I’m finally starting to get settled into my new apartment and into the idea that I have a place to call home after a summer of being a nomad. I should be happy and things should be falling into place. But there is one giant blemish on this beautiful landscape that is my life, and that blemish is my landlord.
I had a feeling that he would be a sub-par landlord and suppressed it because I was in such a hurry to find a place to live, but I had no idea that he would end up being the slumlord that he is. Before I signed the lease, I looked up directions for how to get to the property management office online and came across a veritable heap of scathing reviews that called the landlord flaky and inaccessible and careless and lacking in any sort effort in his role as landlord. This should have been my first sign.
Long story short, I have lived a month in my apartment for over a month without a functioning oven, and three weeks without functioning stove-top burners. Call me crazy, but I think it’s kind of essential to have a way to cook my food, as I am a human and will perish if I can’t eat. I called the landlord to ask him to come fix these things and I heard not a word from him for ten days. At the suggestion of the attorneys in my office, I sent him a letter asking him to make these repairs and he sent someone within a few days; they fixed a few things but not everything. Since I haven’t been able to cook food for a month, I wrote him another letter to open up a discussion about a reduction in rent for this month, since we are clearly not living in an apartment that is fit for human habitation according to the standards of the city of Seattle, and asked him to call me at home or at work so that we could come to an agreement. A day passed, I called the property management office to make sure that they received the letter (they did), and was assured that I would get a call back from the landlord by the end of the day. Nothing. Next day: nothing. Seriously, the word “slumlord” has been used to characterize him by nearly every person in my life I’ve talked to about it.
I was talking to one of the lawyers about it today, and he said that a lot of the reason that the landlord is acting this way is because I’m a woman. Which is obvious to me, but still so incredibly infuriating. I can almost forgive his utter negligence as a landlord and his failure to fulfill his duties thus far, but the fact that he thinks he can take advantage of Amber and I because we’re young girls is unforgivable. What that says to me is that he assumes we are neither intelligent enough nor strong enough to know our rights as tenants and fight for them, and that I can’t abide. I can’t imagine that anyone, male or female, wouldn’t have been as tenacious as I have been in trying to move the landlord to action, but I know that a lot of people my age just learn to put up with things that are broken and don’t speak up about it.
I think about our downstairs neighbors, who are both male, and I wonder, if it was them instead of us, if the landlord would have let as much time pass before making repairs for them, and if he would actively avoid communicating with them about it too. I don’t think he would. It makes me feel so small when I think about how my gender holds me back from being taken seriously. I can be the squeakiest wheel in the world screaming out for grease, but at the end of the day, in so many male eyes, I’m just a woman, and somehow less deserving of having my essential human needs met than a man is. And even beyond essential human needs, I’m made to feel like I don’t even deserve the courtesy of acknowledgment that a man would get with considerably less effort. Sometimes I wish I were a man simply so that I could be respected without having to work so hard for it, so that I could be an imposing and fearsome figure instead of always being afraid, so that I could feel I’m entitled to everything instead of expecting nothing, so that I could speak my mind and stand up for myself without being called a bitch.
I can’t help that I’m a woman; I just am. I can’t help that I feel like my sex is so often a handicap; I’m made to feel that way. I hate being treated like a woman because all I get is condescension and disregard. I will never expect special treatment because I’m a woman, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to be treated like a person.
Everyone keeps telling me that I need to break my lease and move out. The thought of moving again nearly makes me ralph, but even more than that, I don’t want the landlord to think he’s broken me. If I move out, he can continue doing nothing and making no effort to ensure that his tenants are living in a habitable space, and he can just as easily find another young girl to rent to and exploit who will not be nearly so difficult as I am. If that happens, he’s won and I’ve lost, and another girl will lose too. I just can’t see myself feeling okay about that. So what I’m going to do is plant my feet firmly and stand my ground, no matter how much he ignores me and disrespects me, so that he can see that he picked the wrong girl to try to take advantage of. Because little does he know that I have attorneys who would love nothing more than to pounce on him and make his life hell whenever I say when, and that I’m the one calling the shots in this situation.
How’s that for girl power?