Nasty, Brutish & Short

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Housesitters from Hell

July 5, 2007 02:12 PM

The New York Times is out with a special interest story about what can happen when you make bad choices about housesitters:

The first sign of trouble came when Ms. Gottlieb’s secretary called from New York to say there had been a large party in the apartment, according to the building’s doorman. The estimate was about 100 guests. “It was a great entertaining space,” Ms. Gottlieb says dryly, “as this woman may have realized.”

Then came the terrible moment when Ms. Gottlieb and her husband returned home.

“The first thing we’re greeted by is the dead ficus,” she says. “The phone bill for $400 didn’t come till later. Then we go upstairs and we’re unpacking and I lift the hamper and every pair of underwear I owned is in the hamper.”

Ms. Gottlieb pauses. “She had used all my underpants and left them dirty in the hamper,” she says.

Yes, that would be a bad thing to discover.  How disgusting.

There's also the story of the couple who went off to Bora Bora on their honeymoon, and returned to discover that their housesitter had posted a video of their cat (which weighed 37 pounds) on YouTube.  You can watch the video "My Big Pussy (cat) Babe!" here.

And there's the story of the woman who returned to L.A. to discover there had been a mudslide:

“I go back to L.A. a few days early and go to my house,” Ms. Strickland says. “I go into the bathroom to wash my face and I look in the mirror and what’s exactly behind me is a wall of mud. It’s come through the window; completely buried the toilet. I can’t register this. I turn around. There is a large Jacuzzi bathtub and tile on the same wall as the toilet. That wall is bowed.”

Going outside — the sensible thing to do when a supporting wall appears to be giving way — Ms. Strickland found that the five-foot space between the back wall and the hill was filled with mud that was rising over the roof. She hot-footed it over to her boyfriend’s apartment. When Ms. Strickland called her friend and told her that mud was filling up the bathroom, her friend, who had apparently been using a second bathroom, was not surprised.

“She said, ‘I know,’ ” Ms. Strickland says. “I said, ‘When I called from Alabama, why didn’t you tell me?’ She said: ‘I didn’t want to worry you. You know, we have cockroaches in New York.’ Somehow she equated the two.”

But this, hands-down, is the worst story:

Ms. Michaels’s young housesitter had not mentioned that his mother was on the lam from child welfare authorities, who wanted to remove the children from her home because she was keeping company with a drug addict who beat her.

It was not until Ms. Michaels returned that she learned her tenant had moved upstate to be near her boyfriend in Attica and turned the apartment over to her ex-husband. The ex-husband had taken up with a 42nd Street junkie and hustler. (As we said, this is an old story: 42nd Street was frequented by people not necessarily going to see “Mary Poppins.”)

The two housesitters had sold Ms. Michaels’s furniture and Oriental rug, but this was not sufficient to meet their financial obligations, including those to the junkie’s dealers, one of whom came to the apartment and knifed the ex-husband, who bled on one of Ms. Michaels’s last remaining possessions, her mattress. Also, her cats had grown so wild that a neighbor had taken them to the A.S.P.C.A., where she assumes they were destroyed.

Ms. Michaels sued the ex-husband, winning a settlement of about $39,000, of which, she says, she received one payment of $35.

While I have never heard of anyone leaving their home in the hands of a street junkie and huster, who sold off their possessions and got knifed on the premises, I do know of someone who (1) drank the entire contents of the homeowners' wine cellar (including many. many bottles of expensive champagne), (2) hosted innumerable parties, (3) wore their clothes, and (4) managed to flood the garage, ruining a Mercedes.

No, this was not I.  But I did help (with the wine).


And I thought it was bad that certain college acquaintances who house sat for professors in the summer read their hosts' private correspondence and searched their drawers and closets for items of interest. Suddenly all that seems relatively mild.

Jordana   ·  July 6, 2007 10:51 PM

If someone ever admitted to that Jordana, I can't imagine why.

Nasty, Brutish and Short   ·  July 7, 2007 08:50 PM

I helped him a drink his wine. And he always had some mighty fine wine. Singing Joy, to the World, all the Boys and Girls now, Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea, joy to you and me.

Anonymous   ·  July 7, 2007 10:30 PM