Curbed Horror Stories are firsthand reader reports about terrible South Florida apartment experiences past and present. This week, in honor of Renters Week 2012, we're having a rental horror story showdown. We'll post a couple horror stories each day with a vote for the best on Thursday. The winner will advance to the national round of our network-wide contest to win free rent for a month. Horror stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, if you please.
My time at my current residence could be described as tumultuous at best. And while I've endured the 'challenges' of living here, I've always paid my rent on time and in full, behaved as an exemplary tenant, and cared for my apartment meticulously. So it may come as a surprise to some (myself included) that despite having a lease that protects me, I am currently being sued (for the second time) by my landlord for wrongful eviction.
(For the sake of brevity and the short attention span of the 140-character-or-less generation, I will share some of the standouts of my residential journey. If chosen as your most pitiful renter, I would be happy to elaborate further and/or share more nightmares?.)
When I first moved to 500 Brickell, I did so with the intention to buy; the developer was offering a program where tenants had the option to purchase their units and use up to their first year of rent towards a down payment. Unfortunately, as I would find out shortly after move-in, the project was similar to many of the women in Miami – patched up and pretty to draw one in with physical appearances whilst beneath the surface lurked defects and dysfunction.
I used to work and play in the nightlife. So being well-aware of my odd hours and penchance for music and early-morning stragglers, one of the first questions I always ask of management before selecting a place to live is "Can you hear your neighbors and vice versa?" I was assured that each unit in this project was "double-soundproofed" and was therefore "very quiet" with no need to be concerned with disturbing neighbors. HOWEVER, in fact, the walls are paper thin – you can hear your neighbor's conversations as if they were your roommates. For most of my time here, I suffered next to a crazy neighbor who would violently bang on my wall or front door and call security to complain about my TALKING ON THE PHONE IN MY KITCHEN OR LIVING ROOM.
When I first moved in, I was recovering from a serious back injury that was aggravated by sitting. I informed management of this and provided them with a doctor's letter. Despite the fact that the building (and garage) was fairly empty when I moved in, I was assigned a super-tight parking space that: was next to a wall that did not allow the driver's side door to open, was on the 10th floor (which requires at minimum 10-15 minute drive, each way), and required climbing up stairs in order to access the main elevator.
Upon move in, I realized that my shower stall was defective. It was constructed in a way that much of the water would drain out of the shower and onto the floor. It drained so much water outside of the shower that if left on its own it would flow outside the bathroom and drench the bedroom carpet. It took a couple of months to get the developer to attempt to rectify the problem. The day before Winter Music Conference (my busiest work-week of the year), I had spent all day cleaning and preparing for my superior-ranking colleague to come stay with me. I was told by management that an engineer was coming to inspect the shower to decide on a plan of action. I agreed but made it very clear I could have no work done until after Conference. Instead, two men came, locked themselves in the bathroom, and began tearing apart my bathroom shower. A few minutes later, one of them opened the door and a HUGE cloud of thick, white dust followed him and covered all my computer and camera equipment and subsequently made its way to cover every corner of the apartment I just cleaned. THEY WERE CUTTING UP TILE IN MY APARTMENT WHILE I WAS PRESENT WITH NO VENTILATION OR VACCUM TO SUCK UP THE TILE DUST. The worker informed me that they needed to open the other bathroom door into my bedroom to allow the dust to ventilate through there because they were having problems breathing. (Yes, he was asking permission to directly cover my bed, sheets, and entire bedroom with tile dust.) And please remember, I was informed that they were only there to *inspect* the shower. I called management and they promised to send someone to help clean up the mess that was made in my apartment; however, they did not and I had to stay up the whole night before Winter Music Conference cleaning everything once again. I did later confirm that no trained professional would ever attempt to cut tile under those conditions – it is hazardous to the workers and anyone present. Punch line: after tearing the shower apart and putting it back together, the shower leaks just as much as it did before the 'repair'.
During my tenancy, the apartment was sold to my current landlord (he assumed responsibility for my lease and my security deposit). He (foolishly) purchased the unit sight unseen, and no inspection ever took place on the unit. The first time he and I met was after his closing, and he was escorted to the unit by an agent for the developer. He introduced himself to me and asked me if there was anything wrong with the unit that he should know about. I told him that I didn't think I was allowed to tell him anything negative as there was a clause in my lease that did not allow me to say or do anything that could interfere with a sale. I did tell him that the developer had a written record of all issues through our email correspondence and that it would be best for him to ask them about any problems with the unit.
When the first term of the lease was up, I agreed to stay in the unit at a discounted rent price to make up for the deficiencies. The landlord and I agreed there was no need to sign a new lease as the original lease protected both parties and contained a provision that it would continue on as a month-to-month lease with each party agreeing to give the other 60 days notice if they wished to terminate the agreement. My relationship with my landlord during my time here was always very friendly, and I used to joke with my friends that if he wasn't my landlord, I would want to date him. (Boy, do I have terrible taste in men.)
My landlord (of now over two years) was well aware of what occurred with the event but shortly thereafter decided to contact me and tell me he wanted to raise my rent back to the original rent price and have me agree to a year's term rather than month-to-month. I explained to him that the rent increase was likely not a problem, but I wasn't sure if I could immediately commit to another year while still regrouping from the cancellation of the event and our time and money investment that was lost without benefit of exposure. He expressed to me that he was grateful for me being such a good tenant but that he too was in financial need and wanted an immediate answer. The lease agreement stipulates that any rent increases and/or lease changes must come with 60 days notice. We eventually agreed that I would let him know my decision the following month. Once I had time to look at my options, I realized how much rentals had increased since I moved here and that I had no choice but to suck it up and agree to his terms. I informed my landlord within the time agreed that I was accepting his contractual offer. At first he ignored me, and then he attempted to give me LESS THAN 30 DAYS NOTICE TO GET OUT OF MY HOME OF MORE THAN THREE YEARS. At no time previous to my acceptance of the offer did he ever inform me that he had rescinded his offer, which makes our agreement a legally binding contract (all elements of a contract exist). Both he and his attorney have attempted to bully me with the info that in court it becomes "he said, she said" and they are denying an offer was ever made (even though I have emails that confirm most of our 'conversations').
But even if the contract does not exist in the eyes of the court, our written agreement to terminate is 60 days notice; and he violated that agreement as well. He has since attempted to bully me into three different higher rent prices or face eviction. He committed fraud and falsified notices that he submitted to the court. He has lied to his attorney and the court by claiming a written lease does not exist. I've already gone to court once to fight this, and the judge found in my favor on a technicality. However, he turned around and began another lawsuit which is currently pending. My civil record is now tarnished in regards to rentals because I have two attempted (wrongful) eviction suits against me and no reference from my current landlord making it near impossible to find another landlord who will accept me at all or without an obscenely high security deposit. I have nowhere else to go until next year when my family has room for me. And I am not in a financial position where I can afford an attorney, so I am self-defending despite my phobic fear of public speaking.
If I were to be blessed with the title of your most tortured renter and you were to bestow the maximum award upon me, I would either use that money to hire a proper attorney or to try to find somewhere else to live.
And again, all of the above is only a brief glimpse into what's transpired during my time here. I'd be happy to share more if need be. If you are asking yourself why I stayed so long, it's because my rent here was affordable; I made do since I am in a central area with sufficient security for a single woman. I learned to live with the problems in the unit and made compromises such as listening to music with headphones, lying down towels each time I shower, and not hosting any parties ever. I was born and raised in Miami and really wanted to make things work between me and my first love, my hometown. However, the city has become cost-prohibitive for lowly locals like me, so after this experience, I may have to concede that it's finally time for me to let go and move on.
· Renters Week 2012 [Curbed Miami]