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My experience with rental life in South Florida

WHY I BOUGHT A HOUSE
The Rental Experience in South Florida

Readers: This is based on a true experience -- only slightly exaggerated -- part of my life of adventure.
If I had read my own book, Making the Big Move, and followed my own advice, none of this would have happened! A word to the wise ...

To: Cathy Goodwin
From:Agony Arms Rental Homes

Welcome to Agony by the Sea! We are so pleased you have chosen to rent from us. You will love our beautiful grounds, our fully-equipped fitness center and our sparkling swimming pools. The residents are a friendly group and we know you'll enjoy meeting them at our many social events. Enclosed are brochures proclaiming our commitment to Superior Service Quality. We are sure you'll be happy here.

Before you move in, we need to have the following monies in certified funds. A few drops of blood on the contract wouldn't hurt either.
Cathy Goodwin - Apt 501.
Security deposit $750
Non-refundable pet fee $400
Pet deposit $400
Processing fee $75

For your convenience, here are numbers for electricity, telephone, newspaper and that all-important cable service. Please arrange to turn them on before you arrive.

To: Cathy Goodwin
From: Agony Arms
Now that you've arrived to move, and all your utilities are hooked up, here are some documents for you to sign. Even though it's ninety degrees and your cats are roasting in the car, you must sign everything now before we give you the keys. We deny any liability for anything that may happen, on or off the premises, in connection with Agony Arms.
Notice these documents are blank. We will fill in the amounts after you sign them all and send you copies so you'll know what you signed.
P.S. Here's your own personal card for the Agony Arms Gate. If you lose this card, we charge you $50. And here's your own windshield sticker with your own number. We recorded this number in your file. Don't lose it!

To: Agony Arms
From: Cathy Goodwin
Last Friday evening I tried to get into the fitness center. It was locked. Don't all Agony Arms residents have access to this much-advertised facility?

To:Cathy Goodwin
From: Agony Arms
Surprise! Before you can use the fitness center, you must pay a $50 deposit for a key. Bring your money during office hours: 9-5 Monday through Friday,.

To: Agony Arms
From: Cathy Goodwin
My publisher just told me they sent a big package three weeks ago. Someone named Andrea Addled signed for it. Where is this package now? Why hasn't someone called me?
And, more important, what happened to the cookies that my best friend sent a month ago? They were supposed to be a surprise.

To: Cathy Goodwin
From: Agony Arms
Remember all those papers you signed after you moved in? Well, we included a waiver of liability from anything associated with packages in any way, including our own gross negligence. Our lawyer, Big Tony, had a lot of fun with this one.
Our definition of Superior Service does not include notifying the residents of packages as they arrive. That is the responsibility of UPS, FedEx or whatever carrier the sender chooses. We recommend you advise people to send you packages only by US Mail, as the mail carriers won't let us anywhere near their packages anymore. The Postal Inspectors are a lot less forgiving than the UPS drivers.
You may come get your packages during our office hours, which have been reduced to 10-5 Monday-Friday.


To: Agony Arms
From: Cathy Goodwin
My publisher is furious because I missed a deadline. Instead of cookies I got a package of crumbs and a thank you note from the ubiquitous Florida ants. The nearest post office is five miles away.
Then again, maybe I could walk down there and get some exercise. The fitness center, which is guarded with those $50 keys, was vandalized and none of the machines work. The downstairs speakers are broken. Instead of fixing them, you play the upstairs speakers extra loud. And the music is so awful that nearly everybody wears earphones to drown it out.

To: Cathy Goodwin
From: Agony Arms
I'm afraid we have so many tenants we just can't be bothered to phone them each time a package arrives. We started out as a couple of fourplexes and saw no reason to add staff as we added a few hundred more units.
However, if you do not wish to have us receive packages, we will accommodate your wishes. We will go through each day's shipment, check for your name, and refuse to accept anything addressed to you. In other words, we are willing to spend time and energy to deny you service, but not to offer you any service in the first place.
As for the fitness center, nobody else has complained. We choose music that most people like. Earphones? They're probably listening to a stereo version of the radio station we chose for the speakers.

To: Agony Arms
From: Cathy Goodwin
Last night the tenant below me blared his stereo so loud the floor was shaking. He didn't answer the door when I knocked. That's when I learned that the only security after 6 PM is a minimum-wage rent-a-cop who couldn't hear me over the party in the guard shack.
Just out of curiosity, why do you give us windshield stickers if nobody patrols the grounds?

To: Cathy Goodwin
From: Agony Arms
Some things are mysterious and unknowable.

To: All Tenants
From: Agony Arms
To update our database, we need to know your parking sticker number, your car's license number, your unit, the day your lease expires, and your astrological sign. We need a list of authorized visitors as well as the purpose of their visit: business, social or family. If you do not return this form to us in five days, you may not be allowed on the property even if your lease is paid in full.
Note that residents of Agony Arms cannot be out of town for more than three days, because we need to be able to send you surprise notices at all times. And we want to keep track of your visitors. Think of us as your housemother, not your landlord.

To: Agony Arms
From: Cathy Goodwin
When I turned in my form, I noticed some new brochures announcing a non-refundable "redecorating fee" as part of the security deposit. Is this something new? Or are my eyes still recovering from deciphering the questionnaire that was printed in six-point type on bright turquoise paper? I enclose a get well card for your data entry clerks.

To: Cathy Goodwin
From: Agony Arms
Didn't you read the fine print on the sales brochures in the lobby? Part of your security deposit is indeed non-refundable. True, we didn't say anything when you viewed the property or signed the lease. However, this is the sort of thing that everybody is expected to understand.

To: All Tenants
From: Agony Arms
OK, who changed our sign from Rental Homes to State Prison? Don't let us catch you.

To: Agony Arms
From: Cathy Goodwin
I came home Friday evening to find a note on my door accusing me of Failing to Pay a Pet Fee. Sounds like something out of People's Court, which is where we may end up very soon. Since I had to provide certified funds before moving in, I assume that your very aggressive "leasing consultant" checked the amount as well as the form of my check.
Even if I owed this money, do you really believe a hand-scrawled note taped to the doorknob Friday morning, demanding payment by 5 o'clock Friday evening, delivers the "professionalism" and "Superior Service" that you keep promising? Your note says if I do not pay up I will be considered delinquent and my credit destroyed forever. Don't you usually send a bill first? Don't any of the other tenants ever work past five?

To: Cathy Goodwin
From: Manager, Agony Arms
Oh, silly me! Our bookkeeper just got carried away and made a little error. I'm sure you can overlook this minor inconvenience.
Please note that the redecorating fee covers the little things we do to make the apartment ready for the next tenant: shampooing the carpet, scrubbing, etc.

To: Agony Arms
From: Cathy Goodwin
Your gung-ho leasing consultant told me that the pet deposit is supposed to cover replacing the entire carpet, not just shampooing. Apparently even a single cat hair is sufficient to render the entire apartment unsuitable for the next tenant. Do you plan to shampoo the carpet before you throw it away? Anyway, the lease says I am supposed to leave the apartment in the condition I found it. What does that leave you to do? There's no evidence that anything was decorated in this apartment in the last ten years, let alone re-decorated.
Oh yes, attached is a copy of a water bill which came out of nowhere. My lease does not say anything about paying a water bill. True, buried in all the documents I signed under duress, I found a line about authorizing you to add utility payments to my bill on thirty days notice. No notice, no check. End of discussion.
I seem to spend more time defending myself against bogus bills than doing anything else. Why don't you change your slogan to Agony Arms, the work-creating community?

To: Cathy Goodwin
From: Agony Arms
As we said before, some things are mysterious and unknowable.

To: Leasing Agents
From: Manager, Agony Arms
Who let this woman into Agony Arms? You are supposed to screen out tenants who can spell "duress," let alone those who know there is an Attorney General in the State of Florida. How did we slip up?

To: Cathy Goodwin
From: Manager, Agony Arms
Surely there's a more suitable home for you somewhere in Broward County, elsewhere in the State of Florida, or even Central America. We hear Mongolia is nice, too. Just give us a little notice, pack up your cats, take your deposits, and go. We'll help you pack.

To: All Tenants
From: Agony Arms
Henceforth we will no longer keep parcels more than a day. If you happen to be working on the day your package comes, you're outta luck! Your package will be returned to the sender before you can say, "Call home!"
We have no social events scheduled for the month of December, following the pattern established in July, August, September, October and November. However, our monthly Pest Control visit remains as scheduled. The exterminator is a nice guy, and Pest Control can be considered a social event in South Florida.
As Christmas approaches, we are grateful for each of our tenants. Each of you is a blessing and we hope you stay a long time. In fact, if you recommend a new blessing who signs a lease, we will enter your name in a drawing for a prize -- one month's free rent! We're not desperate or anything. We just hope you'll share your Agony Arms experience with as many people as possible!

To: Agony Arms
From: Cathy Goodwin

I'm outta here.
Please give my sincerest condolences to my replacement, as well as this extra set of earplugs to cope with my stereo-loving neighbor. You can bet I'll share my experience a lot.

Signed,

Cathy Goodwin
Your blessing in Apt. 501.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com or call 505-534-4294.


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