Wednesday, 3 February 2010

gee it's great to be back home, home is where I want to beeeee

hello home
hello neighbours, lovely friendly talk in the street share a beer lend me a band aid and pool our take away neighbours
hello friends, lovely friendly talk on the phone visiting sharing take away friends
hello lovely school right in our street
hello lovely child care centre where everyone is excited to see us
hello so so much smaller house
hello stuff
hello stash
hello family, airport picking up shopping buying calling thoughtful just close by family
hello new dog next door (who woke me up this morning)
hello Melbourne summer weather at its finest
hello backyard with grass and trees and plums - so much green!
hello compost (oh it feels good not to be chucking fruit and veg scraps in the garbage!)
hello calling a small plastic bucket the pool
hello 27 loads of washing
hello not being able to find anything (including the floor and beds) in the chaos of unpacking
hello finding things left in odd places
hello returned bond from the scary uptight agents - HA! we did it!! we rock!!!
hello great big mess left by our tenants*
hello great big deck where we can eat dinner outside amongst the greenery
hello daylight saving, oh how we love love love you
hello waking up to the first number 6 instead of 5
hello unpacking stacking sorting putting away
hello crumbling kitchen floors
hello way too much to do
hello trams
hello unearthed relics that make me smile and remember
hello chiropractor
hello traffic
hello home delivery take away food
hello real pizza tasting pizza
hello Marg the check out chick who hugged me and said welcome home and where's my boy?
hello Rena the green grocer who hugged me and said welcome home and where's Amy?
hello 3.30 school finish time. That's more like it!
hello getting organised
hello great big bed
hello indoor/outdoor living
hello noise
hello streetlights shining in the windows
hello obscured sky
hello energy efficient digitally temperature controlled instant gas hot water
hello flies
hello Mangala creative dance classes for 3 year old boys who usually just bash stuff with trucks
hello little tiny (screen, not overall dimensions) definitely not digital TV
hello squeaky floorboards
hello view to the street where people walk past all the time and sometimes even wave
hello normal mess
hello regular life

* I don't wish to go on about this endlessly, but really twitter and facebook just aren't enough to unload the bitter disappointment I feel about having my home left in such a state by careless, thoughtless tenants. I know it could have been much much worse (they paid their bills and didn't slash the couch or torch the place or open an illegal brothel on the premises so that every time I answer the phone some guy wants to book an hour with Candy or that cute chick with the extra toes) and I am trying to factor in all the things that are making me look at this in the most negative possible light - the incredible lengths we went to in the house we rented to restore it to pristine condition before we left and meet the shockingly high expectations set by the agents, the fact that our house is a run down shack in comparison to where we have been living, inevitable wear and tear (it's not like I am counting the numerous broken glasses or plates or expecting the windows to be washed), inevitable differences in viewpoints about what's reasonable, my monumental exhaustion etc. But that just isn't enough to explain away what's happened here and let this be a lesson to you all if you are considering letting others into your home. Next time I will
  1. make it a condition of rental that they have a regular professional gardener, even when they say they are happy to look after the garden and mow the lawn and cut back the voracious grape vine and not let the fruit from the trees drop and rot on the ground. Then I won't have to organise for someone (thank you Kate!) to come in and work for 2 days and generate the most enormous pile of green waste you ever saw and then have to find a way to dispose of said green waste. And it is not like I expected perfection, or that those 2 days gave me a garden even as neat as the one I left, it just dealt with the basic critical problems.
  2. specify a full bond clean by a professional cleaner so I don't have to justify why I didn't spell out that it was their responsibility to remove cobwebs and dead flies from shelves, mouldy yoghurt and fruit and vegetables from the fridge and cupboards, spot clean the grots off the couch, not clean the BBQ with a wire brush and then not oil it so the whole thing rusts up, not leave dirty washing in the washer and dirty sheets on the bed, not leave dust bunnies the size of dinner plates under the beds, not put away dishes in the cupboards that still have food stuck to them, not leave the carcass of a dead bird slowly rotting away in a tub of rainwater in the backyard.
  3. specify that the bit in the contract that says it is the "tenant's responsibility to replace items broken through accident, neglect or misuse or repair damage from accident, neglect or misuse" means the tenants can't (a) leave a list and pile of broken stuff on the bench and say they didn't know what to do about it (because stainless steel saucepans, cake tins, pyrex lasagne dishes and oven trays are not mysterious and difficult to find objects), (b) put broken stuff back in the cupboards and on shelves and pretend they didn't know it was broken (because spring form cake tins that don't close aren't any use to anyone and glasses with whopping big cracks in them are kind of dangerous), (c) say electrical items 'just stopped working' and they don't know why when the item is clearly visibly melted and burnt (I can't even work out how you do that to a kettle, let alone claim you didn't notice) or just not tell us when electrical items no longer work (what happened to that dust buster is a mystery to us all but I know it involved the inside of the filter being coated in once wet and now dried food that was never cleaned off), (d) smash wall switches and expect me to organise an electrician and stay home to wait around for them to come, (e) let their children draw on furniture with black texta and ball point pen and not get the marks off or have them removed, (f) dispute the cost of replacing and repairing stuff if they haven't bothered to do it themselves and consider themselves bloody lucky if I don't charge them an hourly rate as befitting their own personal shopper (g) let a bird in the house, let it fly around in the loft, shit everywhere and not clean it up, (h) have stuff simply disappear and feign ignorance (whether that be plastic plates featuring Amy's art work or now discontinued hideously expensive Japanese style tupperware storage and serving boxes or any number of other things we haven't even worked out we're missing yet - next time? an inventory I guess) (i) place beanbags or other meltable items in front of heaters, let them melt (leaving large clump of hard melted polystyrene stuck to inside of beanbag fabric) and then not mention it (until one sits down and gets a hard lump of plastic up the coit).
  4. have a clause that says refill the gas bottle on the BBQ when you take it from full to empty. Clearly the this is how and where to refill it instructions were not obvious enough.
  5. have a clause that says tenants should check first (that's what regular email contact is all about) whether we want cast off stuff before leaving it in our house, just in case we might want it or might want to organise to take the old toys, old bike, broken lamps, books etc to the op shop for them.
  6. spell out that tenants are required to follow Council guidelines in relation to garbage collection and that 2 separate verbal briefings and a printed publication on this not overly complicated system constitutes a reasonable level of guidance. Furthermore should tenants elect, despite advice to the contrary, to use the Council garden waste bins as giant compost buckets they will be responsible for the removal of 6month old maggot infested utterly putrid food scraps plastered therein, and the removal of the additional rubbish piled on top of bins that prevent bins from being emptied at all. I misunderstood is neither a credible nor sufficient excuse.
I think that covers most of it, well most of what we have found so far. And it should be said that a good deal of what's so wrong about this picture (I mean, aside from all the stuff that I just said) is that I am now living in a kind of paranoid state of not knowing what will reveal itself next. More rotten food stashed away somewhere? Something else gone missing? Another appliance than no longer works? An essay scrawled in texta on the back of the couch? A dead body in the compost bin? A neighbour who will never speak to me again?

The tenants are shocked that I'm shocked and put all this down to minor differences in lifestyle and culture, a few misunderstandings and nothing that $1.75 in compensation won't fix. They think I am being unreasonable and trying to profit from them and I oscillate between wondering if I am being excessively harsh to wondering if they aren't off somewhere (like prime seats at the Australian open or flying first class to Australia's top tourist destinations) laughing their heads off at how well they screwed us. Or living in some parallel universe in which they really do think they have done the right thing when clearly they are in major reality deficit.

I am not at all sure how to tally up the damage, itemise the bond deductions and simply move on. I also have to decide what kind of feedback I will leave on the website we used to find them and how to balance reasonable disclosure for any future landlords with just wanting to put the whole thing in the past with my revenge fantasies and wanting to believe that this has all just been a horrible misunderstanding. I do want to believe that this isn't malicious and I don't want to be slagging people off, but I also don't want anyone else to return to their home to find weeks of nightmarish discoveries and many many hours of inconvenience and heartache while they repair the messes that have been left behind.

All I can say is it is bloody lucky everything else about the homecoming has been so excellent, otherwise I may seriously gone off.


Helen said...

OMG that is so wrong. That is appalling, how on earth could somebody do those things....without conscience & wonder what the problem is???? I sincerely hope that the bond is able to cover EVERYTHING (& if not they should pay more) & for me it's got nothing to do with revenge it's about respect.
...long term reader first time commenter....

Fiona said...

Blimey. I am kind of stunned at your list here. There is no way on earth any of the stuff that your tenants have left you to deal with is fair or reasonable. To say the least! I'd be leaving some VERY pissed off feedback on the rental website!

But glad you are home safely and happy to be there otherwise.

Suzy said...

Glad you are back safely and managed to extract the bond in QLD.

But so sorry to hear about the slackness at home. I would leave very honest feedback on the rental site and also hire cleaners and deduct it from the bond. Because it's a basic expectation when you're renting that you leave the place as you find it, no? I think "reasonable wear and tear" clauses are more to cover when someone lives in a place for 20 years, rather than just six months. Because, really, how many appliances and plates do you usually break in 6 months? And I don't think maggots and bird poo can be considered reasonable by anyone's stretch of imagination.

Frogdancer said...

That's disgraceful behaviour.
(Them, not you!)
I toyed with the idea of letting people use my house during the Commonwealth games when we were in Bali, but decided against it. This makes me feel very glad that I did.

flowerpress said...

Oh dear, that's really sad. I'm so sorry to hear your little house and posessions have been treated like that. I'd be really really upset!
I always wonder about house swapping (a place in Tuscany perhaps!) but this makes me think twice.

Louise said...

It sounds quite heartbreaking to return to that kind of far-reaching disruption of your home.

I second the recommendation to hire cleaners and deduct it from their bond. That is exactly what a bond is for. If you have the energy to deal with trying to get compensation for things you do yourself, I'd suggest you take pictures of any problems before you clean them up. Also if you have any friends who work in the real estate industry (eg I have neighbours who are agents) I would ask them to take a walk around your property and show them the issues - not just for their opinion but also as credible witnesses in case there is an issue over keeping any of the bond. But all of that might be too far for your energy/disposition.

As far as the review on the website, I would be completely factual. Other landlords need to know the potential risks. Even if you stick to the basics, 'X of my belongings were missing and the tenant is unable to explain why, X of the tenant's belongings were not removed and the tenant has not returned to remove them despite being requested to do so, X items were declared as damaged by the tenant yet not replaced as agreed in the contract, I found X additional items were damaged that the tenant did not declare, I found x things that were issues'... even just the facts it still sounds pretty bad :/

In the last year I have had an insight into the kind of people who wreak such havoc in their home environment without a thought. I have married someone with very different standards to my own, and therefore I can actually envisage the possibility that your tenants think what they did is acceptable and are shocked that you are shocked.

For example, while I think the chunks gouged out of the surface of the brand new desk we just bought are a problem, he simply does not and cannot understand why I do. I think the beautiful large BBQ that has rusted to unusability because he left it uncovered during rain is a problem, and he simply does not. I think the stains on the carpet under the dining table from food being dropped and walked in are a problem and he does not. I think a bathroom should be thoroughly cleaned before we leave a rental property, and he does not. I think dishes waiting to be washed that have mold on them are a problem, and he does not. Need I go on?

I was ashamed of the way he left the last house he lived in before he married me (although it was not as bad as your tenants - the owners who moved in are now friends with us so they obviously coped ok even if I wasn't comfortable). He is *incredibly* wounded that I think he fails at taking care of his home and belongings when he thinks he does a good job. His kids have always had clean clothes, nutritious meals, and a very loving and engaged father, and he just doesn't care about the physical stuff around him. I cannot see a reason for why he is this way (his mother is a neat, clean and conscientious person). I consider my values to be common sense, but obviously they are not that common when otherwise functional (and otherwise admirable) members of society have such wildly different standards. It is especially interesting because my partner is in demographic respects so similar to me, and I think my privilidged upbringing and Australian popular culture has lead me to incorrectly associate inadequate housekeeping/care of belongings with people living close to poverty. Meeting my husband was a wakeup call for that particular assumption!!

Tania said...

Ugh. Next time you want to go off on a seriously big adventure, have a chat to me and we'll swap houses*. Our respective homes sound very similar and I am the tenant of your dreams. Just as you are the tenant of mine, I cannot help but schedule the last 24 hours of a two week holiday putting everything precisely where it was originally found and scrubbing corners never scrubbed before.

* Does moving suburbs within the same state constitute a seriously big adventure?

PS. Welcome home excellent lady.

Kate said...

OMG Sooz, that really is unbelievable. Even a quarter of those things would send me over the edge.
I say be honest with the feedback and hope you get compensated for the damage.

nicole said...


I'm german. I have lived in Australia (ok, so it's been 11 years, but I don't think you've changed everything in that time) and the differences are not that big.
We have the same bins in germany and in all the places I've lived in germany they've been emptied on a regular schedule, just like they are in Melbourne.

In germany, if you rent a place, you have to leave it "besenrein" meaning after you've moved everything that's yours out of the house you do one final sweep with a broom.
If you break things you replace them or you pay for them to be replaced.

I do not think your expectations were extreme. I do think you got pretty bad tenants and as for feedback to leave on the site you found them on? Link to this post. That's what I would do.

I am so sorry this has happened to you, and I can assure you it has nothing to do with them being german but a lot to do with them being selfish idiots. Sorry.

Sophie said...

one or two missing things. one or two breakages (not appliances!). that is reasonable. the number of problems and messes that these tenants have left you with is your clue that you are not being unreasonable or vengeful -- clearly, these tenants have trouble being good tenants, and trouble keeping their word.

be honest on the website, and get everything that you and your family deserve for the damage to your home and property. my father-in-law went through something similar with longer-term tenants in his rental property, and was only able to recover $2000 out of $20000 damage that was done to his house (all figures in canadian dollars). my family have always rented, and never have we created such havoc!

travellersyarn said...

Wow, this makes me feel quesy. We have the first inspection of our new house, (which will be tenanted until July...) Bet its lovely to see all your stuff!

Elizabeth said...

Definitely go for getting a team of cleaners in to sort out the mess. I've done this on a couple of occasions when we've been handing a rental property back to the landlord and have always found them to be worth their weight in gold - they can blitz a house and get it beautifully clean in the blinking of an eye (well, maybe not that fast but bloody fast and bloody efficiently anyway.)

I'd also take plenty of photographic evidence in case with-holding some of the tenants' bond gets a bit tricky at some point.

Hope you're able to get it all sorted quickly and without too much additional hassle.

Ashley said...

ok, so clearly this was probably not the most upsetting of all the things listed, but... that hideously expensive super nice japanese style tupperware? They're making it again! (clearly still going to be expensive, but at least you might be able to add it to the list of expenses!)

I am glad to read the good things you've found on coming home though - I reckon being reunited with your stash and having the shop assistants at your local shops remember you would be making you feel pretty freaking good!

Hope you've come to the end of the horrible surprises!

Hollabee said...

Sounds like the nightmare from hell if you ask me... I'v never understood people who don't look after rental properties. I'm a renter myself and treat my little flat as if it were my own. It's unrespectful to leave a place in a worse condition than you've found it in and I definitely hope you'll get compensated for it and fingers crossed there won't be any more nasty surprises. I would definitely be honest with the feedback on the website and describe what state you found your house.

besides all that... It's great to have you back! Hope to catch up soon...

SharonH said...

Ohhhh sooz you poor thing... Geez what some people do grrrrr...There is just no respect anymore...

Julie said...

Unbelievable, but then I think back to a rental my parents had and I think I can believe you.
I think a short uninformative message with a contact phone number is all that is needed on the feedback page, either that or add a link to this blog post!!!!! I think that will sum it up for any prospective landlords.

Lisa said...

Hi sooz, so sorry to hear about all the mess, breakages and horribleness! As for the question of whether/what feedback to leave on the site you found your tenants, I think one word you used has all the power you require - 'maggots' - I mean for fruit's sake, how can anyone think that it is reasonable to leave them behind for you! Revolting! I don't think you need to say much more than that quite honestly!

trasha said...

hmmmm .... how many extra toes did you say Candy's friend has? And what was the hourly rate ???

Leonie said...

So not the welcome home you were expecting or deserved for that matter. I am one of the clean everything and leave it spic and span after renting, seriously can't understand how anyone could do anything else. Stand up for yourself and your belongings it is about respect and teaching our kids about respecting other's property, no one should have to deal with crap like that after a medium term house sit.

Jodie said...

Tell it like it is Sooz, unemotional facts stated on the website so no one else has to put up with them.
In the same situation I would be seething!

Minymo said...

What rat bags. I hope they read your blog!
But you're home safely now. Isn't it wonderful?

tippchic said...

Aaaaah Sooz- what a homecoming; I'm sorry for you.As for revenge- I dont think that's you- BUT you and your home DO deserve to be respected. My (ex)husband says I have a 'Monica complex' (ref Friends) as I like things to be neat n clean- its a respect thing. These guys may have different values to you and thats fine- in their own property. On yours, your standards apply. Seek that they put it right. Maureen

kirsten said...

oh, sooz. what a catastrophe! so sorry this has been your 'welcome home'... thankfully the other aspects are at least comforting.

Di said...

Darn. Darn. Darn.
Good thing you weren't away for longer. Lord knows what may have taken place!

peskypixies said...

ughhh how awful....
we rented out my mums house after she passed away and I was gobsmacked at the damage and rent owing we were left with.

Be VERY truthful with your feedback.

Kate said...

Oh, wow. I am always so aware, as a renter, that I am living in someone else's house, and not to disrespect that. It might be my home, but it's their house.

I can't imagine doing that to someone's actual HOME! My skin is crawling, not at any of the actual things, but at the general disrespect and carelessness.

I vote poor feedback. You should definitely let them know that that is not ok, and any potential victims, I mean landlords, know that they are a risk. If they were an employee with that level of negligent behaviour, would you give them a good reference?

Jo said...

I am always so angry when I take so much care to leave my rental properties in a clean state (as you say to the exacting standards of the agent or landlord) and then have to move into another filthy rental property or have someone treat your own home like that!

wood furniture said...

How could they do that? I am really mad to people who mistreats my properties even if I am just renting.