heating the vortex

our electric/gas bill came in the mail today.  it was $171.18.  i am trying to figure out how it is so high, considering that we keep the house between 60-65 degrees and it has been a relatively warm winter.  right now i am in fleece pj pants, a long sleeve t, slippers, and a heavy duty fleece robe and i am still freezing.

i know it’s because we are heating 2000 sq feet of house.  but since we’re really only living in 1000 sq feet of house, it doesn’t feel like our bill should be twice what i’m used to.

lost yet?

i haven’t mentioned this house to the extent of it’s importance in our lives, because it is the bane of my existence.  besides the wedding, it was my main topic of conversation in 2010 and i’m a little OVER it, but i will try my best to get you caught up on the story.

the house we are currently living in is a house i bought for the sole purpose of renting it and then eventually selling it.  it was purchased approximately 2 months before the housing market crashed.  luckily it was rented out to section 8 tenants, which meant that my mortgage was paid by the government each month.  things were great for a little while and then the asshole guy that was managing the property for me went crazy and decided that he didn’t have to pay the mortgage anymore and we should all buy gold and move to the mountains and live off the grid. so my mortgage wasn’t getting paid and i decided that i had to take over the management of the properties (yes, i had two with him – one is currently rented to college kids) and became a landlord overnight.  fun.

so i became a landlord and i thought i should get to know my tenants.  they. were. AWFUL.  11 people living in this house like pigs.  breaking everything.  crap overflowing out of the house.  way too many chihuahuas.  flies.  *shudder*

we had to come over every month to pick up their portion of the rent ($126 – the city payed $1474) and hated it.  these people were the definition of “taking advantage of the system”.  the husband worked under the table, the mom was pregnant 24/7, and they were on welfare.  besides continually having children to get more money, they had: cell phones, internet, cable, elitches (6 flags) season passes for ALL of their kids, and there were always empty papa johns pizza boxes piled high on the front porch.  j and i both have jobs and even WE don’t regularly splurge on the expensive take out pizza. 

one time when we were over there fixing something, one of their kids was bugging us and hanging on the towel bar in the bathroom, which of course broke.  i looked at him incredulously and said “stop it!  you just broke the towel bar!” to which he nonchalantly replied, “oh that’s ok, someone will fix it”.  to which i replied, “yeah!  that someone is ME!”.

these people always had run ins with the neighbors and cops and i knew they were bad tenants and i didn’t like being a slumlord, but if we kicked them out, we would have to find a bunch of money we didn’t have to fix up the place before we could get new renters in.  so we just let it be and buried our heads in the sand.

over the next year, we had to deal with a mold problem in the basement which involved insurance companies and unsavory contractors.  a normal tenant might be a little concerned and ask to break their lease due to the mold, which i would, of course, allowed.  but seeing as though these people had been kicked out of 10 houses over the last 10 years, they didn’t want to leave.

in july of 2009, i received a phone call from the tenant, crying about how the city was making her move.  the next day, i received a call from the city telling me that they were evicting my tenants for……drum roll please…

living in squalor (!)

yes, that is actually what was written on the eviction notice.

they moved out, we freaked out about having an vacant house and two mortgage payments, and had a few months of  not knowing what to do.  we finally came up with the plan to put our current house on the market (the one i bought in 2005 that i loved dearly but really was too small) and then use any money we made on that house to fix up the vacant rental and live in it.  because it was bigger and would be a more appropriate house for when we started a family.

we put our house on the market in oct 2009 and after 80+ showings, finally sold it in may 2010.  we also made $24k, which doesn’t go as far as you think when you’re having to completely gut  a 2000 sq ft house.  in fact, it really only gets you about 80% of 1000 sq ft.

then we made really smart decisions, like letting jared quit his (high paying) job to go back to school and were reduced to a single income family. 

it wouldn’t be so bad if the basement was just old and needed updating.  but due to the mold problems, the entire basement was removed.  all the floor.  all the drywall.  all the fixtures.  everything.  then a french drain was installed to control the water-table problem.  and a bunch of gravel was shoveled in.  and all the windows were replaced (since we did all the upstairs ones too).  and then, with $8k still sitting in escrow with the mortgage company, everything was halted because we ran out of money and we don’t have the $5k required to pour the new basement floor and install the rough in plumbing.

i call it the vortex.  i will take a picture soon and post it.

right now the upstairs of the house is livable.  it’s not pretty or finished, but we have working appliances and essential things like doors*.  here is a partial list of the things we still have to do, just so you can get the picture.

  • trim the office closet and install closet doors
  • mud the inside of the hall closet and install shelf and bar
  • install crown molding (moulding?) over the kitchen cabinets
  • cover 2×4’s in kitchen
  • paint kitchen ceiling and window trim
  • install doorknob and trim around pantry door
  • fill all nail holes and paint trim/baseboard
  • caulk around bathroom sink
  • finish installing baseboard in kitchen and office
  • install kickplates under kitchen cabinets
  • fix broken tile in kitchen and regrout floor

that’s just a partial list.  so you can see why i get annoyed when jared is watching judge mathis in the middle of the day instead of doing one of the things on his list that is clearly more important to the family.

a year after the house was vacant, you’d think that we would never have to deal with those tenants again.  that’s what i thought too.  until i was served** and notified that they were suing me in small claims court for $7500.  more on that story later.

*we did not have interior doors for about 6 weeks.  no bathroom door does not a happy marriage make.
**one month before our wedding, because apparently i didn’t have enough going on and had plenty of time to hire attorneys and reschedule court dates and file replies and all other sorts of legal-y stuff.

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