or has been a problem in the given area in the past whether it be security deposits, displacement etc.

Ok, so you've got some dirt on your landlord and you want to know how to use it without getting in trouble for having it. First of all, all of the sources of information that I have mentioned are 100% public information and 100% legal in the USA. There's nothing that your landlord can do against you for searching this information out and finding it.  Also, you will find that this information mentioned is free of charge when you look in the right places.

So, on to how to use the dirt. You have been having a problem with your landlord and your landlord ends up giving you a notice to vacate and says that they are keeping your security deposit. Please note that "notice to vacate" is usually associated with non-renewal of a lease, it is not the same as eviction. You suspect that your landlord has a pattern of doing these things because they like to steal security deposits. Ok, first you would go to court records and see if you can spot a pattern looking through inactive cases. Do they get taken to court frequently and for the same things? Are their court records random? Most importantly, how often las your landlord been SUED? This means that they would be listed as a DEFENDANT. If your landlord gets sued more often than not, this may be an indicator that there are a series of habits and patterns in their rental history. if you can prove this pattern by bringing up previous court cases won by tenants on the same issues you are pressing, this will help you greatly.

Do not leave any documentation of your dirt laying around your apartment. You want your landlord to think you are dumb when it comes to finding out this stuff until you arrive in court with your evidence. This kind of thing will be your hidden ace when you get to to count, especially if you are able to show and prove a pattern based on previous court rulings. If your landlord suspects that you may have evidence proving their guilt lingering in your rental unit, don't think for one minute that they won't attempt to relieve you of it and destroy it! You also don't want to give your landlord the idea that they can sue you for harassment or anything like that so you must be discreet about things like this. There isn't too much of a possibility that your landlord would be able to get you for any sort of harassment just for obtaining information that's already public record but if the landlord were able to prove that you had premeditated intentions of using the information against them at a planned later date--such as if you already suspect 6 months before the end of the lease agreement that the landlord might try to keep your security deposit and you aren't going to let that happen--That's just one example of something.  Again, keep your documentation in a safe place whether it be locked in your car or a lock box. Make it inaccessible to the landlord.

Signing A Lease and Using a Lease

First of all, the basics--you should take the time to read and understand your lease agreement before you sign it. You already should know this. If you don't know this, perhaps you shouldn't be thinking about entering into a lease agreement with someone. Lease agreements are set up in such a way to benefit the landlord. They are not there for your initial benefit--although they sure can be useful if you know how to use them effectively to your advantage. Landlords have lease agreements that are [in most cases] written up by an attorney in such a way to where it basically traps the lessee into obligating a certain sum of money for a certain specified amount of time with the loose agreement that the landlord will keep up their end of the bargain but what happens when you move in and find out that the neighbor living over top of you is really King Kong? Or what about when you find out that your landlord is really a jerk who conducts a panty raid each day in your apartment while you're gone to work, has peep holes or perhaps just comes in w/o permission, snoops around and leaves. What about when the landlord will not make repairs to major problems? What if you were shown a rental unit and signed the lease then return to move in and the unit is not as you left it?

Most lease agreements have to contain statements that refer to the length of the lease agreement, the amount of rent that is due, when rent is due and a statement referring to leaving the rental unit if you do not pay rent on time within a certain number of days. Lease agreements also have to be in compliance with current and applicable state laws. These laws vary from state to state so it is important to check your state laws and codes for anything referring to 'ladnlord/tenant acts' or perhaps simply looking through common law for applicable laws. 

If your landlord is supplying any amenities such as appliances, heat/AC or furniture, it is VERY important to be sure that the condition of these items is outlined by the landlord somewhere on the lease agreement. It is also your responsibility to make sure that they are in fact, as described. In other words, if the lease states that the range is in 'good condition and in working order' you shouldn't just take the word of the landlord on that. You should give it a good look over, pull it out from the wall, look at the manufacturer's tag for a date. usually these things will have a date right down to the month--If your landlord doesn't have a problem with it, tell them you'd like to test it out. Raise the top of the range, look underneath any foil that may be present etc.

Going back to the discussion with other tenants--If your landlord seems reluctant to introducing you to some of your neighbors prior to a lease signing, they may be attempting to hide something or be worried that someone might let the cat out of the bag. On the other hand, be wary if neighbors seem to be hanging out just waiting to talk with you. the landlord may have made a deal with them and paid them off to tell you only good things about the rental unit and landlord.  You will just have to be a good judge of character when it comes to those matters.

When you are in the process of signing a lease agreement, it is VERY important to take into consideration that the day may come when you are pitted against your landlord. This happens in most situations because landlords are, for the most part, horrible, greedy people who don't care about anything but collecting their rent payments.  You should not place any trust in your landlord at all. If something happens, repairs are required or correspondance with the landlord is required, you should ALWAYS make that correspondance in written form right from the beginning even if your landlord is a nice older couple who seem like the sweetest people on the face of the Earth. This sets the standard right from the beginning that things will be documented and in written form. You should keep a copy and mail a copy to the landlord. If the landlord must come to your rental unit to check something out, obviously that will involve some verbal correspondence. It is important that you document in detail the happenings of these sorts of events shortly after they happen. This way you will keep those conversations and events straight. Over time, the mind has a way of forgetting details that may make a huge difference later on. If it helps, document the landlord's mood and general attitude as well as verbal comments and actions. Make this report as detailed as possible. It is for your own personal use and referral at a later date.

You should always take into consideration with this thought that you may have to see your landlord in court. Where there's money involved and money being held by a landlord, there will always be disagreements. Most landlords are unreasonable individuals who will claim damages or even sneak in and damage something themselves only to point it out later and say you done it and will pay for it.

It is for these reasons that you should keep good records, photographs, copies of a move in sheet and create a move out documentation.  You should also read carefully the statements on your lease agreement that detail what must be done in order to get a security deposit back. In most cases, you will not get your security deposit back if you end the lease early or damage something. If you want it back or you want to challenge something the landlord has stated, you must be able to disprove what the landlord is saying. You will more than likely have to take your landlord to court if there's a dispute because they will treat you like crap, shut the door in your face and not want to talk about it at all.  

Now that you know to read and understand your lease, talk to your neighbors, find out things etc. you should know how to use the lease agreement to your advantage. When you sign a lease, you may have noticed that you aren't the only person signing the lease. The landlord must also enter into the lease agreement with you. By doing so, they agree to the same terms that you have agreed to and have also agreed that they are responsible to a certain extent in the position of 'landlord'.

You can use your lease against your landlord in court if you see that your landlord is reluctant to uphold the lease agreement within reason. If the landlord has a statement in their lease agreement about noise or 'quiet enjoyment of your home' then you shouldn't have a problem mentioning to your landlord that King Kong who lives upstairs and works odd shifts should be told to be a little more considerate while playing games of catch with the couch or blaring NASCAR on the TV all hours of the day and night. This is just one good reason to understand the terms of your lease agreement. It will make your life better. The other reason to understand it will if not memorize it is because when your landlord is attempting to pull a stunt on you, you can readily quote your lease agreement to the landlord or the court, whichever you need.

If you show your landlord that you know what your rights and responsibilities are as well as theirs, they will be less likely to take advantage of you because they will know that you have a brain.

Information on Mold

Recently, I posted an article all about mold testing. This one will tell you a little more about specific types of common molds, health issues and other information of interest that you can use against your landlord in making them live up to their moral obligations that you are paying them for.

Basic information on mold can be found on Wikipedia. More specifically, information on black mold is available here. Popular media place emphasis on "toxic black mold" because it is dangerous. There's a whole page of information located here for those of you who think you may have been exposed to black mold. While black mold is all the hype and can cause serious health complications or become fatal, there are other types of mold to be concerned about as well. Another common type of mold is Cladosporium which is also dangerous to your health.

Some health problems that can be directly linked to long term mold exposure are:

  • Increase in allergies
  • New allergies
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irritation to the eyes, nose and throat
  • Skin irritation/rash/peeling skin/cracking skin
  • Coughing or sinus problems
  • wheezing/shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea
  •  Hoarseness
  • Headache
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fatigue
Some more serious symptoms of mold exposure are:

  • Inflammation of the ear
  • Bleeding lungs
  • Nosebleeds
  • Memory loss
  • Arthralgia (joint pain without swelling)
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms please see a doctor and tell the doctor that you think you have been exposed to mold. They will conduct a CBC test to determine this and gather more information. 

To Members

I've noticed that we have picked up a couple of members during the past few days. I would like to welcome you all to read and share your opinions, insights and rental horror stories here in the community. 

Things Your Landlord Should Not See...

There are several things that your landlord should never have access to. Sometimes landlords (and I am speaking of private renters, not companies) will ask that you fill out a sheet in addition to your lease agreement stating personal information such as your SSN, bank, place of employment, vehicle information, work schedules, names and personal information of family members, etc.

Out of all of this information, if you are renting from an individual, I would advise you not to give out too much personal information. If you make a security deposit and first month rental payment with a certified cashier's check they already know what bank you are using (in most cases) and yet have not been given any account numbers from your personal accounts. They already know what your address will be because they are renting you something at that address. Now that they have their secured payment for the security deposit and first months rent as well as your address the only other thing they need to know is that you are employed. They do not need to know the name of your boss or a contact person in HR. You might tell them the business name of where you work but they have no business knowing the details.

Giving a landlord banking information, SSNs or other personal information is a big no no, especially if problems develop later in the landlord tenant relationship. You do not want someone to get mad at you and then misuse your personal information to their benefit. They can steal your ID, wipe your credit or play games with your bank account. These actions aren't only illegal but they take a long time to clean up and can be rather painful to ones life.

If you make your rental payments with a check from your own bank account the landlord will get all the personal information they need from you including your routing and account number on the bottom of the check. While this information shouldn't be a problem, it is best to make payments with a cashier's check for your protection as well as that of the landlord. This way the payment is guaranteed by the bank and you have a receipt instantly to keep.

If you have a lock box the following items should be included in this box:
  • Titles to any vehicles
  • Deeds to any properties
  • Social Security cards
  • Birth Certificates
  • Photographs of rental unit at move in
  • Photographs of damages
  • Extra keys
  • Documentation
  • Extra checks
  • Bank statements
  • Check stubs (if you retain them)
  • Medical information
  • Bills & payments
None of this is any of your landlord's concern. There are probably many more things that could go into a lock box while you're living in a rental unit but these are the main ones I can think of right now that should be most important. If you're like most people, you may leave your mail laying on the kitchen table or in another place easily accessible to toss things. This is not a good thing. If you happen to leave an opened bank statement laying around within sight and the landlord comes into the apartment, it is likely that they can see how much money you have and derive from that what your financial capabilities and downfalls are. They can also get lots of information about you such as where you like to shop, where you eat out etc. All they have to do is look at your debit card expenses.

At all cost, guard your SSN with your lift. This is how people will ruin your credit and your life! Also, do not reveal your DOB to your landlord. All they need to know is that you are 18 or above thus making you of legal age to enter into a lease agreement. SSNs and DOBs are the two things needed to steal your ID.

Sometimes it is necessary to bait the landlord in a creative way if you want them to enter the apartment illegally in order to catch them. You just have to figure out what to leave laying around that they may want. For instance if they know that you've been taking pictures of a problem that has been in disrepair for quite some time, you may try leaving copies of those pictures in an area that is within sight from a window with perhaps a copy of a letter that sounds very official and well written that would imply legal action or some such as that. This may be enough to bait the landlord into doing all sorts of things that may go so far as breaking and entering. Make sure you keep all original copies of things so that you can add this to your list of offenses should you need to do so. As childish as it sounds, this actually will work pretty well with some landlords. They are greedy individuals on power trips and they do not know what the limitations are.