It didn’t take long for me to regret signing the lease. My old neighbors scolded me for acting impulsively, but I couldn’t resist the new apartment’s location—close to a lakeshore park, a short walk to a Marino’s, and a block from Belcher Street with all its bistros and bookstores. Two dry cleaners and a computer repair expert were right across the street. Who wouldn’t want to live there? Except for that peeling conical incinerator sitting in the vacant lot two blocks away, the neighborhood looked prosperous and friendly.
When I saw the listing for this place—a two-bedroom walk-up with a balcony—I called the agent and met her at the address an hour later. We climbed a tidy, carpeted staircase to the third floor, and I looked around the landing, shared by only one other unit.
“That’s the other condo rented out by this owner,” the agent said as she noticed my staring at a small gouges at the bottom of the door. She patted her ponytail and adjusted her flower-patterned scrunchie. “The management company will fix that. Anyway, the unit shares a wall with the one I’m going to show you, but I’ve never heard any complaints.”
She nodded at my nervous smile and invited me into the vacant apartment. After crossing its short entrance hall, we walked into a wide, sunny space she called the “living-dining room” where she pointed out tall windows that faced a street lined with mature trees. I couldn’t help feeling giddy when she showed me through the kitchen, with its French door leading to a real, not French, balcony and plenty of cabinets and newer appliances. It was tucked into the far corner of the big room but was as bright as the rest of the space because of several LED fixtures along the ceiling and over the counters. I loved the tile floor that extended in a wide arc out of the kitchen and into the area suitable for a small dining table. How easy to keep clean!
An en suite master bedroom plus a full bathroom off the second, small bedroom was quite an improvement over the place I’d been renting before. I’d never looked forward to returning after work to my tiny one-bedroom at the end of a gloomy corridor on the 24th floor of a huge high-rise near the expressway. Only a bus stop, just outside the building’s front door, compensated for my feeling isolated in a giant bee hive.
“You said both units on this floor belong to the same owner?” I asked the agent.
“Yes, Ella, but the other one’s a one-bedroom and it’s occupied as far as I know. Is $1200 a month too much for you? People sometimes share this kind of unit.”
“No, I can manage that and would like to take this one if the condo association approves. Such a nice place. Why did the last renter leave or did the owner live here?”
“There’s never been an issue about rentals. It’s a small building after all and the owners don’t really have a board. They all meet to decide stuff; but, no, I am not allowed to share information about the last occupant with you. Besides, I’m new to this listing. I really don’t know any more than I’ve told you. So, you’d like to rent it? You know the terms, besides the rent?”
“Well, no.” I didn’t know what she meant by ‘the terms,’ but I assumed they’d be explicit in the lease and my lawyer would take care of that.
“I’ll send you the docs, I mean, the papers. When can you meet to sign the lease?”
We arranged to close the deal. The owner did not attend the signing, but a glum, cadaverous man in a dull gray suit represented him, or her—or “it”—I didn’t care as long as the place was mine. The terms required a security deposit, one month’s rent, and commitment to a two-year lease. Seemed fair to me, although my lawyer didn’t like the last part. “What if you hate the place?” he said. “Something could go wrong, and you’d be stuck. They won’t let you sub-let.”
I signed anyway.
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