This article is about the rental of homes and apartments in Florida, more specifically the St. Augustine area which is located on the northeastern side of Florida. Pre-pandemic things were smooth sailing. Homes were rented for fair prices and renters were not gouged by greedy landlords. Life was good except for the looming pandemic.
Fast forward to 2022. I was hired for my current job as Technical Writer-Editor in 2020, but had to undergo a very in-depth background investigation before I could actually begin this work. I finally got that clearance in December of 2021. Then I was asked to report to St. Augustine, Florida by January 2022. I did my best to locate a home or some sort to rent or purchase. There was a market frenzy. People were, and still are, flocking into Florida at record rates with thousand-dollar bills dropping from their pockets and seemingly no end to those funds. These people have bid up the prices of homes for sale and rent to twice what they would have rented for in 2020. It is sheer insanity!
I finally found a home where I could live with my dog and two cats. It came with a price tag of $2,150 per month rent and the usual first, last, and security. I also had to pay for water and power, security, renters insurance, movers, and more. So, the hit was about $11,200. That is mindboggling, at least to me!
My lease was up at the end of May 2023. My landlord said she was going to sell this home because she was selling all of her properties since she moved here from California and bought five homes under the 1031 Exchange program which said she could escape taxes if she owned them for two years. Her two years were done and she said I could have a month-to-month lease until the end of October of this year since the other homes she owned would be out of their leases by then too. I begrudgingly agreed and began to pack and look into other properties.
I had a range and budget of $1,800 to $2,300. I contacted several realtors from various websites with rentals advertised in that price range. Most did not bother to call or email me back. Those that did said that the rentals had been rented for $3,000 per month or more. Apparently, there is a very vibrant bidding war going on in the rental marketplace. I simply cannot compete.
I had lined up one possible place and it would be vacated at the end of September allowing me to move in October 1. It was a bit further from my office and I was unsure if the owner would let it go for $2,300 per month when he sent me the listings from his neighbors with the same style homes at an ask of $2,600. But we had opened a dialogue.
I got home from work yesterday to find a notice to vacate by July 31st on my front door signed by my landlord along with a letter from the almost nonexistent HOA ($45 per month HOA) stating that the lawn was not nice enough to escape a fee for lack of maintenance. Mind you, when I first moved in I put down twice weed and feed and watered it regularly. However, when I got the water bill at $398 for the month and barely escaped a coronary attack (not in actuality) I pulled that watering schedule to a quick halt. I did maintain the yard and cut the hedge and weeded and it looked good enough. Actually, the HOA owned property is some of the worst kept in the development. I promptly called the HOA asking what this was about and telling them how their letter caused me to be kicked out after more than a year of renting here. They were unsympathetic and that was not unexpected. I then began a lengthy texting dialogue with my landlord.
Our dialogue went as follows. I asked why she was tossing me out when I had been the model renter. She finally, after any other ministrations, revealed that she wanted more money. She said the market would bear $2,600 per month for the rental that I was currently letting for a meager $2,150 per month and that the lawn needed to be watered three times or more per week especially if she was investing money into new sod. More back and forth and more fits and starts transpired. Finally, I agreed to pay $2,300 per month and to water the lawn twice per week. She was stuck on three. I went to the City of St. Augustine website and snipped her the portion stating when one could water in the city/county. I was spot on with twice per week and that was only from March thru November, then once per week the remaining months. She was obviously perturbed that I would do my research and then said she was not eager to renew our agreement for lease. I told her that I did not mean to cause her undue anguish only to educate her. She said she did not want a lawsuit and I had never even uttered that word so I am unsure where she ever came up with that crazy idea. I attempted to settle her down again and hope that she will send a lease agreement over to me. She said she would, but in her current up-and-down mood anything might be possible.
I am semi-fortunate that I have a fairly good job, but I am a single paycheck away from ruination. I am the only tenant in my rentals along with my emotional support dog and cats. I do not smoke or drink. I am exceedingly neat. I should be every landlord’s dream tenant, but I cannot pay more than I make just for a place to live. I will not go into debt to try to live. That is not living at all. That is insanity! Perhaps the world has gone crazy?
The point I am getting at here is that the unbridled greed and avarice that this society has spawned since the housing market grew soooooo hot is unbelievable. It is every person only for themselves and only for the money. Damn the people. The lack of empathy and compassion are palpable and it saddens me to see this become commonplace. Where are the people who care about people? I can only assume swallowed by the miserly uncaring landlords that are leasing their properties to the highest bidder. Shame on them!
Affordability for me went out the door as the interest rates doubled in the past year too. The American dream of home ownership is dead. I was fortunate to own a home in the 1990’s in Key West, Florida. I bought it for $165,000 in 1990 and sold it in 2000 for $425,000. (Don’t ask what happened to that money. That is a whole other story) It sold last year for $1.450M. It was a tiny 2 bedroom, one-bath home on a small corner lot. If I stepped onto the street I could see the beach three long blocks away. Jeez, in retrospect, I never ever should have sold it!
A word of caution to all who can only rent in Florida because the sales prices have gone beyond what we can afford. What was once semi-affordable is now completely out of reach. Be careful when entering into rentals too. It is every tenant for themselves these days.