I am writing this blog before moving out of my apartment tomorrow, so that I have a record and documentation of the ordeal I have gone through while living here. I have taken photos, videos and kept records along the way (thank goodness!) to show what a nightmare it has been, and how much I have done in the way of improvements. Many have known how unhappy Ive been here, especially in the last 6 months or so – so this is the story.
*Warning – this post will be image/text heavy!*
In 2010, I was living in a nice apartment that I’d been living in for over 4 years. However, I was no longer able to afford the monthly rent, so I started my search for something cheaper. I searched Craigslist and came across the upper unit of a duplex not far from where I lived. I made an appointment to look at it, and when I saw it – It was a dump. For lack of a better word, I was repulsed by the smell, the dirtiness and the general state of the place. But, the price was right. I was told by the landlord who lived onsite in the lower unit that certain things would be taken care of before it was rented out.
After a bit of deliberation and compromising, I took on the apartment as a fixer-upper. (This was mistake #1.) It was a cute apartment if only it could be cleaned, painted, and fixed up. The landlord was willing to work with me and give me reduced deposit for some of the work.
I took possession of the apartment 1 month before I moved in, and my family helped to clean, replace the carpet, paint, and put in things like blinds and fixtures.
The carpet that the landlord wanted to keep in the unit was disgusting. It was filthy, smelled like urine and smoke, and was unsuitable – so we got NEW carpet, pulled up the old carpet in the unit, and installed the brand new carpet.
It went from this:
Not only did we put in new carpet – but we painted too. The walls had not been painted in what looked like years. There were marks, scuffs, holes, and yellowing paint from secondhand smoke which had seeped into the paint and made the apartment smell stale and gross. The landlord said she would paint, but she was only going to paint the living room, whereas the ENTIRE apartment needed painted due to the dirty/stained walls and the smell. So, I offered to paint it myself for $50 off my deposit. Little did I know, it cost me twice that to paint, not to mention the time and effort it took.
My landlord said I could paint the walls any color I wanted, she said “go crazy!” and I approved my colors with her before going ahead. Grey for the living room, Seafoam green and off-white for the kitchen (because the fixtures were retro and I thought that was a nice retro kitchen color), dusty light lavender for the bathroom, and hot pink for the bedroom. The landlord said that the color in the bedroom (hot pink) would need to be repainted upon move out, since that was too bright and not a neutral color to re-rent after I moved. I agreed and purchased all the paint myself and did all the painting which took me over a month.
Here’s some photos:
The landlord came into the apartment and looked at the paint both during the painting process, and after it was all done. She thought the kitchen was super cute and the paint made it look better. She still said I’d need to paint the bedroom when I left, but I had no problem with that, I had wanted a pink bedroom my whole life and was willing to repaint it if it meant I had a pink bedroom while I lived here!
The paint and carpet weren’t the only problems. The apartment was filthy, and it was not cleaned before I moved in. Some of this was unbeknownst to me, and I should have checked more thoroughly before moving in. However, I deep cleaned the floors, the appliances, the windows, the mold and mildew, the bathtub, etc.
NOTE: The landlord did not do a walkthrough inspection with me before renting and taking my deposit. I learned that if you accept a deposit, a walkthrough is necessary – but I did not know that at the time. I was told I would get my deposit back at time of move out because of all I did at move in time. I should have never given a deposit, but I was antsy about moving in and didn’t think things through thoroughly.
Some photos of things I had to clean and/or replace once I moved in:
After cleaning, I noticed that the fridge would not stop pouring water underneath the fridge into the drip pan. When I looked underneath to find out the problem, I was horrified to find this:
The fridge also constantly ran, and the door seal had been crudely “repaired” with duct tape, but it did not work well. The landlord was somewhat unsympathetic about this issue, and asked me to find a fridge for under $50. As most people know, finding a quality running fridge for under $50 is next to impossible. Luckily, my family was able to find a great fridge, but my landlord would only put $70 (a compromise) towards it. This did not include the delivery, installation by my family or removal of the old one. We did all of this ourselves.
Another problem that arose was that the hot water tank was very old and not working well. I could only run water for less than 5 minutes before it was ice cold. After many complaints to my landlord, my dad finally looked inside and realized it was full of calcium buildup and one of the elements was burned out. It needed replaced, but it took ages for my landlord to do anything about this. Again, I did not know this upon moving in because I had not thought to test the hot water duration! I’m sure most people don’t!
Between the filth in the tub, and the hot water situation, I did not take a shower/bath in my own bathtub for 2 months. I took them at my sister’s house which was not far away.
My landlord tried to find instructions on how to replace elements in a hot water tank on YouTube, and attempted to do it herself – needless to say, it did not work. She ended up paying for a tiny new one, but my family again had to take her to the store to buy it, and then install it ourselves and haul away the old one. This was done for much cheaper than she would have paid to have one delivered and installed by a home store! She constantly took advantage of my family’s willingness to help… If I was a tenant with no family or friends to help, then I’m sure most of this wouldn’t have gotten done.
The last issue regarding structural and replacement was the deck. The entrance to my apartment forced me to cross the deck to enter the door. When I moved in (in January ’11), it was very snowy and therefore I could not see the entire structure of the deck, though I was assured it was a great asset to the apartment & I could enjoy it very much in nice weather. Come to find out when the snow melted, the boards were rotted and if you walked on them in certain places, you’d nearly fall through. It was very dangerous. I found out about this around May 2011, and the deck was not replaced until October 2011 – 6 months since my initial complaint. In order to finally have it replaced for safety issues, I had to contact, meet with, and get quotes from construction companies on my own.
One of the reasons I had to do this on my own was because my Landlord up and moved without telling me in June 2011 – and was not on site anymore, nor in the same state. This left it very hard to get anything done and to stay in contact about any issues.
I finally met with several contractors and the arrangement was made to get the deck replaced. Thankfully, this was done when I was on vacation & it was finished by the time I got back, in November (too late to use it for relaxing as it snowed as soon as I got home and has not been warm ever since!)
NOTE: The landlord did not pay for weather sealing on the deck so my dad and I offered to do this free of charge before snowfall. My landlord was upset with me due to a miscommunication about rent and a grace period, so I was told (probably mostly out of anger on my landlords part) that I was NOT to do any type of work, improvements or replacements on the apartment without her approval – and she did not allow me to weatherize the deck. Therefore, with all the rain & snow we got between November to present day (end of March) the untreated deck is discolored and weathered, and does not look like the above photo at all. This could have been prevented by me but now my landlord will have to fix it herself, or let it rot away like the previous deck.
OTHER ISSUES ASIDE FROM REPLACEMENT/STRUCTURAL –
One of the longstanding issues with this apartment has been that since my landlord moved out in June 2011, and one of her close family members took residence downstairs; there has been secondhand smoke drifting from the downstairs into my apartment – due to a gap in the seal in the floor. I have asked numerous times for the gap to either be sealed, or for the tenant downstairs to smoke outside. Neither has been done, and therefore I am running 2 air purifiers at my own expense, buying “smokers candles” though I do not smoke, and buying air fresheners. I have begun to suffer health issues due to the smoke, and furthermore, my dog has suffered and had to be seen by the vet due to an upper respiratory infection caused by the secondhand smoke. I have notified my landlord, spoken to the tenant below directly, and tried every method I can think of, to no avail.
I wouldn’t tell someone not to smoke, because smoking is their right. But I also have a right to clean air and a healthy living environment. Not only is secondhand smoke entering my apartment, but there are other forms of “smoke” that come through the floor and walls which are not healthy, either. The incident of my dog not being able to breathe properly prompted me to go ahead and give my move-out notice on March 1, 2012.
Not only did the secondhand smoke affect my quality of life (and that of my dog), but the noise downstairs, the domestic disputes and the questionable “activity” (that I will not mention here for obvious reasons but it does not take a rocket scientist to figure it out) going on made me feel terribly unsafe and at-risk staying any longer.
My landlord, after receiving the move out notice, told me she was having the tenant downstairs move out, and that she would make the unit non-smoking, and that she would get new tenants that would follow the rules and that she’d like me to stay and things would get better. I told her I would consider it if things were to get better… However, as soon as I paid rent for the month and did not move out, I was informed that the tenant would be staying, and in fact the smoking downstairs increased – I am sure in small part to the complaint I made as “retaliation”. The quality of life here decreased even more, and nothing was done. In fact, the questionable behavior only increased.
So, with all that being said – I have stayed here too long (1 year and 2 months exactly!) and I am happy to be moving out tomorrow, as I write this. I will be gone before April 1st and not one more penny of mine is going towards living in this little house of horrors.
The funny thing is, after all of this; my landlord informed me just weeks ago that since I have made such nice improvements in the apartment, that she will be raising the rent between $55-105 per month – because she now thinks it’s worth more. Not only that, but she wanted me to sign a years lease to lock me in – whereas I have always been month-to-month. As a landlord she has every right to increase rent or require a new lease, but as a tenant I have every right to refuse and move out. And this place is not worth the rent increase, improvements or not. I can’t believe I have put in so much hard work and yet she wants to raise the rent because I MADE IT BETTER!
My landlord is adamant that not only should I repaint the bedroom (as I promised long, long ago), but now I am being told to get my deposit back I must repaint the entire apartment back to white. Even though I bought the paint and had it all approved with her before I began. I am refusing to repaint and will tell her if she has to take $50 out of my deposit (because I was given a $50 painting credit on my deposit) to repaint herself, she is more than welcome to. It took me much more than $50 and a month of my time to paint in the first place, when she refused to. I will not spend a dime more or a second more of my time making improvements to this apartment which I have already improved so much. I feel I will have a hard time getting any of my deposit back, but rest-assured I will fight for it because I DESERVE IT- any court would agree with me, and if I have to escalate it to small claims court, I will.
Living here has caused me so much undue stress, aggravation, time and money that if I had known then what I know now, I would have never moved in in the first place.
As a tenant the law states I have a right to a healthy and peaceful, safe dwelling. This place is not any of those things – and I am so glad I am in a month-to-month agreement and put in my notice to vacate by April 1. I told her I’d consider staying if the situation improved, but she did not hold up her end of the deal, so I am moving.
I do not have an apartment as of yet to move into, thankfully I am staying with someone until I can find a place (I have a few prospects). I know it’s best for me to just get out while I can. So I am.
Thanks to anyone who read all this! I thought it was best to get it all out in a blog so that I have actual documentation of everything all in one place. 🙂
I’ll update again from a new and better place. Thanks everyone for your support!