The winds of change blew hard

In the Spring of 1987, my Mother and I moved into a 2 bedroom apartment in West Newton. Our landlord was a nice, old school Italian gentleman. The apartment wasn’t anything special but it was clean and it did the trick. We settled in nicely. Over the next few years, the landlord did do some work in the apartment. He bought us a new stove and installed new peel and stick tile on the kitchen floor. The rest of the apartment remained untouched. The kitchen cabinets (what few there were) were very old and were not really very useful due to poor design. The bathroom was pretty much the same. The sink was just that, a sink with exposed plumbing underneath. You could pretty much say these two rooms were stuck in the 50’s. Again, it was clean, just not very modern.

The house had a fairly nice yard, not huge but ok. We could park two cars so that was a plus. Five or so years after we moved in, Mom applied for and was approved for senior housing. She moved out of the apartment and into her own place. I was now on my own for the very first time. And I loved it! Mom took with her most of the furniture, leaving me with just bare bones stuff to get by. It worked for a little while but I needed to get my own things and make this place my home. The year after Mom moved out, the landlord came to me and wanted to raise my rent by $300 a month! WHAT? I was beside myself. He said it was the water bill. The price of water is high in Newton. I convinced him to accept $200. It would be tight but I would make it work. So as I looked around the apartment, it became clear it needed work. Paint, carpeting, kitchen and bath work. I made a deal with the landlord that I would pay for and do all the painting myself. I would pay for new carpeting. I would spruce up the bathroom as best I could. There was nothing I could do in the kitchen. I’m not that talented and I did not have that kind of money. The deal was that I would pay for everything in exchange for him NOT raising the rent for the next several years. He agreed.

I spent about $10,000 dollars to do all the work and to buy some new furniture. It was hard work but I believed it would pay off in the end. When I was done, it looked fabulous. It was my home now and I loved it. A few years went by and he came to me trying to raise the rent. With the help of his daughter (she lived on the first floor), we were able to hold him off for a few more years. Then I couldn’t hold him off any more and every year, he raised my rent by $100 per month. It became very difficult and uncomfortable living there. It was especially difficult dealing with the son of the landlord. The issues I had with him are far too many to write about. He was and is a jerk. But he was able to manipulate his father and that made my life much more difficult.

The problem was that apartment prices in Newton are OFF THE CHARTS expensive. There was no way I could afford to move and stay in Newton. There was no way I could move and stay anywhere CLOSE to Newton. I was trapped. I needed a miracle. It took several years of looking before I finally go it. I had friends who had friends…but there was never any openings. People don’t move out of apartments with landlords that treat them well. I had asked one person who owned several places to please keep me in mind if anything came open. I was his perfect tenant…single female, no kids, middle age, no drama. He didn’t have anything when I first talked to him so I kept looking.

Fast forward to August of 2014. I boarded the Schooner Heritage for a week sailing the coast of Maine. About half way through the week, I happened to have cell service on my phone. I noticed I had a call and voicemail. It was the friend of the friend. And he had an apartment he wanted to show me. I was freaking out!!!! I told him I was in the middle of the ocean but that I would be back in a few days and would make a plan to see the place. I got home and made an appointment to meet him at the house. I walked into paradise. The apartment was HUGE. It was in the middle of being remodeled. Fresh paint throughout. Hardwood floors refinished. BRAND NEW kitchen….cabinets, appliances, lighting. BRAND NEW bathroom…new tub/shower, vanity, floor tiling. I could not believe what I was seeing. And I could not even afford this luxurious place. Or could I…?

There is something to be said for a property owner who believes in having good tenants. A person who believes that it’s not all about money. A person who takes care of his property and makes sure the tenants don’t have to worry about anything. This man hung the golden ring out in front of me and told me to grab it. There was just one small catch…


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