The Failed Grown Up Guide to Not Being a Colossal Douche

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I’ve been showing our house to prospective renters the last few days, Sunshine, and I feel there’s something I need to address. I know that finding a new place to live is hard, that renting a room in a house full of strangers is intimidating, that the people you move in with will have a very real and lasting impact on not only your stay in that place but your life in general.

Believe me, I get all of that.

Since I first decided to go back to school, I’ve moved all over this end of town. I’ve lived with good friends, acquaintances, ex-boyfriends, an ex-boyfriend AND a current boyfriend at the same time, and total strangers. It’s never exactly easy looking for a new place, moving in with new people, or learning to deal with the people you’re now living with.

That being said, no one needs to be a complete douche canoe when they’re looking at places. Just showing this place to prospective renters, I have seen more douchebaggery than most people will see in a dozen life times. There has been enough douche in this house to build a douche canoe, with matching douche paddles, to be floated down a douche stream to the Douche Rapids, over the majestic Grande Douche Falls,   where the douche rocks will obliterate it into a million douchey pieces.

That’s a metric shit-tonne of douche.

So here, for your very own reading pleasure, I give to you……

The Failed Grown Up Guide to Not Being a Colossal Douche

Step #1: Show the Fuck Up

I had three people scheduled to come here today to see rooms. Two showed up.

I had one person scheduled for yesterday. No one showed up.

I have lost count of the number of times we have had someone scheduled to come here to look at a room, and they just don’t bother showing up. And it’s not like we give them no options in contacting us. The landlord gives them his phone number, I Facebook message with them, we all email back and forth, I’ve even given my phone number to a few of them to text in case they’re running late (which I stopped doing after the random 3 am attempted sexts from dudes who saw the place).

Now, I have a job. The other people in this house who help me show it have jobs and/or school. We have busy fucking schedules.  None of us are just sitting around the house, waiting for people to saunter up at their leisure to peruse the joint.

Today, I woke up at 4am to go over the list of things I needed to do today. I was up by 6am when the boyfriend left for work. I showered, drew in my eyebrows, and then cleaned until 9:30am when I left for work.  I worked until 3pm. Had to pick up cat food and dish soap, so I skipped my break in order to run to the grocery store in our plaza. Power walked home with a backpack full of groceries to be here by 3:25. Put away groceries, changed, did a quick sweep of the floors and ran a dust cloth over the tables, and was sitting on the couch waiting for my 3:45 appointment.

They never showed up.

I busted my ass cleaning all morning, then busted my ass at work without a real break, just to bust my ass to get home and get right to the cleaning, all because some douche nozzle said he was showing up here at a certain time and he never fucking showed.

The people showing you a possible place to rent bust their asses off to make sure they are there to show it to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s some tiny bedroom in a shared apartment or a penthouse fucking suite: someone is taking time out of their day to show you that potential new home. Be there, be on time, and if you’re going to be late for the love of all things sacred PLEASE let them know!

Step #2: When you DO show up, show some basic fucking courtesies. 

I have had people show up here in the middle of a driving rain storm, soaked right to the damn bone. I offered towels to dry themselves off with and to throw their socks and shoes on the heating vent to dry off a bit while we toured the house. One guy refused the towel, refused to take off his shoes, and insisted that his three friends do the same. Instead, they thought it was perfectly acceptable to track mud and water through the house.

Of course, after they left I had to report back to the landlord. I’ve studied sociopaths and psychopaths for years, so he sees me as a pretty good judge of character. The first thing I mentioned was their total and utter disrespect for the place while viewing it. If you can’t be bothered to show some basic fucking respect while you’re just viewing the place as a potential tenant, then what are the chances of you respecting the place while you live here?

That dude emailed the landlord and said he’d like to take the place. The landlord said “thanks, but no thanks”.

The place you’re looking at isn’t the only thing being judged. Whoever is showing you that place is checking to see if you’re a fit for them, too. No landlord wants to rent out their spaces to people who are going to just fucking destroy them.  If someone can’t bother to take off their muddy fucking shoes, then what are the chances they’ll sweep or vacuum or mop EVER?

The house manager here for years used to rent rooms to a bunch of his friends and frat brothers. A lot of them were pretty cool and easy to get along with. The one dude who lived here when I moved in became a really great friend to me and used to call himself Uncle Sandwich to my kitten (he’d feed him meat from his designer sandwiches from the Italian grocer’s down the road). Most of the time, renting to people he knew worked out. One frat brother caused some serious issues when he moved out though.

You see, my bedroom is one of two that is carpeted. Fratty McFraterton lived in this room before me. Mr. Manager never bothered to ask him about the places he lived before, or talk to anyone he lived with outside the actual frat house. If he had, he would’ve known that this guy wasn’t exactly someone who cleaned up after himself. As it turned out, he didn’t vacuum his room once in the more than a year he lived here.

When I moved in, I vacuumed and sat down on the floor to organize my books a bit. And that’s when the hives started popping up. Because that damn carpet hadn’t been vacuumed in at least 13 months, dust and food had been ground into it and had to be cleaned out. Like, Mr. Manager had to go out and rent a carpet cleaner and we had to steam the entire fucking room. But the damage had already been done.  That summer and early fall, I spent 94 days covered in hives. 94 fucking days! I saw doctors and specialists, had my eyes swell shut, had to carry an EpiPen and even had hives on my butthole.

The Landlord caught wind of this. The fact that he let someone rent a room here (a damn nice room, for a damn good price, with AC and everything), and that person showed so much disrespect was just mind boggling. The carpet has been cleaned half a dozen times since I moved in, and it will never be the same colour it once was.  He doesn’t want more people coming in and destroying his house like that again.

So the first impression you make, the respect you show me or anyone showing you a prospective place, has a huge role in whether or not anyone wants you to live there.

Step 3: You’re a grown up. Fucking act like one!

It’s perfectly understandable that sometimes you can’t go visit a place on your own. Some people take a friend with them for safety reasons. Others come from out of town and have someone showing them around, or someone who volunteered to drive them. Some people need a health aid, or a translator, or have a parent or two with them to show them that they’re not moving into a crack den. And some people have just never moved out on their own before, and have someone along to make sure they ask all the right questions.  That’s all cool.

But it’s you who is looking to rent the place. You’re the one who would live there, you’re the one who needs info, and you’re the one being judged here.  Having your mommy come along to talk for you is just going to give us something to laugh about later.

Had a young man come here the other day to look at a room, with his mother in tow. Well, actually it was more like she was looking at the room while he tagged along. She made a big show of telling me how her Special Little Man was 25 and moving out on his own for the very first time. I swear, she talked about him the same I was I talk about my baby kitten, who is an Extra Special Very Good Boy sometimes. He was going to go to university and get a BA in Psychology, which would make him a Very Important Special Little Man who would have people just throwing jobs at him. He didn’t have time for silly things like cleaning and cooking, so we’d need to do that. He was going to have a degree, did I have any idea what kind of doors that would open for him?

I so wanted to say, “Yeah, it’ll open the fucking door to the liquor store where I work. I’ve got the same damn degree sweetheart, with a second honors degree on top of that. And I still manage to scrub my toilet and wipe the counters down after I use them.” But I put on my best Customer Service Face, smiled and just said,”Oh ya, ok” while I nodded my head over and over.

The Special Little Man barely spoke. He seemed like a nice enough guy, the total opposite of his mother. A little spoiled, but totally eager to get out from under his mother’s thumb and into the real world. If his mother wasn’t there, I never would’ve known he can barely cook, and had never done laundry, and wasn’t allowed to even use a broom at home because he had better things to focus on. I probably would’ve recommended him to the landlord, told him he seemed like a nice respectable guy.

As it is, that boy won’t be renting a room here. Especially after his mother announced she’d be here every other weekend “at the very least” to make sure we were “taking care of him”.

Step 4: Read the fucking ad!

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Our ads are pretty basic. It shows a few old pictures of the house, tells you the price of the rooms, you share common areas and a bathroom, and it’s a mature home; no loud parties, no selling anything illegal from the house, all utilities included except cable and the internet. It flat out says that you are renting a ROOM and that you will be SHARING a bathroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen with everyone else.  I come right out the second people walk through the door here, and I show them which areas are common areas.  That’s how people have always shown me apartments and homes in the past too.

The ad pretty much tells you what you’re paying for. You get a room all to yourself, with a lock and key and everything. You share a kitchen and living room with everyone. You share a bathroom with one or two other people. The landlord tells you that when you email him saying you want to see the house. I tell you that when you walk in the house to see the rooms.

But this is a small sample of the things I’ve still heard from prospective renters in the last year or so:

  • what do you mean I have to share a bathroom with someone?
  • can’t you just not rent out the room next to me, so I get the whole basement to myself?
  • I thought this room came with a private bathroom.
  • what do you mean I have to share a kitchen?
  • you mean it’s just a bedroom?
  • I thought I was going to be seeing a full apartment.

I think you get the picture.

The fucking ad has PICTURE of the HOUSE in it. It talks about the BEDROOMS for rent. It mentions all of the COMMON AREAS that you would be SHARING with other people if you lived here. It ain’t fucking rocket surgery to realize that this is a room available in a house.

And the last two steps combined bring me to our next step.

Step 5: It is what it is. You’re not getting any more out of it.

You pay for a room here. You cook for yourself, you clean for yourself, you take care of yourself, you even shop for yourself. You are a grown-ass person, who will do grown-ass things, and take care of their damn selves. We do not have maid service or a chef. I’m not here to take care of you. You are paying for a room, and that’s it.

Last week we had a fellow look at the rooms downstairs, and start asking about the maid service schedule. He asked about grocery services. He wanted to know who would be doing the cooking. When he was told that he had to do all of that himself like a Big Boy, he had the fucking gall to try and lowball the landlord for rent to make-up for what was “missing”. He wanted a $400 room for less than $200!

Remember the woman with the 25-year-old Special Little Man who was going to be so fucking important someday? She was fucking appalled that her Special Little Man would have to do things for himself. He was far too important to do things like feed himself, or wash a fucking dish. She seriously expected everyone in the house to chip in and hire a maid to come in and scrub the floors, do the laundry, wash the dishes, and scrub out the bathrooms three or four times a week. If we weren’t willing to do that, then she wanted a discount on the rent.

People come up with all sorts of crazy-ass demands when they come look at the place. I’ve had people try to demand we get a brand new BBQ because ours is old and used. I’ve had people demand no one keep things in the kitchen but them. People have wanted to have the entire basement or main floor to themselves, without paying to rent the other rooms there. They’ve wanted other people to cook for them, to clean for them, to do their grocery shopping, to be their private guide to the city. Hell, I even had one girl who lived here try to turn me into her personal stylist, even though I have ZERO sense of fucking style!

Unless an ad says something like, “Private maid cleaning/cook available for a price/ room and board, meals included”, don’t expect any of this shit. Your parents, or your last roommate, or your last partner may have done these things for you. But was anyone doing any of this for them? Nope, and it’s not getting done for you here either!

A Few Final Thoughts

If you go looking for a place to live, and you act like a total and complete douche, no one is going to want you to live there.

If you come here and start bragging about how smart you are, how your degree is going to mean people will be throwing jobs at you, no one here is going to be impressed.

If your mommy comes in here to tell me that you’re far too important and special to do anything for yourself, or you come in here demanding someone else do your cleaning for you, no one here is going to jump up and cater to your every fucking need and whim.

If your mother comes in here and refers to you by little names that sound like something I would call my kitten, the Most Precious And Perfect Fuzzy Little Baby Man,  I will do my best not to burst out laughing in your face. But that’s as far I’ll go for that.

Basically, if you come in here doing any of the douchey bullshit I’ve just warned you about, I am going to tell everyone about it. I’ll tell my boyfriend, our roommates, my coworkers, maybe even some of my favourite regular customers. And we’re not going to sit back and revel in your awesomeness. No, we’re going to laugh our fucking asses off, make fun of you, and try to figure out who in their right mind would actually want you as their roommate.

So don’t forget, Sunshine: don’t be a douche. Don’t let your friends be douches. Don’t try to out-douche other douches. Just be a fucking awesome person, like are right now.

 

Utilities Included……. To A Point

I would like to know on what planet the phrase “utilities included” means “the landlord will pay the utilities for you, and your friends, and their friends, and all your families……..”. Somehow, I keep getting these roommates who see “utilities included” as some sort of invitation for a free-for-all at our place, where everyone and anyone can do their laundry or crank the AC for free.

Now, out of all the places I’ve lived with roommates (both randoms and friends), I have had the landlord come talk to me about utility usage at every single place I’ve been in. And I’ve lived in a lot of places around here. Out of all of those places, there was only ONE that was a BS complaint. At my old apartment, the windows were drafts and leaked when it rained or snowed, there was no AC, and you could feel the heat leaking out the windows from outside. But it was my nightlight in the hallway that was using up too much power and making the energy bill go nuts.

At every single other place, the landlord had totally legitimate reasons to be pissed, and my roommates and I were completely in the wrong with what was going on in our place.

Every. Single. Other. Place.

Now, just so everyone out there is on the same page, no landlord is legally obliged to include your utilities (water, electricity, gas) in your monthly rent payment. Even if you sign a lease with them that says that utilities are included in your payment, there are legal ways for them to get out of that. Like…… say you totally take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to pay out of pocket for utilities and start using ALL THE POWER POSSIBLE!!!! There are safeguards out there for landlords to protect them from situations like this, so they don’t wind up with $700 electricity bills for a 2 bedroom house that brings in $850 a month in rent.  Depending on the local laws in your area, landlords may be to change your lease (lower your rent but make you put utilities in your own name), evict you, or increase your rent to make up for their losses.

So how do you know if you’re abusing your “utilities included” agreement? Here’s what some of my roommates did:

  1. My first place in University was a house near campus with a bunch of friends and cats and ferrets. I don’t think that place ever had real, natural air flowing through it unless I opened up my bedroom window or sat up in the attic window. There was always either AC or heat blasting. And I’m not talking, “Well, it 100 degrees in the shade,  better turn on the AC to cool the place down” like a responsible person does. No, my roommate would CRANK that AC anytime she wanted. I can remember coming home from the beach on a 90-degree day. She plopped herself down on the couch to cool off after setting the AC to 50 FREAKING DEGREES!!!! And she would do this all the freaking time!  I’m surprised we didn’t burn out the AC at some point. I only lasted 2 years there, while a few of them lasted 4 in that house. By the time they moved out, the landlord was begging them to try and conserve energy, even just a little bit.
  2. I have had multiple roommates try this one, but the worst was at my last place before where I am living now. We had in-house laundry facilities. Logically, this was so the people who paid rent to live in that house could do their own laundry there. One roommate (the one who threw away all my veggies so he could fill the shared fridge with meat) decided that the laundry room was open to ANYONE. His friends would come over and do a few loads. He’d have a small party in his room and everyone would bring laundry to throw in while they drink. He would do a load of three shirts and a sock if he felt like it. I can remember waiting for days to do laundry because he’d monopolize the washer and dryer for days on end. At one point, he and two friends slept in shifts for three days so they could do laundry 24/7.  Do you have any idea how much energy laundry takes?
  3. Right now, I live with grown-ass adults who have no idea how to adult. I AM THE ADULT HERE! If I didn’t lay down the law around here (or have the landlord email everyone with new rules to follow, giving me authority over certain things), they’d just do what they want when they want. Landlord messaged me to say the energy bill was almost $90 higher than it should have been a few months ago. Now, we have ‘peak hour billing’ here, which means the energy costs vary throughout the day. It’s always been a rule here that no one does laundry before 7 pm unless it’s a weekend or holiday. Same goes for running the dishwasher (which we never use anyway). We also have to be careful with the AC.  These grown-ass adults didn’t care though. They’d do laundry all day, crank the AC so upstairs was nice and cold, and the basement was freezing. Then they’d run space heaters in the basement. Instead of using the kitchen to cook, they got spare mini-fridges and hot plates and microwaves and cooked in their rooms. I once came home a little after 1 pm to find the dishwasher running for 2 plates, 2 cups, and a frying pan.

In every single instance here, the landlord had to contact us and say, “look, either you be a little more responsible with your energy use, or I’m going to have to take the ‘utilities included’ clause out of your rental agreement”. So in a alot of these cases, it’s one person ruining things for an entire house full of people. Do you really want to be that one person who pisses off a bunch of people and causes them severe financial harm, especially when they know exactly where you live?

 

There’s Lots of Things You NEED to Keep

Sometimes I like to mentally remodel the house I’m sharing with all these random roommates, and imagine it’s a house all of my own just for me. I’d move into the front bedroom, and tear down the wall between that and our office to turn the office into a giant walk-in closet. Then the room we’re using as our bedroom could be my office, where I’d have a wall of bookcases and a bunch of filing cabinets. And it’s the filing cabinets that really excite me.

Yes, I know how strange that sounds. My life is pretty sad at times.

But I keep finding out that there are things in life that you just NEED to keep, and I’m running out of room in my DollarTree accordion file folder for it all.

Some things are pretty straight-forward. I mean, you know you should be keeping your tax returns, right? Other things, I’m learning as I go. I mean, do you have a file on each of your past jobs? I know I sure as hell don’t (even though I definitely know that I should. I am still a procrastinating little turd when it comes to this). I know I should be keeping files on a whole lot of things, like my mother does. She is the only person I know who has a file marked “Cheques from Nigerian Princes” in her cabinet, and it actually has multiple cheques from email scammers who said they were Nigerian Princes.

I don’t think I need a Nigerian Prince folder though.

So what do I need? Probably the same things you need”

  1. Taxes. This isn’t just a file folder of your tax returns, either. You should have multiple files (those accordion file folders at dollar stores are great for this), with a file for each year. That includes this year. Use this to keep track of documents, receipts, emails, whatever else you need for your next tax return. And keep this stuff. Most tax preparers suggest keeping your tax documents for 7 years, in case you’re ever audited.
  2. Leases, rental agreements, mortgage papers. Anything that deals with you paying money in order to live somewhere. Keep all your papers, even after you  move, for a few extra years. You never know when you’ll have a dispute over some ancient crap with an old landlord, you need an example of a document to go off of, or you need to teach someone how to read  one (which I’ll go over for you another day).
  3. Jobs. Ideally, you need a separate file for each job. You need to keep track of your start date, your end date, the dates of any promotions, awards, or serious goals reached. Keep track of your managers, their managers, close co-workers, co-workers you had to work closely with, and all of their contact info. Keep track of salary, raises, bonuses, and any sort of performance-based prizes you won. And do this for everything, every job you have, every volunteer position you take, everything.
  4. Ok, you know all that detailed and useless sounding crap I made you keep for each job. You’re going to need that for everything. Keep track of every address you live at, how much you pay at each place, who your landlord is and how to contact them. Keep track of roommates and when they move in/out. Keep track of your moving dates, lease signing dates, and any changes to your lease. Track any issues you have with each place that the landlord should take care of, that you have to take care of, that involve calling the police because some random-ass kids decided to draw penises all over your house and lawn furniture and dig holes in the yard on your 30th birthday.Track ALL of it!
  5. You probably have bills. Phone bills, car bills, hydro bills, electricity bills, tuition bills. Keep them. Keep your tuition bills until you’re waaaay graduated and everything is paid off. Keep your monthly bills for a good 6 months, in case of any disputes. Keep annual-ish bills like your property tax bill for 7 years, just like your taxes.
  6. All those important papers that you look at and think, “Well, I’ll probably need this again some day. I’d better put it somewhere I can find it”. I keep Bowser-kitten’s vet papers and shots records in a file. The warranty on my mattress is filed. Paperwork from work about pensions and work pay-scales are filed. If it’s important and you think you could ever possibly someday need it again, make a file for it.

I know, this seems like a lot. But you have no idea how hard it is to find this info when you are looking for it and it isn’t right there at your fingertips.

For example, I had to go through a really super-intensive background check for a job I had applied for and went through hell trying to qualify for. *spoiler alert: I didn’t get it* After three interviews, a typing test, spelling and grammar test, math test, TWO psychological exams, and a medical physical, I had to have a private investigator go through my entire life and check out every little detail. I had to give the addresses for every single place I lived at for the last 15 years, every job (both paid and voluntary) I’ve held in the last 15 years including managers names and contact info, 4 professional references and 4 personal references, and the names, addresses, phone numbers, and birth dates of every person in my immediate family. And I had 72 hours to get all of this together. Now, if you’ve worked the same job for 15 years and never moved, then it would be easy for you to get this together. In just the 5 1/2 years I was in university, I had 6 different addresses (if you count my parent’s place and that place I hadn’t even unpacked at yet before they kicked us out so their kids could move in instead). In one semester, I volunteered at 8 different organizations and dozens of events, and held down two on-campus jobs each year. And that’s just 5 1/2 years of the 15 years they needed! Now, if I had a freakin file on all of this crap, then I could’ve just copied out the info I needed and been done with it. Instead, I was basically awake for 72 hours calling family members, friends, and old co-workers to try and get the info I needed.

I know, it’s not fun or glamorous to sit around and put together files. Start slowly though. Gather up the things you need to file and throw them in a big box together. Sort through things, organize them a bit. Then, little by little, start filing them away so you know where everything is.

 

Well Sunshine, that’s all for today. It’s July 1st, which is Canada Day here. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and I are getting ready to head over to my friend’s old frat for a BBQ and drinks. Found out last night from AAB that the guy living on the main floor with us is apparently moving out mid-way through the month, which means he and his girlfriend won’t be around anymore. One guy from the basement wants to move up here, so we’ll have a room for rent down there soon. And once this guy moves out, I can see how many freaking suitcases he actually has stored downstairs! I counted 9 huge suitcases (big enough for AAB to fit into each and every one of them) just thrown into our “storage area” down there. It’s a damn disaster. Once I get a little time off work (today is my first day off in 30 days!) I’ll have to clean things up a bit down there.

Enjoy your weekend, Sunshine!

Updates: Even MORE Roommates From Hell!

Good morning Sunshine!

It’s 9:30am here. I’m working tonight from 4:15-9:15pm (weird shift, I know. But I take what I can get), and have been up since around 4am. Hooray for coffee! I didn’t get to bed until around 11pm last night, and the new roommates were in the kitchen LOUDLY cooking until around midnight, making it hard to sleep.

That’s right new roommates!

So for those of you new to my scene, here’s a quick recap of my living situation:

My ex-boyfriend and I lived in this house together for years (even after we broke up) with a few friends and a few random people. His parents own the house. He moved out, and Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend moved in over the summer. It’s a 5 bedroom house, with the two of us using up two of those bedrooms (one for our bedroom, and the other for our office/hidey-hole snuggle cave). The landlord/my ex-boyfriend’s father puts ads on Kijiji to rent out the other rooms. For months we only had Downstairs Gal living here (a MA. Social Work student with a husband and kid living a few hours north of here), and she leaves to move back home the middle of next month. Oh, and her husband is staying with us for most of this month, too.

We’ve been showing the house to people for months, and randomly two guys moved in over the weekend. Downstairs Man is only here for two months, and is on contract for his job for that time. Upstairs Man is a student (I think), or a recent grad (possibly), who is studying for a test that he’s taking soon (maybe?) or in like 18 months (no clue). Oh, and his girlfriend is a student, lives nearby, and is over often.

Ok, so that’s a big and sudden adjustment to make (did I mention we didn’t actually KNOW that these guys were moving in? Landlord forgot to pass that message on to us). But I’m used to this…..kinda. I mean, I’ve been living with random people for close to a decade now. I mainly hole-up in my room, hermit at the computer while I job hunt, write, and watch Netflix, and then I go to work. I talk to the roommates when we’re in the same room, like when we are both making dinner or grabbing snacks. But it’s not like I’m poking my nose into their business all the time.

Well, this is the beginning of Day 4 of our new living arrangement here, and people are already close to murder. DG likes to park her car in the middle of our driveway, leaving no room for anyone else. If someone else is parked in the big 4 car driveway, no matter how much room they leave her, she goes and spends 10 minutes trying to parallel park on the street, and then comes up to the house to demand they move their car so she can park. This wasn’t a big problem until UM moved in, and his girlfriend started parking here while she visits.

Now, this is all secondhand information since I was at work when this happened, but AABoyfriend and Awesome Neighourhood Mama both told me pretty much the same version of events:

DG had her car parked in the driveway, and was sitting in it, like she was looking for something she had left in there. UM’s girlfriend showed up and parked behind her. While she was in her parked car, she took off her seatbelt and started gathering up her books and purse and such to come in the house. Suddenly, DG turned on the car, threw it into reverse, and slammed on the gas before quickly hitting the break. She stopped less than an inch from UMG’s front bumper. UMG didn’t even get out of the car. She backed out, went around the corner, and parked in the street. She was so shaken by this woman almost slamming into the front of her car, that she didn’t want to come in the house. In fact, she didn’t come in the house until DG had left. After that, AABoyfriend and his Totally Awesome Co-Worker helped UMG park her car on the far side of the driveway, where DG SHOULD have been parking all this time.

As our Awesome Neighbourhood Mama said: “Shit, home girl needs to learn pull up. If she don’t move her car, I’ll come out and move HER!”

This is not the first, nor will it be the last, incident here involving driving. DG has pissed off the neighbours all around us by parallel parking in front of their driveways. UMG is over daily, too, giving those two plenty of time to clash.

And not all of our problems are limited to the driveway. We are each given one cupboard to use for our food. AAB and I have cupboard connected to each other, since we share all our food. DG is supposed to be sharing a double cupboard with one of the new guys, but seems to be refusing. She insists that she NEEDS the extra space since her husband is living her (rent free) and she needs to cook for him. She refuses to let a paying tenant use the space he’s paying for, so that she can have extra space. So I’ve been cleaning out cupboards, re-arranging spaces, trying to find space for everyone.

And everyone cooks ALL THE DAMN TIME! It doesn’t matter if it’s 4am or 4pm, there is someone in the damn kitchen cooking something. The whole house reeks of curry, cloves, burnt toast, and fish. I have no clue what all these people are cooking, or why anyone would need curried clove fish on burnt toast at 4am, but it’s driving me nuts. The smell is so strong that I got a headache the second I opened the bedroom door this morning. And no one cooks quietly, either. They have to blast their music, clang all the pots and pans, turn on the fan and all the lights, and talk on the phone ALL at the same time. I had no idea one could very loudly make a ham sandwich, but I’ve learned that is entirely possible.

I’m not looking forward to the Thermostat Wars that have already begun heating up (and yes, pun TOTALLY intended). DM thinks the house is too warm…… in the basement, which is usually cold. UM thinks the house is freezing, in the room with the most natural light and heat. One wants the thermostat set at 60, the other at 75. I came to a compromise at 69……… and have to constantly keep checking to make sure no one has touched it. I feel like the dad from all the termostat dad memes. I awoke from a dead sleep the night before last just because the room felt a little too warm and I needed to make sure no one had touched the thermostat (they did, it was at like 75).

The worst part of all of this is that this is reeking havoc on my anxiety. It feels like there are walls around my heart and they’re closing in, while my head just keeps spinning. Between that feeling and all the noise and temperature stuff, I’m barely sleeping. I can feel panic setting in, but the attacks just don’t come. I stocked up on my easy comfort foods (sandwich fixins, soup, bagged salad), and made a cleaning list to work on (to occupy my mind and body a bit), but even thinking of that stuff right now makes me want to vomit. AAB and I are already putting plans in place to start saving up to get out of here, but between both of our consumer debt and my student loans it’s hard in an area where credit checks for shitty apartments are the norm. Thinking about that makes the anxiety worse, but not thinking about it just gives me no way out of here………. yeah, I can see a breakdown coming on before the end of the year.

So Sunshine, I’m going more than a little nuts here. Hopefully this whole hermit-dom thing I’ve been doing will mean more time on here. I keep writing down post ideas, but never get around to them. And with this being NaNoWriMo, I’m usually more motivated to write anyway.

Reading and Understanding Your Lease

A lease is a legal document. Legal document. That means that once you sign it, you are bound by it. So you would think people would read through these things before they sign them, wouldn’t you?

After getting burned by a bad lease once (they sold the house out from under us and forced us to move out with less than one month’s notice, which was perfectly allowable under a clause in the lease), I’m a little pushy when it comes to leases. I think everyone should not only read through their, but have to read through it with their landlord there to answer any questions or concerns. You need to make sure you understand what it is you’re signing, before you go ahead and sign it.

Now, before we get into specifics of your lease, there is one thing you need to know above everything else: you need a copy of your lease. No, I’m not being a smart-ass here. I mean after you read through it and decide to sign it, you legally have to be given a copy of your lease for your own personal records. And you damn well better keep that thing, too! You may need it if things go sour.

Finances: Your Basics

There are a few things you absolutely need to have included in your lease, such as how much you are responsible for paying each month, and when you move in. Most places will have you give them a security deposit, which is usually equal to one month’s rent. Legally, if the place is in good repair when you move out, you get this back. It should state all of that right in the lease.

Now, what you pay each month should be in there. What is your monthly rent? Does it include utilities? Right now, I’m lucky with the lease I have. I am renting a room in a house (currently have 3 other roommates, with room for one more). For around $400 a month, I get my room, all my utilities paid for, basic cable, unlimited internet, on-site laundry, on-site parking, a backyard, and some of the furniture here is also included.  Most places are not this amazingly great, though. Always check your lease to see what, if any, utilities are included in your lease. You may have to pay for your own internet, or electricity, or for all your utilities separately.

Also, you need to know any and all penalties in the lease. Some landlords throw in a charge for bounced checks, late payments, damages above and beyond the security deposit, or other such things. I knew one person whose roommate got hit with a heavy fine for smoking in his room, when the lease clearly said there was to be no smoking in the house.

Length

So just how long is this lease for? In college and university areas, many landlords have an 8 month option and a 12 month option. If you’re only going to be around during the regular school year, make sure you’re not signing a 12 month lease! Even if you move off site before the lease is done, you are responsible for the payments.

You should also see if the lease mentions what happens after the lease is up. Some landlords make you sign a new lease for a full term. I’ve known others who automatically transition the lease to a month-by-month lease, meaning you can move out any time you want with only one full month’s notice.  Know which one your landlord requires, in case you like the place enough to stay there multiple terms.

Boundaries

This is one part of the lease a lot of people don’t pay enough attention to. After getting burned by our previous landlord, my then-roommate and I made sure to go through our lease with a fine toothed comb. There were some things in there that made me laugh, which apparently had to be included after bad experiences with former tenants. No storing tanks of butaine, propane, or any other highly explosive or flammable gases in the apartment. No waterbeds. No keeping of fireworks on site. No creating compost piles in the livingroom. I shudder to think of the reasons why they had these rules!

There were also a few things in there that were really, really important to know. If we wanted to leave before our lease was up, we were not allowed to sublet the apartment to anyone else, and would be held responsible for all payments. We were not allowed to have any pets at all, not even a goldfish in a bowl. There was even a clause about the number and frequency of overnight guests (which is a long story you will probably hear about involving our upstairs neighbour and the grow-op).

When Things Go Wrong

Sometimes, things go wrong. Pipes clog. Stoves catch on fire. Homes get vandalized or broken into. I can remember a few years back, on my damn birthday, I was living in a basement room in a house. I could hear something hitting the back window, and young voices outside. It turned out to be two local teens (15 years old), who decided to draw all over the back of the house with a giant Sharpie and dig random holes in the backyard. I called the police, and listened while the boys were questioned (“Why were you drawing on the house?” “Duh, we were bored. And like, we didn’t know people live here.” “What about the car in the driveway, and the for rent signs, and the lights on in the house?” “We didn’t see any of that. Can’t we just go?” It was comedy gold). Afterwards, I had to contact the landlord. Thankfully, it said right in our lease what to do if something like this happened, since our landlord lived a few hours away. I took pictures of the damages (why do young boys like to draw dicks on everything?), and sent an email to the landlord, telling her what happened, showing her the pictures, and giving her the information from the police that I was asked to pass along. We were able to get the house cleaned up and everything taken care of in a matter of days.

Your landlord should include some sort of contact information in your lease. In larger apartment buildings or dorms, you might have on-site management who can take care of things right away. In other situations, you may have to make a few phone calls or send a few emails. Either way, how to take care of things like this should be in your lease.

Now that you know all of this, go take a quick read-through of your current lease, if you have one (and you kept a copy of it). And the next time you rent or lease some place new, you’ll know a little of what to look for in that document.

Things to Look For/Do When Looking to Rent, Pt.2

Last night, I went over some of the things you should be doing before you start actually checking out places to rent. Once you’ve gone through all of that, you can start actually going on walk-throughs of rooms/houses/apartments. When I started doing this years ago, I basically just walked into the place, checked to see if the walls were still standing and the windows were intacts. I, admittedly, did not do any of these things.

I also have a long list of horror stories about my past living arrangements. Someday, I’ll tell you about the night I had to call the cops and guard my apartment door with a giant butcher knife because some drunk guy was puking in the stairwell and trying to kick in my upstairs neighbours’ door. Yes, it’s something funny to tell now, but it was not fun then. And most of the things that I came across in those places, while they make for great stories now, were just hell to live through in their own little ways.

So, here’s a few things you can do to try and find the best quality place for your money.

FROM THE OUTSIDE

First, take a look at the property itself. Is it well maintained? Are the neighbouring properties maintained? What is the parking situation like? You can tell a lot about a place from the first impression you get before you walk in the door. A well maintained property outside means that the owners are more likely to maintain the inside as well. If the grass is overgrown, there’s weeds everywhere, the bricks are cracked and pieces are falling into the parking lot, and the windows are all cracked, they really don’t care about the place. These may be the types of landlords who will wait months to fix leaky pipes, or a leaky roof, or busted appliances.

Also, are the neighbouring properties looking the same? If all the buildings in the area are looking a mess, then maybe this isn’t the best place to be moving into. If no one cares, then there might be worse problems they have to deal with than long grass and weeds, like crime or neglect.

Parking is another thing you should be looking at. I got rid of my car the beginning of my second year of university, and have just never replaced it. So when I looked at places, the parking situation wasn’t high on my list of priorities. Even if you don’t drive, though, your friends and family might. You should know the parking rules for the area, whether it’s a parking lot or street parking. Some areas only allow street parking with a permit. Other places are strictly parking meters. Some lots only allow a certain number of visitor parking spots, or will not allow visitors to park in a resident’s spot (even if that resident has no car). It’s best to know what the situation is before you decide to go signing any documents.

FROM THE INSIDE

Once inside, you need to get your sleuth on. First,,,,,,,check for obvious signs of damage and neglect. This includes mould, cracks in the walls and floor, stains, water marks on the ceiling, peeling wallpaper or paint, peeling floor tiles, burn marks, rodent droppings, bugs, and random people who have taken up residence in a vacant apartment (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it). If a landlord can’t even cover up the bloodstains on the wall from the previous tenant (knife accident in the kitchen, blood sprayed the wall, I later found out), then they’re probably not going to come take care of the roaches or mice or mould you find later.

Next, you’ll want to start looking for the electrical outlets. Make sure there are a bunch of them, and they are conveniently placed. I’ll never forget the apartment that had more than half a dozen plugs in the hallway, but not a single one in the bathroom. Make sure every room has outlets, and make sure they work. It’s best to bring along a cheap night-light (you can get them at the dollar store), and use it to check each and every outlet you can find. You would be amazed at how many non-working outlets my old apartment had (hint: it was more than half of them in the whole place!).

Next, go take a look at the windows. Check for signs of damage (water damage, warping, peeling wood, mould) and, if possible, feel for drafts coming in from outside. In the summer, this may be pretty damn hard to do, but those signs of damage can usually indicate some sort of draft. Next, see if the windows open. I once had a place that had no A/C, in probably the most humid city in Canada, and most of the windows were painted shut. I could not sleep in my bedroom, and instead had to sleep on an old broken loveseat in the livingroom under one of the few working windows.

Now, you’ll need to start opening things. Check in the kitchen and bathroom cupboards for anything wonky. Often times, landlords will put the roach and ant traps there, so they’re effective but not obvious to potential renters. You’ll also be looking for signs of damage. A landlord may replace the cupboard doors after a kitchen fire, but won’t repair the damage inside the cupboards. Also, doors that fall off them you try to open them are a huge red flag.

Closets are the next check. Open all the closets, not just to check the size (but definitely DO check the size). Again, landlords may neglect to fix or cover-up the damage in these areas, and would just close the doors instead. Also, make sure the closets are as big as they seem. My current closet looked pretty darn big when I first looked at this room. I can’t possibly fir all my clothes in there (and I’m not a huge clothes-horse or anything) and have to have two dressers to keep most of it in. The problem here is with the set-up of the space. You’ll want to check the rods and hooks (which are oddly placed in mine, giving me less space to work with), and look at any shelving. Also, if it’s a large closet, check for lighting. And if the ceiling is high, check out the top corners with a flashlight. This is where bugs will sometimes hide, and it’s best to catch them early.

And finally, talk to the landlord about the appliances in the apartment. Here in my area, appliances are usually included with the place. I’ve seen times when this is not the case though (Jenna Marbles talked about having to buy her kitchen and laundry room appliances in her last newest HouseTour vlog). If they are included, make sure they work. Like, the whole appliance. I’ve seen fridge/freezer combos with only a working freezer, stoves with only one working burner, and dryers that take three full drying cycles to dry a small load. Ask the landlord about all the appliances, and check them personally whenever possible.

ON THE WAY OUT

After you’ve taken your tour of the place, see if there are any neighbours around you can talk to. I don’t mean go knocking on people’s doors trying to talk to them. Maybe walk around the immediate neighbourhood a little bit, see if anyone is outside. Introduce yourself, tell them you’re thinking of renting in the area, and see what they have to see about it. Not only will this give you a bit of an idea of what the area is like, but it also means you’ll know a few neighbour if you choose to take the place.

So these are just some of the things you should be doing when looking at a place to rent.  While it’s not an exhaustive list, it’s the things I most regret not doing before moving into some of the places I’ve lived. There are a tonne more lists and resources out there for anyone who feels like playing with the Googles. One great resource I found was the blog How To Grow The Fuck Up. They have a four part series on how to rent an apartment, but this post here has a great list of things to look into when you’re doing your walk-throughs and tours.

So, I hope this helps a bit. See you all again tomorrow, Sunshine!