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ATL Renter Horror Stories: Mothballs, Cold & Toilets, Oh My!

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Anyone who's rented a home or apartment — a demographic that's growing by the day in Atlanta — can probably relate to loud tenants next door, inconvenient parking situations or pesky rent increases. But today we're focusing on truly weird, awful and downright inexplicable rental experiences, as relayed by both tenants and landlords. As a special feature for Renters Week 2015, we gathered a few Renter Horror Stories from Atlantans who like to win contests. The three finalist stories involve, individually: an onslaught of mothballs, a criminally cold apartment and the perplexing case of a habitually broken toilet. After the jump, vote for your favorite story. The winner on this site will face off against worthy Renter Horror Stories from other Curbed sites in a massive poll hosted on this Friday. The national winner will claim a two-night staycation at a horror-free boutique hotel in their respective city.

These are the Atlanta Renter Horror Story finalists, presented in the order they were received:


In the summer of 2009 I moved to an apartment in Buckhead while I was studying at GSU. It was a fairly new complex and my first time living off campus so I was really excited. Once school started, I noticed that every time I opened by backpack or put on a hoodie I would get this huge whiff of mothballs, which is a very distinct smell. I thought it was weird but never looked into it further, until my mom came to visit me that fall.

About 30 minutes after she left I got a phone call from her asking why I had mothballs in the apartment. I explained to her that I didn't but that I had noticed the smell too. We kind of laughed it off and decided I would bring it up to the leasing office the next time I went to go pay rent. Before the first of the month rolled around the smell had just gotten worse, so I called the leasing office to let them know. They gave me the generic "we will look into it" response and never mentioned anything again.

The smell continued to get stronger and would stick to anything that was in the apartment for more than five minutes. I called the leasing office multiple times a week to try to get something done, and they kept refusing to investigate the cause because, according to them at least, the smell wasn't bad enough. Once I finally convinced the property manager to come to my apartment they checked the apartments next to and beneath my unit (I was on the top floor). It turns out there was an older woman who lived below me that covered her entire apartment in mothballs. They were everywhere.

After a ton of back and forth with property management, we were allowed to move to a different unit without a price increase. A few days after my roommate and I had moved property management had completely closed and sealed off our old unit because the smell had gotten so bad that they had to hire a company to come in and fumigate it.

submitted by Lanie Foster


After going through a divorce, I moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Midtown, from March of last year until March of this year. I looked at the apartment on a Saturday afternoon, and I noticed it was a little chilly but I didn't think too much of it.

My landlord put a new window unit in that was supposed to do both heat and cool air conditioning, and I figured this was good enough to go ahead and move into the apartment. Unfortunately, this was not the case — the heating aspect of the window unit did nothing but dispense cold air. The winter was beyond horrific.

I ran space heaters non-stop, and during the really cold weeks of winter, I couldn't even get the apartment above 40 degrees (my space heater has a temperature gauge on it.) Running the space heater all day every day led me to have a couple of $125 electric bills (for a 550-square-foot apartment), and since the window unit didn't help at all, I spent most of the winter huddled under electric blankets and sleeping in sweaters and hats. Needless to say, I moved as soon as my lease was up.

submitted by Tim Todd


We loved our Las Vegas neighborhood, but after the birth of our second child we needed more space. We found a great house just a few blocks away in the same neighborhood. We opted to keep the old house and rent it out because it had proven to be a great investment in the boom years of Las Vegas growth. We placed an ad in the paper and just a few days later had the place rented out to Hymie and Rhoda who were retirees from New York. A few days after they moved in, Hymie called to tell me the handle on one of the toilets had broken. This is the lever on the outside of the toilet that you push to flush the toilet, and I had never broken one myself or even heard of one breaking.

Hymie and Rhoda snapped 32 toilet handles in the seven years that they rented from us. They were otherwise model tenants. They always paid on time, kept the property up and were well-liked by the neighbors. They snapped four handles the first year and of course I began to ask how this was happening.

Hymie would say, "It just snapped," or, "They don't make them like they used to."

I tried porcelain handles, wood handles, plastic handles, big handles and small handles. Hymie and Rhoda broke them all. I put up with it since the handles were cheap, I could do the repair myself, and otherwise, they were wonderful, warm, friendly people that didn't trash my house. Eventually, I stopped asking questions and just smiled and replaced the handles.

To this day, I have no idea how they did it. Neither of them had the physical strength to snap the handles, and the handles were always snapped in two or three places. They had to have just been screwing with me, right?

submitted by Kevin Wilkinson, presumably a local


Poll results

· All Renters Week 2015 [Curbed Atlanta]