Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why Is Eischens Still In Business?

Location: 414 7th St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414, USA
We finally moved into our new apartment. Rebecca and I returned to the States in the first week of April and have been staying at her sister's place since then. It was very generous of her to put us up as we looked around for an apartment to sublet for the interim before taking off for South Korea to teach English.

Eventually it became clear we weren't going to South Korea, or anywhere else. Once we realized that, I accepted a position with my former employer, who has stated they'd like to take me on contract-to-hire. We'll get another place in the autumn, but we picked up the last three months of a University student's lease in southeast Mpls., a building called Andrew House.

And of course, we hadn't heard anything about it until we moved in. And we hadn't researched it until we showed up and found all the things wrong with it. And once we started that research, of course we discovered the place is one of a few dozen properties owned and "managed" by a well-known slumlord, Jim Eischens. We found this article on his misadventures in the MN Daily, a campus newspaper reflecting the concerns of students and student life. We're not students, but we're close enough to campus that we're living among them. Indeed, one particularly maligned renter started a blog in 2003, the same time the article came out, mainly to vent spleens, and a more recent Facebook group has been formed.

There are many things wrong with the apartment we're renting. Some of the matters are small, like holes in the plaster walls where past tenants nailed things to the walls and pulled the nails out or stains on the blinds and in the shower. The bathroom was filthy, the shower was unusable the way we found it. Some of the matters are much larger.

This stove has been inoperable since before we arrived. Only one burner is broken, but whomever was working on it left it like this. We keep hearing about a replacement part being ordered...

There are lofts in the bedroom and living room. Their ladders lean against the lofts with a metal flange screwed into the top. The one in the bedroom is completely stripped and should collapse any day now.

Bedroom ceiling. We've been talking with the guy doing the repairs for this. He said the pipe running above the ceiling has been repaired and he can scrape and replaster the ceiling by the end of the day today (six days after our lease started).

This is an assortment of repair supplies that were left on the loft in the bedroom. We showed up to move in and found them sitting there, looking like someone started the job on the ceiling and immediately abandoned it, like the "repair" done to the stove.

One explanation we were given for the delay in repairs was that it's too hard to complete a repair when the building is being evacuated two or three times each week due to fire alarms. This being student housing, a lot of these kids living on their own for the first time still don't know you can't put foil in a microwave, stuff like that, so I can understand that the smoke detectors are working overtime. At the same time, it's not reassuring to learn your apartment can't be repaired because the building is constantly catching fire. The tenants here attest that the alarms go off a few times a week, and that getting Eischens to repair anything involves a long campaign of nagging and reminding, which results in a temporary band-aid solution (after outright hostility).

So I feel like a sucker. It hadn't occurred to me to run a background check on the owner of this place. In a just world, one shouldn't need to: you should just find a place to live and live there without worrying about criminal activity or threat to one's livelihood and household. Additionally, Eischens has a reputation for suing tenants who complain too much, trumping up fabricated charges of eviction notices and rent payments missed, so there's that to worry about, too. We've got legitimate complaints, we're paying good money and expect reasonable services provided in return, but instead we've got this slum lord to deal with. Can we survive the next three months?

UPDATE: I went to ask about the pet deposit on this place. Pets are allowed, you just pay a fee to have them here. In the management office were Sergei and a woman. I've dealt with Sergei before, he's very helpful, and I've seen the woman in the management office several times.

They said the pet deposit is $100. That was a pleasant surprise, as the woman we're subletting from told us it was $200. I didn't argue this point.

Sergei said the deposit was refundable. The woman tried to tell me it wasn't and they argued briefly about this. She insisted that recently it had been made non-refundable and Sergei said he'd never heard of such a thing. She backed down and I'm recording here and in my date book they agreed the pet deposit is refundable.

They said they'd need to know what kind of pets they were. I said "two cats," and Sergei questioned the need to charge a deposit at all for cats. The woman insisted that the deposit was required in case they sprayed--they don't, but try telling her that. In fact, this whole interaction with her made me mistrustful of her.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

First: Impressions of Indonesia

Location: Bali, Indonesia
Your Veneration,

I wish to thank you for your counsel in my time of need. Such a small thing for you, but it meant so much to me, and while I was pleased to help you practice English, in no way do I consider my service equal to what you provided. I don't know what could be, since you have none of the questions or needs with which my life is laden and I have nothing reciprocal to offer.

But instead, let me give you what I have, and that is an alternate perspective.