We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Wednesday, February 29. 2012
The Landlord’s Tale - A member of a maligned class explains, among other things, how he keeps up the neighborhood.
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I'm a landlord. Bought a condo apartment 23 years ago, lived in it for 5 years, then bought a house and rented out the apartment.
The best tenants? Young men - they complain about nothing. The worst tenants? Young men - there's a reason they didn't complain. I had to replace the dishwasher and refrigerator (thank God for deposits).
My absolute worst tenant was an odd story. My tenant lost her roommate, and got a replacement. She seemed very nice, a young lady who had a judge as a father. Surely she knew the law, right?
Wrong. First her deposit check bounced. Then her first month rent check bounced. Both were paid in cash. The second month, her check bounced again. She paid with another check which bounced. At this point, we suggested she pay with cash. She refused to pay at all, at this point.
Problem is, had she not paid anything to begin with, the law would've been on her side. Since she'd already bounced a check, she had placed herself in a fraudulent situation. My wife, 8 months pregnant, went to the local police station to have her arrested. The cop was very nice, called the tenant down to the station, noticed the check was from a small Michigan bank and replied "you have bounced a check from out of state, which has some potentially larger issues than just refusal to pay rent. I suggest you get the money together and pay your landlord now."
My wife said "I want her out. Now."
The cop looked at the young girl, and said "Do you have someplace to stay, because she can have you removed and I really don't enjoy doing this by force."
Our other tenant called us the next day to say the girl had broken the wall in the shower to "pay us back".
People think being a landlord is easy and you just collect the money. Sometimes this is the case. I've had great tenants, and when they are good, I'm good to them. I rarely raise the rent, I stay below market (except when the market collapses like it did in 2008, which I rectified when that tenant left), and I try to give them whatever they need.
But I've received phone calls in the middle of the night to change lightbulbs. I've received calls because there was no hot water (because the tenant turned it off at the hot water heater and forgot). I've received calls for noises in the street. I've received calls for all kinds of stupid things.
I love being a landlord, and if I could, I'd buy another property. But it's not for everyone, and it's no easy task.
I wish I could just collect the checks and be happy.
Once upon a time, there used to be a concept in the land called 'shame', which, was brought on by acts of ill repute, unlawful behavour, and other actions of lower social-interaction.
Now, its often heralded as an 'affection' or held upon high and spotlighted, like a freak-show.
How I long for those lost, begotten times...
I've been a landlord for 35 yrs or so and almost never have a problem. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. There are small problems for short periods of time but I've never had to evict anyone and my total rent loss for the 35 yrs is probably less than than $400. The main reasons for this are: 1) I only take honest people I can do business with. 2) If I error on rule one, I cut my losses quickly - usually that day. 3) Everyone is on a month-to-month lease so moving them out is easy. On late rent or a check problem: it can happen to anyone - once, but it never happens with me twice, never. I'm not afraid of having a vacancy. My rents are at a fair market rate but hardly ever low. Old reliable tenants still get their rent raised yearly. My market is the last apartment they'll have before buying a place of their own. They should be owners and I do my best to motivate them. During the recession the market was down, so I lowered everyones rent. I still had a lot of turnover but they all left for various reasons, not for thinking I was unfair. I'm a small operator so I can stay on top of things and my main job is flexible so I can go over to take care of a problem. I figure they won't hold up their end of the deal if I don't hold up mine, so even though my building is old, it is well maintained, clean, updated, good part of town - did I mention clean. Being a landlord doesn't have to be a problem.
When I lived in Brooklyn, sort of between Park Slope and the Gowanus / Carrol Gardens neighborhoods, I rented a middle apartment in a three-story brick walk-up built in the late 1870's.
The landlord didn't live that far away & owned a few properties in the area. I pretty much became his de facto building Super. A young woman with her (mostly well behaved) children lived above me, her mother lived below me. They moved in not long after I did. They were nice folks but they were sort of stupid in practical things.
Landlord would call me and ask if I could go upstairs - or downstairs - and figure out what was going on with this or that problem they were having. Often it was something simple & I could fix it, but sometimes the tenants couldn't even begin to describe what kind of fix was necessary & after inspecting I would call him to let him know what kind of repairman was actually needed. Landlord would make it up to me by reducing the rent that month etc.
I forever endeared myself to him when the building's main drain clogged up while he was out of town. Entire (unoccupied) basement flooding with sewage. I let him know what was going on, armed myself with rubber boots and gallons of bleach; dumped the bleach into the sewage, and actually managed to un-clog the drain, which was an interesting semi-open arrangement of giant 19th century iron pipes. He got a crew in there the next day for clean-up. I think he gave me three months free rent for that one.
I wouldn't want to be a "market rate" landlord. After past experience (Gee, should we be concerned that there are 4 sheriff cars over at the rental?)
As Colorado alluded to motivating, unless the tenant has a goal or shorter term plan, it probably will boil down to 1 or 2 things (maybe both): stiffed for some rent and/or damage, or that they're getting rent assistance so you're really overcharging.
With 2 houses (occupied by family and a valuable employee) My goal if vacated involves a bulldozer or fire department training practice.
I'm reminded of a job offer years ago on a dairy. "There is an old farmhouse on the property you can have rent free!" It was in the dry cow pasture and the cows had gotten the door open. There was literally cow sh*t everywhere. Needless to say, I passed on the job.
A guy's first-floor tenant was complaining about water seepage on his ceiling from the second floor. The landlord went upstairs and told the tenant to watch his bathtub, etc. so it didn't overflow. The guy on the first floor complained yet again about water seeping on his ceiling from the second floor. This time, the landlord forced his way in to the second-floor apartment only to discover that the tenants--a bunch of Pakistanis newly arrived from the old country--had a foot of earth laid up on their living room floor and were trying to raise plants in it.
I don't think anything can top that story. Truly bizarre.
I was a landlord for 8 years. I had one deadbeat tenant. Evicting him was a simple matter of going to court and stating the facts. Easy to do in Texas, impossible to do in New York.