October 21, 2014 by phicks2012
The life of a Landlady is entertaining, if only from a safe distance, and while we’ve all heard horror stories about Slum-lords we rarely hear the equally frightening — okay, sometimes MORE frightening — tales of Slum-tenants who move into clean and reasonably nice accommodations and then proceed to trash them.
Not all tenants, by any means, are destructive, but I’ve had a number who definitely were, so I do have some “Tales to Tell”. For example, I had a tenant who had to be evicted in June of this year for non-payment of rent, and when we went in to ready the apartment for a new tenant it contained a year’s worth of un-dumped garbage, piles of dirty clothing and broken furniture, rotten food, carpet torn and caked with unknown refuse and dog excrement (at least, I really HOPE it was from the dog), the delightful aroma of a neglected dumpster, and so many roaches that the floor moved and when you opened a door the nasty little vermin rained down on you in a disgusting cascade. YUCK!
It’s written into the leases that my tenants are responsible for their own pest control, and there were no roaches when the tenant in question moved in. She claimed to make her living cleaning houses (imagine that!!!), and it’s hard for me to imagine how a woman with a child under the age of two — and another newborn by the time she was evicted — could allow her place of residence to get into that sort of horrid condition, but TRUST ME when I say that I had a passing impulse to just torch the place and start over again from SCRATCH!!!
Fists through walls and doors are seen so frequently that they almost don’t bear mentioning anymore, and if you happen to have a helper good at sheet rock repairs — and a can of matching paint — walls are fairly easy to repair. Doors are trickier, even with a supply of wood putty, a putty knife, sandpaper, wood stain, and replacement door knobs — and the most MINOR door problem I’ve had involved a guest room closet door used for knife-throwing practice — but they CAN be fixed with ingenuity and determination. Take my personal word for it!
Bad tenants will rip light fixtures halfway out of the ceilings, repaint walls BADLY in neon colors (slopping paint everywhere), destroy carpeting, and — when they leave — will take along unexpected things like faucets, light bulbs, toilet seats, toilet paper spindles (what’s with THAT anyway?), and I even had some who clearly made an effort to remove the interior doors and door frames. One tenant obviously tried to climb up on the roof by grabbing the gutter and doing a pull-up, because that gutter was just MANGLED, and another locked herself out and broke out the glass in a newly repaired door with a baseball bat — same tenant who later called SWAT in claiming that she was being threatened by a non-existent man with a gun, and got ALL of the windows and doors busted as a result.
But to tell the truth necessity really IS “the mother of invention”, and we’ve gotten really good at repairing things rather than replacing them. Some of our repairs actually look better than replacement items would, featuring decorative motifs, structural reinforcements, and handy little additions. My regular helper Jason can fix nearly ANY thing, but I’m the one who looks over the damage and says “You know, I’ll bet we could <insert semi-crazy suggestion involving materials already on-hand here> and that would actually look almost better than new!” Jason sometime looks at me, initially, as though I might be slightly demented, but after thinking about it he’ll usually respond that he’s actually seen something like what I’m suggesting in Family Handyman magazine (I really am a visionary, apparently, and then proceed to make it work.
My units may never be mistaken for Park Avenue. They were new and well-built when I bought them, but the fortunes of residential areas do tend to rise and fall, and while this one isn’t a slum it’s definitely transitioned more into the “economical” range. While it’s slowly improving again — a change I’m working hard to contribute to — the Trumps are unlikely yet to select this area for a pied-a-terre. Still, I’m determined to make improvements (following the needed repairs) after every tenant departure, and every time a new tenant moves in each unit is in better shape than it was previously.
I’d really like flip them all — winning the Lottery would definitely aid in that — and have them looking like new, but a budget is a budget. As long as the rent actually comes in and I can avoid having any more Slum-tenants I should slowly but surely get closer and closer to my goal!
Mind you, I don’t for an instant believe that I REALLY can avoid any further entertainment of this sort in the future, but one can DREAM of perfection — and maybe of unexpected free assistance from Bob Vila or Ty Pennington, right?