IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Lost $2,000 to a Shady Landlord

After communicating with potential subletters we found on Craigslist, they told us they had already signed a new lease with the property manager.
Publish date:
August 25, 2016
Boston, renting, landlords

It was a perfect storm of unfortunate events — from feeling the need to leave the apartment I was living in to receiving my bonus at work to the sense that it was the "right time" to move in with my significant other. Suddenly, it was four months later and I was laid off from my job and desperately searching for a way to get out of the apartment that brought nothing but stress into our lives. And that was only beginning.

After my fourth time down the bumpy road of apartment hunting in Boston, I thought I had seen it all: three bedrooms where you couldn't find the third room, disgusting stovetops that hadn't been cleaned in years, apartments where the bathroom wall is slowly falling apart into the bathtub, etc. As a result, my standards were pretty low, and since our budget was also low, I thought this would work out.

Well, it turns out that no matter how low your standards may be, it's still possible to fall further toward rock bottom.

I was determined not to pay a broker fee this time around, and I also have a dog, so my already small options shrank even more significantly. Even though my dog is a 10-pound angel, lots of landlords in Boston seem to think all dogs will eventually become Cujo.

We had been looking casually for a few months, and my panic mode was beginning to set in. We decided to open our search area to new neighborhoods.

We found a place we thought we could live with — and in. I wish I was making this up, but I went into this old Victorian home and decided that it had so much charm that the absolutely nonexistent living room and lack of windows in the kitchen wouldn't be a problem.

The fateful Sunday we were supposed to cut a check to the property manager — a woman who actually looks like a villain in a Disney movie with her angry eyebrows and downturned mouth — my boyfriend and I got into a big fight about whether or not this was the right choice. I was headstrong and stubborn, and I wouldn't listen to anything he said.

I hate to be wrong, but he now has an "I told you so" in his pocket for the rest of our lives.

Almost immediately after we moved in, I already wanted to get out. I felt cramped and claustrophobic. We also discovered that we didn't even have a thermostat. After emailing our property management company, they informed us we would have to contact them if we wanted to adjust the temperature, and that could only be done during business hours on the weekdays. It truly was the stuff of nightmares.

The cherry on top of our apartment sundae was when I lost my job a few months into living in this hellhole. I could have made it work and drained my savings to stay in a place I hated, but what's the point?

A week after I was laid off, we called the property manager and told her our situation. We said we are hoping to sublet the apartment because I was no longer working, and that we would find tenants and have them approved before moving forward. She handled this well, and we thought we were off the hook.

We found almost a dozen possible tenants, which made me feel better about deciding to live in this glorified attic. But then the process started to get hairy. The property manager was giving us no insight into the subletter-approval process, and the end of the month was approaching quickly. We thought we were stuck.

Finally, after communicating with potential tenants we found on Craigslist, they told us they had signed the lease. This seemed odd to us because we still hadn't heard from our property manager.

On September 1, the day almost everyone in the city of Boston moves, we finally got an email from the management company telling us we had to come into their office by 3 p.m. to sign an "exit agreement" and that "time was of the essence." No shit! Where have you been for the past week?

Letting someone sign a new lease instead of allowing us to sublet as planned, apparently.

We ended up at the office arguing with Maleficent over the terms of the exit agreement. We didn't want to sign another ridiculous contract — look where the last one got us! She proceeded to remind us that we aren't lawyers and then threatened us with legal action. So we caved. And I died a little inside. She had our names on that dreaded dotted line. And $2,200 of our hard-earned money.

After being denied the security deposit we were owed, we decided we were going to take action and go to small-claims court. Months and many demand letters later, we found ourselves in court in April. I am not a confrontational person, but I was ready to see this terrible woman and give her a piece of my mind. After the meeting, I thought we did well, and I was confident we'd see the check we were owed a few weeks later in the mail.

Well, that never happened. We received a measly $400 for our months and months of trouble and stress.

And the evil property managers of Boston live on to continue swindling renters.