"Thank you, sir! May I have another!?"™, Day 17: Tenant from hell

This is Day 17 of a 21-day effort to see the good in what might, at first, look like an irredeemable drag. Its name comes from a classic bit of dialogue uttered by actor Kevin Bacon in a classic film of my generation, Animal House. hellen

Before I decided to downshift into the carefree (ha!) life of artist/Seeker-of-Truth, I was a woman of property.

When my now-ex-husband and I decided to relocate from Chicago to Los Angeles, we decided to rent said property to some nice couple, so that once we'd secured jobs and agents, we could return to live in our city of choice with a minimum of hassle. After all, it was such a great place in such a great neighborhood, and this process could only take 18 months, two years, on the outside.

Three years later, our dream tenants had to relocate to a different city for work, and we had to find someone to replace them. We were managing the place long distance, but we hired an agency to screen prospective tenants, also known as That Parade of Freak-Job Losers with Hilarious Credit Ratings.

Finally, they found us another dream tenant. A big antiques-lover, she preferred older buildings (ours was pre-war), needed a parking space (we had one, a huge deal in the densely-populated Wrigleyville/Boystown neighborhood) and best of all, had a good, steady job at a nearby hospital as a mental health care worker.

That should have been our first tip to run.

She didn't raise hell right away. The gateway hell was little things: could she do this, add that, install these? Fine, sure, we said. We were happy to have her happy; if she wanted to add hooks and shelves and whatever other crap that would hold her doodads and knickknacks, fine by us. Plaster is (relatively) cheap and the ex is (very) handy.

But the problems started coming faster. There were cracks in the walls or the dryer was broken or the neighbors were annoying. (Um, what happened to your great love of this 75-year-old building? And isn't that what neighbors are for?) The ex would make repairs when he was in town, and when he wasn't, we had a handyman friend take care of what he could. A really nice, really easygoing, really competent handyman friend, who told us in no uncertain terms (and some fairly colorful language) that our tenant was batsh*t crazy, and also something that rhymed with "hunt."

Things devolved for months and months until we were barely speaking. She was constantly threatening to withhold rent, to take this up with some board, to generally keep making our lives a living hell. There were crazed letters of three, four and five pages in length, outlining the many physical and psychic indignities she was being made to suffer at our hands. I earned my first set of diplomacy stripes in this period, talking her down for hours on the phone, patiently listening to her alternate cursing of us and pleas for understanding. Bat. Sh*t. Crazy.

And then, we decided to sell. All of a sudden, Crazy Lady was our new best friend. She looooooved the condo; we knew that, right? Other people might like it, but she really loooooved it. She'd bonded with it. It was home. She'd added so much to it, like...shelves! Hideous assy kountry krap fixtures. Uh...paint. I guess. And best of all, if we went with her, we'd have someone in there we already knew and loved!

To add insult to inanity, she not only lowballed the price by tens of thousands of dollars, but, if I recall correctly, also enthusiastically proposed a bizarre extended payment plan that made zero fiscal sense whatsoever. After marveling briefly at her big, crazy brain and matching brass balls, we came back with price in target range, less than we could probably get, which was only fair, since we'd be paying no realtor's fees. But apparently far, far more than she thought she should be paying.

So we gave her notice that we we would be showing the place. Our realtor would, of course, work around her schedule, but she'd need to give access.

The seething hydra kicked up a huge fuss, with more threatening of boards and lawyers. She called us every name in the book. She told us we were delusional, thinking our place was worth that much. Our attorney wrote her a nice letter spelling out the actual law on planet earth; Crazy Lady backed down, sulking. We were nervous that she'd do something to queer the deal, but miraculously, even with her blocking maneuvers, we sold it, and quite swiftly, at more than we'd originally thought we could get.

You might be thinking this is another example of that karma I'm thankful for, but really, it's not. (Although I do admit to feeling more gleeful than sorrowful at the thought of her having to haul all of her goddam kountry krap back down three flights of stairs and out of there.)

Honestly, I'm thankful because I learned one thing for absolutely, positively sure: there are landlords...and there are people like me.

Thank you, Crazy Lady. I hope you are happy in Kountry Krap land. And that it's many thousands of miles away from me.

xxx c

Image by TCM hitchhiker via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.