One of my favorite subscribers sent me the following story about her first experience as a renter. Anneliese is a Chicago native currently living in Minnesota with her nice husband. She reads ChicagoNow when she's homesick or just to keep up with what's going on in her city. We both agree that while what happened to her was awful, it's a darn interesting story! Anneliese tells it very well. Here's her first rental experience as a college student in her own words:
"My first apartment was in Iowa, when I was in college. Me and three friends moved into this converted loft space that used to be an armory. "Converted" is a nice way of putting it.... According to a local, "those apartments were slapped together in the 70's by a bunch of drunk hippies using scraps from the town dump." It was true. Railings were falling off, stairs were uneven, no fixtures matched anything, and there were no windows (in any of the bedrooms, or the kitchen). The apartments were over a Mexican restaurant that had no ventilation, so everything smelled like fried tortillas. Also, it was beastly hot in the summer. But hey, rent was only $600 total for four kids, so it seemed like a steal of a deal!
According to a local, "those apartments were slapped together in the 70's by a bunch of drunk hippies using scraps from the town dump."...The apartments were over a Mexican restaurant that had no ventilation, so everything smelled like fried tortillas.
During the flooding of 2008, the entire basement of the building flooded and filled our plumbing with sewer water. It never really got fixed, so we took showers at friends places for the rest of the year. (College kids! They put up with anything!) what we didn't know was that the building had become condemned, and our landlords mortgage, much like our basement, was under water. During our last four months there, we were visited by some chick named "Shelly". She had keys to our apartments, and told us she was the new owner, so all checks needed to be made out to her, at her home address, rather than to the previous landlord. She was really mean about Late fees, so we sent off our money post haste.
A couple of months later and I got a letter in the mail saying that me and my roommates were being served with an unlawful detainer for non payment of rent. We were completely flummoxed and scared - we had been sending our checks to Shelly, and had the cancelled checks to prove it! Luckily my dad pulled a few strings for us, and introduced us to one of the town lawyers (friend of a friend from college). We all trooped into his office with glum faces, and this was where the finale of the story occurred.
Our former landlord was apparently not making any mortgage payments on his nasty, condemned building. After the flooding, he decided that it wasn't worth fixing, and stopped paying money on it. The bank then took over the building, and was supposed to be collecting the rent money , since there were still over 20 tenants in the building. The old owner gave the keys to his friend "Shelly" and told her to pose as the new landlord. He then had tenants pay money over to "Shelly" which he then pocketed, instead of giving it to the bank. The former owner had already scarpered off to Colorado to avoid extradition.
After telling all this to us, the lawyer took our cashed checks as evidence, concluded we were too stupid to know any better, and sent us on our way. He did tell us to make our last months check payable to the bank. We never got our deposit back.
The building was eventually sold to a fancy developer, and it was put on the national register of historic places. Apparently it has been completely fixed up and the new spaces inside are gorgeous. Oh, and no more sewer showers. Pretty good for a first apartment!"
Thanks for sharing, Anneliese! Sorry you had to go through that awful situation. Guys like this give landlords a bad name. Renters and landlords should be aware that certain laws were enacted after the housing crisis in 2008 to protect renters of properties that have been foreclosed. Click this link to see what the laws are in your state and when they expire. (Here is an example of the California law which requires landlords to notify tenants if they're facing foreclosure.)
What's your crazy renting story? Post your comments below or email me at email@example.com
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