Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Relocation Files: Slum Lord City

I really tried to follow the appropriate steps for planning and executing a relocation just to be thwarted at every turn by the minefield that is the Savannah, Georgia rental market.

If I summed the experience up into one word, that word would be WTF!

We have been looking for a place for weeks now, scouring online listings and apartment reviews.  We have advance scouted neighborhoods using Google maps and street view.  We have made many in person trips to view available properties.  We have increased our budget and expanded our preferred location.  To date, we have mostly been grossed out and horrified.

I read one review that suggested Savannah is a city of slumlords.  From what I have seen-and we have been looking all over the city-that reviewer was pretty much right on the money.

Consider these two definitions of "slum."
1. a squalid and overcrowded urban street or district inhabited by very poor people.
2. a house or building unfit for human habitation.
Definition 1 isn't the problem.  Definition 2 is.  I grew up in the Mississippi Delta, "poor neighborhood" means "working class neighborhood" to me.  The neighborhoods we have been in were populated by modest single family homes and properties that people did their best to maintain.

By and large, the houses and apartments available to rent in these neighborhoods were the worst looking and most poorly maintained places on the block.  Most of the buildings were old and with older houses and structures, there are some things that have to be dealt with: sloping floors, uneven walls, odd layouts.  However, these properties were not being maintained or managed-even though their rental and occupancy were supposedly the responsibility of property management companies.  Reputable property management companies, mind you, that were making enough money to have offices and parking downtown.  Management companies with stellar reviews on their higher market properties.

We were handed keys to places where the grass had been allowed to grow for weeks, where windows were broken and standing open, where bathrooms and kitchens had not been cleaned, where appliances were left filthy and crawling with roaches, where paint jobs were noticeably sloppy, where carpets had not been cleaned-ever, where homemade barriers had been constructed because doors did not appropriately lock . . . how is any of this property management?

I don't want to sound spoiled or unaware or . . .  bourgeois.  Trust me, I'm not.  In my lifetime I have lived in houses in worst physical shape than some of the ones we saw.  However, in those places landlords did not have the nerve to charge seven hundred dollars a month for the privilege.

If I owned any of these places and knew they were being administered this way I would be horrified.  Rentals produce income, sure, however they do that because people are required to live in them.  Real people who are paying for a safe, decent place to live.


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