Craigslist Housing Horror Stories

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Of course, you can find some really amazing roommates and apartments among the foot fetishists and stained sofas. I've found five apartments and 12 roommates from the site and most of them have been awesome. That said, it should surprise no one that SF-level apartment desperation + Internet strangers = inevitable housing nightmares, quietly marinating under that dial-up era homepage.  

For example, the first apartment I saw when I moved to San Francisco was a “shared studio” in the TenderNob. Now, “shared studio” is an interesting concept, and San Francisco is one of the rare cities where you would consider exploring this idea with a stranger. I walked over and was “greeted” by a heavy-eyed girl in her pajamas. She mumble-showed me around the tiny space. It was definitely a studio; small and dim and carpeted with a seven-layer-dip-esque medley of actual carpet, clothes, cat hair, and bad attitude. I noticed a thin border of white powder edging the walls and filmy bowls of water in each corner. She must have noted my ill-concealed curiosity and explained, “That’s for keeping out HYPOCRITES AND LIARS.” As a lying hypocrite myself, I didn't have the heart to tell her it wasn't working.

She had written in the ad that we would share the space, and she would sleep in the closet. This was an arrangement I was still confused about, and that, um, definitely didn’t seem totally creepy at all. “So, okay, would this be my bedroom, or like, our living room that I sleep in?”

“It’d be your room, pretty much. But a male spirit lives over there,” she said, pointing to a table covered in husk dolls, beads, and candles. “I don’t know his name. He’s pretty much friendly, but things will hover or move and fall off the table and DON’T EVER TOUCH ANYTHING ON IT, EVER. DO NOT TOUCH IT,” she commanded, letting her eyes air-dry for a long, unblinking moment. “But yeah, if you want the room, let me know and it’s yours.”

The most confusing part of this story is that I was actually still considering this place as a viable living situation. I’d heard how rough it was to find a place here, I was unemployed, and this shared studio was $575 a month. (Not a bad deal if it weren’t for the greedy, deadbeat spirit who doesn’t pay rent or let you touch his husk dolls.) I called my friend on the walk back to my hotel and told him that I kind of found a place – my first day of looking and for under $600. He couldn’t believe it; but if it sounded too good to be true it’s because it was far from good, and the truth was this sulky witch girl was going to sleep in the closet.

After some horrified laughter, he lectured me. “Jessica you can NOT live there. I won’t allow it. There is something better out there FOR SURE. God, just KEEP LOOKING.” Wise, caps-locked words.

I passed on spirit-room, and looked at a handful of other places that were also pretty bad for various reasons (probably my budget). After a parade of hellholes and didgeridoos, I ended up ecstatically happy to be invited to move into a ghost-free flat, despite amber-alert-level hoarding and a cat that practiced vigilant diarrhea-revenge.

Sometimes, it all works out – and other times it doesn't. Knowing I wasn’t the only one scarred by apartment hunting on the Internet, I put out a call for Craigslist housing horror stories. Below are the worst of the worst. 

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“After months of living with my ex-boyfriend, I was kind of desperate to find a new place. I moved in with this older woman via Craigslist who turned out to have some, uh, ‘quirks.’ After taking my inaugural shower at this new place, she came to me in a panic and took me by the arm, marching me back to the bathroom, furious that I had left the shower wet. The shower! WET! She insisted I take my towel and dry off the tub and walls after each use. Because I am a normal person and find that weird and gross, I told her I'd buy a separate towel for post-shower wipe downs. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of a panic-stricken list of things I either had to or could not ever do (including using the plates and silverware when she went out of town – she kept them locked in her room). And so began another round of apartment searching.”

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“I found a place on Craigslist before moving to the city, despite being told that never ever happens. Turns out it does happen when the ‘home’ is in bad enough shape that you couldn't PAY someone to live there. I'm afraid words – and your imagination – aren't equipped to do the shithole justice: mice, bugs, cracked doors, and an awful, constant medley of smells. Oh, and the toilet was broken the entire time I lived there. When a guest had the audacity to assume it was a working toilet, the ensuing overflow soaked into the hall carpet and was never fully cleaned. We pooped in grocery bags and threw them away. I never fully unpacked, and pooped in a BAG, for the four weeks it took me to find and move into a new sublet. I try so hard not to think about it, but maybe this public confession is healthy.”

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“My current hell roommate is the adult female version of the kid from Problem Child, red hair and all. Totally aggressive. You can't tell her shit. Everyone in the house agrees that she makes a mess and doesn't clean up. So when I ask her to please clean it up, she LOSES it, yells at me, throws shit across the room, then starts crying like she just lost her grandmother. She maniacally laughed and danced around at one point when I told her I cleaned up after her twice already that week. She wanted me to yell at her, so I played it cool. It was like that scene in Casino when Sharon Stone was all screaming 'cause she wanted her jewelry from Robert De Niro, who was all calm and condescending. I live in a Scorsese movie. She also cooks obsessively. Not foodie-level cooking, but preventing meltdown, filling-the-void-level cooking. We've literally had maggots climbing up the walls because she never takes out the garbage or recycling and leaves mounds of dirty dishes out. She's wild-eyed and rapid when she talks with a mental patient–sized smile. I found strands of her red hair in my room the first week she moved in (in my closet, on my keyboard, in my bed). Then one day I was just chillin' in my room after having just, *ahem*, and putting my pants back on and she WALKED DIRECTLY into my room without knocking. She looked very surprised to see me, and also shocked from seeing my, *ahem*. She didn't think I was home and thought she'd have another snoop fest but instead got an eyeful of my dong. She's just blinders-on nuts.” 

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“Finding a place in any part of town for under $750 is almost unheard of. Thus, I was thrilled to find a listing for a place in the Inner Richmond for $515. They advertised it as a ‘bohemian household’ in a ‘funky old home.’ Too good to be true?

“Yes. Yes it was.

“The outside of the house was the color of day-old, caked-on foundation, and it was peeling like day-old, caked-on foundation. When I used the knocker, the whole thing lifted off the door, backplate and all. The entire inside of the house looked like the murder-basement from The Silence of the Lambs, but with more faded, curling Looney Tunes posters. What were once clearly white walls were now flesh-tone, tinged with brown. In the kitchen, the stove didn't work, and on the porch was a pile of crap from a former roommate that would make a hoarder blush. The bedroom looked like the upstairs room in The Ring, and was, if possible, even grosser than the rest of the house.

“I never even bothered looking in the bathroom; I was half-expecting there to be a body decomposing in lye in the tub.

“The strangest part was that despite living in utter squalor, the people there still shelled out for satellite TV every month. They didn't have a stove, but they had satellite. They offered me the room, in fact, but I turned them down. I decided that I prefer cable.”

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“My roommate was moving in with her boyfriend and wasn't all that committed to vetting her Craigslist replacement. The girl she found seemed fine, though she literally only ate soup and would order it by the case from the Internet. I would spend a lot of nights at my boyfriend's house until I noticed my bed being made differently than I had left it, and a piece of condom wrapper under my nightstand. My room was a victim of all kinds of bodily fluids: the new roommate had a party when I was abroad and one of her friends puked ALL OVER MY ROOM. She ‘cleaned it’ by throwing away whatever clothes of mine were puked on and shutting the door, leaving me orange vomit-crusted pillowcases and carpet to come home to after a 12-hour flight. I freaked the fuck out and got a lock for my door, but thanks to squatter's rights, it was basically impossible to get her to move out until she quit her job and left the city.”

Whether or not you can top pooping in a bag, I’m sure you’ve got your own roommate tales from hell. Share them in the comments!

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Published on February 4, 2013, 2013

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