Self

My Landlord Threatened To Raise My Rent If I Didn’t Lie For Him

Photo: gregobagel, JackF, AaronAmat | Canva
Woman cringing at landlords dishonesty

I was in front of my apartment building when my landlord came up with two prospective renters. 

“Here’s one of our long-time tenants, Christine,” my landlord, Kyle, said with a smirk. “She can tell you if the parking around here is such a big problem.” He rolled his eyes as if to say the reports of zero parking and car theft were highly exaggerated.

The parking on our street was practically non-existent, but I couldn't say that, or Kyle would make me regret it.

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“I’m very patient with you when your rent check is late,” he’d said to me shortly into my tenacity. I paid by the 5th of the month, but that wasn’t good enough for him — anything after the first was considered past due. “In return, I’d appreciate it if you helped me out occasionally. It’s well within my rights to increase your rent if it’s constantly late.”

His message was clear — back up his claims of a homey neighborhood with stress-free parking or suffer the consequences.

“The parking is okay, but, um, the earlier you park, the better,” I said.

By earlier, I meant that sliver of time between when parking enforcement gives out tickets (most of the day) and when people come home from their 9–5 jobs. Once I parked, unless I was going somewhere with a friend, I was home for the night. It didn't matter how early it was; it wasn't worth driving around for hours searching for parking, especially late at night.

“And this is a safe neighborhood?” The young woman asked in a hopeful tone.

My landlord answered for me, “Look around and listen — only the sounds of birds chirping. This is a very peaceful and neighborly street.”

Well, not exactly, Kyle. I had my car stolen twice, but worse, I witnessed auto thieves at work when I walked home from having to park the next block over. If this nice couple looked closely at the lawn, they would see two bullet holes in it from the mugging that occurred a few months ago, not to be confused with the one that happened a year ago. Luckily, no one was hurt, but it was hardly proof of my neighborhood's safety.

With a slight nod, Kyle encouraged me to add to his claim, but I couldn't lie anymore. I was about to spill everything when my ride arrived.

“I gotta go,” I said, “Good luck on your apartment hunt,” indicating it’s not over with this charming-looking Spanish building off Third Street. They needed to go further west. Way way out West.

Kyle looked as if he didn’t get the award-winning performance from me he wanted, but he would come off as the jerk he is if he pushed it.

   

   

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Years later, a friend was debating between two apartments to sublet. One of the apartments was only two doors down from my old one.

“Whatever you do, don’t take the one on Cloverdale,” I pleaded. “Trust me, you’ll regret it.”

“Oh, I’m sure it’s much safer than when you lived there. The neighborhood looks fine to me.”

“Looks can be deceiving,” I said, shaking my head, knowing she was too stubborn to listen to me.

She took the apartment and was stunned when her car was broken into, and she was followed by two men coming back from the laundry room in her building. Still, she rationalized it. “Crime happens everywhere.”

I didn't tell her about the Sadism/Masochism school across the street and kitty corner from her building. I would let her find that out the next time they were in session.

I was so excited when I bought my first house — a place all to myself. Moving into my new house was easy. But moving out of the old apartment was challenging, especially where my landlord was concerned. He wanted to rent the place as quickly as possible.

I was concerned that with his haste in showing my apartment, he’d let my cats out. He wasn't exactly mindful. Two cats, two front doors, and one self-involved landlord had equaled disaster in the past. So, I made a deal with him and agreed to move out of my apartment early if he promised to wait to show it until I was completely gone.

It didn't take him long to break his promise.

I was just out of the shower, wearing only a smile, when I heard voices in the hall and a key in the front door closest to the bathroom. I scrambled to cover myself in a towel.

“Kyle, you promised to wait,” I screamed.

“Oh, you’re still here. I thought you’d be gone by now.”

“I gave a month’s notice. It’s been three days.”

“Since we’re here, can I give these fine people a sneak preview?”

“No! And be careful not to let the cats out.”

I hoped he’d gotten the message.

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Seven days into my month’s notice, I was mostly moved out, and the cats were making themselves at home in the new house. I didn’t have to worry about them getting in the way or getting hurt due to the landlord's thoughtlessness.

Since my new house was only about a 20-minute drive from the old one, I made short trips with my car stuffed full of belongings. Although I still hadn’t cleaned out the kitchen cabinets, I figured I had plenty of time.

I was wrong. When I walked into the kitchen, I thought my head would explode with fury.

In the middle of the kitchen floor was a tarp-covered mountain. I lifted the tarp and found a pile of fragile items, including my favorite teacups, teapots, prized dishes, and Blue Willow china. As if that pile wasn’t horrific enough, cans of paint had been tossed on them haphazardly as if my treasured items were trash. Trying to remove them from the pile without causing more destruction was like playing Jenga with table settings. Make the wrong move, and I’d have a pile of rubble and rubbish.

It was clear that Kyle had instructed his workers to repaint the cupboards, and they, just following orders, had cleared them out without a thought.

Frustrated and angry, I walked down to the laundromat and called Kyle.

“Kyle, you promised to wait. You’ll have to reimburse me for all the damaged items.”

“I thought you’d completely moved out. My bad.”

“Wasn’t the fact that my stuff was still there a big clue?”

Kyle would go down in my history as my worst landlord ever — worse even than the one who suggested bleach to whatever needed fixing. I knew that although I’d been very careful, there was a slim chance I’d get my deposit back.

As I shut the door to the apartment building for the last time, Kyle walked up with new victims, I mean, tenants.

“All out?” Kyle asked with what he considered a charming smile but looked more like an active grimace.

“Yep.”

“Christine lived here for several years and can tell you anything you need to know.”

Sometimes, Kyle, you don’t want to press your luck.

I let his words sit in the air between us and then said, “There’s more crime here than you think; the parking is a nightmare, and Kyle is a manipulative, dishonest, narcissistic snake. If you take this apartment, you’ll be sorry.”

I, sweet Christine, had left the building permanently.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer, performer, and frequent contributor to YourTango. She's had articles featured in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Woman's Day, among many others.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.