We all know how expensive it can be to rent, but what choice do you have when you are not in a position to buy a home?
Here is my little horror story.
In March 2017, we found a house to rent for under market value. We were paying $1,500/mo for a 4bd, 2.5ba house in Highlands Ranch, CO. This is practically unheard of in this area. We worked out a deal where the owner would buy materials, and my husband would do little projects on the weekends to spruce it up. Well, the owner never bought any materials, but we did what we could out of pocket, which was minimal. We were constantly getting foreclosure notices, but we trusted our landlord to handle it. We did this since we literally could not afford anything around here, and the home was not unlivable, so we dealt with it.
Fast forward to July, 2018. The owner looses the home through foreclosure to the Highlands Ranch Community Association (the HOA). This was devastating since my kids were finally just starting to make new friends in the area. At first, the HOA would not talk to us, and refused to acknowledge there were renters, and started the eviction process. Finally a few weeks later, we hear from their attorney, and they stop the eviction process since the owner had not lived there in many years. He promises at this time that if anything happens and we have to move, that he will promptly return our last months rent, and deposit, totaling $2,500.
In September 2018, their attorney says to use their realtor as a contact. He comes in, photographs the home, takes note of things that need repair so they can sell it. One item in the pictures was a horribly leaking kitchen faucet. Well, our kitchen faucet broke off completely the following week. We contacted the HOA’s attorney, since they refused to communicate with us directly, to see if they want us to make the repair and take the cost out of rent, or if they wanted to send a professional to fix it. They ignore us. Then 2 toilets start backing up repeatedly, and one shoots waste all over a carpeted bathroom in early October. We notify the HOA’s attorney, only to be ignored again.
As it turns out, they did a $0 quit claim deed to a nightmare of a house flipper without notifying us. In court, the new owner presented e-mails between him and the HOA’s attorney, letting him know of the issues with the house and asks him to contact us. He never does, and at this point, the assessor’s office still reflects that the HOA owns the home, so this is who we continue to contact. Then, the new owner shows up at the door with a horrid attitude, and kicks our pumpkins off the porch when I would not agree to just leave the property within a couple days. I did not even know who he was, as the realtor said there were legal issues and that the house could not be sold, so this was a shock to me. We have had to deal with people knocking on the door wanting to buy the home nearly daily, so we did not know if this guy was legit, or a scammer. He begins screaming at me, triggering a panic attack and refused to leave, so I had to call the cops. This was our FIRST interaction with the new owner.
In November, we had to go to court since the new owner wanted us out. We contacted several landlord/tenant attorneys, and most refused to represent tenants, only landlords. We did find one sweet lawyer who gave us a consultation for $260, but would not represent us in court because she said that tenants just “never win cases in Douglas County”, where our home was. So, we were on our own in court. You could tell from the beginning before we presented our evidence that the judge completely favored the new landlord, and basically ignored all of our evidence. The new owner lied in court twice (that I noticed, maybe more). We presented our evidence of the issues with the home. We presented pictures of everything that was wrong, including the black mold caused by the toilet backing up. The judge ruled that the issues with the home did not meet the warranty of habitability requirements to be legally allowed to withhold rent, and ruled in favor of the new owner. We were given 48 hours to leave, but the new owner’s attorney gave us til the end of the week.
So we leave, and stay with my grandmother. We are definitely thankful for that! The original landlord tells us that he requested our deposit and last month’s rent out of a fund, and it will be there in 10 business days. 10 business days later, he beings to ignore me, too. What kind of person gives false hope to a family who is already in such a bad situation? Especially at the holidays?! Of course we would sue him if we could, but he is in bankruptcy.
I guess what I am trying to relay is that, if you are lucky enough to own a home, be thankful for it! We are extremely thankful just to have a roof over our heads at a relative’s home. However, it makes me terrified to try and rent another property. In 2006, we rented a home in Lakewood. The owner had died, and when a relative took over, they stopped paying the mortgage and that went into foreclosure, too. This was prior to the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, so we were just out of luck there. We did find out he got arrested for selling cocaine though, so we assume that is where our rent was going instead of covering the mortgage. In 2011, we rented a home in Littleton that had TONS of issues, including foundation issues. The home literally cracked in half, bugs came in, and we had to leave. We also did not have heat for 2 of the years we lived there, but we survived.
No one should have to go through the horrors we go through just to try and keep a roof over our kid’s heads. There should not be any county in this country where a lawyer is afraid to represent a tenant due to the low success rates of tenant’s winning their case under ANY circumstance.
Anyway, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!