A Renter’s Life

Have I mentioned that it’s been a while since I lived in a house I didn’t own? Seven years, to be exact. And out of those seven years, I don’t think there has been even one day that I wasn’t working, scheming, or actively destroying and rebuilding something in my living space.

So here’s what I have to say about renting so far. It’s oddly… quiet. And sawdust free. Which isn’t to say in the last three weeks I haven’t dealt with two inches of water in the basement, an improperly installed sump, no heat, water that smelled like it was filtered through a keg of rusty nails, an impromptu shower delivered by the hose in the back of my washing machine, a mysteriously missing utility sink pump, and a completely ineffective “home office” that contains only one power outlet which does not work.

But that, my friends, is exactly the price you pay for living in a house, whether you own it or not. And do you know what my stress level has been throughout this? Zero. I mean my left eyeball hasn’t started twitching even once. Don’t get me wrong… I’ve been cold, wet, definitely dirty, and on the phone a lot. But the difference between renting and owning is that I’m responsible for myself and my stuff, but not for the problems with this house. It’s kind of nice, actually.

Here are some of my recent challenges and how being a renter has changed the way I tackle them.

Well Water

We had a couple of minor issues with the well at the Memorial house and it’s given me a sense of appreciation for what country folk do just to be able to shower. There’s no just tapping into the water main and having fresh clean water at your disposal.

In this house the well brings in water with serious iron content along with what I believe are occasional spurts of methane. Right?

Since I’m renting a house without a water softener my options were to hold my breath for the next 6 months worth of showers, rent a water softener, or take the plunge and buy one. Since I’m planning to build in an area that also has a notoriously high iron content in the water, I took the plunge… the water isn’t 100% pure, but it’s pretty close.

Laundry

On any given day just me washing my clothes is a bit of an adventure, but at the new house it’s been a full blown saga. The problems included:

  1. Not being able to plug in the washing machine and have the hose reach to the utility sink to drain at the same time.
  2. The utility sink draining directly onto the floor instead of into a pump that would remove the water.
  3. Not being able to remove the old hot water hose so the new one could be attached.
  4. Not having enough outlets to accommodate the washer, nonexistent utility pump, and water softener.

The first problem I tackled was adding an extension onto the washing machine hose. Let me tell you, there was at least one interesting lunch hour spent at Lowe’s laying on top of their floor model washing machine trying to stick my head behind it to make sure I got the right size hose.

By the way, the right size hose is actually labeled “dishwasher hose”.  Do not be fooled.

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Luckily this was a one pipe-clamp job.

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Then I got to do my favorite job as a renter and call my landlord to have a new utility sink pump put in. Did I have to go a week without doing laundry while I waited for that to get taken care of instead of just doing it myself? Yes. But I have enough experience schlepping my laundry to the laundromat to get too worked up about that.

The other interesting thing about being a renter is that when the Lowe’s guys came to install my washer and dryer, they couldn’t remove the old cold water hose from the lines, and since I don’t own the house they didn’t want to force it and break something without my landlords approval.

(This iPhone image is not blurry, it’s artistic. Kind of like my definition of “sanity.”)

Well, instead of waiting another week I figured this was a job it would be easier to tackle on my own. Don’t ask me why it took two wrenches, a can of WD-40, 30 minutes, and every curse word in my vocabulary to figure out that I didn’t actually need to remove the old hose from the supply line, I just needed to attach it to the back of the washer and everything would still work.

However, there’s a cautionary tale in here folks, and it’s “once you think you have the hose tight, continue to turn it ten more times or so” or when you open the valve you’ll be very quickly reminded of your childhood escapades on the slip-and-slide. Except in your basement.

Sump

And speaking of basements, part of the reason I rented this house was for the garage and basement (both with built-in work benches) so you can imagine my dismay when I found a small river running from one end of the basement to a small lake that had formed around the sump crock.

Here’s something I learned about sump pumps… They have a “float” very similar to the valve in the back of a toilet, and when the water gets to a certain height the float tells the pump to kick on and drain it. If for some reason the crock isn’t deep enough or the pump isn’t set low enough in the crock, then water can spill over the top of the crock and all over the basement without the pump ever kicking on unless someone goes down there, sticks their hand in the water and manually lifts the float.

Welcome to the two days of my life prior to Thanksgiving. This was also a “call the landlord” type of issue, and to her credit she had a team over here to put in a new sump inside of a day.

Now, that wasn’t the only water problem and with the amount of rain we have I still have a couple of magically refilling puddles hanging out down there for when the cat feels like taking a swim. This is one of those things that would create mind boggling stress coupled with costs over $10k to fix properly in a house you owned. In the rental I just keep my stuff off the floor and every couple of days suck the water out of the low spots with the shopvac.

Which means instead of worrying about foundations and draining, I can spend a few hours after work building toolboxes. Hopefully they’ll be finished enough to share tomorrow.

4 Responses

  1. Oh the joys… We once rented a house in 1984 that was only $50 a month! The catch was that we took care of whatever needed patched together to keep the house standing. lol The worst “fix” we had was when the toilet fell through the bathroom floor. Yup – those were adventurous days!

  2. Your attitude is awesome! I’m glad I no longer rent. In the last rental, the fridge (ancient) leaked. Told landlord. Landlord shrugged shoulders. Okay…not my 1800s floor that will rot out soon nor my fridge that will fall through. Malfunctioning (when functioning) stove. Told landlord. Landlord shrugged shoulders. I bought new stove and took with me…it’s MY glass top stove landlord. Could see outside in the laundry room because of rotting sills. Told landlord. Landlord shrugged shoulders. Not her heat loss. Vented dryer in laundry room…she didn’t like the smell of clean clothes in her apartment. Oh well. Fix the hole landlord. Landlord got new boyfriend who was a mean drunk. Called police several times about him. He died after I left. Thank God for Habitat for Humanity! At least you know where & when the end of the rental tunnel is!

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