Behind Closed Doors

The building’s water bill was $800 more than usual so I was instructed to go into every apartment and check for drips, leaks, or running toilets. This is not my favorite task, especially in an already packed weekend, but necessary. I hung up signs alerting tenants that I would be coming by and immediately received an email from one of the five lawyers who occupy units in my building. He is a particular stickler on advanced notice though in this case the landlords are deeming this an “emergency” and thus, rendering the advanced notice unnecessary.

The thing about these walk throughs is that I get to see how all my tenants live. And I don’t particularly want to know that. Some of it is downright scary. Like the kid with the apartment that looks like a tornado hit it- clothes, mail, fallen stacks of books, stray sock, just the contents of his apartment strewn about his floors so that I can’t see the carpet. And his  bathroom looks like he has never once wiped it down in the nine months he’s resided there. Or the other tenant who didn’t answer my knocks and when I unlocked the door thinking he was not home, he called out from the bedroom. Dude. You had notice I was coming by. I’m certain the pungent smell of marijuana has something to do with your memory problems.

The Music Man and I have successfully avoided one another since the landlords told him he was not allowed to contact me unless it was an emergency (meaning, there is a flood or there is a fire). On Saturday as Finn and I were putting the ladder away in the storage room across from his apartment, he opened his door to take his dog out for a walk, took one look at me, startled and alarmed and backed into the apartment and closed the door. I said hi and tried to be nice. At least I had a Finn buffer. Phew! I was anxious to have to go to his apartment with the walk thru but tackled that floor first to get it over with. He was in his darkened bedroom with his dog who now barks at me when before would run up and lick me. I am no longer a safe person to the dog. I get it. It’s a crappy situation all around and yet I am grateful for the distance. Not having threatening calls on my voice mail is my preference.

Not all of my tenants are slobs. Many have very cute apartments that are well kept and decorated. The hoarder came by the night before to let me know she’d checked her faucets and there was no need for me to come by. I’m pretty sure that’s because her house is likely worse than the last time I was there.And that was grounds for being the subject of Hoarders.

You can tell what people’s priorities are: the couple with the barca-type loungers in front of a massive tv with video game components and stacks of movies; the girl with the musical theater posters decorating her walls; the two apartments where clearly the tenants moved from a larger place into a smaller unit but never downsized their belongings since they are bursting with books and furniture to the point that you can barely walk around; the minimalist where everything is in its place; the guy who clearly has his girlfriend and three cats living with him even though that’s not technically on the lease. After an hour of that, I walked into my tidy, well-decorated apartment and breathed a sigh of relief.

I didn’t find a leak or drip or running toilet anywhere. In the words of Finn, “what the heck?”

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25 thoughts on “Behind Closed Doors

  1. I remember having to go into people’s apartments when I worked at a leasing agent. I hated that so much. Some people really make an effort and others…The walkthroughs I hated the most were the ones that were necessary because there was suspicion of roaches. Having to go through someone’s icky apartment with the pest control guy looking for those little bastards…eww.

  2. I have to admit that I’m a huge stickler about getting appropriate notice from my landlords, but that’s because I’ve had bad experiences with maintenance showing up without notice for stuff (in prior apartments), so I know my landlord/tenant laws. It’ll be interesting to see where that ginormous water bill came from!!

  3. I have to ask, do you by any chance wear a hazmat suit when you go through these apartments? And if not, maybe it’s time to start???

  4. That’s gotta be awkward having to sort of peek into strangers’ lives. Particularly the hoarder’s. Maybe she started hoarding water and that’s why the bill went up…

  5. Maybe someone had lots of overnight guests over that month so there were more showers than usual?
    And yeah, people still have waterbeds, I had someone try to rent my place with one, um, no fucking way (it’s also in my lease).

  6. They are bathing those cats daily, I’ll bet!

    It is interesting to see how people live, though. Sometimes, when I go for a walk or a run in the evening, I find myself looking in windows (from the street, of course) and just watching how people live, if the TV is on, if they’re all in the same room, what decorates their walls. It’s so fascinating. And then I quickly run away because I am not a peeping tom. 🙂

  7. It would be so intersting to peer into people’s different living styles. We are very tidy and orderly… but know a lot of people who aren’t! In fact, I know a lot of people who could be on Hoarders. No joke.

  8. That is one really sucky part of your job. Sounds like a leak elsewhere, like outside or elsewhere in the plumbing system. There’s a leak outside a house I run by every morning. There’s a swamp in the front yard and a river running down the curb and it’s been that way for 2 weeks. What the heck? How can somebody not notice that?

  9. This might sound crazy, but what a cool photo project that would be to photograph each tenants apartment. I would call it something like… “Mercer Counterculture: How We Live.”

    If you can get their approval, I’ll be right over. 😉

  10. That happened in our apartment building on Cap Hill when we were living there and our landlord ended up settling on the fact that there were all couples living in the building where there had previously been all single people (thereby doubling the bill). Just a thought…

  11. I guess I’m wondering how much of a jump this is over the last bill. I have no clue. $800 sounds like a lot. But if people have had a lot of company over the holidays or something.

    I’d check the outside hoses as well. Maybe someone is “stealing water.”

  12. Is it possible this is due to the holidays? What was consumption like 12 months prior? I know our water bill was higher by about $100 and we only had two guests in our house for a week.

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