By Anessa Cohen

There are all kinds of real-estate stories I have shared over time. Until now, I have never related any similar stories about rental experiences since rentals are usually cut-and-dry — you show would-be renters a house rental which, under most circumstances, is a temporary situation, they rent it, and that is the end of the story until they’re either ready for the next rental or the hurdle of purchasing a house.

Well, as we know, new experiences happen all the time — even nightmare experiences — and this one is so bizarre that I have decided to share it with you. You would never believe it if you heard it secondhand.

I once rented a house to a lovely couple who needed a house rental in between moves. It was a spacious house, and the rental seemed straightforward like most. But soon after, I got a call from the couple — in hysterics — that I should drop everything and get over to the house right away. When I got there, the fire trucks were just leaving, the house was crowded with people coming and going, and the wife was practically in tears. She told me that when they had plugged a vacuum cleaner into an outlet to clean the house prior to moving in, the wall had erupted in flames. I sat there looking at the wall, in disbelief at the damage, but so grateful it had happened when they were awake and not while someone was sleeping and unaware.

Of course, now that the emergency was over, the practicalities had to be addressed and decisions had to be made as to the safety of the house. The landlord was brought over together with an electrician to check all of the electrical wiring in the house to make sure there were no more surprises waiting in the walls. Arrangements were made to correct whatever electrical shortcomings were found and then have the wall fixed, but what about the couple due to move into the house the next day? The mover had to be postponed until the damage could be fixed. We thought that this would take a day or two and then all would proceed as planned. But it was not meant to be since the insurance company was brought in, and until the landlord finished with them the work could not be completed.

Two weeks later, the electrical work was finally completed and the wall fixed, and the couple was clear to try their move again. They decided to take a needed vacation before completing their move, returning two weeks later and ready to move into their rental home immediately. They called the mover to set up the date. On moving day, they went ahead to open the house for the mover, only to find the locks on the door to their rental house changed and a sign on the door stating that the house had been winterized and no one should enter.

Of course their first call was to me, hysterical and angry as to what was going on. I myself was livid and called the landlord to ask her what kind of game she was playing over there.

As it turned out, the landlord had decided to default on her mortgage for three months in a row in order to qualify for the modification of mortgage that the government had laid out for the banks. (You can only qualify for this modification if you are in default of your mortgage.) The bank, in making an inspection of the property, saw that the property was empty (although she claimed to have told them she had a tenant) and decided that the property was abandoned. The bank then changed the locks and had a company winterize the house by emptying the pipes and adding anti-freeze.

We got the landlord down there, who climbed through a window, opened the door, and had someone come down and turn the water on again. They got the water working, but something broke, causing a flood on the second floor which promptly started cascading down through the kitchen ceiling. This was really a case of worse comes to worst, since they also could not get the heat working and it was all of 20 degrees outside.

The tenant looked at me and said, “The movers are almost packed and on their way; what are we going to do?” I really did not know what to answer since I had never experienced anything like this and hoped I never would again! Frankly, I did not know any other broker who had gone through this either, and I felt like finding a hole to crawl into — preferably a warm one.

The landlord in the meantime said, “Don’t worry — everything will be resolved by the end of the day, but I have to leave for an appointment and will check with you later.” We all looked at each other, not knowing what to do, and sat down to wait for the locksmith and plumber who the landlord claimed were on their way.

Four hours and dozens of phone calls later, we lost faith in the landlord’s arrangements and finally called our own plumber to check everything out. The plumber fixed the leak on the second floor but found the boiler to be shot and therefore shut off the water again. We came to the realization that there was no way they would be moving in that day, though their furniture and boxes had already been delivered by the movers while we were waiting.

The landlord finally came back towards evening and once again said, “Don’t worry — everything will be taken care of!”

What is the end of this story? Five days later, the plumber changed the boiler; our lovely couple stayed with friends until then. And I am contemplating suggesting to all new tenants that they bring in a home inspector when considering the rental of a house. That’s something unheard of, but I’m starting to think it’s a new necessity in this crazy world we live in.

Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and a licensed N.Y.S. loan officer (FM Home Loans) with over 20 years of experience offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services as well as mortgage services. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to 


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