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Renters of the Year

Posted: July 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Living in the City | Tags: meet the neighbors, Minneapolis, renting | 12 Comments »

That’s what our neighbor called us when she saw us toiling out in the front yard on Saturday.

Yogi Dad was putting brick pavers around the edge of the yard (it was only partially edged in) and I was weeding and mulching and admiring our handy work. Yogi Dad commented that it seemed a bit condescending, but I shrugged it off. Then I thought about it and it felt a LOT condescending.

Like the ONLY thing worth knowing about us is that we are renters, it comes up in every conversation. Let me tell you, renters are not bad people simply because they rent. Many of them like to get out and do the same things that owners do- discover the neighborhood, visit the parks, meet the neighbors and (last time I checked) gardening is not something that is reserved for home owners.

Our last neighborhood was made up of mostly duplexes, as NE Minneapolis is overrun with them. When we went to our first National Night Out block party everyone just sat and talked about how terrible the renters were. Absentee landlords, burglery and theft, Oy! We were just a young couple sans kids who wanted to be in a quiet neighborhood close to our favorite haunts. We weren’t bad. Our landlord lived in Northeast. The only crime we committed was not figuring out how to properly sort the recycling. We enjoyed the neighborhood and miss it terribly, but not because of the neighbors.

I just have this bad taste in my mouth, like I have to go above and beyond and prove that we’re not unsavory people. We won’t be throwing late night parties. We won’t have the bass booming in the driveway for 30 minutes at a time. We aren’t going to wreck the house from the inside out. We won’t be bringing other unattractive qualities to the neighborhood simply because we do not own the home.

I feel like an outcast.

And because of that, no matter the intent, remarks like “Renters of the Year” come off as not so nice.

We love living in this neighborhood, we are excited to try our hand at gardening and happy to have our grill back and the ability to let the boys run around and be kids in the backyard. I’m happy to be in a less transitional neighborhood than when we were in Northeast. Here you see the neighbors, kids walking dogs and riding bikes, people stop to talk when they see you. It feels like a real neighborhood. For the most part, interactions with the neighbors have been positive.

I just wish the disappointment when they find out we didn’t buy the house wasn’t so obvious. Because I have plenty on my plate without proving that we fit here. I am not defined by the fact that I rent my home. We’re just a family with young kids, trying to live a life.

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12 Comments on “Renters of the Year”

  1. 1 themamabeth said at 10:07 pm on July 31st, 2011:

    I dunno, it could be a compliment. A lot of renters just don't care. They don't even bother to just maintain where they live, much less make it nicer. The neighbors are probably really happy to see that you guys are really establishing yourselves, especially how you describe the neighborhood. And honestly? I'm totally jealous of your renter status. Buying a house was a HUGE mistake that I regret on nearly a daily basis.

  2. 2 erinclot said at 10:59 am on August 1st, 2011:

    I think it\’s a vicious circle. People assume you don\’t care, so instead of taking an active part in the community, you keep to yourself and eventually, you don\’t care and it shows. It doesn\’t have to be that way. I think considering the economic climate, people should get past the renter/ owner divide that seems to be there. I\’m sure this house being a rental affects everyone\’s property taxes in some way, but it\’s a lot better than a vacant property.

  3. 3 Jessica said at 10:40 pm on July 31st, 2011:

    People used to call us 'Renters of the Year' all the time too. I know there was a collective ugh sigh when we moved into our last place, because we're young and people assume the worst, however, we kept the place nice, always had food and goodies to share, and were better than some of the people who owned houses in the same neighborhood. I wish people would realize how condescending they can be. I hate the pity looks people sometimes give me because I don't live some kind of idealized existence.

  4. 4 erinclot said at 11:04 am on August 1st, 2011:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your pity looks comment. I rent. So what! I certainly enjoy my life and I\’m not so sure it would be better right now if I had the headaches of home ownership. Considering the issues we\’ve had with water in our basement this year I\’m mighty glad I am not the one who has to ultimately remedy the situation. Which is not to say we are not down there with the Wetvac and mops and rolling back carpets every time it rains.

  5. 5 Janine said at 12:10 am on August 1st, 2011:

    That is rude. It is even worse when you are a young family, I find. We rent pretty nice apartments and haven't gotten any comments but I know it would be different if we were in the middle of a well-off neighborhood. And we WILL be in that situation, because no way will we be able to afford to own anytime soon!

    Our first apartment was a shit hole and we left it way better than when we moved in. But I know that most young couples and young renters in general will destroy a place, so I guess I understand where that stigma comes from.

    I would LOVE to be renting a house instead of an apartment.

  6. 6 erinclot said at 11:07 am on August 1st, 2011:

    I am so glad we are in a house. I loved our old place, and then I just couldn\’t stand it one minute longer. It\’s more work, but it\’s fun work.

  7. 7 Bonnie said at 8:21 am on August 1st, 2011:

    I think we all need to learn to be less judgmental. My experience with renters in our neighborhood was not a good one. The only real contact I had with them was when they came over to tell us we let our dog sit in the backyard and bark too much (he was probably barking at their kids). At the time, we had a 2 year old and 2 month old twins. That's way too many 2's at once and we were overwhelmed a bit. But we appologized and thought okay, whatever…. but yes, I won't judge future renters based on that experience! And yes, I agree — owning a home is way more work and expense that I thought. Renting was MUCH simpler!

  8. 8 erinclot said at 11:12 am on August 1st, 2011:

    I\’m sure it was meant as a compliment, but it did come across as kind of \”Oh look at you guys, playing with daddy\’s tools, how cute!\” And I know everyone appreciates what we\’re doing, but I\’d rather every conversation not start with \”Did you buy the house?\” Who knows, maybe they are all asking because they know some deep dark secrets about the place! It just seems like a moot point. Whether I rent or own this place, it\’s still my HOME.

  9. 9 Bonnie said at 8:23 am on August 1st, 2011:

    By the way, I would take it as a complement — by calling you "renters of the year," they were saying "gee, it's so great that you care about the house and yard enough to work to improve it. You must be really nice people!"

  10. 10 Lori said at 2:07 pm on August 1st, 2011:

    Our neighborhood is a mixture of home owners and renters and some of the homeowners are much worse than the renters. Hopefully it was a compliment. But I see your point – it's not really necessary for them to continually point out that you're renting.

  11. 11 erinclot said at 12:59 pm on August 3rd, 2011:

    It\’s just….grrrrrr. We need to get over it. Last night at our NNO block party every other comment was \”I hope you got a good deal on THAT place! Was this a meth lab at one point? Was there a mass murder there? I don\’t even know what to think now. It\’s a great location and a pretty typical 100 year old house that\’s been refinished inside. It\’s not like we\’re living in squalor here.

  12. 12 aestraw said at 7:29 am on August 5th, 2011:

    We own our home and currently have it up on the market to sell. If it sells, we will be renting for at least a year. We're on the road to being debt free and want to put a size-able amount of money down on another house. So we will rent until we save up that amount of cash. I have never encountered negativity about renting. My parents rented houses practically my entire child hood so it's what I am used to. Home ownership is HARD and EXPENSIVE–I agree completely!!! I would love to just pick up the phone and make a call when something leaks or breaks in the house. I can do that…but then I have to fork over the money to pay for the repair. πŸ™‚ I agree that it was probably a compliment–maybe the last renters didn't take care of the place? Maybe they didn't care at all (as is the case w/ most people)? So to see you all out and doing yard work making the home beautiful–I bet he was thrilled to see the effort being made. πŸ™‚

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