Are you giving up your power & don’t even know it?

We have hilariously bad luck with our choice of rental places. Here’s a short list of our experiences from the last three years:

  • The house that got foreclosed on while we were renting there, because the landlord was using the rent money for drugs. (PS: He was also a youth minister. Can you say irony?)
  • The house where they landlady was frequently drunk when she collected rent, that also had a dormant flea infestation and $300 monthly electric bills because the A/C was so old
  • The apartment where the maintenance guy who was supposed to be fixing our tub fell over in it and then loudly proclaimed that he was incredibly stoned (and whose management attempted to send a collections agency after us to the tune of $600 for “unpaid rent”, without any proof)

I promise, we don’t seek these places out. And we’ve experienced another addition to the list lately. We moved again in August, and things seemed okay at first. Older building, but nice interior. And then the leak started in October. It didn’t get fixed until December (despite being a major health/safety hazard), and in the meantime, our ceiling literally started caving in. (For reals. I have pictures.)

The whole experience was infuriating and was definitely lease-breaking material, but it came at an extremely inconvenient time to do so – we would have had to change our Christmas travel arrangements, among other things. Another serious issue we’ve had here is noise from construction work that’s frequently interrupted my work and calls, that started around the same time as the leak and has continued to the present day. After the experience we’ve had here, I wanted out. I had firmly made up my mind that we were going to move out at the end of February and that was that, thank you very much.

I called the head of the management company and calmly explained to her that the construction has been and continues to interrupt my work & life to a really obnoxious degree. The community manager had mentioned to me that someone else had problems with the noise and they offered to let her out of her lease, so I didn’t foresee it being a huge issue – I thought that we would work out some negligible fee and that would be that.

Nope. The woman was unbelievably rude, snotty, and patronizing to me, including telling me that she didn’t see why I was complaining since they gave us a generous (read: less than half off) rent credit in December because of the leak. Um, okay.

The two choices she gave us were these:

  1. Find a new tenant for the apartment, arrange for them to pay us whatever we can get as far as security deposits/last month’s rent, and probably lose out on a significant chunk of the $1,300 of that that we’ve already paid. Also, they wanted us to pay (possibly illegal) administrative fees on top of that. (And, for me, feel incredibly guilty about getting someone else to live here when we’ve had such a horrid experience and I know that this management doesn’t give a rip about their tenants.)
  2. Pay a $600 reletting fee, get our last month’s rent/etc. back, and still be liable for rent here until they find a new tenant. (Can you say digging a financial hole? Paying rent in two places? Nothankyou.)

I spent a solid two days seething in anger and rolling in self-pity as a result. We searched for any kind of legal loophole that could let us out. According to Texas law, no matter how badly they’ve treated us in the past, if they aren’t actively screwing us over at the moment, we can’t do anything; and since the construction is “necessary”, it doesn’t matter if it’s interrupting our lives & work. I literally had trouble sleeping two nights in a row because I was so angry.

Here’s what I realized (the teachable moment):

I was very much giving up my power in this situation. I was looking at the two choices above and seeing them as “screw someone else over willingly” and “screw ourselves over financially”. I was very “woe is me and these people are assholes”. (Which they still are. But that’s not the point.)

Instead of looking at the lose-lose choices and trying to pick between them, I created a third choice: 

We would stay here until our lease is up at the end of August, saving up money in the meantime for the deposits/fees on a new apartment (or, possibly, fees for buying; we haven’t decided yet) and in the meantime, making the apartment our haven. We’ll do everything in our power to make this an amazing place to live, until we can move elsewhere.

Am I happy about this choice? Not really. But it feels like a choice, not something I’m being forced into. And it’s the only option that’s aligned with all of my values (and thus, the only real option for me).

This experience has opened my eyes about choices & power – and looking back, I can see other examples of instances where I was giving up my power and didn’t even realize it. Almost every situation that seems lose-lose on its face has another option hidden somewhere, that might not be a “fun” option but is a real option (in the sense mentioned above).

So – have you been giving up your power anywhere right now, & didn’t realize it until recently? Is there a frustrating situation that, perhaps, has a hidden option? Let me know what you think in the comments! 

PS: I’m still leaving scathing reviews on Yelp & other rating sites, though. Snarking on douchebaggery in public is part of my power, too. 😉

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