Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Screened Windows

The new house has exclusively new windows, all with screens. The office has 12 windows. On a nice day that's a real treat to be able to open the windows and enjoy the breeze without letting all the mosquitoes and other bugs in.

The house that we rented from Terry and Patti Shulman (821 W. 30th St., Richmond, VA 23225) had OLD windows with no screens. Many of the windows were painted shut. But if you opened the other ones mosquitoes would be on their way. Yuck. That's the old house on the left.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Here's Terry and Patti Shulman's latest email:

Please direct all further correspondence to my attorney, Lucy Ivanoff, at:

Lucy Ivanoff Esq.
9 South Augusta Street
Staunton VA. 24401

Terry and Patti Shulman simply did not return a security deposit that was due to their previous tenants. Perhaps this is their M.O.? In any case, we'll get it back. We have the pictures and evidence. They are welcome to bring an attorney. It won't change the facts of the case!

Friday, August 27, 2010

On to Court?

Here's the email I sent today:

Dear Terry and Patti Shulman,

I have received the check you sent for the $5 you have returned of our security deposit. I plan to take the issue to court unless you return the remaining $1245.

According to the receipt you sent, you

1) charged us for torn wallpaper. This wall paper is extremely old and peeling at every seam. We are certainly not responsible for this. The move-out pictures show this.
2) charged us for cleaning. The house was spotless. The pictures show this. No mention was made about any needed cleaning at the move-out inspection, or in the move-out video.
3) charged us for yard work. The grass was cut as required in the lease. The lease leaves other yard work to the landlords.

The pictures and move-out video can be found on my blog (just google "Terry and Patti Shulman").

The court will be interested in the above points, together with

1) the fact that there was no move-in inspection, as required by Virginia law,
2) the fact that the receipt was written by Niche Properties to Terry Shulman, that is, from Terry Shulman to himself - but apparently trying to disguise this fact.

If you do not send a check for $1245 immediately you should both prepare to address these points in court.


Craig Larson

Thursday, August 26, 2010

$5 back. $1245 to go!

The check was in the mail. We got $5 back of our $1250 security deposit from Terry and Patti Shulman. They still owe us $1245.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Demand Letter has Arrived

We sent a demand letter last Thursday demanding that Terry and Patti Shulman return our security deposit. It was sent via registered mail and we just got the return receipt (also linked). A demand letter "gives the recipient a chance to perform the obligation without being taken to court". Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

From Terry Shulman to Terry Shulman

I just realized that he letter that Terry Shulman sent was supposed to look like it came from Niche Properties to Terry. But Niche Properties is Terry Shulman (or Terry and Patti Shulman). The letter is from Terry Shulman to himself - but is supposed to look otherwise. Hmmm, what is Terry trying to do, or disguise?

Friday, August 20, 2010

What is Niche Properties?

Did you notice that the letter that Terry and Patti Shulman sent had "Niche Properties" as the return address? A quick search reveals that this is a business that is based at the Shulman's home address, 1226 Middle River, Staunton, VA. On LinkedIn Terry lists himself as the President of Niche Properties. Niche Properties also seems to be the holding company for The Storefront. I hope guests there don't have to leave a deposit; good luck getting it back!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Moment of Truth

Terry and Patti Shulman made it official today. Here's their letter. They plan to take $1245 of our $1250 security deposit. So they apparently plan to give us $5 of our $1250 back (although we haven't actually received that $5 yet).

Here's what Terry wrote:

1) Repair animal damage to upstairs wall corner bead in bedroom. Four hours labor at $65 per hour = $260 + $25 materials = $285
2) Additional cleaning done to remove food stains on dining room floor and upstairs back bedroom; removal of tenant-added shelf, re-plaster holes and repaint. Four hours labor at $65 = $260
3) Remove overgrown weeds, trees, and vines covering fences, established trees, borders, and sides of house in front and back, remove debris pile. Fourteen hours labor at $50 per hour = $700

One interesting thing is that when Terry Shulman does wallpaper he charges $65 per hour, but he only charges $50 an hour for yard work. Wow, that's a good deal. (Nice work if you can get it).

Item (1) is the wallpaper. This was extremely old and peeling at every seam, as discussed below and can be seen in these pictures.

Who knows what item (2) is? The house was spotless as can be seen in the move-out pictures. Terry did not mention any of these things in the move-out video.

Item (3) is also nonsense. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the lease only says that lawn care was the tenant's responsibility. Other yard care was the landlord's.

What Terry Shulman and Patti Shulman are doing here is wrong. They should return our money.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Worst of Richmond

We moved to Virginia in 2008. It's a different place from Houston and Huntington Beach. We've had some great - and terrible - experiences. Earlier I posted a Best of Richmond list. Here's a list of the worst so far (in no particular order).
  • 821 W. 30th St. This is the house we rented. I posted about it earlier.
  • Richmond Department of Public Utilities - my Houston water bills were around $15, here they start at $64 - before you've even turned on the faucet!
  • Richmond City Public Schools - there are a couple of good ones - but most are really horrible - and the RPS seems to actively prevent any attempts to offer Richmond kids better options.
  • Terry Shulman. He's one of the landlords who hasn't returned our deposit after more than a month. According to his wife Patti he's "in charge of the rental business". They have other businesses.
  • Patti Shulman. She's the other landlord who hasn't returned our deposit after more than a month. Despite being named on the lease she seems to want to wash her hands of it, leave it to Terry, and keep our money.
  • Richmond drivers who pull into the middle of an intersection when there is not enough room on the other side to cross completely through the intersection. This is illegal - and dumb. There is so little traffic here that other Richmond drivers don't seem to mind. No one honks at these intersection blockers. I do. Hopefully they become chagrined enough to not do it again.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Still Waiting for our Deposit

We moved out of 821 W. 30th St. over a month ago. New tenants moved in two weeks ago. And Terry and Patti Shulman have still not sent our deposit back. Is that legal? I don't know. But it's certainly not right.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Neighbor's Tree

I just got this picture from last week's storm. It's the tree from across the street at our rental house at 821 W. 30th St. I often wondered what the chances were if the even bigger tree in front of 821 fell. Wow. It could take out the whole house!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Move-out Inspection Photos

Here's the pictures from the move-out inspection of the house we rented from Terry and Patti Shulman. You can see that it is very clean. Jeanine put in most of a day's work cleaning the place. The claim from Terry Shulman's email, mentioned in yesterday's post, is nonsense. The house was as clean or cleaner than when we moved in.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Move-out Inspection Email

The move-out inspection was July 6. On July 7, Terry Shulman sent me an email with his claims of what we supposedly did and would be paid for out of our deposit. Here are the claims:

"1) Extensive animal damage to the outside corner wallpaper and plaster in upstairs master bedroom.

2) Extensive removal of grass and weeds above lease-specified height.

3) Additional cleaning of dirty floors, bathrooms, and kitchen counters"

1. This claim is nonsense. The videos and pictures in the previous posts detail the overall condition of this very old wallpaper.

2. This claim is also nonsense. The grass was recently cut. The height of the grass can be seen in the video; the lease specifies that "landlord shall be responsible for all other yard maintenance" (see Section 14).

3. The house was left at least the condition as when we moved in. Jeanine spent all of Monday, July 5 cleaning. The cleanliness can be seen in the video. In fact the house may have been in better condition. There were extensive cobwebs when we moved in, and any place that was "out of site", for instance, under the wardrobe, was generally filled with dirt and dust bunnies.

We still haven't gotten our deposit back. Based on this email, it doesn't look good that we will.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Good Luck to the New Tenants

New tenants moved in to 821 W. 30th St. yesterday. Good luck to them. I hope they don't have any problems and that things turn out better for them.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Move-out Inspection Video

Here's the full video of the move-out inspection for the record, for the house we rented from Terry and Patti Shulman. As I mentioned earlier, it was kind-of irrelevant as they never did the required move-in inspection. That's Terry Shulman in the video. He blames us for a tear in the wallpaper. That's the only thing - in the video - that he says he plans to ding us for.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Move-out Inspection, Part 1

Here's an excerpt from the video of the move-out inspection at the house we rented from Terry and Patti Shulman. It was kind-of irrelevant as they never did the required move-in inspection. If there's no record of how it was, then the landlords can say whatever they want. That's Terry Shulman in the video. He blames us for a tear in the wallpaper. The wallpaper is super-old. As you can also see in the video it is peeling at every seam and has a number of tears. That's how it looked when we moved in. Of course, if there was a move-in inspection, we would have recorded all these things. Live and learn.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Master Bedroom Wallpaper

The wallpaper in the nook at 821 W. 30th St. was old and crackly and peeling at the seams. It had weird tears and was probably 20-50 years old. Here are the pictures I took after we moved out and cleaned the place up. Unfortunately there are no move-in photos of the wallpaper. And there was no move-in inspection - Terry and Patti Shulman did not do one. This wallpaper would definitely have been reported on the move-in inspection.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No Move-in Inspection? It's Virginia Law

Virginia Law requires a move-in inspection. See p. 18 of the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. Terry and Patti Shulman did not provide one when we moved in. I did not expect this to be an issue, as I want to believe that people are generally good. They are not uniformly. If you are a renter make sure you get the move-in inspection. Cover yourself.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Best of Richmond, 2008-2010

We moved to Virginia in 2008. It's a different place from Houston and Huntington Beach. We've had some great - and terrible - experiences. Here's by list so far (in no particular order).
  • Virginia Commonwealth University. This is a great University, with good people, and attractive facilities. The VCU Math Department is uncommonly collegial - a great place to work.
  • Richmond restaurants: Millies, Juleps, La Milpa, Tex (the Texas BBQ guy), Picollas - mmm... all good, can't wait to go back.
  • Virginia History - a lot of things happened in Richmond - it's neat to be able to go and see these places.
  • Respect for and Preservation of Old Buildings -I love that so many old buildings have been preserved here. VCU has a bunch of them - they are now used for various academic departments and administration.
  • Woodland Heights and Forest Hill neighborhoods - there are great friendly people here.
  • Richmond Ballet - this is a fantastic regional company - I'm really impressed with everything we've seen from them.
  • Richmond traffic - it's basically non-existent compared to LA and Houston!
  • Humpback Rock - this is a great short hike with an incredible view at the end.
  • The James River Park System. There's great hiking along the river, and Riverside Drive is exceptionally scenic for a city drive.
  • The Byrd Theater. This is a gorgeous movie palace from 1928 that still shows movies every nite.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Move-in Inspection

There will be things wrong with any place you rent. Get a move-in inspection. Record these things. Otherwise at the time you move out, these can be attributed to you. I generally believe that people are good and act in good faith. They are not. Here's a move-in inspection form.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Landlords

Over 23 months we paid Terry and Patti Shulman $28,750 in rent, always early, sometimes weeks early. We contacted them 4 times for issues about the house. Here's what happened. We contacted them:
  1. When the microwave broke.
  2. When wasps appeared in the house day after day and we couldn't figure out where they were coming from.
  3. After several nights of hearing animals running around the attic. What were they? Rats? I went up in the attic to check a couple of times but they stopped when they heard me and saw the beam of the flashlight.
  4. When the dryer broke and the dryer plug fused to the outlet. The melting plastic made the whole house smell like a chemical factory.
What did the landlords do?
  1. Nothing. We ended up buying a new microwave. After that I was always worried that the refrigerator or the AC would break. Then what?
  2. Nothing. I sprayed wasps as I saw them. Jeanine worried about the baby. They eventually stopped.
  3. Nothing. Well, they recommended that I plug any holes in the attic. I didn't see any. Jeanine worried. The animals only came back a couple of more times.
  4. Nothing. We ended up doing our laundry at a friend's place. A couple of times we used the washing machine and then hung the laundry to dry all around the dining room. What if the refrigerator or AC broke? Then what? Fortunately we moved before either of those issues arose.

Monday, July 12, 2010

821 W. 30th St

821 W. 30th St, Richmond, Va 23225. View Larger Map This is the Google Maps picture of the house we rented. It was "good enough". The house itself is a mess, but it is close to a lot of parks, close to the city, and has great neighbors. Terry and Patty Shulman put this house on the market in February. That was a pain, especially with a little baby. People walking through your house when you're not there, people walking through on the evenings and weekends when you are there, trying to arrange walk-throughs at times when the baby isn't napping... Terry was even walking people through himself when the baby was very sick. It's one real downside of renting. The house was originally offered for $282,000. It eventually went down to $258,000, but never sold. It is assessed for $230,000. Zillow.com's "zestimate" for the house is $216,000. We would not have bought the house even for $216,000. Among the many things wrong with the house included:
  • The house was incredibly drafty. Every visitor commented on this. There is a large gap under the front door. We stuffed that up - but it wasn't the whole story.
  • There's no tub. And no place to put a tub. The upstairs bathroom is very small. The existing shower is cruise-ship sized. We bathed the baby is a portable tub in the kitchen. That got old very quickly. Jeanine insisted on a tub in our next house.
  • The door to the baby's room didn't close at all. Several doors were "challenged". The house was built in 1920, the house has moved quite a bit, and the doors are probably all original.
  • The baby's room is crazily slopped. I often had the sensation of being at sea when I walked around that room. The furniture we put in that room did not stand on all 4 legs.
  • The columns on the porch are slanted. I guess they've moved with the foundation. It makes it look a little like a haunted house.
  • The mortar between the bricks in the basement and on the porch is crumbling. It leaves a fine powder. Wiping it up doesn't do, as it keeps crumbling.
  • The grout is crumbling in the downstairs bathroom. Cleaning the bathroom floor was always an adventure. You had to strike the right balance between scrubbing hard and knocking more tiles loose.
  • The basement is wet. The dryer in the basement broke while we were there and the dryer plug fused to the outlet. The outlet area seemed very wet to me. I'm not an electrician - but this may have been part of the problem.
  • There were 2 episodes of wasps appearing in the house for several days in a row. They may breed in the ventilation system. We were never able to figure it out.
  • Several times we heard animals running around the attic at night. They seemed to be about the weight of a small cat. I guessed rats or possums. We still don't know. I don't think possums run as fast as these guys ran. Because of the baby in the house, Jeanine was very nervous about this.
  • The wallpaper in the entryway is horrible. The wallpaper in the upstairs bedroom was old - very old - and peeling from the top, at the seams, and was torn. It crackled to the touch. It could have been anywhere from 20-50 years old. I'll post pictures later.
  • The kitchen counters were some old plastic-y linoleum-y stuff. I don't know. What was irritating is that even after you cleaned the counters, they still felt sticky. Yuck. There was a burn-hole in the kitchen island. I often wondered if someone put out a cigarette there.
  • The door to the basement is partially blocked by the kitchen counter. That was a real pain for trying to get laundry up and down. For bigger items - like our tub of holiday decorations - you had to go out the back staircase into the yard, and then up through the backdoor.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Terry and Patti Shulman

If you googled "Terry and Patti Shulman", "Terry Shulman", "Patti Shulman", "The Storefront" B&B in Staunton, VA, or "Shulman Creative", you are at the right place. They were the landlords, and these are their businesses.