Saturday, September 29, 2007

Back to Square One

I went into Lalouche the erstwhile would-be landlords' office first thing on Friday to see the properties he had discussed. With two hours of sleep thanks to jetlag and propped up with an overdose of caffeine, I was raring to go. First, though, we pulled out the old contract, he returned the pile of checks I had given him, and we cancelled the rental agreement. Then, when I was ready to see the apartments he had discussed, he rolled his spider chair behind his desk and started clicking away on his computer. I peeked over his shoulder and saw that he was doing a web search.
"Where do you want to live?"
"You mean, the properties don't belong to you?"
"No. But we can find things all over the place."
Oh, no. When he had said, "I have a place for you on Derech Beit Lechem," that pretty clearly meant, to me at least, that he owned the place. Now he's just doing a search using the realtors' software, which is similar to my own subscription to Maagar Meda (Internet search engine for rental properties in Jerualem.) I.e., the properties we're looking at belong to other people, so I've got no guilt-leverage on the guy for having bumped me out of my apartment that I could use to negotiate a lower price, or at least to get first dibs on a place. So we looked up a few places and tried calling, but nobody was home. It was already too close to Shabbat. So I arranged to come back at 1oAM on Monday to continue the search then, when people would be available.
I left his office and called Yigal.
"You did WHAT!?"
"I cancelled the rental agreement."
A soft sigh. "You should know for next time, when a landlord in Israel violates a rental agreement, he owes you one month's rent."
D'oh! No wonder he was in such a hurry to cancel that contract. So now I've really lost my leverage. I was just furious with myself. Now I'm really back to square one, where I was a month and a half ago when I first started searching.

I drove in circles and eventually parked at the yeshivah in Kiryat Mosheh and started walking. The streets were blocked off and the walls plastered with announcements of the death of Rabbi Avraham Shapira, Z"L, former chief rabbi of Israel and one of the two major spiritual leaders of the National Religious movement. I followed in the wake of the funeral procession. Walked and walked and walked for an hour and a half. Walked through the Arab section of the old city, where Arab merchants selling Judaica work next door to Arab merchants peddling Hamas and Hizbullah propaganda videos. "Brother! Brother! Do you want to buy a shofar!" Laughed out loud at that one.
I got to the Western Wall, and had been thinking all along that I was going to have to refrain myself from punching the thing, God forbid, I was so upset, but by the time I got there I had walked off the anger. Seeing all the holy people streaming into the plaza, carrying their lulavs and etrogs, made my day. I joined a minyan for Minchah and let it all out.
Really, it's not so bad. It's not like I was actually going to sue Lallouche for 0ne month's rent, a lousy $510. Just hiring a lawyer would cost twice that. And if I had threatened to, he certainly wouldn't be helping me search using his realtor's subscription service. He did volunteer to make all the phonecalls and have his helper brother bring me out to see the places himself, which would save me a load of work. And maybe he's got something available on his subscription that I don't have on mine.
One other thing I'm realizing: I am losing over $150 for every day that I'm not working. There are six working days a week. The place I was supposed to rent was $510 per month for a fourth-floor, stairs-only, medium quality apartment. Lallouche mentioned that there was another place available across the street on the ground floor, much bigger, better quality, for $650. Now, at $150 per day, it would really only take me 12 working days (corresponding to 12 months of rent,) or two weeks, of not working to lose an equivalent amount of money to a year in a $650 high-quality apartment versus a $510 low-quality apartment. It may be more worthwhile to grab something at market value than to endlessly hunt for a good deal. Something to think about while vacillating.
Meanwhile, Moish and Dina in Modiin called me up and said I could use their apartment to work while I'm looking, and I could even set up my computer there, which is very important since the software I need to do my work is all on my personal computer. They have only one kid, while Rafi and Galila, with whom I'm staying now, have four, so I could theoretically get 75% more work done. Hopefully I can get out there tomorrow after apartment hunting and get through some of my projects.

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