Sunrise from Our Kitchen Window- Not Always Bad
_ Emma and I have been in Moscow for a tumultuous five months now, and perhaps the most “adventurous” aspect of our life here has come in the form of being tenants. The roller coaster began on our second day, when we were evicted from our first flat for undisclosed reasons. We arrived to find our liaison lady in tears as two people were cleaning any remnants of our presence there. Our bags had already been repacked, but we didn’t ask question when Diana (the liaison lady) said, “We need to go now.” That seemed clue enough.
Our company put us up in a nice hotel for a couple of nights while Diana had our rental agent locate another apartment. While waiting, we made ourselves at home at Hotel Katerina, where choice selections from breakfast buffets dangled off the plate and the staff offered up friendly smiles each time we entered. Had the opportunity presented itself, we would have gladly hung our hats there for the remaining five months, living off the teat of our mother company, enjoying the complimentary mini-bar and free gym/sauna.
However, the tarot cards turned up some new leaves quickly. We woke the first morning to find that we’d been scheduled to view two apartments that Saturday, our inaugural and soon hard-to-come-by morning off. After waiting forty-five minutes in the Metro station for Diana to meet us for the earliest appointment of the day, a two-thirty engagement arranged an hour prior while we were doing our best to be tourists in the new city, Emma finally went above ground to discover the “viewing” had been cancelled. Not long after, the second apartment dissipated as well.
Sunday morning we met Diana at Prazhskaya Station, the Metro stop closest our hotel, to view a nearby apartment. Immediately, the landlords refused us as tenants, citing that they didn’t want foreigners for logistical reasons. We stood in the doorway, not having even seen the far corners of the one-room (not one bedroom, but one room) palace we were being pushed out of, though we represented around $1000 a month in rent. Diana, who translated the occasional exchange for us, let us know that the heated discussion was simply a Russian custom of “landlords getting to know” their renters.
Indeed, within about ten or twenty minutes of arguing, the landlady was guiding us on a very short tour of the flat, and feeling obliged to end the saga, we readily accepted the fourth apartment, on what had been, to that point, a very rough-and-tumble introduction to Moscow real estate. Since then, our status as renters has remained choppy and unpredictable.
We have the rather strange monthly ritual of meeting the landlords at a Metro Station in the center of the city, about half-an-hour to forty minutes away, in order to handover an envelope bulging with impressive 1,000 and 5,000 ruble notes. In addition, we have to monitor our own water meters and deliver a handwritten account of both hot and cold water usage to a rather inconspicuous letter box about a block away, in an unmarked building. Furthermore, we are in charge of maintaining the only running record of our electricity, which we give to the landlady on a slip of scrap paper. We have accepted these responsibilities blindly.
From early September through the end of October, we went through a series of seemingly forgotten promises, no-shows, cancelled appointments, and improvisational appearances in an effort to replace what seemed to be well-functioning windows. The two month drama culminated in the landlords spending the afternoon watching over workers in our apartment, all the while Emma and I were teaching our classes for the day. At about ten-thirty that night, the landlord and window “master” left the building, and Emma commenced to cleaning a dust-laden flat, her hungry husband hunkering down over the stove to prepare dinner.
The latest development happened earlier this month: We were told that the landlords had decided to sell our flat, which meant we might be moving yet again. We were offered the consolation of another apartment owned by the same barons, a place about an hour away from our office, clear across town. After the landlords sheepishly brought a real estate guy to take photos of the place, days after scheduling a viewing with possible buyers, Emma and I felt a bit fed up. We asked that our company look into the legality of us being forced out of another place despite having signed several versions of a very official seeming rental agreement.
As the situation stands, we are still here, still clueless, and still awaiting our next twist of fate. For a more detailed account of our first eviction or finding our current apartment, visit the hyperlinks, which will travel you to the travel memoir page of my website. There is a tale of our window woes in the works, and I’m sure there will be more tales to come. I don’t know if this is typical story of renting in Moscow, but it’s certainly come off as rather status quo to us.