ONCE in a while conversation shifts to the inevitable topic about landlords and how they treat their tenants.
In the topsy-turvy world of lodgers and their tormentors, the horror stories could fill a compendium.
These women who work at a clothing shop where sharing “lodger war stories”. One described how they took duties to clean the only toilet in the house as well as sweeping the yard.
The other one told of how every morning the landlord checked for tyre tracks to find out whether there were any unwanted visitors at night.
Whether one wants to call him or herself a lodger or prefers the more sophisticated term tenant, it’s all the same. You are someone who pays rent to live on someone else’s property. It’s not out of choice that you somehow find yourself in this untenable position, to excuse the pun.
What’s wrong in being a lodger, eh . . . tenant? On the surface, nothing, but to the landlord you are the person who is there to devalue his or her property.
If we borrow class struggle lexicology, you are part of the “lumpenproletariat” whether you are educated, well-cultured or have a nice job. You remain the underclass and them the overlords.
Take the term “lord” which means someone “who rules or lords over people”.
From what we hear, some poor souls go through hell and high water at the mercy of property owners who believe they are gods.
One wonders whether it’s really worth going through the ordeal.
Which explains the month-end migration of one tonne trucks piled high with furniture.
To conform to his newfound status as a bank employee, a relative of mine moved out of the ghetto to a more spacious abode in one of the leafy eastern suburbs (referred to in Harare as kumadale dale after Borrowdale or Greendale, get it!)
The landlady, if we may call her that, owned two houses adjacent to each other, one which she decided to rent out.
The first problem which at first glance did not seem obvious, was that our relative had just bought a car which the landlady, for some inexplicable reason, did not possess.
One day he was told that he revved his car too loudly in the morning and was upsetting her dogs and chickens!
Well, the complaint sounded reasonable enough. Then next thing he was being reprimanded that his Willowvale assembled Mazda 323 was “too heavy” for the driveway and the paving was “sinking” as a result. He is no engineer, but this sounded tritely ridiculous.
Then came the bombshell. Our relative was told, correction, instructed to leave his car at work! That was just the beginning.
He later had to endure surprise house inspections even in the dead of the night. At one time he mistook his nosey landlady for a burglar when he found her crouched outside the bedroom window eavesdropping.
She would animatedly harangue his wife or maid — depending on who was at home at the time — about how the family was “depreciating” the value of her property.
The besieged family’s sins included hanging too much laundry outside, “crowding the house with unnecessary furniture and entertaining too many visitors”. Her own words.
The crunch came when my unsuspecting relative acquired a satellite television system.
The very day technicians mounted the dish on the chimney was a terse and strongly worded letter slipped under the door with the following:
“Who do you think you are creating such a hideous defect (the dish) without consulting me being the owner of the house?”
Initially he thought it was a joke until he came home one evening to find the offending gadget removed and grounded in the garage. No one was laughing either.
What, if you might ask a patently silly question, was all the fuss about? You are right! How dare a mere tenant enjoy the sophistication of watching several television channels when the lord of the manor endured watching Chivaura, Mahoso and Mupepereki on DeadBC?
My relative’s tenancy lasted two thrill-a-minute, action-packed months that gave him enough tales to regale his workmates for years to come; that is apart from the ulcers and high blood pressure he developed in the process.
“She really tested my limits of tolerance,” he told me. “If it weren’t for my fortitude and patience, I would have strangled her the very week we moved in!”
That landlady was the worst. How could she match the one whose attempts at creative population control saw him instructing his tenants to keep the size of the family “within reasonable limits?” Now we know where China got their one child policy from.
Tenants (read lodgers) have to endure the misdemeanours of their landlords, especially in the high-density suburbs; such as having their property attached by the messenger of court. Which desperate tenant would rebuff the amorous advances of a sex-crazed landlord or lady if there was the threat of finding your expensive property exposed to the elements at the drop of eh . . . hat?
Let us share your juicy landlord versus lodger tales on this column. Perhaps one could start a cartoon strip as well!
Lenox Mhlanga is a social commentator