It’s hard to believe an entire year has passed but 2013 has come and gone. Things have been moving fast for me, hence the absence of any writing for more than a month! Now that the holidays are over and things are finally starting to normalize my goal is to really hunker down and get writing here. So even though I’m still shaking off some of the “Egg Nog Fog” (even though I’ve never had egg nog before in my life), I thought I may as well start today!
So one of the reasons I was particularly busy around Thanksgiving and really all through December, aside from the holidays, is that I moved! If it wasn’t obvious by the title of this post, there is a lot that has remained untold about my former living situation. This is actually a story I’ve been dying to write down, mainly because it’s absurdity is like something out of a book, and if I don’t write it out I”ll probably forget some of the most ridiculous details. Until now I haven’t really been able to talk about it, aside from with my family and Ted, because there has actually been a lawyer involved and I really needed to wait until I was sure legal action wasn’t going to be necessary.
That said, this story is a fantastic way for me to bid adieu to 2013, because it goes back all the way to when I first moved to Atlanta last January, which should really give you some indication as to how absurd this ramble is going to be. As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, when I first took a job in Atlanta last year, I had a very short amount of time to figure out where I was going to live and get my butt up here, so I had to get my house hunt done while I was here for a 3 day visit to get my paperwork etc, in order at the new job. I think all total I looked at maybe 3 places –– my future house on Smith street was the first stop.
While the house on Smith wasn’t my dream place –– it was small and outdated, and while it did have updated appliance and what not, the updates had obviously been done. . .hastily–– it still seemed like a good, this is my first time living on my own and I have no idea what I’m doing, home. It was right near Ted, only 30 minutes from my office, there was a backyard for the puppies, a security system, and it was right within my budget! Enter the landlord, Michael Mendenhall. Though are meeting was pretty brief, in the 15 minutes he spent with Ted and I, he seemed like an ok, though definitely quirky, man. He said over an over that he loved that I had dogs because that meant I would be safer, and of course made promises to take care of things like routine maintenance around the house and in the yard. I was sold.
My last night in town me and Ted sauntered over to the house to sign the lease with Michael. I was feeling good, I had my new job all squared away, was about to sign the lease on my first big-girl house, I even had my gym picked out. I came, I saw, I got shit done! So I thought.
That night, me and Ted got a glimpse, just a glimpse, of the craziness that is Michael Mendenhall, while he was adding my name to the alarm system account. The crazy came in the form of him screaming at the customer service rep, more or less because she was asking him routine account verification questions. I don’t think either of us really judged him too harshly for the incident though, because we have certainly all been in our own bite-your-head-off moods, but it didn’t give me the warm-fuzzies or anything.
A few weeks later I made my big move, and I was in the throws of my get-shit-done mode when it happened –– the Comcast installer tried to plug in my TV, and the outlet sparked and tripped my breaker. If there was one moment that really set everything bad about living in that house in motion, this was it. The outlet situation lasted for probably close to two months so I’m going to save myself the trouble of writing it, and you the trouble of going attention deficit trying to reading it, and give the abbreviated version: He didn’t believe me that the outlet was the problem, he later admitted he really didn’t think I was making it up or that it was all in my head, he blamed it on the Comcast equipment, he wouldn’t make the appointment with the electrician and instead had me to do because he “didn’t want to traumatize my dogs?”, which would have been fine but then the guy he was trying to set us up with was awful and unresponsive and when he did respond it was specifically when we said we were unavailable! Eventually we worked it out, and it turned out it wasn’t in my head, the wires were in fact all corroded, deteriorating and not up to code. I was a little irritated that things took so long to fix but other than that things were still more or less good at this point.
Warmer weather rolled around and Michael showed up to mow the lawn. Great, awesome, except for that he didn’t let me know he was coming so I left Marley and Millie out in the back yard. Obviously, that meant that he couldn’t mow the back yard, but the less obvious problem with this is that M&M are rescue pups. Millie, in particular, is really sensitive, and by sensitive I mean scared of everything. Really, thing I would not ever classify as potentially scary, like my empty water bottles for instance, are just all kinds of not ok with the Millster. So if my water bottle is like a tiny, menacing shiny creature, a lawn mower is probably the monster equivalent of Godzilla to her. She dug her way out of the backyard and hid in the woods for 3 days before we found her. Alright, he had no way of knowing she would do that, so no big deal. But then he showed up again without giving me any kind of notice. This time my dogs were up so he was able to mow the back without any incidence, but since I didn’t know he was coming I didn’t clean up any of the puppy piles out there (I’m the kind of person that has my one day a week I devote to cleaning, that includes puppy piles, which I don’t think is unreasonable). I felt bad about that, but I also felt like he really should have given me some notice. I could have been doing some no-tan-line sunbathing back there! I mean, I don’t, and didn’t, but still.
I decided to extremely politely ask Michael if he could please just let me know when he plans on mowing, you know, if there is like a certain day he plans to do it (I have a few friends who own lawn care businesses and have extremely planned out maintenance schedules, planned 5 months in advance, so their clients always know when they are coming), or if he could just even give me a text the day of, that would be great. I got back on the nastiest, most inaccurately written, emails of my life. I think the first line I was actually “What……are you kidding me.” The email then continued to tell me that this was his fourth time trying to come out to the house to mow the backyard (which again…would have been easily avoidable had he given me some notice), and that I was going to be getting an invoice because he got dog pop on his equipment and in his truck (and again, there would have been no dog poop, had he just let me know), he then rambled on about how somehow now having dogs was a violation of my lease and he was going to charge me an additional pet deposit and pet rent, and a few other things. That Michael, such a peach.
To my credit, I sent back one of the most courteous emails I have ever written, apologizing for the miscommunication and his equipment and saying I wanted to be respectful of his time and proposed to just let me handle the backyard. No response. Then, like a week later, a tree falls onto the car port at the house and sets off the security system, we all meet at the house and he acts like everything is fine and we are great. He says he will come take care of the tree in the morning, and I leave my dogs up the next day in preparation. He never comes. In fact he doesn’t come until more than a week later, and of course, doesn’t let me know, so the dogs are out back and Millie freaks out and escapes into the woods again. He also sent me some awesome text messages complaining about a hole Marley dug, in an already grassless place, in the yard, and saying we needed to talk immediately. I got home and Millie was gone and Michael wasn’t there and never responded to any of my calls. Clearly, my luck is abundant.
At this point I was more than a little irritated. I have enough stress to deal with at my job, I really don’t like dealing with it at home too. A month later I came home to learn from Ted that Michael had apparently stuffed a letter in our mailbox and then drove off. The letter was a late rent notice, with my voided rent check. Just for reference, it was the 10th of June when he drove up (he lived like 5-10 mins away) and dropped off a letter, which was probably a full 7 days after he had received my rent check. Why he waited 7 days to drive over and give me a letter saying my rent was late, I have no idea. Anyways, the letter said that my rent had been late pretty much every month that I had lived there, and he was trying to charge me something like $1500 in fees, plus $500 for “damages” to the backyard. Same day, I also received this other notice that day from the alarm company, informing me that the alarm bill had not been paid since before I moved in, and it was going to be turned off and the case would be handled from this point on by a collections agency. I was irritated before, now I was livid. The alarm system had been one of my stipulations about living there, and on top of that I paid him for it every month in addition to my rent! I kept thinking, what has he been doing with my money every month? As for his letter, well I know my rights, and in order to try and charge me anything he needed to give me official notice, official meaning certified mail. Don’t thinking stick a letter in my mailbox counts. I sent him a really direct email, just kind of saying what the heck, because I was under the impression that there is a 5 day rent period, in fact we had discussed this when I was initially signing the lease, and I had always had my rent in by the 5th at the latest. Also, up until this point he had never given me any indication that it was an issue. He of course emailed back saying he doesn’t like making two trips to the bank, and said something how he was just “cover his own butt” because he just got out of a lawsuit.
Here’s the thing I already understood about Michael though, he is a typical Type A personality, he doesn’t think anybody’s time is as important as his, and he’s a bully. In his eyes, I was just a young, little girl living by myself. By those measures I should be pretty easy to push around. This is a key example of why it’s not the best idea to judge people you don’t know, because anyone who knows me, even on the acquaintance level, could have told Michael that I really really am not the type to be bullied. So of course since he complained about a lawsuit in his email, I immediately lawyered up. From this point on Michael was required to go through my lawyer for any and all communication with me. This is where the story got sort of gratifying for me. My lawyer, who it’s worth noting is a friend of a friend and didn’t charge me a dime and did a really fantastic job, pretty much confirmed that Michael had no base to try and charge me anything, not to mention the late fee he stipulated was not even close to the same as the fee listed in my lease. I guess he never read it. Right about now is when the whole Debelle street home-buying debacle happened. When that home fell through I knew I needed to go ahead and start looking for another place to rent, but I figured I could at least last until my lease was up. Of course, no sooner did I think I could last than the water at the house on Smith street got turned off. I got home one night, and it just wasn’t on. When I tried calling the water department about it, they of course would not give me any information because the account was in his name. In case you didn’t know, you have to be reaaallly delinquent on your water bill for them to actually shut your service off. We eventually discovered that the water had not been paid at the property in 3 years, and because it was not in my name I could not get them to turn it back on. When my lawyer tried to contact Michael about it, he of course, in true form, immediately questioned why it was his problem that I’m not paying my water bill? After all, the bill is in my name. Well, the bill was in his name, in fact, that water bill was actually registered to come to his address and not mine, so even if I wanted to pay the bill I wouldn’t have known when or how much was owed. Anyways, I got it taken care of, and subtracted the amount I paid for the water bill from my rent that month, and my lawyer made it clear that I was going to do this until Michael could provide the bill statements showing what I actually owed for the water. Makes sense right? Apparently not because then he tried to evict me, via text message.
I guess this was his way of letting me know he had an issue with the check I gave him? (p.s., don’t bother saying anything about me posting a random voided out check, this bank account is closed anyways 😉 I ignored both the envelope and the text messages, especially since if he did file an actual eviction it would take a minimum of three weeks to actually go through, and I was planning on being out way before that. I had already found another place, paid the security deposit, and was packing up my stuff. The only response we ever actually gave was to submit to him, via email and certified mail, a formal letter that I would be terminating my lease agreement with him (a whooping month early) because of his negligence as a landlord.
I cleaned up the place and repaired any damage I thought was caused by me or the pups. No matter how terrible he was I just couldn’t leave the place in disarray. The sort of interesting thing is that once I cleared all my stuff out on November 30, that house actually got broken in to. There was nothing there, but I guess they still caused some damage. This house had a history of break ins with previous tenants living there, but the alarm system acted as a deterrent while I lived there. At this point, since he never paid the bill, it wasn’t actually monitoring, which is why someone was able to break in unhindered. Ironic? Yeah a bit.
I am now happily in a new place, and fortunately and much more versed in how to deal with crazy landlords, though my new one is definitely not crazy. Now that all of that is out of my systems I an officially say, farewell 2013 and hello 2014!