A soliloquy to our rental experience

After much consideration, we recently moved out of our rental home in Santa Clara, California after two and a half years, in favor of buying a mobile home in nearby Sunnyvale.  We adored our neighbors, location, and Santa Clara in general, but ….

We knew from the start that this was an older home, built in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s.  Almost everything in it was original:  the rug (with it’s waves and ripples), the kitchen counters (ceramic tile with grungy grout), and appliances (think Brady Bunch).  There were a couple of things done, like a TINY 3 piece master bathroom was added, and a lovely big sun room was installed.  So we figured that it would be just fine for our needs.

There was an extreme shortage of rental properties within a reasonable distance of the high tech core of Cupertino.  Finding one that would accept pets was another challenge, as Apple had agreed to ship our dog and three cats down to join us!  The placement assistant, provided by Apple to help us find someplace to live, pointed out the old rug, and told the rental agent point blank that this was most defintely NOT a new rug, as she had claimed.  He had previously had many years experience selling carpeting, so he knew whereof he spoke!  The agent, Hala, backed down quickly, and acknowledged this ‘possibility’.     But she felt that we were ‘perfect’ tenants, so reduced the required deposit by a few hundred dollars, so as to convince us the sign.

Upon moving in and getting settled, we discovered a few issues.  As part of the agreement, we were to pay the water bill, so we watched it carefully to make sure it was reasonable.  It became obvious that there was a leak in the outdoor irrigation system, so we reported it to Hala.  Nothing happened.  Eventually Glenn, a long time Mr Fix-it, took it upon himself to investigate it, and soon discovered that much of the piping was corroded  or broken, due to age or climatic conditions.  Again, a call to Hala brought little action, but she did send us a nice gentleman who looked at it, and agreed it was broken.  He said he would report it to Hala, but …..nothing happened.  Glenn got frustrated, since lots of water was being wasted by this faulty system, and WE WERE PAYING FOR IT!

Off to the garden center, where he purchased pieces to repair the obvious breaks.  After digging up the front garden beds, exhuming the broken bits, and installing the newly purchased parts, the irrigation system ran and refreshed the parched plants and lawn.  To her credit, Hala did allow him to submit the bill for the parts, and she deducted the amount from the following month’s rent.   

While Glenn was away, on his FIRST trip to China, the air conditioner failed.  I called about getting someone to come and look at it, but it was a long weekend, so no one was responding to her calls.  So here I am, in a foreign country, no status of my own except as a ‘spouse-of’, and it is summer in California. Plus, I have a big problem with heat and what it does to someone with MS, and my main support system is a zillion miles away in  CHINA!  Luckily, Hala’s husband took pity on me, came by after 10pm, and checked the fuse box, only to determine it was burned out, so he replaced it.  Whew!

Next there were TWO, not one but TWO occasions when the hot water heater conked out.  Glenn’s coworkers at Apple told him not to worry, that tenants are put up in a hotel if the hot water doesn’t work.  Apparently nobody told Hala this.  We struggled for TWO different spells washing dishes in cold water, laundry in cold water, and worse yet, NO showers, unless of course we wanted cold!  Our compensation for this was a twenty dollar reduction in rent for each day we went without cold water.  And as it happens, the reason for this is the water softener!  It was SO OLD it had stopped softening water, so all the minerals and sediment in our water would clog up the water tank periodically.  Why not get a new water softener?  Why indeed, the homeowner said.  I bought one when the house was new, so it should last, right?

So, we gave up.  Fighting this on going battle was wearing on us, and we were getting ZERO credit for the things we did to mitigate the expenses.  We cleaned up the yard on a regular basis, planted many new shrubs and perennials to make the yards look well cared for, and decorated the exterior of the home for various occasions to make it look pretty.  These things were all done at our own expense, and all remain there.  We had even planted a vegetable garden in the spring, not realizing we wouldn’t be there to make use of it.  Huge healthy tomato plants and still growing there, and we’re not.  

When we got the refund of our deposit, were were quite taken aback.  We had cleaned, hired a housecleaner at our own expense, shampooed the rugs at our own expense, and repainted in the neutral colors Hala had chosen.  So did we get all of our deposit back?  

NO

She withheld $900, because the cleaner we had hired wasn’t the one SHE had wanted, and they had replaced the rugs anyway, so the cleaning expense and effort was all for naught.  

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