December 05, 2013

The renter’s curse

e have been renters for most of the time we have been married. It wasn’t really a choice—just the way it worked out. And we have rented a wide range of residences—including apartments, duplexes, and single-family homes.

Our house

Our current house was built in 1940 and has wonderful charm and a great view of Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah Mountains.

But, like all residential rental units, this house is the product of the owner’s decisions.

Without going into too much detail, I’ll just give a small snapshot of rental life... a snapshot covering this past week—beginning the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and running through today, one week after Thanksgiving.

Tuesday evening, after commuting home, I picked up my son from the restaurant where my wife works and then drove home. As we walked through the door we both smelled propane. Our furnace runs on propane and the only time you can actually smell the gas is when the tank runs so low that the pilot light goes out. So I knew we had no heat and that due to the Thanksgiving holiday we would not be getting a propane delivery until the following Monday. And we were, at that moment, getting the first snowflakes of the season. Fortunately, we have a few space heaters.

Wednesday morning I noticed that the water temperature in the shower was not quite as hot as usual. I thought, “It must be very cold out to cool our indoor water this much.” When my wife took her shower, the water was actually not warm at all. And by early afternoon, it was ice cold.

My wife checked the breaker and found it tripped, but could not reengage it. So I went down to the cellar to take a look. I was able to reengage the breaker and the water warmed up a slight bit... but then began cooling again. By Wednesday evening it was clear that we have no hot water, even when the breaker was engaged.

Due to the holiday, we struggled through the next few days, but reported the problem with the water heater first thing Monday morning. Without going into great detail about the next few days, it is now 2:00 pm on Thursday and we finally have a new water heater that is, hopefully, in the process of heating the water right now. Our neighbors will be very pleased to find out that we are, once again, able to take showers.

Old houses, rental units, contractors... It’s a wonderful life!

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