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Sunday morning, as I walked out to my car to drive over to my folks, the lady in A was outside, their van was backed halfway into the carport, all the doors of the van were open including the back hatch, and it looked like the contents of a clothes closet had been laid in the back seat, with the hangers still in the clothes.  Just then a pickup with a low trailer that already had a refrigerator strapped into it, came up and started backing trailer-first into the driveway. She said they had come to get the couch.  I jokingly asked if they were moving, and she said that, no, they were just getting a new couch.  I asked her to close the door of the van that was on my side, so I could back my car out.  When I came back, neither the van nor her husband’s pickup was there.  It’s not unusual for the van to leave early in the morning and be gone all day as she works and her sister keeps their two boys.  Sometimes it’s after dark before they come back, sometimes as late as 8 or 9 o’clock.  It’s not unusual for the van to be gone all day on the weekends either.  But it is unusual for the pickup to be gone on the weekends.

At about 3 o’clock Monday morning, I went out to put a book I’d sold on Amazon into the mailbox to be mailed, and the first thing I noticed was that their porch light was out.  They never turn their porch light out.  They’ve left it on all the time ever since they moved in.  The second thing I noticed was that their kitchen lights were on.  Last night I went out to put another package into the mailbox.  Both their cars were still gone, their porch light was still out, and there were no lights visible through their blinds.

She told me last year they were going to start looking for a larger place. The two bedroom unit was big enough when they moved in, as they only had the one boy.  Now they have two boys, a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old and they want more room, as well as a back yard the boys can play in.  There’s a back yard here, but with all the stickers, never mind the thicket of volunteer trees, she won’t let the boys play in it.

In view of what’s happened in the past two days, I have a sneaking suspicion the family in A have moved out.  I called the cellphone number I have for her and let it ring until voice mail came on. Caller ID shows my name, so she either had the ringer turned off, or saw who it was and didn’t want to answer the phone. I left them a voice mail and said, “Y’all have moved out, haven’t you?  Have you had the utilities turned off?  Where are the keys? ”

If they have moved out, this presents me with a problem.   If she’s mailed the keys to the landlord, they might just as well have fallen into a black hole. If our former apartment manager could not get our absentee landlord to answer her letters or phone calls after almost five years of trying, I don’t see what hope I have of getting him to communicate with me either, never mind mail me the keys.  If I don’t have the keys to their part of the duplex, in the first place, I won’t have a way to get inside it to check on things like burst pipes, backed up plumbing, etc. In the second place, unless I get the locks changed, there’s no way I could get a new tenant, if I decide to take it upon myself to get one.  I would have to explain to a locksmith why I wanted the locks changed, and convince them it was OK for them to do it. Understandably, locksmiths have to have a security bond and, since I have no authorization of any kind from the landlord, I doubt a locksmith would do it, since it would potentially leave them open to legal action from the landlord.

On the other hand, if she still has the keys and gives them to me, do I want to take on the responsibility of finding a new tenant myself? And another thing:  I don’t know whether he has a loan on this property or whether he owns it free and clear.  If he’s got a loan on it, the bank would make him carry insurance on it.  If he owns it outright, does he have insurance on it?  And if, say, a tree fell on the roof, what then?  I mean, he’s so easy to get a response out of (not!).

I was talking to my mom about it earlier this evening and she didn’t much like the idea of me taking it upon myself to find a new tenant. (I’m not real wild about the idea myself, come to that.)  She suggested maybe it’s time for me to start looking for a new place, too.  But the thing is, I would really, really, rather not live in an apartment complex again with the good chance of having noisy neighbors above/below, or on either side of me.  I’ve played that game before, and it’s a bummer.  However, I doubt I could find a duplex that is as big as this one and as nice as this one, for what I’m paying in rent and I’m right at the limit of my budget now. Another thing, most landlords here want a one-year lease and each time the lease comes up for renewal, they raise the rent a little (“cost of living increase”).  Although I signed a lease when I moved in here, I’ve been living here almost 13 years and have never been asked to sign another lease, nor has my rent ever gone up. I’m still paying the same amount as when I moved in.

And then there’s my cats.  Finding a decent place that will take pets is hard.  And the places that will take pets, will take two cats, but not three (go figure).  I had to look for over 6 months to find this place, and the only reason I got it was because the then apartment manager’s sister had managed the apartments I had been living in for the past 21 years, and she vouched for me.  I will tell you straight out.  I will not abandon my babies to a shelter in hopes someone might take them. I’d sooner take them to the vet and have them put down, and if I had to do that, I would have a really, really, really, really hard time living with it.  Frankly, it would be pretty easy for me to decide I didn’t want to live with it.

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