In On The Ground Floor

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July 28, 2014 by phicks2012

Knotwork blockI own some rental property which helps to keep me semi-solvent, and assists in paying the bills, but also requires a good bit of personal effort to maintain and to improve. I learned early on that I really wasn’t all that good at managing my two duplexes — and their tenants — myself, but having someone else do everything hasn’t exactly been without turmoil either.

I’ve had, in the past, a series of property management companies who either were too far away geographically to manage effectively or — in reference to the last guy and being VERY GENEROUS — were incompetant at best. He rented to anything with a pulse, didn’t collect the rent regularly — unless he just wasn’t passing it along — and let the units get into pretty bad shape before I stopped believing what he was telling me and fired his ass — proving that I do occasionally make good decisions other that not replacing an entire A/C unit he mendaciously claimed was unfixable, and wasn’t even broken.

I have a good, local property manager now, but because I simply can’t afford to hire contractors to turn loose on every job needed, I’ve been working myself, with housemate Jason’s invaluable help, for the past year-and-a-half to repair and improve the units. The plan is to keep things maintained as well as possible during tenancies, and then every time a tenant moves out to make some improvement on each unit. Baby Steps, but more affordable, and it’s been working, if slowly and sometimes painfully.

But recently one of my (now blessedly FORMER) tenants called the police claiming she was being threatened by an armed gunman. Actually, we don’t know whether or not her son was really either armed or threatening, because there was no one there when SWAT broke out the windows, kicked in the doors, and went in, and the tenant was not necessarily the most stable of individuals in the first place — again being GENEROUS.

Still, I quickly found out that the police do not replace broken windows or doors damaged during their incursions, and my insurance deductible is so high that filing a claim would have been senseless at best — I’d have been out-of-pocket for the full amount of the repairs and also would have seen a jump in my insurance rates. So I was stuck with the cost of fixing the windows (and doors), and I also had to patch some holes in the walls to bring everything back up to the way it was when last rented. In addition, the tenant took nearly all of the light bulbs, the drip pans from the range, and even the toilet paper spindle and shower rod, and when the police were breaking the windows they destroyed the blinds. Go figure.

We’d already repainted the entire unit earlier on because of a totally horrendous paint job — three different colors in the same rooms and paint not going all the way to the top of the walls but being slopped on the ceilings, floors and baseboards. But the improvement this time around was going to be replacing the living room tile. The room was originally carpeted, but tenants kept damaging the carpet so eventually I just had vinyl tile installed for the sake of longevity and ease of cleaning. Then, when it started to wear out a bit some bright bulb — actually, my last property manager — decided to charge me for professional installation of new tile while instead covering the existing tile with some really ugly and horribly installed fake wood-grain vinyl that didn’t even match the thresholds or go all the way to the walls. I did earlier use the term “incompetant”, right? Add crooked.

So, in early June we spent one morning with scrapers and shovels taking up the old tile — two layers of it, and I thought my back would never forgive me even if the blisters healed pretty quickly — and a few days later we went back with new tile to start laying that. I know what you’re going to say, but I lacked the skill to lay sheet vinyl, and I’d put down self-stick vinyl squares before in my basement bathroom — where they still look great, by the way! However, I’d never really done it in a large room or, for that matter, gone about it in the way they recommend — starting in the center of the room in question.

I wanted to start in a corner and build out, to avoid having to cut tile all the way around and use, potentially, more tile than absolutely necessary, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be done, so we tried this time for correctness. It took us three hours to get everything except the edges done, and a few extra hours a few days later to finish up, so retiling the living room floor took the three of us — not a one a professional in any sense of the word — two mornings to complete the job.

Five hints though: 1) Knee-pads, 2) Soap and water to get the glue off your fingers, 3) extra cutting blades, 4) a board to cut the tile on, and 5) Extra glue, because there will always be a few stubborn tiles that just won’t stick well. You will curse yourself about that last item when the time comes to replace the tile again, but that’s just the way it goes!

It took us nearly a week, all told, to ready the unit again for rental (partly because the routine lawn work also had to be done), and I did have to pay to get the windows and doors fixed, but in the end the unit was in better shape than when last rented.

Unfortunately, it still isn’t actually rented again, and my property manager just evicted another tenant for non-payment of rent — and while she was not crazy, well, let’s just say housework wasn’t on her list of priorities and that when we went in after she left the unit looked more like a landfill than an apartment, and leave it at that for now. The furniture, trash, rotten food and discarded clothing are out, but now the refurbishing fun starts once again. This time it has begun with carpet removal, thanks to the tenant, her family and her dog who between them totally destroyed all of the carpet in the unit. It will take a while to make it fit for human habitation, though the roaches she left do seem to love it.

God!! I do just LOVE being a landlord!!!

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I am an active, outgoing person interested in all sorts of things and all sorts of people! I'm constantly discovering new interests, and expect that to continue right into the grave!

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