Friday, November 5, 2010

A House is not Necessarily a Home

My brother-in-law, Christos, has been living quite a drama lately. That can happen, as we all know, when we rent our houses.

Christos put his house in Katerini up for rent because he wanted to live here in Thessaloniki for the time being (that being another story). The rent from his house pays for his rent for his apartment he’s living in, about a mile from us.

The trouble began when the tenants began falling more and more behind on their payments. Things grew considerably worse a couple of weekends ago when his house appeared on the television news, surrounded by police. The police suspected the occupants were drug dealers. Then the worst blow of all came last week when the electric company billed Christos for 2,000 Euros. Billed him, not the occupants? That’s right, because the tenants had told Christos they couldn’t afford the 20 Euro fee to have the account switched to their own names. Christos, desperate for renters but equally unwilling to pay the fee, left the electricity account in his own name. The tenants ran the bill up to 2,000 Euros.

Demetrios went with Christos to the electric company to see what could be done.

“Have them turn off the power today,” I said. “And then go to the gas company and have them cut off the gas today, and have the water cut off today, as well. That’ll encourage them to leave.”

Well, the water somehow doesn’t work that way and there is no gas. The contract for electricity doesn’t expire for two more weeks. All the electric company could do was set up a six-month payment plan.

“Never mind,” I said, “because on second thought, the tenants are already packing their belongings.”

“What makes you think?”

“The police are staking out the house! Their drug-dealing income is cut off. They have to move; they have no choice. Matter of fact, they’ve almost certainly done this before. They know how long it takes before the rent, the electricity, and the police catch up with them; that’s why it’s all so well synchronized. They will disappear in the middle of the night, probably two at a time, before the week is out.”

Sure enough, the husband was arrested in Bulgaria two days later, on Thursday. The wife and children disappeared Sunday.

Supposedly, some relative will come by this week to collect the furniture. Christos, having taken legal advice, is going to move all their furniture to the basement meanwhile and re-take possession of his house, moving out of his apartment here as soon as possible.

There was an anxious 24 hours somewhere in all this when we worried whether the police would seal up the house as a crime scene, but fortunately, they didn’t.

Anyway, the people are gone and Christos, minus two months’ rent, is left with a small legal bill, a large electricity bill, and a basement full of marijuana (and growing lights). We don’t know what will become of these; the police, although they haven’t seized it, have told him not to remove any of it. A pity he can’t give the marijuana plants as payment to the electric company!


elizabeth said...

so sorry to hear.