I own a very old house in Monterey County, where everybody wants to go on vacation. For ten years I rented it out to friends, way under market value, although the price has been creeping up these last few years. During the pandemic, I rented it one time, and my mom, sis, and brother-in-law spent twelve days here when their section of the Santa Cruz mountains was under fire evacuation orders.
In the beginning, I let one girlfriend stay for free. She would pay me back by pulling weeds or washing floors. But even that had to go by the wayside. She bought me random stuff that I didn’t want.
A large group of friends rented it in those early days. They pulled all my weeds, but they also pulled up the lillies and Boston ferns (the plants came back the following year).
Another renter left the bedroom window open. A relative left the back doorknob unlocked and didn’t mention that the dead bolt was broken. Another left the heat running in February for a whole week until I could get down there to turn it off.
One couple broke the doors to the fireplace, another friend broke an antique table top.
A friend’s dog peed on the main carpet while we watched, and another one chewed up a rung of my red antique chair. I said no more dogs.
Somebody backed into my garage door. Somebody drove over my flower bed and broke the frame (but that could’ve been the tree guys).
People have left stinky garbage, half-filled bottles in the recycle, female garbage in the bathroom, grease-splattered stovetops, dirty dishes in the oven, water rings on the wooden tables, damp towels in the laundry basket, — the list goes on and on.
Finally, somebody whacked a glass section in my corner shower. It broke into 1000 tiny pieces but held together until someone noticed it. I now have only one working shower until I can get someone to fix the missing piece of glass.
Meanwhile, I’ve been bringing down a lot of nice stuff: rugs, an antique grandfather clock, my great-grandmother’s chair, and art as I sorted my way through the pandemic.
Now there’s more to lose by letting others use my house. Friends were usually pretty good, but some wanted their friends to use it, too, and that simply didn’t work. Those people, who didn’t know me, wanted chocolates on the pillows and high-end bedding. They wanted photos to peruse to see if they liked my house enough to stay there.
Wait a minute. This wasn’t a business. This was paying it forward since I got lucky in the divorce and got the house.
A friend asked my last week if she could rent it for a few nights in July. But I didn’t know who it was since it came up as a phone number and not a contact. I answered , “Sorry, no. Who is this?”
Later I got a text with her name.
The next day, while I was trying not to lose my sister as we headed back to the car from an early appointment of lab work (she walks like a drunken sailor with only a gait belt in my grip to keep her from going over), my cell phone rang. I thought it was the doctor regarding the screw-up with his lab order. I pulled out my phone and saw that the same friend was calling to plead her case about renting my house, at 9:00 a.m. I put the phone back into my pocket and concentrated on Sis.
Later, I listened to the friend’s message. She was sure going to be disappointed if I said no to her. She had a widowed friend, blah, blah, blah.
How did I get here?
Not to anyone, unless you are related by blood.
And I like you.