Tim the Landlord

I ran into my old landlord, Tim, today. Not too surprising since he owns the flat opposite the one I now live in. He says he's moved back in there now, but that doesn't actually seem to be the case. I'll get to that later. Everything with him is just a little bit odd. But first let me take you back to our first meeting.

My sister and I were looking for a place together and we found this two bedroom flat that suited us pretty well. I went to take a look at it and Tim showed me around. Everything looked pretty much fine to me, but Tim was very concerned about the carpet in the living-room. He'd do something about it before we moved in, he said. I said that was fine, because the carpets seemed fine to me anyway so I didn't care.

So when I did move in I discovered the solution he'd come up with. Rugs. All over the floor. Not matching rugs, not nice rugs, just rugs. All different ones. A couple of them were doormats. So I packed them away (because the carpet was actually fine) and carried on with my life. The carpet thing came up one other time, when the real estate agent told us at an inspection that the owner wanted to replace the carpet. We said we'd rather that not happen and Tim agreed not to go ahead with it. He just thought we would probably like new carpets, he said.

Another time, we got a letter from the real estate agent telling us that Tim had been robbed and was trying to get a loan, but the bank wanted to be sure that he had rent continuing to come in, so if we were going to stay, could we sign up for another 12 months as soon as possible? They even put it in writing that we could back out of the lease at any time with no penalty. We weren't planning to leave anyway so we agreed. It was no inconvenience for us, but it was pretty weird (and maybe not quite legal?).

Then he disappeared.

It was no big deal. Emergency repairs went through the real estate agent anyway, and for less urgent stuff it just meant a delay while they tried to contact him and got no response, then took it upon themselves. Otherwise it all worked out fine. We paid our rent, no one hassled us. Until Tim stopped paying his mortgage.

The bank wasn't happy about that, so they began proceedings to take the flat and kick us out. "It was all a mix up" says Tim. "The real estate agents were trying to take the flat from me, just because they couldn't contact me. I hadn't given them my new contact details because I was suffering PTSD from being the victim of a major crime. And then I had to pay about $800 in legal fees!"

But that was today. Back then we just knew that no one had heard from Tim in months (possibly years) and he'd stopped paying his mortgage, so we had to move. Turned out fairly well for us though, because the flat across the landing was up for rent and is actually a bit nicer, so we moved there.

After we'd signed the new lease, we got a call from our old real estate agent saying that Tim had turned up and paid off the bank and we could stay if we wanted. It was nice of them to make the offer, but just a bit too late. You'd think that would be where it ended, but you'd be wrong.

After we'd been living in the new place a few months we got a letter from Tim. He said he'd moved back into his flat - which he hadn't and still hasn't - and was having some trouble with the electricity. Apparently our account was still connected and he couldn't get it switched over to his name? I was pretty sure that wasn't the case, but I rang up the power company anyway, just to be sure. They confirmed that I'd closed out the account and paid the final bill.

The second part of the letter was more of an issue, but you're going to need some background first. Between each pair of flats in this building there's a shared laundry room. Ours is shared between our old flat and our current one. When we first moved in to the old flat, Tim told me that he'd put the water and electricity in there himself and it had just been a storage room before that. He is the only person who believes that.

The body corporate says that the laundry rooms are communal and that they pay for the electricity and power, and furthermore they are not and never have been storage rooms. They put up signs saying not to store things in there and everything. The owner of our new flat says the laundry room and the water and power in there are communal. There's a bunch of stuff stored in there that the body corporate seems to have no interest in clearing out, despite their "no storage" policy.

In his letter, Tim informed us that he planned to put another tap into that laundry room, but that we were free to continue using the water and power there in the meantime. He left a mobile phone number, so I texted him a lengthy response, letting him know that the electricity was definitely not still in my name and that the water and power situation in the laundry was a matter for the body corporate, not us.

Soon after, we got another letter from him saying that the electricity thing had been cleared up. This turned out to not quite be true, as I discovered when the power company sent me a letter telling me my account had been credited back every payment I had made to them in the last year. I'm not sure whose fault it was, but apparently Tim's account had been given a start date a year early, which was confusing their system. It was all sorted out in a a couple of minutes though, so I'm not sure how it had caused him such problems.

I heard no more until today. There was a noise outside the flat, like someone rattling the screen door. Despite the fact that we have a fully functional doorbell, I had received a visit from some charity collectors the day before who'd just tried knocking on the screen door instead, so I thought this might be more of the same and went to have a look. Turned out it was Tim coming out of his flat. He was keen to chat.

He asked me if I'd gotten his letters. I said yes and mentioned that I'd texted him a response. "Oh, I didn't read it." he said. I didn't know how to react to that and anyway he saved me the trouble. "Listen, I'll show you what I want to do." he said, opening the laundry door.

There's a wooden board attached to the brick wall of the laundry room. I'm not sure why. Tim thinks it's for hanging bikes from somehow; there are hooks attached to the ceiling for hanging bikes from (in this room that is not to be used for storage) but they do not appear to be related in any way to the board.

"I'm going to pull that down and put an extra tap in on that side." Tim said. "I'm not actually a plumber, but I have a friend who is and he showed me how to do it. Doesn't take long if you know what you're doing. Last time it only took me about six weeks or so."

I mentioned the body corporate. "I'm not going to tell them." Tim said. "They don't know what they're talking about anyway." Again I was saved from having to respond diplomatically by a sudden change of direction from Tim. "Let me show you something." he said, leading me from the laundry and to his flat.

He opened the door and pointed upwards. When we'd lived there, there'd been some cracks in the ceiling just inside the door. They'd been there the whole time and never showed any signs of getting worse. Now there's a hole in the ceiling. "Water damage." said Tim. "There's a hole in the roof somewhere, and every time it rains water comes in and hits that spot." I'm fairly sure that this is not accurate.

"I'm going to get up on the roof and fix it." said Tim. "It's not hard if you know what you're doing. I've been up there before. Put up some of those air conditioner things, one above this room, one over each of the bedrooms." His flat does not and never has had air conditioning. I have no idea what he put on the roof (if he even put anything there). If he has been up there, and there is damage, he probably caused it. I should also mention that this is a three storey building and the guy who came to look at our air conditioner recently mentioned that he'd need a cherry picker if he needed to access the roof. Tim's not exactly a young man, and seems a little unsteady even on flat ground.

"What I might do in a few weeks," said Tim, "is get you to help me out by getting a long stick or something and poke it up through that hole in the ceiling so I can find the leak when I'm up there." I told him I would not be able to help with that and suggested he hire a contractor. "Yeah," he said thoughtfully, "probably a body corporate thing." I agreed, though he didn't seem fully convinced. "Anyway, I've got to go." he said, locking up. We said goodbye and he went on his way while I returned to my flat.

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