Friday, February 10, 2012
In late 2010 I took a great job in downtown Chicago. Being downtown everyday was also great. I loved the hustle and bustle. There was always something going on and so many people to talk to or watch or write about in my blog. I knew I had to move to the city and in early 2011 I did. I love living in Chicago - love being able to walk to work every day, take a walk along the lake after dinner, worry my mom endlessly about my dangerous urban lifestyle, and have a thousand nearby restaurant options that don’t include a single Applebee’s.
Unfortunately living in the city meant I had to lease my condo in the suburbs. For a month I posted ads on Craig’s List, each week exaggerating the square footage of my condo another 10%.
I showed my condo to several interested parties over this period but got no takers other than a family of four. The mother insisted my 900-square foot one bedroom, one bathroom, living room/dining room combo unit was plenty of room for her, her husband, and her two children. I was feeling desperate for a tenant but I couldn’t possibly let this family move in and kill one another. Then where would I be? Sure I’d get a couple minutes of fame in an interview with Keith Morrison on Dateline but I’d still have to find another tenant.
So you can imagine my absolute ecstasy when a local corporation called to say they were interested in leasing my space for one of their employees. I was beside myself with joy. Not only would I have a tenant but the company would be paying the rent. A company! Everyone knows companies don’t default on their financial responsibilities. I was set.
I showed the place to my potential tenant and she loved it. Sharon seemed like a perfect tenant – she was young and single, didn’t smoke, said she was a real neat freak, etc. We signed a lease that night. I thought it was a little odd that she was Italian, the company’s realtor was Italian, and the owner of the company who signed the lease was Italian. Maybe the owner was just really loyal to Italians. It didn’t mean they were all family and I was about to get royally ripped off. People can be Italian and not related, I remembered from my high school biology class.
Less than two weeks after signing my lease I’d packed up and moved out because Sharon was so eager to get herself settled into my bodacious digs. About two weeks after she’d moved in I received a text message from her at 10:30 one Sunday night: “How do I turn the stove off?!?!?!?!” I called her immediately but she didn’t answer. Her failure to answer alarmed me. Was she too busy looking for a fire extinguisher or evacuating the building to answer her phone? I didn’t know yet that Sharon had hang-ups about talking on the phone. I immediately received a second text: “The red light has been on for 30 minutes!!!”
Again, I called her right away and again she did not pick up. I texted her “That just means the stovetop is still hot.” She immediately responded: “Oh, okay.” Weird, I thought. First of all she’s like 35 years old and the year is 2011 and this is America. It couldn’t possibly be her first encounter with an electric stovetop, could it? Second, why in the world hadn’t she answered my phone call when I responded to what she clearly thought, judging by the number of exclamation points in her text message, was a major emergency? I shrugged it off and went to bed. I didn’t think of Sharon again until a few weeks later, around June 10. Per the terms of the lease, the rent was to be due the first of every month. Here we were, though, one-third of the way through June and I hadn’t seen a check come through. I called Sharon. No answer. I left a voicemail. A couple days passed without a return call.
I called again – no answer. I texted her and the next day received a text back: “OMG I’m so sorry, I’ll have them cut a check right now.” It took another week before they were able to “cut” a check. I received a handwritten check in a handwritten envelope and it wasn’t even a business sized #10 envelope. What kind of business doesn’t use business envelopes? I cashed it with a little trepidation but the funds came through and I relaxed.
That is, until July 14 when I realized, hey those fools are late on the rent again. I called Sharon and left a voicemail. She sent me a text back: “OMG I’m so sorry. Let me see what I can do.” I immediately called her to ask what the deal is. Why is she reminding them to pay me? Why can’t the company just remember when their bills are due? What kind of accounting department is in place at this organization? Apparently the kind where they handwrite their checks and mail them off in greeting card envelopes three weeks after they’re due.
Sharon texted me to let me know the check was in the mail. However, a week later I still had not received the check so I texted her saying as much. “That’s weird. I mailed it on Wednesday.” Hmm, I thought. She texted me on Monday with “Check is in the mail.” Now she’s saying she mailed it Wednesday. Even still, it should be here by now – it only had to travel 18 miles. I asked what address she sent it to. When she told me the address I pointed out that she’d left off my apartment number.
I was annoyed but thankful I was getting paid. I didn’t desperately need the rent check on time because I’m a big baller. I buy name brand frozen dinners and such. Still, it’d be nice to come home from work and not have to run my one-woman collection agency. Besides, they’d been late two times in a row. Surely they were so embarrassed by their irresponsibleness that I’d come home from work on August 1 to find the August rent sitting in my mailbox.
Halfway through August I found myself texting Sharon. Except this time I requested to receive a real live phone call. “We really need to talk,” I texted. “Sure, what’s up,” she responded. “Can you please call me?” No response for a few days, then: “Hey I got your check. Can I have a driver drop it off so I can make sure it gets there?”
A driver? She’s just going to have one of their limo drivers drop off the check to me? That was weird. I responded: “If you remember to include the apartment number on the envelope, it should get here just fine.” No response. I was a little hesitant about a total stranger dropping me off a check but I wanted my money so I agreed to meet her goony outside my apartment building for the handoff.
He was supposed to be there in 20 minutes but I knew time moved much slower for these people and so I wasn’t at all surprised when 3 hours later he texted me to say he was 5 minutes away. I went outside to meet him but he was already waiting in my lobby and chatting up the doorman. He asked me tons of questions about how much the units in the building go for and how did I like living here? Because he was considering moving in. Very strange. I said the joint sucked and scurried back to my apartment with my check.
This back and forth text messaging and begging for my rent check every month continues to this day. Sharon has been in my condo for nine months and she and her ramshackle outfit have made zero timely payments. The best month we ever had was when they only paid one and a half weeks late.
I’ve tried every tactic I could think of. I played it cool and acted like I didn’t need the money. I left her weepy voicemails saying I desperately needed the money to pay my mortgage. I threatened eviction. I pretended to believe each new excuse she came up with – one month she was in the hospital for 2 days and thus the rent was 37 days late. Another month the office was broken into by disgruntled former employees – the place was set on fire and the company’s system was hacked into and they couldn’t “cut” the checks and didn’t I just feel like a total jerk for demanding my rent when they were going through all this heartache? I asked why they needed the “system” to be operating in order to “cut” a handwritten check under one of their many DBAs. Unfortunately I never got my answer because the phone was just then disconnected.
When I finally got my December rent (due December 1, remember) on January 3 Sharon told me (via text) that it was her New Year’s resolution to get me the rent on time every single month.
Today is February 10 and I’m waiting on my January 1 rent and February is already 9 days past due. I’ve been sending texts and leaving voicemails for three weeks, bipolaring between angry landlord and sad, impoverished, single girl needing to pay the bills. A few days ago I received my first response to my January collections efforts: “At a baptism. Can’t talk.” I followed up today asking for an ETA on the check and just heard back. “I’ll look into it next week.” It may soon be time to send one of my own goonies.
- 2013 (1)
- 2012 (8)
- 2011 (19)
- 2010 (35)