Sunday, August 30, 2009

And a goodly dose of threats

As of this morning our new tenants are moving into our former home. We managed to find people without a blip on their credit, or criminal histories. They're steadily employed, young professionals, and the new lady of the house fell head over heels in love with the place. Now there isn't much left to do other than hope for the best.

We do know a fair number of people that own rental properties, and frankly there is nary a horror story to be found in their experiences with the world of being a landlord. Nothing of a truly freaky nature has occurred to the half dozen or so people we know that own and operate rental homes. Sure, one has a story of a guy who lost his job, then had to be evicted, but that was done with a minimum of drama and fuss. Another had a tenant who left the place in shambles, but one paid cleaning crew later and the damage was undone.

So, if you're sensing that I seem very nervous about this, and thinking that it is without good reason, then settle in for the story of the worst rental property we've ever seen, and why we are so nervous. We didn't own it, no one we knew well owned it. No, we simply had the misfortune of living next to it for ten years. Most of the stories are funny in retrospect with the glaring exception of this first.

When my husband and I first lived in the house we are now renting out, it was eleven years ago. The people living in the brick bungalow next door had one child and one dog, a massive Rottweiler named Apollo. Aside from a tendency to argue with all their windows open they were easy to live next to. Sure, Apollo had an irritating habit of jumping the fence into our backyard, but I'm not afraid of dogs in general. I'd just gently call his name, he'd wag his stumpy tail and follow me back home. Once or twice I had to work my fingers into his collar and lead him home.

It was only after they moved out that we found out the couple used to have two dogs, and that Apollo had one day flipped out and killed the other dog in what was evidently the worst day the neighborhood had ever witnessed up to that point. The neighbors had never seen my habit of leading Apollo home, and nearly fainted in horror when I told them. It seems that Apollo had also bitten several people over the course of his stay there. Accidental exposure to a previously murderous Rottweiler is about the nicest story I have for that house.

There was the schoolteacher with two teenage children. She had a strange habit of marrying people she barely knew, five had come and gone by the time she moved in next to us, and the advent of the sixth potential husband caused havoc. The daughter, a bipolar, went off of her meds and ran away. Only to return in the dead of night while the teacher was off with her paramour, and the daughter began kicking in the windows to gain access. At the landlord's request, we called the police, who treated the call as a robbery in progress. Many a drawn gun and shouted curse marked that night. It was nothing compared to when the son, who had turned to dealing drugs as a means of making a living, was apprehended. We didn't make that call, we were unaware until the raid at three a.m.

The next tenants parked a backhoe in the backyard but were otherwise quiet. Until the day I looked out and saw half the Denver Police department swarming the house, again, guns drawn. I went and hid in the basement and never did find out why there was yet another raid next door. At that point, the owner of the house gave up, and sold. As much as we hoped a private owner would buy the nice, turn of the last century home, another investor bought the place.

He left it empty for five months as he refinished the basement. This became the period of my life where I was in constant touch with the landlord, and the police, as the recently uprooted homeless people (displaced from a shelter that was closed when a light rail train was installed) made many an effort to take up residence there. That started with my looking out of my office window on the Saturday of the Easter weekend, and glimpsing a man I thought might be Grizzly Adams. It ended with yet another raid four weeks later, in which about thirty homeless people were rousted from the backyard where they had burrowed in like ticks.

Then came the group of young men who had the Halloween party that was announced on the radio, unbeknown to them, or so they claimed. Three full-size Greyhound tour buses disgorged a group of two hundred or so revelers in costumes. The house had two bathrooms. That was the night we spent hours chasing clowns, witches, zombies and gargoyles from our property, many of whom were busy urinating on it. When we were lucky, that is. Someone dressed as Vampire took a night long nap on our front yard, complete with pillow, and pool of vomit. We did call the police, but only after someone responded to my husband, trying to evict the man from peeing on our rosebushes, by saying, "Hey man, aren't you going to let me finish?"

New Year's Day a year later featured me finding a fully packed bong, on my front porch, with a ceramic, evil clown head as the base. That was the day I went over and did the dance of rage on the front porch next door, after smashing Bozo, the Evil Clown Bong to smithereens. That was the day I found out that, gee, with enough incentive? I could actually gibber with pure fury.

There are rental properties sprinkled throughout that neighborhood, but it's actually a quiet, good neighborhood. To give you an idea, houses usually sell from anywhere from 250k well into the 300s. We didn't live in Denver's equivalent of Hell's Kitchen (which is Five Points, and we didn't live there). We lived in an otherwise drowsy, residential neighborhood. No one had stories like we ended up having thanks to that house.

That's only half of the nightmarish things that occurred. One tenant was stalked horribly by a man who was apprehended with a knife in between our two houses. It was the house of bad mojo for five of the ten years and then there was the geophysicist who ushered in the age of silence next door. He was decidedly weird, and made everyone nervous, but he was blessedly quiet. After him came two separate families, both markedly sane and quiet. A new era had begun.

This might have had something to do with the fact that I had finally had enough, and threatened the owner next door with every type of legal action you can possibly imagine, including bringing the housing department down on him when the Bozo incident happened. We are not litigious people by nature, but we had had more than enough. Between my volcanic anger, and my husband's assurances that we'd be happy to make a hobby out of suing him if he didn't start screening his tenants more thoroughly, he finally saw the wisdom of leaving the house empty until he found suitable tenants, as opposed to renting to anything vaguely upright. The entire neighborhood was crawling all over that man in their spare time. This may have had something to do with the fact that I passed around his phone numbers, complete with his work contact. To gain some peace himself, he finally extended some towards our neighborhood.

To put it very mildly, our bad experiences with rentals had left us leery. The people we rented to were lectured up and down about not having large parties. That there would never be any need for any of the neighbors to hunt us down, they all know us personally, and have all of our contact numbers. Anything untoward, and they would feel free to call us.

They must really love the house because they were fine with that. It is a lovely house, by the way, and they seem very pleased with it. They're avid rock climbers from out of state, and assured us that they only know three people in town, but aren't the partying types anyway. We talked to all of their references, and they had a goodly number.

We'll see, right? We can only hope. Or in my husband's case, threaten a bit. When he told them that all of the neighbors know us both, and wouldn't hesitate to call us, this is what he said:

"And make no mistake, we'll care. We will rain down on you like the Last Days of Pompeii."

The new tenants laughed. Nervously.


Kathryn said...

Oh, goodness! This is funny, but i'm SURE it was not funny to live thru.

When i was single l lived thru a number of really uncomfortable roommate experiences. I wasn't very healthy myself in those days, but i made some really unfortunate choices. AND, sometimes folks i worked with & thought were reasonable, responsible people turned out to be just weird.

I'm so thankful those days are behind me! Also days of renting. We do love owning our home.

Hope your new tenants do pan out to be model renters.

DUTA said...

First of all, I have to say I envy your language, it's so rich! English is not my native language ,so I naturally admire someone who writes like you do.

The tenants' stories look funny , but they're in fact 'horror' stories. You deserve a new and better era , and it seems you're going to get it now.

The Bug said...

When we moved to our new house (we're renting), the neighbors to the left made a point of meeting us over the fence. They've lived here since the 1950s & have seen a lot of folks come & go in this house. They are so THRILLED to have us next door! We're normal! We're quiet (except that my hubby yells at baseball games). We both have good jobs (university professor & legal assistant). We mow the grass twice a week. We intend to have people over for a cookout but never get around to it. We're just the perfect neighbors! Hopefully your new tenants will be just as wonderful. Heh.

PhilipH said...

Goodness gracious me! What a horror story. I've heard of the neighbours from Hell but you seem to have had Hellzappoppin for a long time.

You were fortunate that Apollo did not take umbrage when you 'collared'him that time. They're powerful critters and can be extremely dangerous.

Glad that your tenants are, thus far, exemplary. Hope they stay that way.

Land of shimp said...

Kathryn, you know, some of that actually was funny to live through. I mean, the Halloween party experience was so surreal, it was actually sort of funny.

Thank you, DUTA. Admittedly, on the other hand, some of those were just horror stories. I was honestly scared to death when I hid in the basement. Quite the mixed bag, really.

I'm sure they were thrilled, The Bug. I mean, living next door to a rental can kind of cause a cringing reaction when new people move in. It has nothing to do with them, it has to do with the wide variety of people that came before them.

Philip, I am so glad I found out about Apollo's murderous tendencies after he was gone. I think if he had still been next door, I would have spent a lot of time staring at the ceiling in the night, thinking about the killer dog next door ;-)