My Landlord

My landlord wants me out again. I love my apartment, but my landlord has been a nightmare. Till last spring, he had been harassing me. I managed to block him with the help of his wife. A few days ago, he used a new cell number to message me asking me to move out by July because he wanted to move back. I called his wife. She confirmed it. So I guess I have to move out…And here is an article I wrote about my landlord last spring…

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I was reading Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” at the hotel lounge in Siem Reap, Cambodia when my cell phone rang. It was my landlord, Zeng. I frowned and felt a twitch in my stomach. Each time he called, I felt this twitch. I tried to ignore it, but it kept ringing stubbornly till I picked it up.

“I am going to check on my apartment at 2 o’clock this afternoon,” he shouted from China. His bossy tone dumfounded me as always.

“But we agreed that you check on the apartment after I am back to Guangzhou on April 4th. It is still March.” I tried to curb my annoyance. I’ve had many landlords in the past 12 years, Zeng was the only one who liked to check on the apartment whenever he felt like to, because, according to him, he was the home owner. There was really no need for him to waste his time checking on the apartment because I had made this place much cleaner and cozier than when he lived in it,  I am a quiet tenant maintaining a friendly relationship with my neighbors, fix whatever broke in the apartment, and pay rent on time.

Unpleasant as it was, I didn’t mind too much his checking on the apartment until one morning he came over to tell me he was divorced. As usual, he showed up without notice. He knocked on the door, came in, made himself comfortable in the couch, gulped a cup of coffee I handed him, and started raving about his success – a man with a master’s degree and with a lot of theories. I was polite but hoping he would leave soon so I could finish my routine morning reading and go in the office after lunch. But he wouldn’t stop bragging about himself.

I finally suggested, “I need to go in the office soon.”

“Oh, I should leave,” he said, but continued to sit in the couch comfortably, his hand still holding the coffee cup, his eyes looking around.

“I’ve been really busy recently.” I made it obvious that he was not welcome.

He totally ignored my hint, “You’ve made this place much nicer. My wife was too messy. She doesn’t clean. Oh, just between you and me, I am actually divorced. ”

“Eh, sorry to hear that. Well, it’s getting late. I have to go in the office now.” I felt awkward. I never wanted to befriend a landlord, not to say share his secret. At least not an ignorant and pretentious one like Zeng.

He left with an upset look, finally.

The next evening, he sent a phone message to me: “Do you have time to chat in the evening?”

Since then, I have found all kinds of excuses to prevent him from coming to the apartment, thus become “a very difficult woman.” One time, I suggested he didn’t need to waste his time checking on the apartment, he replied, “This is my property! I can come whenever I want. ” Another time I suggested he come with his wife, he replied, “she doesn’t have time,” forgetting his telling me he was divorced.

While I was trying to rejuvenate myself in Siem Reap, he demanded from a thousand miles away, “I have time this afternoon. Two o’clock.”

“I am sorry. But I am not home till April 3rd. That’s why I told you to come either before I left Guangzhou on March 20th or after I return on April 3rd. You said you’d come on April 4th.” I reminded him of our agreement and didn’t hide my scorn and irritation in my voice.

“I’ve never met a difficult woman like you!” He howled and hung up.

I put down my cell phone and curled up in the couch, lackluster. He had spoilt my time with Hemingway, my vacation. “At least I am glad I changed the lock,” I thought to myself. After I returned home, my neighbor told me he did try to break in the apartment after he put down the phone. He asked my neighbor to let him jump over their rooftop garden to mine. When my neighbor asked him who would take the responsibility should anything happen,  he replied, “I am just going to my own home.”

Later that night, I woke up at 3 a.m. screaming at a nightmare image, where a huge rat was gnawing at a kitten in blue moonlight.

The day I returned home from Cambodia, I got a message from Zeng: “I have put the apartment back to the market for new tenants. You can continue to rent it if you pay 25% more.”

A day later, he messaged me again, “I am going to my apartment this afternoon. Two o’clock.”

He came with two women, one in her forties, the other in her twenties. Without asking for my permission, he let the women in and showed them around as if I didn’t exist.

“Excuse me!” I was pissed off that these people showed no respect for my privacy and my tenant’s right, “I have paid rent, and I still live here. Without my permission, you don’t have the right to come in! Don’t you know the law?”

“Ha! Law! She is talking about law! Funny.” The younger woman scoffed.

“What law? This is NOT your apartment!”  The mid-aged woman sneered, “And I am moving in. When are you moving out? When?”

I wanted to shout “get out” at them, but I was too furious to utter a word.

“You are such a difficult tenant.” Zeng said with a smile. A cunning smile of stupidity.

“What do you mean I am a difficult tenant! I pay rent on time, I fix whatever breaks and never bother you, I have the leaking ceiling repaired with my own money, I make this place much cleaner and tidier than when you lived here. I am quiet and my neighbors like me…” I started raving, enraged.

“But each time I want to check on my apartment, you are so reluctant and find all kinds of excuses.”

“Don’t you understand law? Don’t you know tenants have their rights to the property, too? And you claim to have a master’s degree and from a so-called ‘family of intellectuals’!” I was furious and he was taken aback.

“A master’s degree! ‘Family of intellectuals’! ” I repeated  scornfully.

He blushed. He must have remembered the plaque he once hung above the dinner table before I moved in. On it carved “Family of Intellectuals.” It looked surreal and ridiculous on a dirty wall  of a messy apartment. I told him to take it with him, “You shouldn’t leave it here. My family is not intellectual. ”

He blushed, then replied, “I have a master’s degree, you know.”

Here he was, blushing again. He had wanted to intimidate me by bringing two women pretending to be his potential tenants, but found himself blushing. “At least he still has a little sense of shame,” I thought to myself, when the younger woman cried, “wow, what a tenant! Don’t you know this is not your home?”

“Who are you? I rent the place. You don’t have any right to be here at MY HOME!”

“This is not your home! We are invited by the property owner!”

“Get out!” I shouted at top of my lung.

My landlord seemed surprised at my rage and asked the women to leave with him. I had been too polite with him before. Now I finally learned a lesson that politeness and reason didn’t work with people lack of common sense.

“Crazy woman!” The younger woman yelped as she walked out.

“We are moving in. I will pay more. Tell her to move out.” The mid-aged woman said.

“We will talk later.” Zeng turned to me and I saw a  smile in his face, satisfied, but ugly and greedy. All of a sudden, I understood it was an act he put on, with the help of two women.

I decided I’d had enough of this stupid landlord and that even the private rooftop garden that came with the apartment – which was the reason I rented the place – was not worth his harassment. I messaged him: “I will move out. Your friends can move in in two months. Take the deposit for my last two months.”

He immediately replied, “Oh. I was thinking we should talk. You know I would let you rent the place if you are still interested. But if you want to move, you must move by the end of this month. I will pay you back the deposit. You can trust me.”

I: “I don’t trust a man who doesn’t pay tax. I will live here till I use up the deposit.” I knew he didn’t pay tax for his rental business as he had told me not to tell others I rented his place so he could avoid tax.

He: “Nonsense! Who says I don’t pay tax?”

I: “Don’t forget I work in the news industry and I know a bunch of people in different fields. I can ask a friend working at the city revenue bureau to check.  Evidence can be easily obtained –  the paying record via my bank account to yours.”

Two hours later, his wife called, “What happened between you and my husband? Why are you reporting him to the revenue bureau?”

“Oh, you call finally. What’s your husband’s problem? Why does he always want to check on the apartment? Why did he bring two strangers to my place without noticing me and let them in without my permission?  Why did he keep telling me you are divorced?”

“Hold on. I call you back this evening.”

When she called again, she apologized for her husband and asked if I’d like to continue to rent the apartment. I told her if I didn’t need to deal with her husband again, I wouldn’t mind continuing to living here. We made a deal quickly.

When I hung up, I received a message from her husband: “Shameless!”

I replied: “You are the one who is shameless. Don’t ever bother me again. I only talk to your wife from now on.”

With that, I blocked his number in my cell phone.

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