Binglong Yang

The saga of 120 Clipper Drive, Belmont, CA 94002

March 20, 2022

Andrew G. Watters

I have lived in San Mateo for most of my life since 1988 when my family moved here. I like my condo, which I moved to in 2013, but it's already on the cozy side with one person. For two people, it would be essentially impossible. Back in November 2021, I was in the process of dating my now-wife, and I thought it was time to get an actual house. So I started looking at listings on Craigslist, hoping to find at least a 2BR/2BA on the mid-Peninsula that would be close to my office and in the right price range. Well, I found 120 Clipper Drive, which appeared to be a great fit for my requirements. It was adorable and in an adorable neighborhood behind Oracle, less than 6 minutes from my office. At $4,500 per month, it also seemed reasonable considering that it was available immediately and would be a great place for me and Tina, assuming she said yes (she did, lol). Everything seemed normal when I looked at the house with the agent/property manager. I took it, and moved into the house in mid-November 2021.

So I move into the house. The first thing that I noticed was that the owner left a bunch of stuff in the garage, which the agent pointed out to me on move-in day. There was also stuff from the prior tenant. I saw a few items when I looked at the garage very briefly on the tour, but I had assumed (and the lease does not discuss this) that the owner's belongings would be removed prior to my occupancy. Because seriously, why should I pay to store his stuff? I ended up moving it to one corner of the garage and I probably lost 80 square feet of storage because of that. At move-in, the agent casually mentioned that the stuff would be staying, and because I was moving in and had already paid, I was stuck. This reminds me of what happened with Ben Cannon, where Ben purposely didn't share any photos of the "data center" and I only saw that it was a converted basement upon move-in.

Anyway, despite the shortcomings, the house seemed like it would be a great fit for me and Tina. All was well through November and into early December when Tina moved in. The day Tina moved in, the garage door spring broke while the garage was in the closed position. The door weighs hundreds of pounds and I injured my arm trying to open it. It turns out the spring was way too small for the door and was 25 years old, as well as the ancient opener from 1996. Thank god the movers were able to prop the door open because otherwise, we would have had to leave Tina's stuff in the driveway or backyard. When Tina moved in, she brought a bunch of industrial racks that had been used to display products for her company, and it was a costly, labor-intensive move from L.A. Bless her heart. She had file cabinets, cabinets with doors, and the racks, plus a bunch of clothes (lol). The garage door stayed broken for a while because the owner wanted me to get estimates for the repair. I gave him the estimates (spring only, or spring and opener together as recommended by the garage folks) and I suggested that I repair and deduct, because I needed a functional garage door (lol). He ended up not responding promptly on the options, so I went ahead and replaced both the spring and opener at a cost of $1,000 or so (it was the best garage door opener ever, with Wifi and remote opening through the app). But when I went to get reimbursed, Mr. Yang only authorized the spring for $350. So after I got this fixed properly, he said I should only have gotten the spring replaced, despite the garage door guy saying the opener would surely fail within six months or so. That was my first indication that Binglong Yang is a scumbag, and I made it clear that I would not be doing anything extra for him moving forward.

Once Tina moved in, we took a look around the property in depth and came up with a laundry list of necessary repairs. As one example, the dishwasher didn't work (discovered the first time we used it), so we were manually washing dishes for the first two months until the dishwasher was finally replaced in late January 2022 (but it wasn't the best dishwasher, so it didn't clean the dishes properly).

The first major problem after the garage door issue was the downstairs floor, which occurred in December 2021. While Tina and I were in Hawaii from mid-December until early January on our pre-honeymoon, there was heavy rain at this location. We came back to discover that the floor was bulging in several places. It got worse and worse, to the point where it was unsafe to walk on and there were boards popping out. Check this out:

The photos do not do it justice-- the floor problem was unsafe on its own, but we also noticed that the downstairs closet smelled like mold. Of course we reported these problems to the property manager. The first email I sent her about this was on January 3, 2022 when Tina and I got back from Hawaii. The property manager mentioned that the floor had been replaced about two years previously. In any case, over the following two months from early January to early March, we tried to get this fixed so we could have guests over and also enjoy a normal floor. The owner kept asking for more estimates and we kept coordinating with more floor guys. The first floor guy came in and said he would have to tear out the entire downstairs floor, fix the underlying problem, and replace the floor. The second floor guy said it was impossible to fix without a general contractor coming in and repairing the underlying problem, which was unknown at that time (he later sent an estimate for more than $11,000). Of course we would have to move out for a few weeks while they fixed it-- impossible considering that we were shuttling back and forth to L.A. for our wedding in mid-February! By then it was early March, and we fortuitously had the neighbors come over while talking about my Congressional campaign. They noticed that part of the roof structure was cracked, which initially didn't make sense to me. But then I noticed that the interior wall opposite that section of roof was failing. And by the way, that section of interior wall showed a repair where someone had cut out a section of drywall and replaced it. Now it all made sense-- there was a gigantic roof leak that was soaking the entire downstairs floor and had never been properly repaired! Proof:

So of course I report all this to the owner. We were concerned about toxic mold exposure in light of our plan to start a family, so we indicated we would need to work something out with replacement housing and move out. I asked for $15,000 back, which was my $5,000 deposit, $4,550 in March rent that I had paid, and a rebate of $5,450 to reflect the fact that this was substandard housing and not worth the rent I had paid (around $20,000 paid since November 2021). The owner and agent said we should move out, but didn't offer anything meaningful to us aside from letting me out of the lease (lol). When I made it clear that we would need money back in order to move, the owner offered $9,450 which was my deposit back plus March rent-- and he was only going to pay the deposit to the new property owner instead of giving it back to me. I cannot believe this guy-- yeah, he's a scumbag, but it's also just sad that he was negotiating over a delta of $5,000 when his exposure here is potentially large. And then, to top it off, he asked for a release of liability to get even the $15,000 that I asked for! Yeah, right.

Fast forward to today, March 20, 2022. We moved out on the 17th after suffering through the emotionally traumatic experience in this dilapidated rental house that ruined an otherwise joyful time while we were getting married and enjoying our new lives together. The expense of moving was substantial. But the bigger issue is that we had to put everything in storage and move back to my condo while we search for our permanent home! This is ridiculous and this place needs to get red-tagged immediately so that there are no future victims of this downright awful property owner.

To be continued.

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© Andrew G. Watters

Last updated: May 28, 2022 08:37:33