Curbed Horror Stories are firsthand reader reports about terrible San Francisco apartment experiences past and present. This week, in honor of Renters Week, we're having a rental horror story showdown. We'll post one horror stories each day with a vote for the best on Thursday. The winner will advance to the national round of our network-wide contest. Horror stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, if you please.
Four years ago I moved to San Francisco fresh from small-town Virginia with high hopes for my mid-20's, but quickly realized simply finding an apartment was a monumental feat, especially when working for just a bit more than minimum wage. After around a month of living in a hostel, I totally lucked out on a room in a victorian flat in the Upper Haight, cheap (for San Francisco) from years of rent control.
Along with the room came a few roommates: Jesse was immediately welcoming. A middle-aged punk rocker, established in the neighborhood, she was eager to show me around and take me under her wing. I mean, she had a tendency to date the local street kids, but I could deal with the random dude here and there. For quite a while we were great roommates and friends.
Along the way I got luckier still. The master tenant moved out, and due to the landlord shuffling around in a marijuana cloud like Pigpen from Peanuts, he signed the lease over to me at the same rate! (Jesse didn't really have any credit history despite being in her late 30's, so she couldn't take over). It seemed like things were really starting to fall in place for me?
Things went downhill quickly, though. Jesse started dating Tyler, a convicted felon (still don't know on what charges) whom she grew up with. It became readily apparent that along with Tyler came loads of coke. She got fired from her café job and stopped paying rent for months at a time, racking up thousands in unpaid bills but refusing to move out, swearing she was looking for a new job (all the empty bindles and 40's said otherwise). I did everything I could to help - redid her resume for her, called every time I saw a promising help wanted sign, the whole lot. She did start selling used panties to strangers online for 'side money' (which she thought was hilarious, though I didn't really care for that kind of business being run out of our apartment). I can only really guess where the money from that thriving enterprise went, but I never saw any of it for rent or utilities.
To top it all off, Tyler started beating her in the house. I'm talking find your roommate bleeding and unconscious in the hallway. I'm talking being on a first-name basis with one of the officers at Park Station. I felt terrible for her, but at the same time, she refused to break up with him. I just thought to myself, "holy shit, this kind of thing really does happen!" I banned him from the house, and got an attorney to help draw up a restraining order (which I couldn't get served, because Tyler was unemployed, living in an anarchist squat-house that I couldn't find).
The real high (low?) point came when I was awoken at 3 in the morning by Tyler beating Jesse's recently-out-of-the-closet teenage cousin just outside my bedroom door, screaming various homophobic slurs. I ended up chasing him out of the house with a claw-hammer (he's a hell of a lot bigger than me) in my boxers on a rainy February night. Afterwards, I cleaned up the cousin, assuring him San Francisco is really a safe place for him, while Jesse was passed out drunk through the whole ordeal. At the worst of it, I was sleeping on the floor of my office 5 nights a week, having installed mortise locks on my bedroom door at home.
Long story short, after about 6 months of this, Jesse eventually punched me in the middle of an argument about her not paying rent, and moved out when I charged her with assault. She still owes thousands in rent and bills, and to top it all off, when she finally did move, I four her two cats waiting for me at the top of the steps - too bad they're too damned cute to get rid of.
The best I can say of the whole experience is that Tyler ended up back in prison and Jesse is doing well, from what I hear through friends.