Yesterday, I brought up the subject of truth being stranger than fiction. Today, I decided to share just a few of my own personal truth-is-stranger-than-fiction (or TSF) experiences. Now, please keep in mind, the stories I intend to share over the next few days are true. However, if you read them in a book instead of on my blog, would you think the book was far-fetched and that the author was stretching his or her imagination to something that couldn’t possibly happen?
A few years ago, my daughter was in a lot of trouble, and we were forced to move to another city for our own safety. When I started looking for a house to rent, I looked on Craigslist and found something decent in a good neighborhood. I spoke to the owner who said that there was a couple from Texas who were also interested, but that we both seemed to qualify, so the person who faxed in the application first would be who would get the house. Needless to say, I was not first.
I kept looking all over the State of Florida for the next couple of months. I eventually found something on the West coast, but just days before we were to move in, the owner raised the rent, and I decided it wasn’t worth it. So, I searched again and was surprised to find the very same house I’d seen before up for rent again.
I called and spoke with the residents from Texas who had taken out the ad. They said the husband’s job fell through, so the owner was allowing them to sublet the rest of their lease. I filled out a new application, and they said they’d send it to the owner and let me know if I was approved. (Since I’d already been approved before, I didn’t foresee any problem). I visited the house, and it was in great shape, so I signed everything, and they said I was good to go. However, I had to pay my deposit, pet fee, and first and last month’s rent in cash because they’d already closed out their Florida bank accounts (which seemed plausible because the previous place I had rented for five years also wanted cash only). They gave me the key and said I could move in that weekend.
However, that weekend when I got there with my moving truck, I found something very different than what I’d seen the week before. The front door was just gone, and the frame was destroyed where it had apparently been kicked in. Windows and screens were broken. There was dog afterbirth in one of the closets. There was human and dog feces on the floor and smeared on the walls. There were drugs and drug paraphernalia (needles, wrapping papers, etc.) in a few areas. There was rotten food all over the place. The entire garage was literally half full with food, dirty diapers, and other such trash. There was garbage dumped in the pool. The back yard was just disgusting. The refrigerator door was torn off its hinges. (I could go on, but I think you probably get the idea.)
(These are some of the tamer photos because I don’t want to put photos of drugs or poop in my blog, but even without the smell, hopefully you get the idea of how nasty this place was.)
Well, it just so happened that I still had my original email correspondence with the homeowner from when I originally wanted to move there, so I located the message and gave her a call at her home in New Jersey. And what did I find out? You got it! The Texas couple was never authorized to sublet anything, and they never even told her they were moving out! The owner flew down the next morning and cried when she saw what condition her house was in. Meanwhile, I had to sleep in that disgusting house with no door to guard my truckload of stuff that I couldn’t leave anywhere else. I was out nearly $4,000 in cash and had no place else to go and no money to go anywhere else with.
As it turned out, after a good deal of begging and pleading on my part (as well as a good bit of weeping), the owner allowed us to stay without paying her anything extra, and we got the next three months’ rent for free in exchange for us cleaning and painting the house and repairing the damages. Because it was so nauseating, my son had to spend the entire summer at his dad’s, and my daughter had to stay at her grandma’s while my sister and I lived there and worked night and day to clean the nastiness of “The Craigslist House.”
Lesson learned: Check with the County Property Appraiser to make sure the owner is who they say they are, and never, ever buy anything on Craigslist again!
So, friends, Scout’s honor — Every bit of this story is true, and I have the photos and video to prove it. Isn’t it sad that criminals have so much wasted imagination? What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever found when you moved somewhere?