Once upon a time, we lived in the worst place of our marriage. It had so many problems, the worst of which was that our upstairs neighbors made noise any time between 4:00 AM and 2:00 AM. We could never get any sleep and our property manager refused to do anything about it.
We wanted out of our lease. We thought we had grounds.
Instead the property manager blamed us for being the bad tenant and causing problems. We were told that if we left, we would be charged 2.5x rent.
Aha, we thought, at this point it would be cheaper just to move out and keep paying the rent.
So that’s what we did.
Before forming an opinion on this course of action, imagine just how thoroughly miserable you would have to be, you personally, before you would pay double rent. Imagine what emotions you would have to have before that would sound like a good idea.
Yeah. That’s pretty much how we felt.
This place was built at some point in the Sixties or Seventies, and it shows. They have to disclose the presence of both lead and asbestos. There is constantly an outage of either the power, or the hot water, or all the water, or the internet. Or the laundry room is closed, or the pool is closed, or one of the parking garages is closed, or an entire building has to be evacuated for a couple of days.
We left our first building and moved to a different unit after watching as no fewer than four apartments on our floor suffered flooding from a burst pipe. Inexorably, every couple of weeks there would be a giant fan set up in a doorway down the hall, then one closer, then one closer, then yet another unit closer. “We’re next,” we thought, and imagined how much of our stuff would be ruined by a burst pipe.
Sure, we have renter’s insurance, but the mess!
This place sucked. The only thing it had going for it was the location, amplified by its luxe landscaping. What hooked us was that you can’t tell by looking at it how many problems this place had with its infrastructure.
We’d been counting the months until our lease was up. Then I realized that I had miscounted, or misremembered, which becomes a chronic issue when you don’t get enough sleep for a year. We actually had about six weeks longer than I had remembered.
No way, we thought. Can’t do it. We couldn’t bear it.
Then we saw that a listing we had fantasized over weeks before was still open. We launched. Somehow we knew when we first saw the photos that we would live there, that it would be ours, and recklessly we signed the papers.
We didn’t say anything when we moved out. I just hired movers and reserved a van, and we were out in, what, four hours? I had our new place mostly set up before my husband even got home from work. He left the Bad Apartment in the morning and came home to the New Place ten hours later.
It really was that simple.
Okay, EXPENSIVE, but simple.
The reason we were able to make this move is that we have been living off only half our income for the past couple of years.
We have savings and we have investments because we prioritize living well within our means.
They call it EFF YOU MONEY and that’s exactly what we did with it. We talked to our [***evil***] landlord and then we internally formed the potent thought EFF YOU, BUDDY and then we effed the eff right out of there.
What we paid in double rent was annoying. It in fact made me really angry for two months.
“That could have been a really nice vacation,” I pointed out to my husband, who is much better than I am at shrugging things off and emotionally moving forward.
“It HAS been a really nice vacation,” he said, shocking me to my core. I hadn’t thought of it that way. What other vacation would we have had that would have lasted for two months? We’d been able to sleep, to take two naps a day sometimes. We could go out on the rooftop patio and watch the sunset and look at the sea, and we did. We had a gym and a pool and a hot tub and a sauna, dated and small, but still available.
What we might have spent on a nice vacation, we instead wound up spending on a semi-permanent lifestyle upgrade.
We’ve met our new landlord, an impossibly cool person who has his own Wikipedia page, and we like him. It is cheering to write our checks to him personally instead of to a property management company that we believe is corrupt.
See, when you stay in a hotel, the hotel management puts guest satisfaction first and foremost. At the slightest issue, they’ll move your things for you to a different room, often a nicer room. We’ve gotten free upgrades, from a room to a suite, from a suite to a penthouse suite, and we’ve been comped meals and drinks basically just for smiling. A hotel trades happiness for cash.
For some reason, a lot of landlords and property managers take the opposite view. They see tenants as parasites infesting and ruining their property. No nail holes, they say, no paint, don’t you dare pretend you actually live here and wreck the place. It’s combative from the first day.
Why, though? Why can’t both hoteliers and property managers see a guest/tenant as an unending fountain of passive income? Why not see a hotel room and an apartment in the same light, as a trade of shelter for cash, and the nicer the more valuable?
The place where we used to live has about fifty units sitting empty. This is why they shafted us for $300 after we moved out, the first time since 1990 that I have ever not had my entire deposit returned, because I always spend days micro-cleaning with a toothbrush and cotton swabs. They’re terrified that they’ll continue to make less and less money, and that scarcity mindset poisons the commercial relationship they have with their tenants. This is why they are untruthful and refuse to disclose so many issues with the property, because they see their tenants as adversaries.
We would have stayed for years if we could only have had a quiet home. They could have made tens of thousands of dollars off us. We would have convinced our various colleagues and casual friends to move in and make the complex into a social hub. Instead we’ll feel obligated to warn people away, to tell the absolute truth about what it was like to live there. Now our cool and nice new landlord can cash our rent checks instead. It’s all the same to us.
That property manager may feel smug that they “won” the negotiation. They got a couple more rent checks. Yay. Good for you, you must be so proud. How good you are at business. They’re thinking in the short term, though, and they have no idea how much this attitude is truly costing them.
We didn’t “break our lease” because our reputation is more valuable to us than money. That didn’t mean we had to actually live in an unlivable situation, though. Just because we continued to pay market rent on the place did not mean we had to stay there ourselves! Nobody can force us to stay in a situation after we’ve decided that we are unwilling. We couldn’t live there anymore, and so we just moved out.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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