Smokers Who Rent – BEWARE!

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I am not a smoker. I grew up in smoke-filled rooms, at a time when smoking was the norm. I do not remember an adult who didn’t smoke. Suffice to say, I am quite familiar with the smell of cigarette smoke. That being said, every time my mom moved, my sister and I did everything we could to remove the smoke smell and residue. We had grown to hate it, but we knew how to remove it. It was a horrible job. At least for me and I am pretty sure, for her too. We didn’t discuss it with my mom. Not too much, at least. However, we have never had an issue or a complaint from any of her landlords, except the two last ones.
Granted, my mom became disabled in the last years of her life. She was 64 when she died. She became disabled 4 apartments ago. The first two apartments gave her complete deposit. The last two feigned smoke odor and kept her entire deposits. What amazes me, is that with all of these apartments, we gave nearly the same cleaning treatment. Of course, with the last two, our cleaning treatments improved. We were better prepared. There were plenty of products out there that help with the clean up of smoke residue. Yet, the last two used the excuse of smoke smell in order to withhold her deposit.
My mother wasn’t a “dirty” person. She did whatever she could to keep her apartment clean. Sometimes that meant having her children or grandchildren clean her apartment. We have definitely cleaned her carpets. So, it wasn’t as if her apartment wasn’t cleaned.
The first apartment that kept her deposit due to the smoke “repair” was in Grafton, WI. According to them, they had to repaint the walls, clean the carpeting, and wipe down the wood work and cabinets. They had requested that the carpets be washed before the tenant left. Interesting enough, Wisconsin forbids landlords from that request. This is the one thing we did not due. Okay, that and paint. She lived in the apartment approximately five years. During that time, the people above had two major leakages that soaked through her ceiling and soaked the carpets thoroughly. She never made a major issue of those times, even though she was greatly inconvenienced.
The second landlord to use the same excuse in order to keep her entire deposit was in Germantown, WI. When she moved in, on the first floor, he claimed the carpeting was new. Unfortunately, the carpet had a couple of cigarette burns in it, so that destroyed that claim. Also, the prior tenant, whom we met, said he was moving out because it was a “smoking” apartment building and he couldn’t handle the smoke. He stated, in front of the owner/landlord, that he could smell smoke when people came in and out of the building. He said he wasn’t a smoker, so he was moving to one of the other apartments where the tenants no longer smoked.
Both of the owners/landlords, claimed that they had to wipe down the cabinets, etc. I found this a complete and utter lie, since we did this. I did this until wiping it with my hand proved to be smooth. My sister got on her hands and knees to wipe down the baseboard. In the last apartment, I even cleaned the broken blinds. Interesting, especially since this apartment was not cleaned before my mom moved in. Interesting because the blinds were broken and film coated when she moved in. Yes, I cleaned the broken blinds, as well as the windows and window trim. We cleaned everything with the exception of the carpet and walls, when she died. And, yes, we did this with the powerful chemicals used to clean smoke residue and smell.
Both of these landlords charged us for cleaning what was already cleaned. This is how I knew, for certain, that they weren’t being truthful. I do not deny the walls needed to be painted or the carpet cleaned. She lived in each place a number of years. She was disabled and did not get out much. Each of these apartment owners were aware of this. This was not a surprise to either of them. Perhaps that is why they felt secure in charging her the enormous amount that they did for the “cleanup”.
Is it in recent years that apartment owners/landlords felt they could really use smoking to their advantage? Or did my mom find the only two on earth who felt they could take advantage of her situation? They were aware of her smoking and never said anything about it. In fact, the second apartment said it was a “smoking” apartment. They knew, because of her disability and subsequent death, the conditions in which she lived. Did they think, “cha ching”?!
Truth be told, we didn’t expect money back from this last owner/landlord. He didn’t have any scruples as far as we were concerned, but that is neither here or there. The fact that he used the same excuse as the previous landlord is where the anger bursts in. He claimed, as the previous owner, that they had to spend time cleaning areas I knew were squeaky clean. If they could do this to my mother, they could do this to other unsuspecting souls. This is what infuriates me.
People shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this. We don’t expect money. Well, my mom did with the first apartment, but we didn’t with the last. I do not want these landlords to continue to screw people out of their money. They lied outright.
As I said in the beginning, I am not a smoker. People are not allowed to smoke in my house. However, I have spent the last fourteen years or so cleaning a smoker’s apartment with the help of my sister and our family. What these apartment owners/landlords did was completely unethical. I own my home(well, through the bank). I do not benefit from any changes. I do not like cigarette smoke. However, what these landlord/owners are doing to smokers should be stopped. My mom couldn’t have been the first and, I am sure, is not the last, to be penalized for a habit the owners knew about and agreed to! Fight them, through the judicial system of course! Don’t let this bias continue!

2 responses »

  1. It is just awful what these landlords are doing to you and Kathy! Frankly, with all of your renting experiences with you and your mom, I’m surprised that when they told you the carpeting was new and you saw the cig burn, you didn’t take a picture for proof. Did you contact the BBB? Whatever happened with that?

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