Saturday, July 19, 2008

Not Guilty by Reason of Rental Disease or Defect

When we went to see the rental house, the woman who posted the Craigslist ad couldn't be there. "Just go in the back door," she told me. This gave me some pause. She was going to leave her back door unlocked? For complete strangers who answered an ad on the internet? What if we stole all her electronics and silver?

We had spoken a couple of times on the phone. Mrs. Butterfield talked a LOT. She warned me about the mess; she was not expecting anyone on such short notice, and she was sure her twins had not made their beds. She said I had a nice voice, and she could tell a lot from people's voices. This prompted Bump to immediately label her a nut. The whole unlocked door thing only confirmed his suspicions.

We drove to the house at the end of a cul-de-sac, in a neighborhood where we couldn't afford to buy. The backyard was huge, with an old but sturdy little swingset and lots of mature shade trees. The back door was flanked by potted plants and opened onto a small kitchen. There on the stove was half a frozen pizza, burnt to a crisp. "These," I said to myself, "are my people."

The house was small, with only one bathroom on the upper level. But the circumstances were ideal - we could rent short term and move out whenever we needed to.

Bump and I went back a couple of days later, to talk with Mrs. Butterfield in person and see the house one more time. We brought the tormentors, who spent the entire visit running in the backyard and playing on the swingset. She was a lovely woman - who talked nonstop - a teacher who was hoping to take a leave of absence. She was looking to sublet for the month of August while she went overseas, then things got a little murky. Her leave had not yet been approved, but she thought she would hear in a couple of days. Even if it wasn't approved, she assured us, she had a place to stay in the area, so we could live in the house as long as we needed. She would talk to her landlord and realtor, and should have firm answers in a couple of days. "If this is meant to be, it is meant to be," she told me. "I have a good feeling about you." Bump managed not to roll his eyes.

So we waited.

There were several points of nagging concern, despite how darn nice Mrs. Butterfield was. There was the whole "Bump thinks she's crazy" aspect. He didn't think she was a knife-wielding psychopath, just a little flaky. We started calling her Mrs. Nutterfield.

Then there was the odd fact the Mrs. Nutterfield wasn't the owner of the house, but a tenant. A tenant who didn't have a lease. Her landlord lived in Arizona somewhere, and Bump and I got the distinct impression we would be paying much more in rent than she was - with the extra amount split between Mrs. Nutterfield and her absentee landlord.

The whole sublet thing seemed like an awful lot of trouble to avoid paying one month of rent, but I guess if you're turning a profit from it, it makes a bit more sense. A family of police officers lived next door, which meant a cop car was parked semipermanently out front. Mrs. Nutterfield said she had never locked her house or car as long as she'd lived there. Mrs. Nutterfield loved the neighborhood and the house, and didn't want to risk losing it over the one month she wasn't going to be there.

Most of the points of weirdness could be explained away, but we were still . . . uneasy. How do you sublet from a woman with no lease? What protection did we have - other than the word of a nice but possibly crazy lady - from being thrown out after one month? Why did they have DirecTV but only one 13" television?

We waited for a few more days, then decided to secure a backup plan that didn't involve long-term squatting at Aunt Bob's or a tent. I started combing Craigslist regular rentals, asking owners if they would consider less-than-year-long leases. When Mrs. Nutterfield called to check back in - with no real news other than her landlord and realtor were talking things over and she thought we were an adorable family - we decided not to tell her we were looking for other options.

Out of an original list over 20 places long, one owner was willing to offer a two-month lease, month-to-month thereafter. We would pay $200 more than the listed monthly rent for the convenience.

Bump went to see the place and came back convinced it was a better option. It had three bathrooms, two on the main level, so we wouldn't have to race up stairs with Lumpyhead when he announced he needed to use the potty. It had a nice yard and a screened porch and an open floor plan. It had five bedrooms; we would even have a room for guests. Most importantly, it had a lease and a rental application and a real estate agent from a reputable company.

With the short-term premium, it was $90 more per month than Mrs. Nutterfield's house.

We filled out the application and paid a deposit. All that was left to do was break the news to nice Mrs. Nutterfield. I went over some possibilities in my head, eventually settling on lying to her. I would tell her some friends were renting their place (which is actually true, unfortunately we wouldn't fit in their 2BR 1BA townhouse), and we felt obligated to take it.

Before I could work up the nerve to call her, she phoned the next day. She said had terrible news; her landlord was not willing to sublet.

We move in less than two weeks.


bozoette said...

Woot! I love it when a plan comes together and you don't even have to lie to make it work.

Mom Ma'am Me said...

Whew! That's a lot of drama. :-)

De in D.C. said...

Wow. Just.... wow. I'm so glad things finally worked out. Good luck with the move, and then finding a place to buy (and then the other move).

merseydotes said...

Oh I'm so glad something better worked out and you didn't have to cross Mrs. Nutterfield in the process. I was reading that, thinking 'Oh god, let them find some place else...don't tell me they're renting from that crazy lady!'

Em said...

I'll be so happy for you when all of this is behind you.

Always trust Bump.

Xdm said...

5 bedrooms?? Dude, I think the next play date is at YOUR place. ;-)

Violet said...

who cares about the number of bedrooms? Three bathrooms!!

Kia said...

Wow. That is just all kinds of crazy. Glad to hear that you were successful in finding something and that you didn't have to lie after all!!