Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Lanlords and Tenants

Tenants drive Landlords nuts.

Several years ago, my wife and I came into some extra money. Not enough to make us millionaires but enough to give us the opportunity to do something foolish. We had never had any extra money before, nothing significant above paycheck to paycheck. As a caution against later regret, we opened a savings account until we could think of something special.

At the time, we lived in Nashville, Tn., a place where every Waffle House is staffed with people who have a guitar behind the seat of the pickup truck and a dream of coming into some extra money. Driving down 16th Ave., Hillsboro Rd., and Granny White Pike every day are people who actually did come into some extra money, and they are behind the wheel of expensive and sometimes ostentatious automobiles.

My wife and I stood the temptation as long as we could, and after a year, we rushed out and blew most of our extra money on a duplex apartment building being sold by Jack Kemp, the former football player for the Buffalo Bills, and at that time Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD came into possession of the property because the previous private owner had failed to avoid foreclosure.

We cut the grass, patched the roof, painted the walls, fixed the busted doors and locks, and became landlords. Every time we drove our Ford Escort station wagon down 16th Ave., Hillsboro Rd., or Granny White Pike and saw a new Mercedes Benz or a shiny sports car, my wife and I would smile at one another and say, “There goes a fine looking duplex.”

The weekend before our first tenant moved in, four guys had car trouble out in front of the duplex, while I installed a new air conditioner in the window of the living room. I had bought the air conditioner used, at a great price, and it was big enough to cool the entire apartment. It was quite a struggle to put it in, and somehow I couldn't help but feel the guys in the street with car trouble were laughing at my efforts.

When I arrived the next morning to do some further work on the duplex, there was a very large hole where the window and air conditioner had been.

Tenants call on the phone when their toilets don’t work or the neighbor kids peep through the windows. Angeline called early one morning to tell me her toilet was completely stopped up and overflowing. Without so much as a cup of coffee, I packed my plunger and snake into the Ford Escort station wagon. However, the embarrassing mess in Angeline’s toilet would not flush, plunge, or snake away and continued to overflow on the floor. So I shut off the water and emptied the toilet into a bucket a paper cup full at a time. Then I unbolted the toilet from the floor and carried it into the yard. Turning the toilet upside down I found the toilet was choking on a tennis ball. Angeline was perplexed as to how a tennis ball had gotten in the toilet. However, as soon as the ball was dislodged from the toilet, Angeline’s golden retriever Goofy snatched the ball in his mouth, wagged his tail excitedly, and made teasing, playful dashes back and forth. The landlord lesson I learned was if you have a tenant who plays fetch the ball with the dog, and who wouldn’t, and a dog who likes to drink out of the toilet, and which one doesn’t, just remember to look carefully in the toilet before flushing.

Angeline was not discouraged from calling me. Another time, she telephoned to say, “There’s a spider.”

“Where is the spider, Angeline?”

“Outside the back door,” she said.

I was silent for a very long time.

“What should I do?” she asked.

“Angeline, kill it.”

Copyright 2007 by William C. Cotter


Tina said...

When I was director of an agency serving some mentally disabled people, I got a call from the residence at nine o'clock. One of the aides told me that she had called the fire department. Why? Because the fire sprinkler was dousing the living room. No one seemed to think about shutting off the water. When I got there, the fire dept had indeed partly remedied the situation by doing some emergency repairs on the plastic pipe that had come loose. When I got to the home about 9:30, there was still water squirting from the ceiling about like what might come from a bathroom sink faucet that was one-half open. In other words, a persistent and sizeable squirt. The carpet was soaked and soggy ceiling tiles and pieces of insulation were falling on the carpet, on the furniture etc. I got on the phone and called a plumber and a company that cleans up after smoke or water damage. Then I inquired as to how all this mess had come about. It seemed that earlier in the day our maintenance man had been replacing some tiles. He left his ladder propped up in the living room, and one tile was out of place, leaving a nice square black hole. A particularly nervous resident became upset because she thought something might come down out of the hole and "get her." While the aide was comforting the nervous one, a big siz-footer decided he would be gallant and replace the tile so that nothing evil could exit from the black hole. He climbed up on the ladder and while reaching for the misplaced tile, decided to steady himself by grabbing one of the plastic pipes through which water flowed for the fire sprinkler system. These plastic pipes were precariously suspended by wires which had been fastened to the rafters. Not a very strong arrangement, of course, but one wouldn't ordinarily expect a heavy man to be hanging on to one of the pipes. Naturally he leaned a little too hard and the pipe came loose.
This was one of the biggest messes I have ever seen. It looked like Armageddon. Repairs and clean- up cost a couple of thousand.
Another time I was called to the home at about 8:00 PM because three toilets were not working.
I went up there with a plumbing snake and a jug of "liquid fire."
Major plumbing exerience !

Paw Paw Bill said...

I'll bet you a six pack of your favorite cold beverage that I can recall more up-to-my-shins-in-broke-plumbing stories than you can.

Tina said...

I will not accept that bet because I would surely lose ! :-)


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