Posts Tagged ‘negotiation’

Power Plays and Little Pricks

September 26, 2010

I remember very clearly when I was three years old (and I know I was that age because my parents divorced when I was three), sitting on the floor in a corner of my favorite aunt’s living room, playing with my Barbie doll, and having my future spelled out for me. Aunt Mildred, a willowy brunette who never aged, predicted a glamorous career for my sister in some field I have long forgotten. But I, she said, would grow up to be an accountant. After asking what an accountant did, I decided right then and there, oh no, I would not. I could not think of anything more boring than working with numbers. As usual, it’s exactly what I should have done, but avoided at all costs.

But then the real eye opener came. Somewhere in that conversation, Uncle Joe, sitting over in his chair and smoking his pipe, uttered the words that still haunt me to this day: some people never own a house. They live in apartments their whole lives. I can still feel the terror that revelation struck in my little three-year-old heart. I would have my own house. I would.

So far, I have not. Subconsciously determined, I suppose, not to be a lifetime apartment dweller, I try whenever possible to rent houses instead. I have lived in my current house for nine years. I have practically paid the mortgage on this place. Insignificant Other and I had a lease the first year we lived here, and I think we also had one somewhere in the middle, around the fourth year maybe. We have not had one since.

Is it not true that the more money you have, the more you spend? IO was terrible with money, and why I ever gave in and let him manage our finances is beyond me. I guess it was one of those things I acquiesced to so he could feel like he wore the pants in the family. Granted, there were two years that I did not work while I pursued a dream, and during those two years, he worked a full time and part-time job (and never once let me forget it). Never mind that for several years I made much more money than he did, and for two of those years, we lived in a nice condo, all expenses paid, as a benefit of my employment (his memory is short, and he has conveniently forgotten that). Except for those two lean years of my dream-chasing, there is absolutely no reason why we should not have been able to live decently, even on our significantly more modest incomes since coming here from the mountainous state where God dwells.

IO paid the rent. By that, I mean that he took the check over to the landlord’s house and gave it to him. In their eyes—and this is another example of how men deduce matters in their own little minds—by signing that check, IO provided all the funds to cover it. Now during the two years of my unemployment, that is true, but otherwise, I don’t think either man has any concept of community property. I may not have separated a set amount out of my paychecks and specifically said, “this is for the rent” (or utilities, which is another thing IO “paid”), while placing it in his greedy little hands, but I contributed every cent of my income to the household. At that time, my check was still going into the same bank account that his was deposited in. Later, when he at first took my name off the checks, then later opened his own checking account, I bought the groceries, toiletries, detergents, trash bags, toilet paper (priced Charmin lately—the only kind IO would wipe his delicate tush with?) medications, pet food, cat litter, garden seedlings, and all the other “invisible” items it takes to run a home. Believe me, I bought quite a lot of beer, and I can’t stand the stuff. In that original lease, there was a three-day grace period for when the rent had to be paid, and IO used it every time. And no, he has not always paid it within that three days.

IO sometimes wheeled and dealed with the landlord. He would fix things (at a significantly reduced fee), and the landlord would take it off the rent. One year, they made a deal to paint the exterior of the house. IO had me call around and get estimates to see how much it would cost to have someone else to do it. The house is mostly brick. The porch ceiling, carport, and eaves are the largest spaces to paint. The rest is mostly fascia and columns. I got three estimates, the lowest of which was a thousand dollars. We were short on rent (this was during my period of dream-chasing), and the landlord was only willing to give us $400 to do it. Because I was unemployed, I am the one who painted (three colors). There was a small area on one of the eaves that I could not reach because that side of the yard slopes steeply and I had no one to hold the ladder. When the landlord came around to inspect it, he was irate. IO rigged up a light, I held the ladder, and we finished it that night in the dark. I think that at some point IO must have not done something he agreed to do, because he stopped inviting the landlord in. He didn’t want him in the house.

The only things the landlord has had to repair in this place in all these years are the furnace and the dishwasher. He chose to replace the dishwasher. The interior of this house, other than a bathroom, which I also painted, has not been repainted in at least nine years, and I’m guessing it’s been closer to twelve, maybe fifteen. The baseboards and windowsills are beginning to peel. There are places on the floor that are becoming stained from what I can only assume is moisture under the house seeping into it. The carpet in the dining room was not new when I moved here, and needed replacing five years ago. The linoleum in the kitchen needed to be replaced before we ever moved in. It is permanently stained and scarred, has a hole and a tear, and never looks clean no matter how much it is mopped. The wallpaper in the kitchen (and laundry room) is peeling off the walls. Whomever painted the kitchen cabinets didn’t bother to wipe the grease off them first, so they also look perpetually dirty. All the fixtures on the sinks, tub and shower are original to the house, I’m sure, and this place was built in the 60’s. And that is just the beginning.

Imagine how much money he has saved by not having to paint or replace those things because I have lived here all this time. He has to repair certain items by law, but he does not have to make improvements, and believe me, he hasn’t made a single one. It would take many thousands of dollars to get this place in shape to rent it out again. You would think he would take that into consideration, but I don’t think it has crossed his mind because he’s too busy being a little prick.

I can completely understand his irritation with this situation. I can. That’s why when IO moved out, I took a check over for the rent and left it in his mailbox the day it was due (he wasn’t home). I meant to tell him what was going on and assured him that I intended to get a roommate, and from now on, the rent would be on time. I didn’t hear from him, so I assumed all was well.

Three days later, he pounded on the door. I was power cleaning the house, getting rid of all the crap IO left behind, but I asked him to come in. At least he would see I was making an effort. But he started out with attitude. He told me never to leave anything in his mailbox because the post office has the right to remove the item and destroy it. Then he said he doesn’t accept personal checks and wanted me to get cash for him. It was Saturday and the banks were closed. It would have to wait until Monday. Nothing I could do about that. I told him the situation, that IO had moved out and I was looking for a roommate. I wasn’t looking for sympathy,  just some damn decency. It’s a new game. Give me a chance to prove I can turn this thing around. But his attitude didn’t change. He said he had to approve any roommate I got, run a background check on them, and add them to the non-existent lease. In other words, let’s make this harder than it already is.

As a matter of fact, I had a roommate lined up. He was a Bruce Willis look-alike from Nashville, about to be transferred here by the restaurant chain for which he is a district manager. He said he might only be able to stay for six months, but I figured that gave me six months to find someone else.

I work nights, sleep days. On Monday, the landlord called and woke me up. He was going to be off work in a few minutes and wanted to make sure I had his money. I told him I would get up right then and go get it, and I did. Before I could get to the bank, he called two more times. “Did you get it yet? Did you get it  yet?” I told him when I had it in hand, that I would call him.

It was unbelievably hot that day, so I stopped at a convenience store for a giant-sized fountain drink, and to call. He wanted me to meet him somewhere, but I couldn’t understand where at first, because his phone reception was extremely poor, and he stutters. I had to ask him several times to repeat himself. I finally realized it was a church parking lot three blocks from my home (while I was about three blocks from his). Could he not have just come over?  The street the bank is on is extremely busy, and I usually avoid it at all cost. So I took a different street, which does not add any time to the trip (in fact, takes much less). When I arrived and turned into the parking lot, from which I could see heat vapor rising, my drink spilled…all over me, the seat, and the floor of my tiny suv. I probably hadn’t had three drinks from it. When I pulled up to where his truck was parked, he was standing there with his hands on his hips, waiting. I said, “Couldn’t find any place hotter to meet?” and it pissed him off.

He came at me, and said, “Now look, you can’t talk to me that way,” and …yadda yadda. I didn’t hear the rest because I just turned around and drove off. I wasn’t going to stand there and listen to him lecture me like a child. I’m colorful that way. I stopped on the way home to see about a house I’ve had my eye on for a while, and about a minute after I got here, he pounded on the door. I opened it and stuck my hand out because I knew he would be holding one kind of notice or another. It was an eviction notice. He started lecturing me again. He told me that in addition to the rent that I now owed him a late fee. I shut the door in his face. Then I sent an email to Bruce Willis because I knew he wouldn’t want to move into this situation and I couldn’t blame him. I was trying to do the right thing and give him as much notice as I could so that he could find something else if he wanted, and that’s what he did. Then I called and made an appointment with my lawyer because this is something my legal insurance will cover. This is the letter that was mailed to the landlord:

When I got home that morning, a new notice was on my door. The landlord intended to come in the next day and inspect the property: specifically, “the interior, plumbing, fixtures, electrical, flooring, ceilings, roof, and other features.” Fine. Bring it on. The place is so clean now he can eat off that stained floor. So at five the next day, I looked out the window, and what did I see? Two cop cars and a woman. His new girlfriend? A potential new tenant? I don’t know, but I am sick to death of having cop cars parked in front of my house. The landlord wasn’t visible because of the tree, but he was out there. I told them all to come on in. While the landlord pretended to examine the hot water heater, one of the cops whispered to me, “Has there been trouble before?” It took all of three minutes for him to make his inspection because I’ve got this place looking so good there was nothing he could say. It looks a hell of a lot better than his house. I stayed in the dining room and asked one of the cops to accompany him on his inspection. When they got to my bedroom, I heard the woman say, “Oooh, this is nice.” Yes, it is, so don’t get too attached to it honey, because for now, it’s still mine.

Before he left, he told me that the next day (yesterday) he would be filing a suit against me for the rent and late fee, and that now I could add court costs to it. I asked him if he received the letter from my attorney. He said no, he had not, and that he didn’t believe I had an attorney (even though they spoke on the phone while I was in his office). And then they all left.

The way I see it, I can give him the rent, which I still have in cash, but then I won’t have the money to move. Or I can use the money to move and he can wait for my payments to the court. So we’ll see how this plays out.

Advertisements