Thanks old dude…

I spent most of Saturday morning outside laying siege to the trees, bushes, and random foliage that kept smacking me in the face while I was cutting the grass. Sure, I could just duck, but that’s nowhere near as fulfilling as chopping off branches and making nature look you want it to look. While I was standing hip deep in the ditch obliterating a tree that had no business growing there in the first place, I heard a car pull up behind me and a door open. It’s my experience that random people stopping by for anything usually doesn’t end well and I expected a pitch about why I should come to their church or at the very least who I needed to make a donation to some cause or another.

What I ended up with was an introduction to the old dude and his wife who live diagonally across the street from me – nice people who just wanted to stop and say thanks for making the outside of the place not look like crap. Not surprisingly, he brought up the previous tenants who apparently were every bit as worthless as I imagined them to be. Not like that’s a surprise, but it’s always nice to have confirmation. Other than keeping things mowed at a reasonable length and laying down plenty of weed killer, I haven’t actually done much. I should probably be grateful to the last guy for setting the bar so low.

The old dude would be less impressed if he saw the inside of the place with its god awful drywall patches, cut-ins done but walls not painted, doorknobs missing latches, and general lack of even the most basic maintenance. I’m fixing the things I can with the tools and supplies I have on hand, but lord knows I’m not sinking a dime of my own money into this place. I just need to nurse it through the next year or two and then it will be someone else’s problem. There’s very little I can do to remedy a cheapskate landlord or lazy property management, so the least I can do while I’m here is try to prevent this place from being that house that drags down everyone else’s property values by having that nice abandoned look about it. But seriously, thanks for noticing.

Air…

You can imagine my surprise when I walked upstairs a few minutes ago and found the temperature hovering somewhere in the low 80s. The A/C was on after all and even though it’s a smallish window unit, it usually doesn’t have any problem cooling the bedroom and office to something approaching a livable temperature. That is, of course, when the condenser coil isn’t frozen solid. Before I rush to judgement and start raising three kinds of hell about it, I’m going to let the thing thaw out and then run some tests to see if it was just me letting it run too long in high humidity we’ve had this week or if it’s something wrong with the unit itself like a freon leak.

Given the upstairs issue, I thought it would be a good time to check the main wall unit in the living room. I almost wish I could have avoided that experience. After dropping the front cover, I have suspicions that this was probably the first time the cover has ever been off the unit. And there’s not one chance in a 1000 that the filter has ever been so much as brushed off, let alone actually cleaned. Any guesses how I spent the last hour of my Sunday night?

I don’t know why something like that would surprise me about this place any more. If they can’t figure out the big maintenance issues, I don’t suppose there’s a prayer of them paying attention to the details. Admittedly, most of my experience with renting has been in apartment communities, but I just don’t remember those having such problematic upkeep and management issues. I hate the thought of moving all tis crap again, but unless there are some radical changes in the way things are done around here, I’ll be looking for new digs in about 10 months.

On the up side, I just sent the owner a $225 bill for having the Expedition towed. That at least gave me a warm fuzzy.

Expedition…

It’s a case of now you see it, now you don’t. After five weeks of haranguing the property manager about getting the junk Expedition out of the driveway, I was forced to demonstrate my level of resolve. I guess most people gripe and complain initially, but then accept whatever is happening and quiet down. I’m not wired that way. Never have been. I start off complaining, ratchet up the noise level, and then, when I’ve pretty much exhausted every other option I can think of, come out swinging. Today was pretty much that day. And was really the first major improvement/repair project around here that went exactly by the numbers. I called the towing company, they sent out a truck, and the POS Expedition that had been mocking me by its very presence for the last 32 days was gone before I got back to the house this evening. Getting my belongings delivered felt good. Getting them unboxed felt better. But getting rid of this eyesore is the first time in a month that I feel like I’ve really accomplished something. Plus I know it’ll piss off the property manager to no end since he says he wanted to part it out to recoup someone of the money they lost on the last tenant. I guess putting that thumb in his eye makes it $200 well spent.

Two ways to do things…

I got a call Friday afternoon from my own property manager. It seems the crack in the kitchen window had finally gotten to the point of needing to be replaced. If I hadn’t been thinking months ago about the house becoming a rental property, I would have fixed it already. The up side of being a landlord is that alot of projects that were a normal expense when you were living in the house magically become a business expense (and therefore deductible) when you have a tenant.

You didn’t really need to know that little bit of administrative minutia except it was my way of saying that there’s a right way and a wrong way to be a landlord/property manager. The right way is to adress issues as they come up and do it as expeditiously as possible. It helps build the tenant-owner relationship and maybe buys you some good will when the lease is up and they have to decide between renewing and moving on. The wrong way would have been to make the tenant call half a dozen times, not show up when I said I would, or otherwise ignore the problems. Doing things that way tends to breed an attitude where the tenant doesn’t give a damn what happens to the property.

I guess there are two schools of thought when it comes to owning rental property. For some, it’s an income stream and nothing more. For others, it’s a long term investment that builds more value when it’s well maintained. Both ways of thinking are probably valid to some degree, but only one of them is right.

Rolling boil…

I got an email on Monday night from the property manager (after talking to the actual homeowner) stating emphatically that he would be in on Wednesday (that would be today) to address the laundry list of things that were broken in the house and/or to haul away junk left by the previous tenant. Being 7:30 here in the east coast, I think it’s now officially safe to say that he isn’t coming today. What has been a low simmer most of the week is now a rolling boil. That small bit of sympathy I had yesterday? Yeah, that’s pretty well gone. The good will of being new to the neighborhood and not wanting the first thing I do to be make waves is worn off completely. Now I pretty much want to be a pain in the ass until everything is resolved to my satisfaction. I wonder how many phone calls a day I get before it’s technically harassment?

I brief flicker of understanding…

I picked up the mail this afternoon and seeing a letter from Delmarva Power, opened it assuming it was a bill for having the service turned on or for a partial first month. I was, of course, wrong. It was a “final notice” to the previous tenant. A final notice in the amount of $2,141 and change. Seriously? Two questions come immediately to mind… 1) How exactly does someone rack up a $2000 electric bill and 2) Why does Delmarva Power let someone rack up a $2000 bill? At first I was angry as a customer, because this is the kind of irresponsible deadbeat that everyone who bothers to pay their bills ends up paying for in the end… because lets face it, the power company is going to get their money one way or another.

After my moment of capitalist outrage, I had a brief flicked of understanding  about why the property manager seemed to be so blasé about getting things done to the house. If they stuck the power company with that kind of bill, how much back rent did they owe? The natural expectations would be that after getting hosed the first time, the next tenant would pull the same act so deferring maintenance would almost seem natural. As a landlord, I can relate to that feeling. As a tenant, though, I know I’m going to pay my bills passing sympathy I had for the landlord and property manager evaporated quickly enough.

There’s plenty of backstory to go along with this, but for the moment, we’ll just say that the property manager is supposed to be here tomorrow to start addressing the laundry list I sent the owner yesterday. One or both of them is probably pissed off about this situation, but I doubt there in the same league of peeved that I’ve been in for the last few days. We’ll see how it goes.

 

Tenancy…

The transition from homeowner to tenent hasn’t been what I would call smooth. As a homeowner, I probably established what most would consider slightly exagerated expectations for service and reliability. When things broke, they went to the top of my list of things to fix, I either went to Lowe’s for the appropriate equipment and supplies or called in the trades to get the job done. As a tenant, obviously the process is a little different. I call the property manager and leave a voicemail. I wait a day. Then I call again and follow up with an email. Then I wait a day. Then I call again and usually manage to talk to him on this third attempt where he says “oh yeah, I’m working on that. I’ll be over tomorrow.” And then we wait some more.

As it stands as of this morning, I’m waiting on six different things to happen: 1) The former tenant’s junked Ford Expedition is still sitting in the driveway. That was supposed to be moved out sometime around June 6th; 2) The 19 inch television sitting on the deck that the property manager says he wants to take to his hunting camp. It’s been rained on three times in the last two weeks. Yeah, that will probably still be sitting there a month from now; 3) The wire dog run was supposed to go at the same time he picked up the Expedition; 4) The garbage disposal went out early this week. He still hasn’t acknowledged the messages I’ve sent about that; and 5) The $100 washing machine that he said had been rebuilt will do everything a washing machine is supposed to do… except drain the water once the tub is filled. I left a voicemail about that yesterday, but when I drove by the manager’s place on my way to the laundromat yesterday afternoon his truck and boat were gone, so there’s not much chance he was paying attention to that; 6) The moldy wall has been nicely cut and hauled away – but that leaves the small matter of having a large part of the basement I can’t do anything with until, you know, it has actual walls again.

The actual owner lives in Germany now, so once I dig up his address Monday  morning I’ll get a message off to him. I’ve tried being the good neighbor, but since that doesn’t seem to get results worth a tinker’s damn, I’ll have to start being the sonofabitch neighbor who beats on the letter of the lease. This should be fun.