My Rental Horror Story - When Shit Hit The Fan
When I moved to Sydney after finishing high school in 2014, I thought I’d absolutely nailed the cheap student life. I’d landed a $150 a week bedsit in the upmarket suburb of Paddington.
I signed the lease through an established real estate agency and thought the conditions stating “no alcohol or cigarettes on premises” were aimed at stopping any reckless young students from causing trouble in the building.
As it turned out, this was actually because the other tenants were troubled, recovering alcoholics between the ages of 40 - 60 years old.
More than once ambulance officers arrived to rescue a guy living across the hall from me. He had a tendency to drunkenly lock himself out of his second floor flat, then set up a ladder to his window, and attempt to burst back in through the window. On one such occasion other concerned neighbours in the hallway let me know he’d done it only a couple months earlier and had stitches in his head after falling to the concrete two stories below
This fellow later fell and locked himself in the shared bathroom, requiring another phone call to the ambulance service. When they arrived this time I answered the hallway door and realised the officer was a regular customer at a restaurant I worked at.
He the asked me if I was a relative of the injured man, to which I explained I was a neighbour… His response? “Oh you live here? You poor thing.”
He had clearly visited these flats on duty before.
There was also another strange tenant living on my floor, a dishevelled man in his late 60′s who I only ever saw barefoot, wearing a towel around his waist and looking slightly damp. This chap constantly muttered incoherently under his breath, and would appear whenever I used a communal area - like the laundry, bins or clothesline. He’d stand behind me,watching and muttering, then wipe down anything I’d touched with a filthy towel.
Despite these quirks I continued to rent the flatlette in upmarket Paddington because it was so damn cheap. I had my own bed, fridge, sink and stove at an affordable rate within walking distance to work and college - something almost impossible for students to find in any major city.
But the bubble of blissful ignorance finally burst one fateful night when coming home from work. It was well past midnight when I quietly tiptoed down the hall to the shared bathroom facility, making sure to turn on the light quietly so I wouldn’t wake the neighbours.
What I saw that night as the fluorescent bulbs flickered to life is an image still burnt into my brain.
The floor was covered in thick round patches of human faeces.
Turning my face away in horror I realised small blobs of the steaming shit pile trailed like footsteps down the hallway carpet right to someone’s door. I locked myself in that night and wrote an impassioned email to my landlord, demanding cleaners be sent as soon as possible. I included photos, not so much as ‘evidence’ but more as ‘I need at least one another sane person to see the things I’ve seen and suffer with me too.’
For my fellow neighbours, I simply left an anonymous note reading, “what the fuck is wrong with you people,” the tone insinuating I saw myself as something other, something better, than those I shared an address with - but left anonymous, as I knew it was naive to pretend I had not in some way become a part of this community.
To see another persons sloppy shit, is to truly know a person.
In a strange turn, a house went up for auction next to the crumbling building I had come to call home. This Victorian terrace home next door actually held within it 4 apartments, the one going to auction selling for over $1 million AUD in 2015.
I wonder if the people next door had to burn their bedding to remove traces of bed bugs when they moved out as well...?