Curbed Horror Stories are firsthand reader reports about terrible Los Angeles apartment experiences past and present. This week, in honor of Renters Week, we're having a rental horror story showdown. We'll post a few horror stories each day with a vote for the best on Thursday. The winner will advance to the national round of our network-wide contest (and the nationwide winner gets a free month's rent!). Horror stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, if you please.
BACKSTORY: For about 4 years, I had a landlord named [Del Preston*]. For those four years, I slowly learned what the word, slumlord, really meant. He was an old punk rock guy and loved to talk about bands instead of fixing everything. I always wondered if he remembered the song, Let's Lynch the Landlord by the Dead Kennedys.
When I first moved into my small house in Echo Park, I knew it was a bit of a rat-hole but it wasn't awful. It had charm and character. There were some weird things here and there but I liked my strange little home. Let me tell you about this strange house. There were peculiar add-ons that were obviously not permitted. The living room was cut in half with a makeshift wall to provide a small bedroom. The dining room used to be a bathroom which we could tell by the medicine cabinet on the wall. There was a back unit to our place that was sort of obviously where the original kitchen probably was. The whole house had high ceilings except for our kitchen. The kitchen did not have windows or a stove. We bought a stove. [Del] refused to connect it for us. This is the house I moved into.
OFFENSES: Now let me tell you some trials and tribulations of living here. Every once in a while when we ran our microwave oven, a fuse would blow. This could be fixed by going to the fuse box and replacing the fuse. No problem. This happens to lots of houses. The difference was that [Del] refused to give us access to our fuse box. If the fuse blew, we'd have to call [Del] several times to come over and replace the fuse for us. His reasons for this was that the fuse box was under the house and he had some stuff under there. Once, we gained access to it and found that the only thing in there was homeless people trash: papers, old computer junk, nothing of value. We couldn't fix our power because the guy was too cheap to get a public storage.
Once, our toilet decided to stop working. [Del] literally left us without a pot to piss in for a few days. When we were finished with our business, we'd have to fill a bucket with water and pour it into the bowl to make our waste flush away. He sent over a handyman to fix it who showed up with a six pack and chain smoked. He left all his butts in our still unfixed toilet. After a while, he mickey-moused something together so that our toilet worked but it had hot water in it so that our asses would sweat when we sat down. It took about 2 weeks to get the whole thing fixed right.
We had mice every winter. When we told [Del], he said he'd bring us traps When we realized this was all he was going to do - we just started buying the traps ourselves.
One day I came home from a trip and there was a for sale sign on our property. Apparently, [Del] got a call from the city about his house. They found out about his unpermitted backhouse. We thought that the city would take care of us and take care of [Del]. In the end, [Del] got out of trouble by putting a door from our unit into the back unit. He kept the key. Our back unit neighbor had her kitchen ripped out. He assured her that she would get a hot plate and a mini fridge for her trouble. As far as I know, she never got it. If she did, it was well after this was done. He still wanted her to pay the same amount of rent.
Speaking of rent, our rent went up the maximum amount he legally could raise it every year. Once we were late with his rent and he sent his girlfriend into our house to yell at us about it.
BIGGEST OFFENSE: There are so many offenses but this one was my final straw. I slept in the upstairs bedroom. One night, I heard buzzing behind my bed. I put my ear to the wall and heard the sound of several bees. Have you ever seen the movie, Candyman? It sounded like that. I looked outside my window and there were a ton of bees going in and out of a hole in the side of my house. THERE WAS A BEE HIVE BEHIND MY BED. Every once in a while, they'd crawl into the room and I'd have to swat them. This took a month for him to fix. I finally had to threaten not to pay rent.
Joe: "[Del], I'm not paying ANY RENT until this gets fixed."
[Del]: "Well, legally you can't do that because yadda yadda blah blah"
Joe: "Legally nothing! YOU. AREN'T. GETTING. MONEY. UNTIL. THE. BEES. ARE. GONE."
The hive was removed. The exterminator stuffed the hole with newspaper. The bees came back and this time [Del] fixed it right away.