The yard was strewn with junk. A wooden kitchen cabinet adorned the lawn, hammer and nails on top. A can of hornet-killer spray occupied the brick flower bed. A pile of plastic bags leaned in a tired manner against the side door. Garbage pail, broom, and a tire lead the procession of belongings up the driveway. And the best: an open trailer filled with refrigerator—not ours, washer—also not ours, stove top, mattress, and whatever else, sat in front of the house for our new neighbors to enjoy.
Before Stephen and I left the car and wondered, muttering things like “whoa,” and “what the f**k is this?”, I texted T, our property manager, who could oblige us in 10 minutes with an in-person explanation. We had just arrived after a four-hour drive from Seattle to Our Albany House. Expecting to collect the keys, check everything out, spend the night, and drive home the next day, beating the 4thof July traffic. Not to be.
The Albany, Oregon house looked pretty and eager amidst the tenants’ detritus, wearing its new paint from last fall, when the insurance company threatened cancelation for mold on the roof—lots of dead leaves from Maple-the-Magnificent on the front lawn—and cracked paint on the western wall. Releasing the dogs from their truck enclosure, we walked through the side gate into the back, where we saw the rest of it: lawn mower, rototiller (was he going to have a garden?), garden hose, plastic dishpan floating in the mosquito-breeding pond water (was he trying to get that old water feature going?), plastic chairs, another tired pile of bags. The dogs trotted around the yard peeing and sniffing, drinking water from their bowls. Fluorescent lights hung from the deck-covering (was he using the deck as a tool shop?)
It’s both amusing and sad to speculate about our renters. Having never met them, a young family of six, I felt a little bad about making them move out after four years. It seemed odd they would just blow all this stuff off and lose any deposit they had. They had paid the rent on time—there were one or two hitches but C, the dad, always contacted the property manager with a payment date and met that every time.
As I stood on the back deck, revising my timeline in my head, a man appeared on the inside of the slider. Opening it, he looked at me and said,
“Hi. I’m T—–.”
I realized I had never met him face-to-face, only via phone, text and email. (Stephen insists I have met him, but well, no memory of that so what can I say). With a shy, polite manner, bald head, white beard, and serious blue eyes, he was about our age, and shook my hand confidently.
Shrugging, he told me that C told him there were only a few things left at the house, but looking around he admitted surprise. “This is a lot more than I expected, or I would have let you know not to come.”
I liked the guy, and I wasn’t going to blame him. Stephen felt a little more itchy about it, but he kept his temper.
We learned the situation. We weren’t staying. By law, the house wasn’t available to its owners because the tenant was technically still in residence. The tenant, T said, sincerely promised to remove the rest of the stuff as soon as possible—part of his problem was being transferred to the day shift.
T recommended giving the guy some time. He felt that C was good for it, would get the stuff out. I agreed, silly me.
“But isn’t there something we could do to get them out sooner?”
This from Stephen. We stood on the second floor in a large room, voices echoing. The house, despite the two televisions, more tired piles, and a rowing machine occupying the front room, looked to be in basically good condition. No crayon wall creations, no gashes—sticky windows, yes, but nothing Windex couldn’t conquer.
T nodded. “All I have to do is go down to the court house and file a paper that would force a hearing. Likely the judge will give him twelve days to clear out. The downside of giving him time now, is that if he doesn’t get out, and we file, we have to wait another twelve days before we can file an eviction notice.”
Having been a renter for years before I became an owner, I appreciated whatever protection I could get.Sigh, the law was the law.
Our compromise was for T to tell the tenant that yeah, we’ll give him until the weekend to vacate and that’s a firm date. We also charge him rent for the days his stuff stays on the property.
The dogs by now were hovering hear the sliding door, wondering, no doubt about when the pack would head for home.
And that was the thing. We’d brought a salmon to cook on our stove. I had boxes of necessities stashed in the truck. Looked like we would be hoteling it tonight.
The upside was dinner in Corvallis with clanky, hoppy IPAs, walking two tired mastiffs around the Best Western, watching the U.S. women win the semi-final against the U.K., Breakfast at Elmers, and then a drive north on 99 through wine country before hopping over to north-bound I-5 for a straight shot home.
An impaired oil-tanker driver in Centralia, Washington would detour that straight shot into a labyrinthian nightmare. More next week in Episode 2.