Twelve years ago, I packed my bags and headed west from Southwest Harbor, Maine, to Tucson, Arizona. I’d rent my beloved house during the winter so I could keep it for my kids, prospective grandkids to enjoy every summer, when I’d return for as long as I could to live by the sea, like “Miss Rumphius.”
Some of my renters were trustworthy human beings. Others were not.
The worst renters were the yoga teacher, her husband, kids and one dog — actually two, who liked to dig holes. I’ve heard island friends talk about her serenity. I guess her kids didn’t carve their names in students’ dining room tables, draw all over the walls or pilfer a juicer, which was a present from Ethan.
Bad karma? I didn’t get her, and still don’t — how was it ok to let your kids desecrate someone else’s belongings? And why didn’t the rental agent (whose last name starts with D) ever check on them, as they were supposed to?
Then there’s the mystery of the wayward renter: Two summers ago a supposed Yale neuroscientist drove up to Southwest Harbor for a day to see my house. He loved it and wanted a multiple-year lease. We walked down to the dock and talked neuroscience. He handed over a security deposit and left. Sept. 1 came and went. I never heard from him again. My house remained empty. The pipes froze that winter.
Luckily, I have the best next-door neighbors in the world so my house is still standing. I also have a genius contractor/friend with a superb intellectual carpentry crew.
A few weeks ago, my neighbors witnessed college students emptying boxes from their cars — about to sublet my house — although my passive-aggressive, nasty renter knew our lease didn’t allow such shenanigans.
Can you take more? More important, can I?
But see the serenity of my sunporch?
One year a woman didn’t pay her rent and my super-duper lawyer had her evicted. One winter the renters mostly stayed indoors with the drapes closed and drank. Can’t say that I blame them.
Another couple stayed for two winters — they were filmmakers and went to Egypt or someplace in the summer. I liked them a lot, until they moved out and all my cookbooks disappeared.
I try to focus on the wonderful renters: the lovely couple who stayed for two years and left the house cleaner than they found it; another lovely couple who retired to Southwest Harbor to build their dream home. “Your house feels like a hug,” they told me.
A few years ago, a young scientist from San Diego rented my house. He couldn’t take it for more than one winter of ice and snow, which I can appreciate.
But those glorious summers… I’m starting to feel the cool breezes, hear the waves slapping against the rocks at Ship Harbor. I’m excited about seeing my old friends and celebrating a huge family event.
Still, I wonder, have I come to the end the landlord road? Ask me again in a few months.