Let’s play nice

November 2, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Liam loves his cousin Evie. We determined earlier this year that they are both spirited children, which is why they play so well together. But it’s also why they fight so much, too. Typically, Liam and Evie will go off to his room and play for a few hours, and then I’ll hear him yelling. Oh boy. Then Evie will storm upstairs, declaring that she’s mad at him, and then I’ll hear him wailing downstairs. From what I can gather, their fights usually stem from Liam telling her to play a certain way, she doesn’t want to do it, and then he yells or hits her. She’s mad because he lashed out, and he’s mad because she won’t play the way he wants her to. Usually I’ll get Liam calmed down in his room, give him a “Shaver break”, and then I’ll let Evie poke her head in and see if he wants to play again. By then he’s forgotten why they were fighting, and they can go back to business as usual. Until the next argument.

On Halloween night we let them sleep in the same bed. Now, we knew that Evie wouldn’t last the night. She never does. Either they have a big fight or Evie gets scared and decides to sleep on the couch. But they beg to sleep in the same bed every time they visit, and I keep thinking one of these nights they’ll actually make it. Not this time, though. Apparently Liam wanted Evie to tell a story a certain way, and when she wouldn’t, he gave her a choice. We’ve talked a lot about compromise and giving people choices. His choices were A) Do it the way I want OR B) I’ll punch you in the cheek. Ummm…not really what I was going for. So, of course, she stormed out when he punched her. And he started crying. And I came downstairs to see what all the hubbub was about. I explained to Liam that hitting was an unacceptable choice, and how would he feel if Evie punched him in the cheek? Then Evie came back downstairs and said she was ready to forgive Liam. Of course, Liam refused to apologize (another issue we’re trying to tackle), but she didn’t mind because, as she put it, “Liam can’t punch that hard. He just hit my ear and it didn’t even hurt!” Fair enough, I guess. They lasted about another hour before Evie started crying for her mom and moved to the couch. Then Liam got all upset that Evie left, and I had to lay with him in bed until he calmed down and fell asleep…just about 10PM. These children!

The next day, lack of sleep made their fights more fierce and frequent. At one point I decided to try a different approach. I grabbed Liam’s hand and marched him upstairs, then I instructed him to tell Evie, “Let’s work this out.” Then I told them to put their thinking caps on and come up with a solution, a compromise, that will help them get through their conflict. And it worked! They went downstairs and started playing again! But then Jill, who was languishing on the couch with a sick Milo all day, overheard their “compromise.” Liam apparently told Evie, “You’ll have to do it my way or I’ll have to punch you. That’s the only compromise I can think of.” I guess she chose his way instead of the punch this time.

I’m not sure how best to handle all of this aggressive behavior. I’ve tried talking with them before hand, explaining to them to play nice and not hit. But in the heat of the moment, all the rules go out the window. My saving grace with Evie is that she’s so much bigger than him that he doesn’t do much damage. But when I caught him shoving her in the trampoline, I immediately told them to get out. I threatened him with a spank if he wouldn’t come out, then followed through when I had to crawl in there and pull him out. It’s not my favorite form of discipline – it seems contradictory to teach him to stop hitting people by hitting him on the behind – but sometimes he needs a shock to snap him out of his screaming fit. Thankfully he doesn’t get physical with his other friends, probably because we only spend an hour or two with them at a time. Something about spending an entire weekend with his cousin brings out the pugilist in him. He’s also so unaccustomed to having someone else to argue with all day because he’s an only child. Evie is practically like an older sister to him, albeit much nicer to him than a sibling would probably be.

Our other point of contention is saying goodbye. Whenever his cousins have to leave I’m faced with huge tantrum about it. He does this on play dates with friends, too, though usually only when they come to our house. I’ve tried giving him warnings, I’ve tried getting him to finish up what he’s doing before they go. He seems particularly upset when his play is interrupted. For this trip I decided we’d do something special – we settled on pie at The Village Inn. I told him after Evie and Milo left, we’d go and get his special treat. I talked it up all morning. As they were playing, I gave him a 15-minute warning, and reminded him what I expected from him. No crying, give Evie a hug and thank her for coming. We went over it several times. He agreed that was what he was going to do. Then he had a one-minute warning, and he started to break down. I reminded him what was at stake – PIE, Liam! Pie! I even told him we could change it to something else – a trip to the World Treasures Museum, or maybe we could bake cookies. I told them they could jump 10 more times in the trampoline. Evie happily counted to ten while she jumped, but Liam started wailing in the corner. As soon as Evie left the trampoline, he was in the throes of a full on fit. True to my word, I said no pie, no trips, no special activity today. Jill and the kids left, and I was so angry that James had to come down and calm the boy. Ten minutes later he was contentedly playing in his room, and he’s been on his best behavior ever since. 

I queried my Facebook friends to see if they had any suggestions for making goodbyes go more smoothly. Hopefully I’ll have some ideas to try moving forward. Likely this is part of his larger issue with his emotions, and it’s something he’ll outgrow over time. Let’s hope he’s not still doing this at age 10!

The Car-eating Restaurant

September 30, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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James and I couldn’t get a sitter for the weekend of our 10th wedding anniversary, so we decided to take Liam out to eat with us. I’d eaten at this Mediterranean place with one of my mom friends, and I thought James would enjoy it. Usually Liam is pretty good at restaurants, so we figured it would be an uneventful dinner.

We were wrong.

First they didn’t have chocolate milk…or any milk for that matter. But after a short outburst, he contented himself with water. As always I gave him a car to play with, and he chose one of the new ones we got from who knows where. We were seated in a booth next to a window, and he delighted in showing me how you could pull the car back on its wheels and they would spin. Very cool, Liam!

Then…disaster struck. Liam’s beloved car that he didn’t even know I had until 5 minutes before fell down a crack between the seat and the wall. Oh, the travesty! And try as we might, we could…not…reach…the…damn…thing. The gap was about an inch wide, just wide enough for a small toy (or utensil, the family sitting behind us discovered shortly thereafter) to fit into, but not wide enough for a hand to reach down.

So for the rest of the evening Liam moped and cried and whined, refusing to touch his food, and laying down in James’ lap. Finally, James suggested we run over to Target to see if we could get another car to replace it. Liam perked right up at the idea. Yeah!

Except when we got to the toy aisle, Liam insisted that we get THE EXACT SAME CAR that he lost. And, of course, they had nothing like it. I have no idea where we got that car. From a McDonald’s Happy Meal? From a birthday party? A prize from school? He has a bazillion cars at home, for crying out loud!

He cried all the way home in the car, the longest 30 minute drive of our lives. Happy anniversary to us! When we got home I cuddled with him on the couch and tried to calm him down. He was upset that I hadn’t KNOWN that something like this would happen. I laughingly replied that nothing on Yelp indicated that this was a car-eating restaurant. That got him giggling, and then I asked if he thought maybe I should write a review and warn people. “Yes, mommy, that’s a good idea.”

Days later he was still lamenting the loss of his “beloved” car. “Mommy, we need to think of a way to get it back.” He suggested knocking the building down. Okay, sweetie, that’s not going to happen. I told him I’d swing by McDonald’s to see if they have it in their Happy Meal this week, though I doubt they will. I’m sure months from now I’ll come across this car in a 50 cent bin at Walmart, triumphantly present it to the boy, and he’ll nonchalantly add it to his enormous collection with nary a recollection of the events from September. Or, more likely, he’ll still remember (this kid has a memory like an elephant!), but he’ll only play with it for a day and forget about it after that. Oh well.

In like a Lion, out like a Lamb

April 7, 2014 at 8:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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An apt description of the comings and goings of spring and the fickle attitudes of certain five-year-olds. Let me start by saying I’ve just recovered from the worst stomach flu I’ve had in years, so I had about zero patience this morning. Liam is fully recovered, as far as I can tell. Every morning he picks out his clothes and puts them on. But this morning…THIS MORNING…first the shirt wasn’t right, then the pants weren’t right, then he said his mouth hurt (which somehow affected the use of his arms and legs), so he couldn’t get dressed. Three times I left him in his room with instructions to get his own clothes on, and three times I found him lying on the floor naked and throwing a fit. Screaming ensued. I finally dressed him myself, and he knows the consequence of that: No TV for the day.

Then it was breakfast. Somehow he got it in his head that I could make colored waffles for him. Something to do with the book we read last night. I explained to him 15 times that I couldn’t dye Eggo waffles, and he wouldn’t drop it. Wouldn’t eat. Wouldn’t stop screaming. Wouldn’t sit in time out. Screaming ensued. Finally I dug out some food coloring and dropped a few drops on his waffle. THERE! And he ate. Grumbling about no cartoons. Shut up and eat, you little brat. (And, no, I didn’t say that. But my look was saying it.)

I glanced at the clock. Three more hours until preschool starts. Sigh.

Relative peace until lunchtime. Oh, lunchtime. It’s always a crunch because we have to finish and get out the door to make it to school on time. So everyday I’m always on him about the time, where the big hand will be when we have to be finished, and if he doesn’t finish in time, no treats. I said it, seriously, five times. I warned him he was past time, that we had to get shoes on right now. He triumphantly finished his last freeze-dried pea, then asked for a treat. Then demanded it. Then screamed it. And I lost it. Picked up kid, more screaming, socks and shoes crammed on, crying kid in the car. And wouldn’t you know the little SOB was smiling and laughing by the time we got to school. It was his turn to be leader and bring snack. I couldn’t get him in the door fast enough.

Did I say I love five? I meant I LOATHE five.

Two and a half hours of peace, and I felt considerably calmer. My stomach was churning, though, so I explained to Liam on the way home that mommy was going to have to lie down for a bit. And, of course, the whining. But I want someone to plaaaayyy with me. We got home and when he got out of the car he left the car door open. We’ve been working on this for the past few weeks, and every day he’s been very good about closing his own car door. But (surprise!), not today. I asked him in my most calm, polite, mommy-means-business voice, “Liam, you’re forgetting something. Please close the car door.” And he refused. So I told him, “Fine, I’ll close the door, but that means I won’t be playing with you.” And he told me he didn’t care. Fine. Whatever.

But after snack and homework, he had a change of heart. First whining, then pleading, then screaming. Play with me!!! I put him in his room and shut the door. He kept getting out and finding me. More screaming ensued. And then I just ran upstairs and locked myself in the bedroom. For 45 minutes.

It was actually kind of hilarious.

At first he was puzzled. Why. Won’t. This. Doorknob. Turn? Then he’d run in the other room and collapse on the floor in tears. Then when he heard I wasn’t taking the bait, he’d come back. He’d talk to himself, “Maybe it’s unlocked now. Let me try it again.” Then he’d try it and run screaming in the other room. He did that, like, five times. Then he started knocking. “Open this door, mommy!” Then pounding. Then screaming. During a lull I told him I’d be happy to let him in if he’d calm down and treat me nicely.

Like I said. 45 minutes.

Finally he stopped pounding and his screams subsided. I opened the door, walked right past him, and started folding laundry downstairs. Not a word. Eventually he came downstairs, sat on the couch, and begrudging asked me to play. I told him to ask nicely. “Will you pretty please play with me now?” I said for five minutes, and then I had laundry to do. We built a marble track, did a few runs, and then I folded laundry and he played on his own. Quietly. Peacefully.

Then James came home. And he could hardly believe that sweet little Liam, who was contentedly talking to himself and playing on his own, had been such an utter brat today.

But at dinner, when I fully expected the fit to end all fits, a perfect cap to our week-long
fit-tastic dinner routine, not a single tear was spilt. Say what, now? For the first time in a week (save for the couple of days of flu recovery), he sat at the table without complaint and ate almost everything on his plate. He even ate three green beans. Holy cow! A first! I had to bribe him with dessert, but considering this is the farthest we’ve gotten with him all week, I figured it was warranted.

And now he’s my perfect angel. Potty, bath and bedtime routine followed to the letter. All please’s and thank you’s. My sweet little Liam.

Did I say I loathe five? I meant…actually, I really don’t know how I feel about it now. Motherhood is hard.

Finally, I got my plate!

April 2, 2014 at 8:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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You may remember my DMV rant, closely followed by more drama. Last week I finally had a chance to call the bank to make sure they’d ordered my new title. Annnndddd, surprise, surprise, they had done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Seriously?! The lady on the phone said she would put in another order for a duplicate title, and that it would in fact take 6 weeks instead of the 2-3 weeks the last gal quoted me. I explained that I’ve been trying to get this resolved since December, and I was getting sick and damn tired of having to call the bank over and over about this. She suggested I call back on Tuesday just to make sure it went through. Huzzah.

With little enthusiasm I called them back Tuesday, and what do you know? Actual good news! Apparently my title had come in on Monday (6 weeks…or more like 3 days. Puzzling.) and they’d FedEx’d it to my house directly. And sure enough, it arrived! So today I made my third trip to the DMV to pick up my plate, and I actually got to walk out with it! Sweet! And doesn’t it look lovely with my palm tree plate holder?

More DMV drama

March 7, 2014 at 11:45 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Will this ever end? Tuesday I drove over to the DMV. I handed over all the paperwork. I held the damn plate in my hand. Again! And again, I was denied. This time the guy behind the counter was very friendly, and he was puzzled that someone would have told me that the hold on my account was lifted. Seriously!?

So I called the bank…again. And it appears that they really did send the title, and that it somehow got lost in the mail. So now USPS is on my shit list. Unless the title gets returned to the bank by today, they’ll have to order a new title, which will take 2 – 3 more weeks. And then, at my request, the idiots at Sun Trust are going to get a tracking number this time when they mail it to the folks in KS. What kind of bank mails such sensitive materials via regular mail?! Just throw it in an envelope with a stamp, la dee da. Morons.

Monday I plan to call the bank to make sure that indeed they are moving forward with this. And I’m sure I’ll get the pleasure of talking to another clueless customer service rep who will have no idea what I’m talking about, and I’ll get to rehash this story. And maybe, just MAYBE, by May, when my tags are actually set to expire, I’ll have this all sorted out. Just in time.

DMV rant

February 21, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Let’s see, we’ve been living here one, two, three…nine months now. Wow. Time flies when you’re dealing with bureaucracy. Actually, I’ve been dealing with a bank in Florida and the Department of Motor Vehicles in Kansas, a veritable perfect storm of ineptitude. Let me start at the beginning.

Around about the beginning of September, I realized my Florida plates would be expiring so I’d better do something about that. Yeah, I know, you’re supposed to get your plates changed 30 days after you move to a new state. But we never do that. So I got online and discovered an insane number of hoops I’d have to jump through to change my Florida tag to a Kansas one. Not least of which was requesting a copy of the title be sent from my bank in Florida to the head office in Wichita. Apparently this was asking A LOT.

Multiple phone calls and a week of worriedly driving around with expired tags later, my title is finally faxed and I’m able to get my new Kansas tags. Happily ever after, right?

Not so much.

Among the paperwork I received, there was this letter thrown in the mix. It was a copy of a letter sent from the Kansas DMV to my bank in Florida officially requesting the original title be sent directly to them. This sounded strange, so I called the county treasurer’s office, and the actual Tag Office Supervisor, the woman who signed the letter, explained everything to me. Basically, Kansas is ass backwards from the rest of the country (my words, not hers) and they haven’t computerized their titling system. So instead of just transferring titles from state to state like most other departments, they have to scan the original title and create a microfiche. A MICROFISHE?! You mean that little piece of negative plastic I shined a light through on a projector to read old newspapers at the library in the early 90s for my school projects? I didn’t even know those things still existed! My new plates expire in May and I won’t be able to renew them until Kansas gets that title. She explained that most banks holding titles receive their letter and don’t actually do anything, so it would be in my best interest to call them directly and request it.

So I did. Multiple times. I had James fax the letter to them for good measure. And each time I had to painstakingly explain this whole request to a new bewildered customer service rep, who apparently had never HEARD of doing such a thing. Send the original title? What now?

So, finally, round about November or December, it seemed like I was getting somewhere. I was told the ball was rolling. In the interim I’d requested a personalized plate (It says “Flodorah”, just like Liam used to say Florida when we lived there. I just can’t give it up, can I?) Initially they’d rejected my application because they still hadn’t received my title. But I called the bank yet again, and I was assured that it WAS HAPPENING. I resubmitted my application, and it went through. Huzzah! About a month later I received a post card saying my plate was ready. I just had to come pick it up at the main DMV office. Splendid!

So, on probably the worst weather day at the beginning of February, I braved the icy roads to pick up my hard-earned personalized plate. I stood in a very short line, and I couldn’t believe my luck that I was getting in and out of there so fast! I had all my paperwork in order. I held the plate in my hand! And then, suddenly, trouble. There was a hold on my account. They’d issued me a plate “in good faith” without actually telling me that. No plate for you, sucka! I was told by the surly DMV lady that I’d have to talk to my bank. Again.

So I called them. Irate. And after explaining and explaining and arguing and threatening to take my loan to a different bank, finally, they sent a request to their the titling department. Two weeks later, I confirmed with the Wichita DMV that the hold on my account was lifted, and presumably my title came in. I say presumably because I won’t seriously believe it until they let me walk out the door with my new plate.

And so. Today I finally had some time to run by the DMV. I couldn’t even find a place to park. I should have taken that as a sign before I removed my plate, walked two blocks, and was confronted by a line 20 people long. I stood there 5 minutes until a woman further up the line got fed up and left. She’d been there half an hour, she said, and they’d only helped four people in that time. Optimistic (and not wanting to have to put my old plate back on yet AGAIN), I waited another half and hour, in which only two additional people were helped. Screw this. Friday is clearly not the day to do this, and it’s nearly the end of the month, too.

So, maybe in early March, I hope to have this resolved. I’d say remind me to never move again. But we all know that’s not going to happen.

Another reason moving sucks

October 1, 2013 at 10:39 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Hands at ten and two. Obey the speed limit. Come to a complete stop. And for god’s sake, watch for that speed trap on the way to Liam’s school. This is going to be me for the next couple of months. Or more. Let me start at the beginning.

As the summer was winding down, I suddenly realized my Florida tags on my Subaru Forrester were going to be expiring at the end of September. I should probably do something about that. I’ve outfitted the Honda Fit with a new state tag twice before (Kansas to Maryland and Maryland to Florida), so this should be cake. I’ll put this off a bit.

Famous last words.

Come mid-September, I start reading over the very detailed list of protocols for getting new tags in KS for out-of-state vehicles with liens. Complex, yes. But manageable. I called the Florida DMV, who told me the bank had my title. I called the bank, and after much confusion he pointed me to a form on the KS DMV website to fill in and fax over. Halfway through filling out the form, I realize this can’t possibly be right. I call the KS DMV, and they get me the right form. We fax it over and done, right?

So then I call the bank, and the first person I talk to says they have to request the title from the state of Florida, then it gets faxed to them, and then they fax it to KS. Ummm, so Florida DOES have my title? This whole process takes 6 – 8 weeks. Say what now? My tags expire in 15 days! What am I supposed to do? I called the KS DMV, and they said there was nothing they could do for me without the title. So I called the bank back, and the second person I talked to said the first person was mistaken, that because the state just needs a faxed copy of the title and not a transfer of the title, it will only take 10 days. Whew!

Fast forward one week, and I’m calling a number specified on the KS DMV website to confirm that they’ve received the fax of my title. I call every morning for five days. No title. I call the bank, and they say they’re waiting to hear from Florida, and they’ll fax it right over the minute they get it. I wait a few more days. No title. On September 30, I call the bank again. And this representative tells me the same thing, then very “helpfully” looks up how much time this could take. And she comes back with “10 to 12 days for us to process the claim, and 6 to 8 weeks for Florida to respond.” Say what, now?! According to this gal, Florida has an electronic copy of my title, so they have to make a paper copy (hit “control+p”) then fax over the front and back (cue squealing fax noise) and that process can take 8 weeks. W.T.F. I ask her what I’m supposed to do, and she gives me a number that I can give to anyone who asks (State Trooper, arresting officer, you take your pick) to confirm that the bank is working on this.

So THEN, and this is the best part, I call the Florida DMV all flustered because my tags expire TODAY, and this can’t possibly be right. Because it’s the end of the month, they’re experiencing higher-than-usual call volume. So I sit on hold for 20 minutes. I explain my problem to the gal who answers, and she says, “That’s not right. Here’s what you do —“ And then the power goes out. And the phone line goes dead. You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding me. The power comes right back, at least.

I call back on my cell phone this time. Wait another 20 minutes. Talk to ANOTHER gal. I have to explain my situation three times before she seems to understand it. And her very unsatisfying answer was, “I have no idea how long it takes to get a title, you’ll have to call Tallahassee about that.” And as for extending my Florida tags, no dice there because I don’t have Florida insurance. She gave me a number for the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in Tallahassee and sent me on my way.

I called the KS DMV to see if there was some sort of temporary KS tag I could get. But they only issue those for newly purchased vehicles. I called the FL Tallahassee number, and the recording basically said, “Everyone in the state of Florida is calling this number today, so you’ll have to try some other time. Click.”

And then. THEN. The government shuts down. Still no dice on getting through to Tallahassee (same recording, though who knows if they’re even answering phones today), and even if I get through, I have a feeling they’ll just tell me the same thing. That it takes 8 weeks to hit print and send a fax. And now with an indeterminate government shutdown in the works, it could take longer.

So, ten and two. Obey all traffic laws. And mercy on the officer who does pull me over and notices my tags are expired. He’s going to get an earful.

Time to Whine

July 10, 2012 at 1:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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It’s all I hear 24/7 from Liam, so now it’s my turn:

  • Our bank has decided to make a grab for our money, this time in the form of fees for checking accounts under a certain amount of money. So those separate “allowance” accounts I painstakingly set up last year? The ones that have brokered a peace for our marriage? Yeah, I have to close those. Thanks, Wells Fargo. You’re now on the dead-to-me list. Unfortunately, all the other banks around here do the same, so they can all bite me.
  • The Subaru is leaking something all over the garage. It’s a slow leak, one that I’ve let go too long. So I’ve got to take it in Wednesday. And sit at the dealership all afternoon. With a three year old. Life is grand.
  • I had a doctor freak out on me today when I told her the dosage and duration of a certain medication I’ve been taking. A medication that keeps me from looking like a leper and passing a highly contagious and uncomfortable virus to my husband and son. I may have to stop taking it. I’m seeking a second opinion.
  • Liam. Seriously. I know you don’t want to go to swim lessons. Or take a nap. Or eat your vegetables. I know your program is over and I need to put on another one. I know that you don’t want to go to the potty when I ask you to. But puleeze, for the love of god, stop whining about it.
  • I think my UTI is back.
  • That doctor got me so freaked out about my kidneys, I skipped my Tylenol PM tonight. And now I’m painfully awake.
  • My crock pot broke. It’s only 2 years old. And I can’t find the receipt.
  • Liam is still crapping his pants.

And it’s only Tuesday. I think it’s time to add some wine to this whine. Is 1 AM too early to start drinking?

The Elusive BM

April 2, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Lest I look back and think potty training Liam at age three was a cinch, I feel I must mention one hitch we’ve encountered. I hear it’s common, especially with little boys. With the exception of a couple of accidents, this kid has mastered peeing. He’s even gone outside standing up a couple of times. We’re all set there. It’s #2 that’s giving us some problems. He just goes in his pants and then calls to me to clean it up.

Now that we’re on week two of potty training, I’ve decided to step up my game. It’d been a couple days since his last BM, so with much anticipation I’ve been watching his every move. With a bellyful of bowel-inducing peaches, he retreated to his favorite pooping place: the playroom. With eagle eyes I watched, waiting for the moment. At quiet intervals I’d ask if he needed to go. He’d cry,”Noooo!” I offered him treats for sitting and trying. I told him he’d get a special present if he went in the potty. Then things got really quiet. He made the poop face. I quickly scooped him up and ran him down the short hallway to the bathroom. But, alas, I was too late. This was the closest we’ve come, though!

Advised by another mom, I made him dump it in the potty himself and flush it away. Sigh. I’m sure he’ll get it someday. Someday soon, I hope.

Renter’s Woes

August 31, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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James and I have been renters for many years. We’ve lived in quite a few different parts of the country, and every state has a different way of handling tenants rights. In New York when our landlord tried to take our entire deposit because he had to repaint, I had to call him for months and argue with him just to get back half of it. We didn’t have a lease with him, so we didn’t have much legal recourse. In Kansas we never had problems getting our deposits back, but they were so small, it never seemed like much of an issue. Even our first apartment in Maryland issued us a check for nearly the full amount of our deposit even though we were breaking our lease and paying a penalty for that. Hell, even my very first rental in Missouri, in a college town notorious for never refunding deposits, my housemates and I got nearly all of our money refunded. We take good care of our property, and we’ve always been told we’re excellent tenants.

But this time. I’m. Pissed.

We got a check awhile back from our landlord for less than half of our incredibly steep deposit (same as the crazy rent), and in his itemized deductions, he included a $75 deductible for each instance of repair. So when the pipe burst, and the mice invaded, and the stove broke, ka-ching. We checked back over our lease, and sure enough, in an addendum to our second lease, there it was. In writing. But – hold the phone – this wasn’t in our original two-year lease. It was only added to the second lease we signed for the last 6 months we lived there. So really this clause should only apply to two of the nine instances cited.

So we called the guy. And emailed. And called again. And emailed again. And when it was apparent that he had no intention of resolving this, we contacted the Maryland State Attorney General’s office. They had some interesting things to say on the matter. Like how this clause is COMPLETELY ILLEGAL. And we should get all of our money back. So we filed an official complaint, they sent the landlord a letter, and whatdaknow? He calls me back!

We had words.

Long and short of it, he was only willing to offer us another $200, which would bring us to half of our deposit refunded. And when push came to shove, he pulled out the ace in his pocket – damage to the hardwood floors. Damn you, hardwood floors! Apparently when you spray mosquito spray anywhere nearby (like on the entryway tile), it strips away the varnish. Of course, you don’t know you’re doing it until it’s too late. He only charged us $400 for that damage, but in the heat of battle he threatened to take our entire deposit to pay for it. Even though he had no intention of repairing it.

We were at an impasse. Unless we were willing to go to court, I wasn’t going to get any more money out of this guy. And if I pushed too hard, he might find more excuses to take even more of our money. I knew it might come to this, so I decided to cut our losses, take his measly check, and drop our charges with the state.

After I hung up, I started devising all of these passive/aggressive plans to get back at the guy. But after talking to my dad-in-law, who was actually a landlord once, I realized that he’s probably out quite a bit of money for the pipe bursting and the mice and the stove and everything else. Even though those weren’t our fault, he really is just trying to get by. And he wasn’t really a bad landlord. He repaired things on time, and he fixed up the yard, and he was responsive for the most part.

However, I’m still irked about the $75 repair deductible. I did some digging, and it seems some other landlords have been tacking this onto their leases all around the country. And while the state’s statutes may not expressly forbid this tactic (as our former landlord contends), it’s still a pretty crappy thing to include. If we’d known we were getting charged so much for repair calls, I probably wouldn’t have made so many. Which I’m sure sounds great to him, until he realizes all of the half-ass repairs we would have attempted and all the money he’d have to shell out to make the house right again for the next tenant. Which is common, from what I’ve read.

So I’ve decided to post my story wherever I can to warn people away from this bogus clause. I’m not being vindictive – believe me, I considered posting my former landlord’s name and all of his rental property addresses with a huge BEWARE. But, no, I’m not going to sink to that level.

Instead, just a warning for renters. Check over your leases carefully before you sign them, and if you see any mention of a repair deductible or maintenance clause, DO NOT SIGN!

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