January 23, 2009

More Tenant Tales (Again)

Category: News — Ira @ 6:59 pm


“Lord, it’s the same old tune, fiddle and guitar.
Where do we take it from here?”

Waylon, lyrics: Are you sure Hank done it this way?

I can’t help it. I don’t plan this stuff. It just happens. The adventures continue. I look on in disbelief, and absorb them the best I can.

As my regular readers know, two new tenants, single girls, moved into my upstairs apartment last summer, after the previous tenant ripped me off and vacated only after a court order was taped to the door. After the major unfortunate incident with the new tenants, things calmed down. Got quiet. Life went on. I got used to it. Became a bit complacent.

The girl who created the uproar left the week following the police incident. With her Manchu-bearded tattooed boyfriend. Good riddance, both of them. Now only one, Mary (not her real name), remained upstairs. Which was fine.

Mary was quiet, relatively. Paid the rent on time, mostly. And the heating bills. Didn’t complain incessantly about the apartment. This might work, I figured. She’d signed a year long lease. After that, we’ll see.

Alas, it could not last. The good vibes. Mary, bless her soft heart, had one major flaw. From the dregs of her murky social circles, she dragged home numerous misfits and allowed them to stay in the apartment because she felt sorry for them.

I was first alerted to her alarming little habit late one afternoon as I was fetching the mail. A strange looking young tough approached me on my own back porch. Smiling, he extended his hand. His name was Jorge, he said merrily. He and his fiancé were staying upstairs with Mary for awhile.

I gaped at Jorge, but chatted briefly with him. Seemed friendly enough. Looked a little rough, though. Tattoos and all. I decided if Mary kept them under control, I wouldn’t make a fuss about them being there, even though it violated the terms of the lease.

A few days later, official looking envelopes began mysteriously appearing in my mailbox. From the state of PA. Addressed to Jorge. Summons to court. And letters from the local Parole Office. Apparently Jorge was a thug. A real one, not a wannabe. I stuck the envelopes in Mary’s door. After that, I always made sure my own doors were securely locked.

Jorge and his girlfriend lasted about a month. Soon moved on. Had some sort of fallout with Mary. Not surprising. After they left, I approached Mary and firmly told her “no more tenants, without my OK.” She cast me wounded looks, but agreed.

But she never kept her word. Now and again, someone else would show up, stay for a few days or weeks, then move on. I ignored such activities, as long as the “guests” were quiet. And the rent was paid.

And so it went, up until this month. Mary had family visiting from out of state over Christmas. They stayed upstairs in the apartment and were a bit noisy, but I didn’t fuss. Family and Christmas make for some celebration. And noise.

Things began to unravel one night about three weeks ago. Or I should say, one morning about 3 AM. I was sound asleep, in deep sleep mode. In my dreams, I kept hearing an incessant wailing chopping sound. Roused from slumber, I awoke befuddled and eventually grasped the incredible fact that a baby was bawling its head off in the bedroom directly above me.

Mary has no children. As far as I knew, she hadn’t adopted any baby recently. That could mean only one thing. Some mother with baby had moved in upstairs and the baby, like babies do, was screaming in the middle of the night. I tossed about. Seething. Covered my head with a pillow. It was no use. The baby bawled on. And on and on. At about five o’clock, two hours later, I dozed off for a few minutes before the alarm clamored at 5:45.

I was furious. Later that day I called Mary. Why was a baby bawling loudly above my room at 3 AM?

Mary was evasive. “She had nowhere else to go,” she said. “The mother. So I let her move in, just for a few days.”

“Get that baby out of my house,” I retorted. “In the next few days. In the meantime, have them sleep in the other bedroom, so I won’t hear them.” Mary kept insisting they have nowhere else to go. I remained firm. “I can’t save the world. I’ve got to have my sleep. I pay taxes for shelters. Take her to one.” She finally agreed.

I heard nothing for a few nights, and figured the mother and baby had moved on. Of course, they hadn’t. Three nights later, at 10:15, I went to bed. Settled in, ready for sleep. And just then someone in the apartment above began screaming. An adult. Screaming in loud piercing bursts. The mother had freaked out. Snapped. Unhinged. Totally out of control.

I waited about five minutes. The screaming and stomping escalated. Loud shouts. Murmuring voices, trying to calm her down. Vastly irritated now, I got up, dressed and stomped out to the porch and pounded on Mary’s door. She clumped down the stairs and opened it.

“Get these people the bleep out of my house,” I yelled. Only I didn’t say “bleep.” Used the real word. A bad one. “Now. Or I’m calling the cops.” Which was not exactly true. But I was mad. Furious. I wouldn’t call the cops unless my home was being invaded. Which, in a sense, it was.

Mary assured me they would leave the next day. “Then shut her up,” I raged. ‘What does she think this is? A flop hotel?”

I steamed, frustrated. This was simply maddening. Another night ruined. The voices subsided upstairs, but continued. Half an hour later, I knocked again. Calmer now. Mary answered.

She told me the mother had taken her baby and left in a huff, walking down Rt. 23 toward Leola. It was frigid, about fifteen degrees, with a cutting northwest wind. Her boyfriend, also upstairs (unbeknownst to me), ran after her and took away the baby and brought her back to the apartment. The mother kept walking on into the cold night. Down the highway.

I was horrified. Such senseless drama. How can people exist like that? Mary assured me they would be out tomorrow. Again.

“For every night they stay upstairs after tonight, I will deduct $100 from your security deposit,” I told her sternly. “I’m sick of this. Get these people out of my house.”

I thought she’d followed through this time. I heard nothing for a few days. Until one night after returning from the gym, I heard that cry again. The baby. They were still up there.

I knocked and went up. They stood there. The boyfriend, a wizened little man. The pock-faced mother. Probably a druggy. Holding an infant baby girl, who will never have a chance at a decent life. The place was blue with smoke. Everyone sucked on cigarettes. Except the baby, who will soon enough, I suppose. Just give her a few years.

I confronted them. “Who are you and why are you in my house?” I asked, not unkindly.

The wizened little man opened the bedroom door. Showed me their bed, baby bed, dresser, loads of clothing. All their earthly belongings. “Mary rented us this room. We paid her for it,” he said simply. He wasn’t lying.

And suddenly I felt sorry for them. Trying to survive. Out there. With nothing. Except a baby. And no place to go.

“Look, it’s not your fault,” I said. “Mary had no business renting this room to you, without checking with me first. I had no idea you’re living up here.” Mary, standing by, looked grieved. I glared at her. Don’t even start with your excuses.

I continued. Firmly. “You will NOT sleep in this house one more night. Not one more. If you need a motel room, I’ll get you one. And pay for it. Tomorrow this stuff gets moved out. Period.”

He allowed they had friends who could help him move it out. I told them to pack what they needed and let me know when they were ready. Half an hour later, they knocked. He had a car. They were ready.

They followed me to the Hollander Motel in downtown New Holland and I purchased them a room for two nights. Sixty bucks a night. The wizened little man was grateful. Thanked me and shook my hand. The mother sat huddled in the car and clutched the baby and wouldn’t look at me or speak to me. Can’t blame her, I guess.

And so I left them.

He was true to his word, at least. The next day, they moved all their stuff out. I haven’t seen them since.

But that wasn’t the end. Mary suddenly decided she wanted to return to her family in a large Midwestern city. Asked me if she could move out before the lease was up. I told her she could, as long as the apartment was cleaned out. No return of security until it was.

Her close friend, a guy I’ve known for years, agreed to pay the rent through February and get the place cleaned. So out she went. One night last week. She’s gone. The locks have been changed, in case any of Mary’s thugs still hold a key.

So on March 1st, I will once again have an apartment for rent. In biblical times, Elijah the prophet despaired that there was not one true prophet left in all of Israel. Today, I despair that there is not one sane normal tenant in all of Lancaster County. Not one.

If you know of any, send them my way. Maybe I’m wrong, as Elijah was. Perhaps they’re out there. I just haven’t run into them.

Two bedroom upstairs apartment. Private drive and entrance. No kids. No pets. No loud music after 10 PM. And no thugs, or vagrants with babies. Otherwise, whatever you do is your business.

Last week I headed out for the Horse World Expo in Baltimore, in a little rented mini van. To set up shop and rub shoulders with horse people for four days. It’s fun to get out of the office for a few days and do something different, although as usual, by the time the show was over, I was sick to death of anything that remotely smacked of horses.

It was different this year. Not as busy as usual. People were wary, skittish. I fielded about a dozen quotes for buildings, instead of the usual three dozen. So I talked components a lot, new roofing, siding, stalls, anything we sell. Gotta’ go where the market is. I spent time loafing and hanging out with my vendor neighbors, most of whom I see once a year, at this show. Someone even went out and got one of those nerf basketballs, and we spent many pleasurable moments shooting hoops during slow times.


By late Sunday afternoon, the place was dead. Everyone was heading home to watch the upcoming Ravens/Steelers game. I broke down my display and snuck out an hour early, at five instead of the scheduled six o’clock. I got in my van and headed for the gate, listening to the early game. And right about then, the Eagles scored the first of their three third-quarter touchdowns.

They showed a lot of heart and almost pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in League Championship history. That much is true. More than once, I almost suffered a stroke and/or drove off the road. But thankfully, the Cards showed some heart of their own, and plowed methodically down the field for the winning touchdown. By the time I approached my home, the game was securely in the bag. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, mostly at not having to listen to gloating Eagles fans at work (and on this site). I unpacked and vegged and watched the second game, which was utterly boring compared to the first.

A few thoughts on the upcoming Super Bowl. The Steelers and Arizona. I’m going with Arizona, simply because they’ve been underestimated by everyone so far, including me. I think they’ve got a real shot at winning this. With one caveat. The officiating. The Steelers always seem to reap the benefit of some truly awful calls. It happened against Baltimore last Sunday. A terrible roughing the kicker call. The guy wasn’t touched. The Steelers-Seattle Super Bowl game a few years back was won for the Steelers by the officials. I know you Steelers fans will howl, but that was the worst-officiated game I’ve ever seen anywhere. At any level. And I had no dog in that fight. Was actually rooting for the blue collar Steelers against the yuppie Left Coast Seahawks. Not this time. Go Cardinals. Go Warner.

We now have a new President. I watched none of it, but listened to his speech on the internet. Lots of soaring platitudes, not much substance. So far the country seems about like it was before he took office. Stock market’s plunging, it’s still cold, and the seas haven’t parted. We hear a lot of inane simpering about how we should all back Obama and pull for him. Funny, I can’t remember anyone making such statements back when Bush was first inaugurated. I do recall a lot of seething hatred for Bush that has only increased in intensity to sheer lunacy. If Obama introduces sound free market policies, I will support him in a heartbeat. But if he pursues a big-government agenda and the gorging of Leviathan at the inevitable cost of personal freedoms, I will oppose him implacably from day one. So far he’s managed to appoint a cabinet of pretty scary retreads from the Clinton years.

Finally, the muse has struck once again. Lord willing, and the creeks don’t rise, the final Elmo Stoll blog should be ready by next week. Or maybe the following one. Providing I don’t get interrupted or the muse forsakes me.



  1. Ah, Bro. Ira, happy winter weather to you. The King is Crowned, it should be a whole year now before that process starts up again, if we’re lucky.

    The ice house piece is good. My fingers still ache, it seems, from having them crushed hard between those chunks of ice. Bad words in Dutch were allowed, right?

    Your tenant situation. Try and rent to a man or even two men over about 30 (with manageable support payments,and a job somewhere in the picture). The under 30 or so single woman as tenants thing is asking for troubles, lots of it. They are wholly different creatures.

    Good luck on that, sounds like you need it.

    Comment by Grandpa Jess — January 23, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

  2. I had to feel sorry for the baby, and do believe I would enforce a no-smoking rule in my own house. Don’t you realize how dangerous 2nd hand smoke is?

    I had a nice visit with Alma (Mast) Miller today after I saw the Shower in the Budget for her. She has been battling cancer for at least 10 years, I think. It was a real blessing to me, connecting with her again.

    Lester and I plan to fly to FLA Jan 27-Feb.3., to take care of Mom, etc. We have never been to Sarasota before.

    Comment by Rachel — January 23, 2009 @ 8:40 pm

  3. You know, Ira, I so very much look forward to your writings every Friday. It reminds me of “You’ve Got Mail”, only one-sided. Thanks for venting, sharing your thoughts, making me laugh, making me think and mostly for holding true to yourself. If we alone could help everyone and solve everyone’s problems, God wouldn’t need the rest of us. Let another angel get its wings helping your old tenants. You did what you could. Would love to rent the apartment – it sounds like just the peace and quiet I need. I have pets though – one husband, three kids (teenagers, no less), and two pups. HA HA Oh, and I live in St. Louis. Double darn. Keep up the good work. I have to say I’m an Arizona fan, seeing as the Cardinals team and Kurt Warner both came from here – I think. I’m just trying to sound like I know about sports. HA

    Comment by Beth Russo — January 23, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

  4. Been renting all my life. Such shenanigans are foreign to me and my thought processes. When we left the last house we rented the landlord actually cried a bit. Think tough, stoic, old school, Scotch-Irish lady wiping tears and pretending she wasn’t. Made me feel good.

    We ain’t perfect renters. More than once I had to call the landlord and say “I don’t have the money. I should have it on X. I’ll bring it to your house and then you can tell me if I owe anything extra.” What can I say? Times were brutal. I even bounced a rent check. I called her and had the cash for her before she knew it had bounced. Embarrassing to the nth degree. As it should be.

    At the same time, I am very familiar with what you speak of. I spent most of my life as a plumber. I got to watch the drama of renters. Unfreakingbelievable! How many times I have had a landlord let me in to do some repair or another, only to hear him start muttering. A landlord muttering when he looks into the renters home is a bad sign. A real bad sign. Many times it means the poop is about to hit the fan. And the renter is about to have the chance to screw someone else over.

    The other thing that amazes me is the mess some renters will leave the place. So far we have left every place we rented in better condition than what we got it. One place we hauled pickup loads of trash off. The rent was cheap so we gladly did it. But you know what is even more amazing? In most of those cases the landlord admitted to returning the security deposit because they felt sorry for the renters. Amazing.

    Anyways, so much for my rant. It’s an interesting subject for me.


    PS. I live close to Dallas now. You ever get out this way holler.

    Comment by RagPicker — January 24, 2009 @ 9:25 am

  5. Maybe you should work with a rental agency to get better quality renters! I work with a good company. Do want their name?

    Comment by humdinger — January 24, 2009 @ 10:26 am

  6. Here in Oaxaca, Mexico, the renter is responsible for anything that needs done to the house. Often, if one makes major improvements (with permission), the rent then increases to the new level of what it would be worth! Of course, the renter may well then leave – but without reimbursement for the improvements. Interesting game; the rules are cultural; maybe you should try here?

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — January 24, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

  7. I have discovered it’s better to have a rental empty for a time once in a while then to have a bad renter. Just when you think you’ve heard every lie and excuse in the book, you’ll be surprised!

    Comment by Rudy Yutzy — January 24, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

  8. Ira……very interesting but spine-chilling reading of your latest tenant woes. I cannot help but wonder if “Mary” would be so gracious and willing to offer “her home” to others IF SHE actually OWNED IT. I have strong doubts, for sure.

    Comment by Robert Miller — January 25, 2009 @ 6:23 pm

  9. Oh Ira, I laughed till I nearly cried. The scenario simply too familiar, the whole sadness of the situation mixed in with the frustrating reality of it all. Thanks once more for your writing!

    Comment by Anonymous — January 26, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

  10. Oh, Ira, what a terrible situation to be in. For everyone involved. And a baby! How terrible. I often wonder why single people sleeping together don’t use birth control. Why bring an innocent life into an unstable situation? Poor little baby.

    I would never in a million years be a landlord. First of all, I don’t like strangers being in such close proximity to my safe haven. Secondly, I’m a light sleeper and would hear everything which would alot me no sleep. Third, not too many people take care of their own homes let alone someone else’s which they feel entitled to destroy since they pay rent.

    When I rented apartments as a single girl I took pride in the way my place looked. If I saw garbage on the ground I’d pick it up. I never had parties. And nobody EVER stayed over. I liked my personal space way too much to share it with anyone.

    Well, then, you know, you get married and have kids and you completely forget what it was ever like to have your own space. Then, from what I hear, once the kids leave you don’t know what to do with yourself. It becomes too quiet, too calm, to neat and tidy. There’s hardly any laundry to wash, dishes to scrub, booboos to bandaid. No reason to plug your nose while walking past the bathroom. The Febreeze bottle is stashed and forgotten. I have only four words to speak to such lonely days; Bring it on, baby!

    Comment by Francine — February 13, 2014 @ 1:17 am

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