Have you ever heard that saying, “If God leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it?” I’m not a very religious person, but I will admit that sometimes I have flickers of spirituality. I was probably more religious when I was younger, but as the years have passed, I’ve become less impressed by the mysterious ways of the Almighty. Bill is a lot more in tune with God than I am. He has more reason to have faith. He’s been through some major shit in his life. My shit, by comparison, is relatively small potatoes. I have never been to war. I have never been at war with an ex spouse hellbent on destroying me. I have never had a near death experience. I have never been divorced or had children. I have never been a child of divorce, either.
For some reason, despite never having these challenging, life altering experiences, I often feel exhausted and embattled by life. My challenges have been different than Bill’s have been, and we have learned different ways of coping. One of my methods of getting through tough times is by turning to creativity. I think maybe it would have been easier if I had been an artist, like my sister is. Pictures can be upsetting, but they probably aren’t as upsetting as the written word is. It usually takes longer to paint a picture than write an essay.
I’m also a singer, although I mainly do that as a form of self-therapy. I don’t share my music nearly as much as I do my writing. I doubt most people take it seriously, even if I do. Maybe it would be better if I simply made music rather than write… although I am finding this week that writing could end up saving me.
The past few days have been very challenging. Some of you are aware that Bill and I escaped the rental house from Hell last year. I didn’t initially think of the experience as “hellish”. What started out as having to deal with an eccentric, overbearing, nit picking landlady has turned into sheer craziness. I used to write about my frustrations dealing with her, but then it became clear that she had a negative advocate stalking my blogs and probably reporting back to her. Not that I wrote that much about her, mind you… and I certainly never identified her. 99.9% of the people reading my old blog and the scattered posts in which I mentioned ex landlady would never know who she was. Moreover, there were also posts in which I praised her. At first, I was sincere in my praise, because she had initially seemed nice. Later, I wrote those posts only because, in my gut, I knew they could be significant later. Two years ago, it became clear to me that we were going to be where we are now… on the brink of a lawsuit in a country that is foreign to me.
Bill has never sued anyone. Neither have I. I don’t plan to be a party to this lawsuit, mainly because I didn’t sign the lease and wasn’t responsible for paying the landlady and her husband. In fact, I’m not officially the reason we’re in Germany. I’m tagging along, because Bill got a job here and I’m his wife.
Several months ago, when it became clear that my blogs were being monitored by former landlady’s ex tenant, I decided to move my writing to a more secure location. I removed any questionable posts, but left the old blog open. It has a lot of good information in it that has served a lot of people, including students in universities. I happen to know that at least one of my posts was used in a criminal justice course at Drexel University. Now… no one ever asked me about it, but I could see the hits and where they came from. And people had left comments letting me know that a book review I’d written was useful. So I left the old blog open for those people, even though I needed a more secure place for my new posts.
All spring, I anticipated the reaction to the bomb Bill planned to drop on our former landlady. I knew she was going to go ballistic. I mentally prepared myself for the fallout. I had a feeling she’d threaten us with legal action, too… because how DARE we hold her accountable for ripping us off? Our ex landlady is apparently obsessed with money and feels entitled to blatantly take what she thinks she has coming to her. Other people’s perspectives and opinions seem not to matter to her. She seems to have an astonishing lack of shame and self-awareness. She’s “right”; you’re wrong, and if you argue with her, there will be HELL to pay.
In February, Bill contacted ex landlady about our deposit. We knew she was going to deduct charges. The day she showed up to do the final check out, she made it clear that she was deeply dissatisfied with the days of cleaning we did. I knew very well that she would be. I knew that despite cleaning as best I could, she would find multiple issues. I resigned myself to it, even though my body ached from the effort of trying to turn her sow’s ear of a duplex into a silk purse.
I was in Wiesbaden on the day Bill checked out. I felt it would be best, since I can barely stand the sight of ex landlady. I had to put up with multiple incidents of verbal abuse and false accusations from her, and I had finally reached the point of saturation. The last time we had a real conversation was the day she stood in the living room of our old house and shouted at me because her 17 year old awning had collapsed on my watch. She was pissed off because it couldn’t be fixed and a brand new one would cost 2800 euros. But… I had told her the awning was listing and instead of hiring a technician with specific expertise related to awning repair, she sent her very handy husband. She later told us the fix was likely temporary, but it was repaired for the time being. Indeed, it did look like the awning was fixed, so I used it on an especially hot day to block the sun from the living room. There was a sudden gust of wind and the damned thing collapsed with a thud.
I wasn’t sitting under the awning when it fell. She claims that makes me “negligent”. Because if I had been sitting under it, I would have noticed the windy conditions and rolled it up before it collapsed. But… the wind was powerful and sudden, and although I have a lot of capabilities, I have not developed the ability to predict it. And if I had been sitting under it, the awning would have injured or possibly even killed me (if it had hit my head). It was very heavy and supported by metal. Ex landlady apparently hasn’t considered what would have happened if I had been sitting under her awning when it collapsed. She obviously doesn’t care.
So, on that September day in 2017, she berated me for the awning’s collapse. Then she berated me for an electric Rolladen that wouldn’t come down. She claimed it was because I didn’t use it often enough. Later, it was determined the Rolladen was not properly installed. No apology was forthcoming from her for accusing me of being “negligent” in that instance.
She also complained about a clump of dog hair in the doorway. She claimed it was “encrusted”. It certainly was not “encrusted”. It took two seconds to clean up, and if I had known this was going to cause her to have a meltdown, I surely would have made sure it was cleaned away before her tirade.
The weeks following that incident were awful. I wanted nothing more than to move away from that abusive bitch. But Bill didn’t want to move. He said it would cost too much and we had no guarantee that a new landlord wouldn’t be worse. So we kept living there and paying her, putting up with her passive aggressive hostility. I soon hated her and her house. Our insurance company gave her 300 euros because her awning was so old. That’s how insurance works. They don’t give you enough money for a brand new items. It’s meant to defray costs, not totally cover them. Prior to the payout, she had written in an email to Bill that she agreed that the collapse was caused by an “act of nature”. When the payout was so low, suddenly it was entirely my fault again.
Fast forward to February 2019. She clearly meant to keep our entire Kaution, but when Bill pressed her, she decided to give us 666 euros. I noticed that the amount she kept was about what a new awning would cost, minus the 300 euros the insurance company gave her. How very noble. She did not list the awning as a charge, but instead levied a lot of nitpicking charges for petty things, with no proof that she’d actually spent money to fix the items. She sent charges for things that were beyond the statute of limitations and charged us full price for things she’d decided to replace for arbitrary reasons. She also charged us to remove the awning, which she had no right to do.
She also sent us a receipt for what she spent to have her the roof of her carport cleaned. We hadn’t been expected to clean that, but she wanted us to know that she had already spent a lot of money. And dammit, she and her husband are pensioners and aren’t wealthy. We should be ashamed for demanding our deposit to be properly accounted for and returned to us. When Bill complained, she became progressively more hostile and shaming. She basically said we were the “worst” tenants she’d ever had and that we lived in filth. But… we were also the tenants she had the longest and she never once got a late payment from us. And over four years, it was clear to us that money was what mattered most to her. She never once asked us to leave her shitty house, although she did offer to find us a housekeeper (like I needed having someone spying on us and reporting back to her).
So in June, our lawyer sent her a demand letter. It was devoid of emotion and bluster. Our lawyer demanded our Kaution, as well as a refund of our Nebenkosten (money for trash, lawn care, and other costs) for four years, since she never did the required annual accounting of it. Now… Bill and I didn’t really expect to get the Nebenkosten returned to us. However, our lawyer pointed out that in Germany, the law states that landlords must do an annual reckoning of the Nebenkosten. Ex landlady never once did this, so legally, we are entitled to request that she refund that money. Over four years, it amounts to a lot of money.
As I predicted, ex landlady went absolutely batshit nuts when she got the lawyer’s letter. Pretty soon, I noticed her friends and family members stalking my blogs, hitting certain posts repeatedly. I started to think she might try to accuse me of Beleidigung (insult). In Germany, it’s illegal to insult someone. I have never named ex landlady or posted a picture of her, but former tenant had been reading and knew whom I was writing about. Sometimes, she’d leave comments defending ex landlady or agreeing with me, but then she’d delete her comments. That practice left me realizing that she was up to no good.
Ex landlady had her lawyer send us an outrageous letter alleging that we had “destroyed” her house. As Bill translated it, I could practically hear ex landlady’s shrill voice through the lawyer’s bluster. And she demanded even more money from us, tacking on truly ridiculous charges. She’s trying to force us to replace her laminate floor and her carpet (at least 18 years old). She demands the fees for her lawyer, and the real kicker is, she claims we stole her refrigerator. Of all of the things she’s bitching about, the refrigerator claim amazes me the most. Apparently, she thinks the refrigerator I bought for us is her refrigerator, and the piece of shit German one that was in the house when we moved in was one we abandoned and– get this– it’s an “inferior American brand”. She evidently doesn’t realize that we have different voltage in the United States and would not be able to use an American fridge without a plug converter and transformer. The fridge that was left there is German and has a European style plug… and thanks to Amazon.de, we have proof that the fridge we took belongs to us.
Ex landlady also claims that we agreed that she didn’t have to do the annual Nebenkosten reckoning. That can’t be true, since before a few months ago, we didn’t even know that was the law in Germany. There’s no way we could have agreed not to hold her to that requirement. Our lawyer has seen our lease, so I’m certain that if it was buried in the language there, she would have noticed it. We used a standard military lease, same one we did for this house and the house we rented in 2007-09. I can’t think of a single reason why a military lease would exclude the Nebenkosten reckoning. And I know Bill never verbally agreed to it or even discussed it with ex landlady. As a German, she must know this is a standard thing. But she never did it and now she’s busted, so she’s claiming we agreed that she didn’t have to do it. Why would we ever agree to something like that? It wouldn’t be in our best interest to do that.
Now… I have been reading up on lawsuits and I know ex landlady does not stand a chance in hell of forcing us to pay for all she demands. I am pretty certain that she’s simply trying to scare us into capitulating. In fact, her claims are so completely asinine that I question her lawyer’s competence. It’s obvious that her case is weak. She never so much as did a real check in with us, probably because her former tenant was there on the day we moved in and still had crap she was cleaning up when we took possession. There is no proof of what the house looked like when we moved in, because ex landlady never did her due diligence. I know for a fact ex tenant didn’t get the thorough scrutiny we got when we moved out. I am absolutely certain that we are being blamed for things her ex tenant did, but because they’re friends, they feel perfectly fine in pinning all of this shit on us. And ex landlady has the nerve to claim we’re being “unfair”. Seriously? My husband is one of the kindest, most accommodating people I have ever met. In fact, I think that’s why she’s taking this hard line. She thinks he’s a wimp and has no respect for him.
Naturally, I’m pissed off, but I’m also horrified. Our lawyer sent us a letter encouraging us to file a lawsuit, since it was clear some of her assertions are “fictitious” and she won’t willingly compromise. I’m furious, of course, because it just feels like one more insult from her. I resent that we have to take her to court to force her to do the right thing. It will be expensive, inconvenient, and to make matters worse, we have to see her ugly face again. But now that she’s made her demands, we can’t let this go. Clearly, she also needs to be reported to the housing office in Stuttgart, because if she’d do this to us, she’ll do it to other people. I’m also angry because I feel like my privacy has been violated, and my hard work has been RUINED. And much of my work is good stuff. I know it’s helped people. Thanks to the ex tenant and her need to pry into my business, I can’t share that work with others… at least not until this mess is sorted out. And I think that could take a long time.
I don’t even care about the money. I want her to be held accountable for her absolutely deplorable conduct. Especially now that she’s falsely accused us of theft! She can’t expect to get away with this! This could affect Bill’s livelihood! And if she honestly didn’t know that fridge was hers (or someone else’s), how can we believe she knew the condition her house was in back in 2014? She didn’t do her job and now she’s being called on it, so instead of growing up and owning up to her laziness, she’s claiming we’re dirtbags. Once again, the familiar refrain, “We’ve never had any problems with other tenants.”… but she doesn’t realize we’ve never had problems with other landlords.
This would be enough. This shit with the ex landlady, comical as it may seem years from now, would certainly be enough. But now my beloved Zane has lymphoma that promises to kill him soon. Many of ex landlady’s complaints stem from the fact that we had dogs. She blames them for most of the issues in the house. She forgets that ex tenant had a dog, and the people before her had cats, and everything in that house is old. It was certainly not pristine when we moved in. In fact, I have an early blog post in which I lament the smell of the carpet and former tenant admits that many pets had been hosted in that house. It was one of the few comments she didn’t delete.
I know things could be worse. I know I have friends and family dealing with much worse. I also know that ex landlady’s case is so ridiculous that if we do go to court, chances are good that she will be humiliated. That’s probably why the lawyer sent such a strongly worded letter to us. He’s trying to scare us into letting this go, because if a fair and impartial person with a lick of sense hears this story, it’s likely they’ll lose in a big way. We’ve been assured by three lawyers and a housing official in Wiesbaden that our former landlady is completely out of bounds on this. But what if the judge is as wacko as ex landlady is? It’s a possibility.
I try to reassure myself that this will be okay. I try to focus on Zane, who has temporarily improved on the prednisone I’m giving him. It’s borrowed time. When he goes, he’ll take a piece of my heart with him. Ex landlady won’t care about that. She doesn’t give a fuck about anyone but herself and her money. I’m tired of her abuse and her bullying tactics. It’s time to open a can of whoopass and teach that bitch that it’s not smart to engage in a war with people who make war their business. Even if we lose, I relish the idea of making her sweat and spend money on this, even if it’s just the deductible for legal insurance. I’m not sure she knows we are insured, too. And we intend to see this through. God led us to it… and maybe if He’s real, he’ll lead us through it. But I have a feeling that my sheer hatred for her and my resolute unwillingness to tolerate more abuse from her is what is really going to see us through this situation.