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?

 

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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!

Do What You Love and…….. Starve?

Sound pretty shitty, doesn’t it?

For years growing up, I was told that if I do what I love, then money would follow. The thing is, people didn’t seem to care what I actually loved. What did I love way back in high school? I loved writing, and reading. Even once I finally went back to University (almost a decade later), marking papers and reading student works were the only things I loved more than writing papers.

Who the hell can make a career out of any of that though?

Turns out, plenty of people. When I was told to “do what I love”, people assumed that just meant me sitting in a room, writing. I would be a writer, first and foremost.

But there is so much more to all of this than just writing.

I could have been an editor, or a professor, or a ESL teacher. I would have been happy researching for a company, or a lawyer, or a researcher. I could have become a private tutor, helping students with their academic writing.

None of this was made known to me, way back in high school, before we really knew how to use this whole Internet thing. Back in the days of dial-up, you didn’t have The Googles (as mum calls it) to search for “careers in writing”, or “what can I do with an English degree”. Nope, we had bare-bones web surfing back then: GeoCities for making web pages dedicated to hot celebrities; IRC chat rooms; AIM or ICQ for instant messages; and Hotmail for our email. That’s it. Somewhere out there was porn, but we couldn’t access it at school (believe me, we tried).

Point is, all I ever knew was that I loved to read and write. I still do. I’m broke as all hell, and I just ordered three new(er) books from Chapters this week (damn you Celia Rivenbark for having a book out there that I don’t own!!!!). I was always told that I would be a writer, and needed a career to fall back on.

Well that’s a crock of shit if I ever heard one.

Yes, things are rough out there. Believe me, I know that as well as anyone. I live in the unemployment capital of Canada, where getting 9 hours a week is considered “gainfully employed” to make statistics look good. I know the job search scene, and the toll it takes on you.

And I know what it’s like to feel like a total bitch, because you’re looking at jobs and thinking “well, I need a job, but do I really want to do THAT?!?!”

I am a writer, at heart. I sit at a desk, type things, organize things, research things. This blog is one of many things I do related to my craft, in addition to my part-time job. I know damn well that I would be horrible at certain jobs, because I would spend too much time hating them. Hell, even knowing that, out of desperation I have tried some of these jobs! That is how I know that I AM the world’s worst janitor (it only took me throwing up in a garbage can 7 times in an 8 hour shift to prove that to myself).

My desk-type personality tends to lead me towards other desk-type things. I went to secretary school, and worked in an office for a few years. I went to University and worked in research offices. I am a desk worker. But even that has its limits.

I know that right now, I can’t support myself with my writing. VERY long story short, after being forced out of it for many years, I am only now getting back into my craft. That means no portfolio, no old blog posts, nothing for reference on a CV. I need a job to pay my bills and get the hell out of this house (don’t worry, I have enough Roommates From Hell stories to last a lifetime on here for y’all). While there are a lot of things that I would be horrible at, I KNOW that I can rock a desk job like no-one else. Not a telemarketing job, not a soliciting job, not a call centre job…. a straight up desk job.

Sounds pretty entitled, doesn’t it?

Well, I’ve got the education. I’ve got the office experience. And I am a desk worker. I thrive best sitting behind a desk, typing at a computer. I am a data entry clerk, or a dispatcher, or any other position where I type a lot and don’t have to make phone calls.

And the thing is, doing stuff like that is what I love.

From what I was told for years, even for decades, if I just strive for that, then the money will follow. So where is the money, Sunshine?