It’s no news flash to anyone that the relationship between landlords and tenants is tenuous at best. Stories abound about absentee landlords and property-destructing, late-rent-paying tennants. I’ve been on both sides of this seemingly necessary but antagonistic situation, and let me tell you, as a conscientious tenant, I never suffered a moment’s problem with a landlord. Some of this might have been luck, but more of it was my screening process. I knew that the lowest rent might not be the best deal in the long run, and I knew the current state of the property was the best indicator of the future state of it – cuz there isn’t a landlord alive who will suddenly become attentive if he/she isn’t already.
So let me tell you about my current experience as a landlord. Currently, there is a family living my three/four bedroom Victorian house. Two parents and four kids; three of them very young. While most utilities can be put into a tenant’s name, the water/sewer bill cannot, leaving a property owner wide open for any bill-dodging a tenant might choose. To protect yourself, you have to call the city water department and ask them to mail you a copy of the monthly statement and insist they shut off the fricking water if the bill doesn’t get paid. Because otherwise, those blood-sucking beauracrats know they’ll get the money out of someone (ie. the property owner) and will allow that sucker go through the proverbial roof. They really don’t care.
Last month’s bill arrives, and as usual with these things, the billing statement is through the 14th of the month, but the bill itself doesn’t go out until approximately three weeks later (so the bill was Apr 15 – May 14 but was printed on June 7). It’s high – very high. As in double what it should be. I call the tenant, but instead of speaking with the female half of the couple, I get the male. I say, “Hey the water bill is high – everything okay? Any leaks?” The male says, “(her name deleted) isn’t here. I’ll have her call you.”
Predictably, this never happens.
Two weeks pass.
Then a phone call from the female half of my tenant family. “I think the water heater is leaking.” Hm, yes, this could explain the monster water bill.
The water heater is replaced. While I can’t give you the exact date, I know it was near enough to the end of the month that I inquired about the rent, was given a check and asked to “hold it til Monday”. I was slightly annoyed at this, considering Monday was technically the 3rd and the rent is due on 1st, but I let it pass.
(I swear to a higher power that tenants think landlords own their rental properties outright and don’t have mortgage payments to make on them so it’s perfectly acceptable to turn in rent whenever the hell they want – but that’s another story altogether)
Today the water bill arrives, covering the period from May 15 – June 14. And not surprisingly, it’s again ridiculously high. Worse, my damn tenants have paid NOTHING on the prior month’s bill. Instead of having one bill double what they expected, now they have TWO.
I pick up the phone, inquiring about this mounting debt (debt I will be stuck with, need I remind you, if they don’t get their act together), and her reply to me is “This month is really high too” which then launches into a “When we lived on (insert road name here) the bill was only (amount – yeah the normal amount they were paying before the water heater decided to leak and die!).” Oh, and the capper – “(male half) is pretty upset about it.”
I don’t know about you, but that sounded suspicously like somehow in their warped little world, this water bill situation is MY fault. Let’s run through it, shall we?
1. First high water bill. Shoulda been a clue. Was to me, which is why I called. Man obviously didn’t check the house for leaks, nor did he pass message on to woman. Or if he did, she blew it off as well because she never called us back.
2. Dying water tank is fixed, except the damage to next water bill is already done. Perhaps if you had taken the first big ass bill as a hint, you wouldn’t have –
3. The second painful water bill. And that one still doesn’t begin to cover the time period AFTER the water heater was replaced. Know what that means???
4. There’s gonna be a THIRD higher than normal water bill. Won’t be as crushing as the other two, because the problem has been resolved, but there is still the matter of almost two weeks of leak, and then the actual filling of the new tank.
Tomorrow I get the joy of calling the city water department where I will undoubtably run into someone about as competant as my tenants have proven themselves to be to clarify their procedure of threatening to shut off the damn water if the balance is not paid. Then what I should do (but might not, depending on my state of mind) is call the woman and explain to her in great detail why the damn bill is so high and how the next one won’t be much consolation. How is it that I have become a surrogate Mother to folks that have children????
I truly don’t understand how people like this function in the world. Taking care of your responsibilities is something you learn as you age and mature, gradually easing into the complex world of adulthood and budgeting. The fact that these tenants (and they are not the first I’ve had with this affliction) can’t seem to problem solve or comprehend the concept of action = consequence is truly baffling. And scary considering they have bred. If their functioning is so low, this doesn’t bode well for their offspring. Not to mention how splendidly it’s working out for me.
So think about that next time someone bitches to you about their landlord. Most situations are a matter of perspective.
As an aside, these are the same people who had a friend come over and hook up their washer and dryer. They literally let a washer and dryer sit in the basement for almost a month waiting for this guy to complete what is a fifteen minute job. They never tried themselves and when I asked the female half if the dryer was gas (versus electric; there’s a gas dryer hook-up on that property), she had no idea. She BOUGHT a washer and dryer and DIDNT KNOW if it was gas. She probably didn’t know there was a difference between an electric and gas dryer. AND the guy who hooked it up was being crabby and actually said to her, “Can’t you get your landlord to come over and hook it up?” The answer to that is two-fold: yes, I’m capable of hooking it up but NO I’m not going to. Not my appliances and not my problem. eesh.