I’m so furious, I’m shaking. I’ve already screamed. I’ve already cried. I want to punch something, but I don’t see the point in only hurting myself. I’m going to warn you now, this blog post contains excessive swearing, because I fucking feel like it.
Everything that is wrong with San Francisco, can be found in my property management company, and in my lease agreement.
First off: rent. That’s a given. My rent is too damn high. I’ve complained about it before, most notably so in a blog post about venture capital’s impact on San Francisco. When I signed my lease, my rent was $2,495/month for a 419 square foot apartment. If you do the math, that’s $5.95/square foot of space/month. I didn’t have a choice; I relocated back to San Francisco from Sydney, Australia. Despite living in San Francisco for 7 years before going down under, I was reintroduced to 2014 market rates for rent with a slap in the face welcome back to my city. This isn’t my first rodeo in San Francisco, but I was unfortunately funneled through the same channels as others who come to this city for work.
Then, it’s not good enough for the blood-sucking property management company to receive a monthly check on the first of the month. Like a leech, they attach themselves electronically to my checking account (I don’t have a choice, this is just how they operate) to initiate the draws on my account themselves each month. It even says in my lease that if I pay by check, 1) I’m responsible for any delay due to mailing, and 2) they will take the information on my check to then initiate the electronic debit themselves, thus nullifying the purpose of the check in the first place.
Next, you get to the occupancy clause. Only the person whose name is on the lease can inhabit the apartment (I’ll get to the clause on guests later.) I cannot sublet, or get a roommate (not that I have room for one anyway), utilize AirBnB if I’m going to be gone on vacation, or otherwise have people on my premises. I wasted $5,000 on rent for my two-month sabbatical when I wasn’t even home, because I couldn’t supplement my income to offset the cost. Thanks, lease.
Technically, I’m allowed to work from home, provided I don’t invite the public into my apartment, or have employees on site. Except, let’s just be perfectly clear that I’m writing this in the office because I can’t stand to be in my apartment during the day anymore with the construction. That’s right, I can’t work from home, thanks to the conditions they’ve allowed. I’m only here because I can’t stand to be home right now. How about reimbursing me the muni fare because I had to leave? *crickets* I didn’t think so.
I can’t get a girlfriend and have her move in with me to share in the bliss of your exorbitant rent, lack of insulation, and shitty mold- and mouse-ridden apartment? Shame, really. Why, oh why doesn’t Facebook have a relationship status “in an abusive relationship with a suffocating lease???” Perhaps my personals ad should read “doormat seeks muddy boots.”
“Well, maybe if you just added her to the lease?” you say. But who’s to say it’ll even last that long? But it should be my fucking choice. What the actual fuck? Is this property manager my mommy now?
The guest clause is in the Occupancy section of the lease, too. I cannot have guests for over 7 consecutive days or fifteen days in any calendar year. I have to, once again, obtain express written permission to have a guest on site for more than 15 consecutive days in the calendar year.
A situation actually arose not too long ago, when I had a friend from Sydney come visit, using my air miles and I personally bore the cost to bring him here for a month. When I asked the property manager ahead of time, in the interest of attempting to comply with this absurd clause of my lease, they let me know their policy was not to provide any written consent for guests over 15 days, period. There was nothing I could do. No deposit to pay, no signed agreement that he would not become a squatter. He was leaving and had a ticket back to Australia. But no, they would not budge. The property manager is so concerned with not getting sued, they are not allowing reasonable use of their property. And their behavior is such that if I ever have a guest again, I’m not incentivized to let them know at all next time. They won’t provide approval, so why should I ask permission? Two can play this “go fuck yourself” game.
I’ve already contacted the San Francisco Tenants Union (SFTU for short – might as well be STFU, or shut-the-fuck-up cause they couldn’t help me.)
Other great clauses? No free weights are allowed to be used on the premises. I agree, someone shouldn’t have a gym sized collection of every weight available in dumbbells, or go throwing them or dropping them on the hardwood. The lease is basically telling me that if I want to work out, I need to join a gym and pay the gym fees, which are also inflation and city adjusted and too damn high.
Then, the building has security cameras on site, which I feel is an invasion of privacy, though they claim to use them for security. All it leads to is the nasty old people complaining about someone stealing their newspaper and they ask to view the footage so they can write a nastygram to the culprit, who was probably just a starving artist in the building using it beneath canvases to paint to make some money. Or someone loses a sock in the laundry and is convinced a neighbor stole it, since those useful cameras are all over the laundry facilities in the basement.
None of the tenants are allowed on the roof either. There is a locking mechanism that will open, but an alarm will sound. There are also cameras mounted to see who is violating this clause of the lease, too. If someone gets caught accessing the roof, this is grounds for eviction. This is a building in the city with no outdoor space. There is a billboard on the roof, and people need to be able to walk around and change the ads on the billboard. So you can’t fool me that it’s not safe or structurally sound… they just don’t want to spend the money to bring the building up to code, to put a fence around the ledge, and make it safe for tenant use. They don’t want to have to bring HVAC vents up to code either.
There is no additional storage available in my building, or parking. There is no bathtub in my apartment. For that matter, there is no dishwasher or washing machine and dryer either. The kitchen sink is really the size of a wet bar sink, no wider than 12 inches. With that came 6 inches of counter space. That is all that came with my kitchen – 6 inches of counter space. A narrow mini-sized oven range was provided, as was an undersized fridge. There is no garbage disposal. There are no window screens.
There’s mold in my closet. Yes, I did notify the landlord upon discovering it. There’s even an addendum to the lease about mold. When I let the property manager know and put in a maintenance request, they sent out a contractor who simply painted the mold with primer, because the primer has a label saying it was anti-mold. Let’s not discuss how the contractor had to come back multiple times, and I had to provide access to the apartment. Which meant I had to be there. Brilliant. In the mold addendum, I’m supposed to use the bathroom exhaust fans, the fans over the stove too, to reduce the likelihood of mold. Well, I would if I had any of those to use!
I’ve had mice in my apartment, because they fled from the construction site next door, which had laid in disrepair and undisturbed for years, until last year. There is a pest addendum to my lease too – basically pest removal is at the tenant cost and they take no responsibility for pests in the unit. I’m provided with an outdated list of approved vendors to take care of the pests. Gee, so long, and thanks for all the fish.
The utilities in my building are handled in a special way. The building was built in 1931, and has only 1 electric meter. So the utilities for the whole building are measured, then water, garbage, and electricity are allocated out to the various apartments based on the headcount of tenants. Two people who share an apartment use approximately 60% more of the water than just one person uses, instead of 100% more, according to their allocation methodology, instead of charging the apartment with two tenants double for their water. According to their allocation methodology, 3 people use 90% more than 1 person. That makes absolutely NO sense. So I can’t even get a clear bill for my actual personal usage of utilities, and I’m subsidizing the tenants who are doubled up in apartments in my building, though they still flush the toilet twice as much, do the dishes in the sink twice as much, and take double the showers. Hello, single-tax. Single people are penalized in this city, I swear.
Having been built prior to 1979, my building is grandfathered in to rent control in the city of San Francisco, and rent can only be increased by an amount indexed to inflation. The landlords can raise the rent no more than 3% annually, since that is the current inflation rate, so guess how much they raised my rent when my lease expired after 1 year? 3%. The maximum they possibly could. Meanwhile, my next door neighbor, guilty of those nastygrams, and who isn’t exactly quiet herself, has been living in the building for 20 years and probably only pays about $500/month in rent. Shall I remind you how much I pay for a similar sized apartment just because I signed my lease within the last year, when the market has gone insane? $2542, after my 3% increase this year. For fuck’s sake. Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me?
I can’t even paint the walls. Even if I wanted to pay out of pocket for the paint, and return it back to the exact condition the apartment was in when I got it. It even says it my lease I can’t put a plant on the floor. Would you also like to add a clause controlling my religion or that I can only vote for politicians who line your pockets with lobbying cash, or better yet, campaign promises that will earn you more money? Why don’t you tell me what I can and can’t have for breakfast? Brilliant idea.
The addendums to my lease are also ridiculous, on top of the aforementioned pest and mold addendums. House rules include special care must be given to noise levels before 8am and after 10pm. Why don’t you tell that to the construction workers next door who begin work prior to 7am?
Or how about this – if I’m locked out of my apartment, they can charge me $75 to simply have the on-site, live-in property manager employee, use their key on site to let me back in it. I get something reasonable like $20, or buy the guy a drink. He’s an on-site property manager, he already has the keys, just open the damn door. But $75? For something that takes 10 seconds to do? If I extrapolate that, that’s $75 for 10 seconds of work, or $450/minute. I wish that was my charge-out rate. Criminals.
The house rules also have strict guidelines about using the dumpster/garbage bins and how to recycle. Because I haven’t been recycling my whole life, and I don’t know how it works.
Then I had to actually initial pages that acknowledge that there may be lead paint on the walls. I also had to acknowledge that the building may contain asbestos. How about getting rid of the asbestos and making your building safe for tenants? How about getting rid of the lead paint? Then I won’t have to initial that stupid page. If someone does something stupid in the building, and releases the asbestos into the air, I have no recourse because I initialed that page? I can’t. I can’t even. The stupidity. *keels over because she can’t*
There’s also an addendum for bedbugs. My friend and neighbor in a nearby building is currently suffering through this. She recently paid $1400 to fumigate her apartment because she found a bed bug, and now other tenants in her building are finding them, too. 4 more units in her 7 unit building have them. When it comes to my lease, bedbugs are my problem. That’s right, the wording used is, “the tenant shall hold harmless the owner/agent from any actions, claims, losses, damages, and expenses” when it comes to bedbugs.
It’s my own damn fault for signing the lease, any lawyer and rational person would say. I know because I say it to myself. But honestly, if I wanted to live in San Francisco, I don’t have a choice. Any apartment I find, any property manager, will have the same clauses in their leases, charge similar fees, and be just as useless when it comes to problems and maintenance.
The raisin at the end of the hot dog (see great phrases in yesterday’s post, Found in Translation) came today, when I had to forward my email to the property management company AGAIN, because there was no response the first time, about possibly getting a pet. My lease says that NO pets are allowed on the premises, not even temporarily or with a visiting guest, without the landlord’s prior written consent. I cannot obtain said written consent without completing and signing a Landlord’s Pet Agreement. So my email inquired about sending along the Pet Agreement so I could have a read of it, and see what (idiocy) I was dealing with.
The idiot employee with no soul at the property management company, who is just doing her job, bless her stupid little heart, reminds me they only accept cats in this building. Oh, have you not seen the two whippets owned by the guy down the hall from me? Have you not seen the mangy, hideous ankle-biting mut belonging to the nice transgender person who lives on the 2nd floor? Cats only??? My ass. Maybe I should just start knitting clothes for my mice like Cinderella, and then I can avoid the Landlord’s Pet Agreement.
Then, here’s the best part. In addition to the massive security deposit equal to one month of rent ($2,495) I’ve already put in over a year ago when I moved in, I now need to put an additional deposit down of $500, even though any cleaning whether or not I have a pet would be more than covered by the $2,495 I’ve already put down. So that would leave nearly $3,000 earning minimal interest on deposit with the horrible property management I’ve come to loathe with each interaction. THEN, the idiot property management employee with no soul informs me that in addition to the usurious deposit, I have to add $50 additional rent EACH MONTH for said pet. UN-FUCKING-BELIEVEABLE!
From the full-on assault of this city, from the construction noises on the property next door, to the cigarette smoke that wafts into my apartment from the chain-smoking tenants in the apartment below every day, to the homeless people who congregate outside the building yelling obscenities, sometimes at 5am, these people have the nerve to charge me more to have a pet that is supposed to calm all of that? I want to get a pet to help with depression and the wears of living in this city, and now I have to pay rent for a cat?! Unreal! At least maybe then I can get that 40% discount on utilities by having a second tenant! I don’t even have a cat yet, and I’m already resentful it doesn’t have a job to help pay the rent! At least let them live rent free, and maybe instead you could impose a mouse-catching quota, to earn their keep?
Today, I want to quit my job. I want to put my notice in on my apartment, and I want to get the hell out of here.
Why hasn’t the San Francisco housing bubble popped sooner? Just fucking pop already! Twitter just laid people off… can we just fast forward to a time when it’ll be normal again? Tenants in this city are oppressed. There, I said it. I now know oppression, thanks to the my property management company, who’s goal, according to their website, is to, “enhance the communities we work in by creating high-quality, sustainable environments for people to live, work, shop and relax.” My ass. I don’t live in a high-quality, sustainable building. I don’t feel like I can relax or live there any longer. People like me are unhappy with their current situation, but they feel powerless to stop it or change it. Our only recourse is to move. Someone else will pay the high rent, will initial on the ridiculous ass-covering addendums.
There is no customer service function, despite supposedly having a dedicated customer service rep on staff. They’ll selectively respond to emails, avoid phone calls and let it go to voicemail. I generally have no place but the garbage bin to use as an inbox for complaints. I suppose I should reference the garbage and recycling addendum for trying to file a complaint with them. If I want handling of my complaint expedited, does it go in the recycle bin or the garbage can?
I’m not a happy tenant. They don’t care, though. They just don’t want to get sued. And they just want my money. They’ll nickel and dime me to death, without any regard to me as a tenant and as a person. I feel there is no recourse. I’m just supposed to put up with it, roll over, and drool.
The storm is building. The clouds are circling. And I’m not just referring to the ominous El Niño season predicted this winter. My time in San Francisco is coming to an end. I can feel it. Thanks in part to the my property management company. They represent all that is wrong with this city. At the end of the day, all the clauses are superseded by the bottom line. If I’m paying this much rent, my money should not only speak, but be heard.