Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When It Rains, It Pours

It seems like no matter what we do, stress just follows us. This time of the year is stressful enough with holidays approaching and trying to squeeze enough money from an already tight budget for presents. Now we have another stress popping up, this time with our landlords.

We weren't originally going to rent our current place. We were happy where we were at and had awesome landlords at our old house. They were quick to make repairs if needed and otherwise left us alone as long as our rent check arrived on time every month.

Then some neighbors came to us wanting us to rent their house. They were moving out of state for a while and didn't want their house sitting empty. We originally turned them down because the house needed work and we didn't totally trust them.

But they kept pestering us about it and offered to rent their house at a couple hundred dollars cheaper than we were paying. Since it was a bigger house and we figured we could put the difference in rent towards buying a house of our own, we went against our instincts and signed a lease. We've regretted it ever since.

The house was a wreck when we moved in. There were several plumbing issues and one minor wiring issue. The house was filthy and pretty much all their stuff was left behind for us to move into the shed on the property. It took us close to a month just to get the house ready to move our stuff in.

The next problem came when a repair was needed. They tried to tell us it was our responsibility even though the law clearly states that the landlord is responsible for repairs unless we caused the problem. When I told them that, then they claimed to not have the money. We ended up paying out of pocket for the repair and deducting it from the rent.

A couple months later, we started getting calls asking for rent early. One month they even asked for it a week after we had paid. They always had some expense that they desperately needed to pay. Since our money is tightly budgeted, we couldn't do it and that caused problems.

We were just shy of our first year when they tried to raise the rent. Our lease clearly states that the rent can't be raised until it expires. They griped about it, but that was the end of that or so we though. Our lease has a clause that lets us us early if we give them enough notice so we started looking into moving even though we really didn't have the funds. We've talked to the bank about possibly purchasing a house, but without money towards a down payment, we can't get too far. So we're holding out for our tax refund in the hopes that it, combined with any other money we've managed to stash back, will be enough to get us in a place of our own.

Now we have another situation, one that's about to drive both me and Steve up the wall. The other day the landlord called to say he was coming to pick up their stuff out of the shed. We didn't have a problem with that.

The problem came when he arrived. He immediately set up camp in our backyard. I'm not entirely comfortable with the guy and Steve can't take off work to be here so I'm stuck at home alone with the guy here. His wife's a bit of a pain, but I'd feel a little more comfortable if she was with him.

Him being camped out in the backyard also means I can't let our dogs out. Our back yard is fenced in and normally I open the back door and let the dogs go in and out as they please. Most of the time if it's pretty, they stay out all day long other than coming in for food or water. As I've mentioned before, they're very protective of me. If I let them out right now, I run the risk of one of them biting him. So they've been stuck in the house for the duration other than short forays out on a leash.

The real kicker came yesterday evening when he told Steve he was planning on moving into the shed to live and would just pay the difference in our electric bill. The shed is not insulated and our electric bill already runs $150 a month just for us in the house. I don't even want to imagine how high the bill will go with him living in the shed and trying to heat it this winter. Not to mention, between the dogs not being able to go out and me being uncomfortable with him when I'm home alone most of the time, it's just not feasible to have him living in our backyard fulltime.

Steve struggled with it all night last night. He's a soft-hearted guy and felt bad for the landlord, who is currently living with his brother-in-law. But our family has to come first. So when the landlord called this morning, he told the landlord no, at which point the landlord told us we had to pay more rent or we would have to move out.

We know the guy doesn't have a leg to stand on with his threats. Our state is very tenant friendly and as long as we're abiding by the lease and paying the amount the lease says, the landlord can't do anything. If he took us to court and tried to evict us, he'd be laughed out of court. But it's still causing a lot of unnecessary stress.

On a good note, I'm handling this stress a lot better than I have in the past. I've managed to stay out of trouble (yay!). I've did all my chores and haven't snapped at Steve once. I haven't even given in to mindless eating like I used to. I have been crocheting like mad the past few days, but it's helping and I now won't have to buy winter gear (hat, scarf, mittens) for our daughter. I'm about to start working on sweaters for the dogs. Aside from the migraine I woke up with this morning, you couldn't even tell I was stressed right now.

Steve, on the other hand, is not handling it well. He was already stressed before this and the landlord hasn't helped the situation. After last night's conversation, it took me a couple hours to calm him down. He's always provided for our family, but now that we've added DD to the mix and he's taken the lead in our family, he feels deeply his responsibility to protect and provide for us. This mess has threatened our family and he's not happy about it.

I'm just glad he was already at work this morning when he told the landlord no and heard his response. Judging by how he sounded on the phone when I talked to him, it was probably a good thing he wasn't here where he could get his hands on the guy. It probably wouldn't have ended well.

I'm a bit lost here. I want to help him, but I don't know what I can do. I've been supportive. I've calmed him when he was upset. I listened to him rant for hours (yes hours as in plural). What else can I do to make this easier on Steve? Suggestions?


  1. Dana, I think you are handling yourself very, very well. Your family has been placed in a difficult situation, but Steve is doing everything he can to see you all through it.
    By not adding to the stressors, you are being a very good TiH wife. The only thing I can add is to perhaps do a little research to have the facts right at hand in the event of trouble. Perhaps you have already done that.
    You might also see if there is a tenant advocate in your city to be contacted as a precautionary measure, so they can open up a file in your case.

    It sounds like you already have, but if you are just using memory recall - document everything - date and time if possible. Should you end up in a legal contest - details are everything - and where relevant - pictures.

    If you have them from the original state of the home on moving in they would be helpful.
    Avoid contact with this joker, and I would do any business in writing, and never pay him any cash.
    Good luck and I crochet too - doilies with thread - I am not very good at yarn projects.
    hugs to you all

    1. Thanks for reading all that Lillie. I needed to get it out. I have done some research and I plan on calling the local Legal Aid office to see if there's anything we can do in the meantime. That should also establish a record of the problems we're having.

      We don't have a lot of documentation because most of it was said in face to face conversations or phone calls. I do have receipts from stuff we had to buy for the repairs. One of the neighbors helped with the move and the repairs so he can back us up in need be. We pay by money order (they don't have a bank account so I can't send a check) and I file the receipts from buying those with our copy of the lease and all the receipts from stuff we bought for repairs.

      I have been avoiding the landlord. I stay in the house with the doors locked and keep my phone and at least one of the dogs with me. When I have to take the dogs out, I go out front and take my phone. Thankfully he's supposed to be leaving today.

      I started learning how to crochet years ago, but never could do much more than just chains. Then a while back I decided to try learning more and watched a few videos on youtube. After the hat came out better than I expected, I moved on to a scarf and it kind of went from there. There's something soothing about it which I'm sure is why I'm not coming unglued right now.

  2. Oh Dana - Can definitely understand your frustration and need to get it out. You are handling everything very well and in doing so, lessening the stress on Steve.

    I don't know what state/county you live in and am not an attorney so my advice and a dollar will get you a cheap cup of coffee. With all that said, my minor is in criminal justice and I interned for almost a year for a prosecuting attorney so here is what I can tell you. Keeping a notebook with the date/time, people present, general topic and any direct quotes you can remember will go a long way in any court. Go back and write approximations of previous conversations and moving forward, keep as precise a record as you possibly can.

    By the way, you are renting the property so the landlord does not have any right to bunk down in the shed - that is trespassing. As a landlord, he only has the right to enter the property to inspect if he suspects damage and/or if your lease states that he/they have the right to enter under specified conditions. Also, living in a shed like that is illegal in the counties/states I'm familiar with and might also be in your area.

    Great idea to call Legal Aid to see if there is anything they can do to help and Lillie had an excellent suggestion to research tenant advocates.

    Sending (((Hugs))) and prayers that things work out soon.


    1. Thanks for the advice, hugs and prayers Cat. I thought the shed thing was something he couldn't do and a couple people I talked to yesterday said so as well. The lease says they can enter without notice in case of emergency, but otherwise have to give 2 days notice if they want to come in to inspect. Oddly enough, he didn't even come in the house at all.

      I'll get Steve to sit down with me tonight and we'll write out everything that's happened so far. Then we'll keep notes of anything else that happens.


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