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October 22, 2008 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-10-22

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S8 Te MchganDaly - edn sdaOtbr2,20

Rentingin A2 a cautionary taleByCarolineHartmann

hen people tell me
they've had unfortu-
nate Ann Arbor housing
experiences, I can't help but laugh
a little. Not because I don't believe
them, but because I know I've fared
worse. So much worse that I can
claim the authority to lay down
some ground rules for every student
seeking housing in this cramped
college town.
So the house is a historic land-
mark? Forget it.
Yes, I loved the '50s-style kitchen
of my post-freshman-year sublet
(even if it did violate health codes)
and the bay windows were definite-
ly a plus, but as it turned out, living
in a historic building was far from
charming.
Do you remember the great flood
of spring 2006? When the tempera-
ture dropped to 40 degrees and
the rain didn't let up for 11 straight
days? My South Division apartment
was without heat, as my landlord
had turned off the gas in anticipa-
tion of summer. Combine that with
an ancient generator causing the
electricity to go out every few days,
a two-week period without reliable
running water and a mouse infes-
tation, and it's easy to see the dark
side of a quaint Victorian.
Notthinking it could possibly get
any worse, I came home one night
to the disaster that would make
earlier setbacks seem like noth-
ing more than hiccups. My living
room ceiling had completely col-
lapsed, without warning, and cov-
ered the apartment with debris.
Looking up at the gaping hole, you
could see the bottom of a rusty old
bathtub, its broken pipes flood-
ing my kitchen and family room.
When the trusty maintenance guy
knocked at the upstairs apartment,
a couple in robes came to the door
annoyed. They'd been "showering"
for two full hours, and without any
sense of guilt for the monsoon that
destroyed half of my livingspace.
Never rent fromlaw students.
Afterlivinginthat firstapartment
for about a month, my roommate
and I demanded compensation. We

refused to pay our rent in full and
e-mailed a long list of complaints
to the University law students we
sublet from. We thought we were
prepared for the backlash. We had
researched Ann Arbor's housing
code, highlighted the sections of
the lease that were in direct viola-
tion, sent photos of the damages
and obtained copies of maintenance
reports. No triviality was spared ...
or so we thought.
We received a response that
stunned even my father, a litigator
for more than 20 years. It was as
if these girls had just taken Shady
Real Estate Law 101, and there was
nothing we could do to defend our
case. Since they hadn't been in Ann
Arbor to witness our hardship, they
wanted proof. They demanded the
works: daily weather reports from
a local source, phone bills show-
ing late-night calls to maintenance,
credit card bills and gas receipts to
prove that we drove home to escape
the cold, reports from a building
inspector and faxed copies of com-
plaints in writing sent to the man-
agement company.
We threatened to sue, but these
girls could call our bluff, even from
halfway across the globe. When
push came to shove, they were
in perfect legal standing to kick
our asses in court. We eventually
retreated, our heads bowed and
tails tucked between our legs, rent
checks in the mail.
Killer bees - it could happen
to you.
You might think that having an
exposed brick wall in your apart-
ment gives it a certain urban-loft
quality, but those porous openings
simply can't be -trusted. The back
of my next apartment building was
attracting hordes of bees, but since
I never entered through that door, I
was unaware of that development.
As the cool fall air threatened
their survival,the bees tried to move
inside any way they could. The first
invader seemed like simple dumb
luck, but when a swarm infiltrates
your home, you have to act fast.
Flailing around and scream-

ing, my sister and I duct-taped as the door begging to be fed. Several
many openings in the brick wall as cigarettes and a great deal of pac-
we could and then got the hell out. ing later, I learned that my sublet-
Outside we saw that bees entirely ter had been fired just weeks after
blanketed the building's walls, and signingmylease, thenthrown in jail
I put in a call to my housing man- for drug possession and that now
ager. Turns out, when maintenance her heroin-addicted boyfriend was
treated the hives on the outside of squatting on my couch. If you're not
the building, they "angered" the familiar with squatter's rights, read
bees, causing them to invade the up, because even the police didn't
building where they became "delir- have the power to forcibly remove
ious." I'm still not sure how you can this man from my apartment. He
showed up to a meeting with my
housing manager trembling, sweat-
ing and arguing hysterically - not
Bees, bedbugs exactly in a state to reason. Hav-
ing already forfeited missed rent
and floods - a payments, I resorted to bribery to
finally retrieve my keys.
housing history Start imagining what my place
.e h S e must have looked like. Believe me, it
was even worse. The lock had been
nlgu skicked in several times by collec-
tors, every light was either blown
out or covered, disturbing quotes
and goblin-like images were taped
tell if a bee is delirious, but need- to the wall, every kitchen utensil
less to say, it took several days to was bent and burnt, my stove was
clear the building of the iron-willed a nauseating mess of Spaghettios
insects. It took several days to erad- and drug residue, a roach clip was
icate the iron-willed insects. And burned into my antique dresser and
for the record, RAID doesn't make the nightstand drawer was filled
a dent. with pills of every kind.
Background checks should not The bathroom was the worst of
be taken lightly. all, coated in dry vomit, the sink
After the bees had gone, I found backed up and the exposed neon
myself on the other side of the sub- light flickering above. It took so
letting equation. Leaving town for long to remove the stench that I
the summer after my sophomore eventually called it quits and found
year, I searched endlessly for some- an available studio just across the
one willing to take on the rent of a street.
studio. When my housing company Don't let the bedbugs bite.
recommended one of their employ- At this point in my housing his-
ees, I jumped at the offer. She was tory, I assumed the worst was over.
in her late twenties and wanted a But a few weeks into the lease
place to stay for a few months while revealed a catastrophe that would
she renovated her and her fiance's trump them all: bedbugs.
house. That was the story, and a The realization came when I
damn good one if you ask me. I left took my significant other to the
Ann Arbor and didn't think twice emergency room for an uncontrol-
about the details. lable rash. What we thought were
When I couldn't reach my sublet- hives turned out to be bedbug
ter to hash out the arrangements bites, but that was only the begin-
for my homecoming, I had my sister ning. If you've never experienced
stop by the apartment. She told me the hell that is a bedbug infesta-
that the place reeked from the hall- tion, count your blessings. These
way and a cat was clawing behind little prehistoric tanks can live off

of only one drop of blood per year,
and they have an amazing ability to
resist most extermination methods.
The hide-away murphy bed I kept
stored in the closet turned out to be
the source, but over time they also
traveled to my own mattress and
established an elaborate nest in my
couch.
When even the several fumiga-
tions failed to eliminate the bugs,
I reached my breaking point. I had
become a paranoid version of my
former self, checking and re-check-
ing every speck of dirt on every
inch of fabric I saw. I'd lay awake
in bed at night, just as I would do in
every -bug-free bed for the next six
months, imagining them crawling
through my sheets.
I finally packed up a few out-
fits that hadn't touched the floor,
moved into the League on my
parents' dime and spent my days
making phone calls to the exter-
minator. Since chemical treatment
only kills the live bugs - the eggs
are beyond indestructible - the
cycle of extermination seems end-
less. In the meantime, dry cleaners
were refusing to treat my wardrobe
and I was a sleep-deprived monster,
on a vicious hunt to bring death to
bedbugs everywhere.
Splurging is worth it.
In time, I moved out of that
apartment, too. With the terms of
my next housing search limited to
sparse availability mid-semester, I
had a choice to make: I could either
take my chances on another well-
worn apartment, or pay big bucks
for a place that I knew would be
paradise. Convinced that I was des-
tined to live out the rest of college
under an inevitable housing curse,
I opted for the latter and moved
into Tower Plaza on William Street.
Yes, it's more expensive, but after 18
months of court fees, repair costs
and replacing damaged goods, my
rent seems like a deal. As trite as it
sounds, you can't put a price tag on
peace of mind.
-Caroline Hartmann is a senior
arts editor for The Michigan Daily

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