Musings of An Old Man

by Brian K. Moore

Funny Business

As a landlord, I have usually handled tenant relations in a fairly conventional manner; however, on occasion I have made some rather unusual or innovative deals when it appeared that they would produce better results.

The following incidents come to mind:

1. I rented an apartment to a couple, both of whom were employed. The wife was an office worker; the husband was a construction worker. They were nice people and were well able to pay the rent. There was one small problem, however. The man owned a pickup truck that he was in the process of painting. The body of the truck was in good shape as far as dents, etc. were concerned but he had applied primer of several different colors, probably from spray cans from various sources. It looked like a multi-colored jig saw puzzle, and it looked like his paint job was stalemated and was not likely to be finished in the foreseeable future.

Since the apartments had only single garages and they, both husband and wife, had vehicles, he parked his truck in the driveway. The look of that multi-colored truck in the driveway did not enhance the high class look that we attempted to maintain at the apartments.

What would be the best way to handle this? If I told him that he couldn’t keep the truck there, they would likely move to a place that would accommodate his truck, and though the apartments were fairly easy to rent, we would lose at least a months rent.

At this point I thought about Earl Schibes. Earl Schibes is a chain car painter who does a pretty good job of painting cars cheap!

I called Earl Schibes for the current price. It was 229 dollars--a months rent was 550 dollars—about two for one.

So I waited until he was home from work and knocked on his door. He opened the door and said, “Hi, Brain.” I said, “Hi, Al. I’m going to offer you a deal that you can’t refuse!” I told him about how his jig saw truck was a detriment to the appearance of the apartments, and said, “If you’ll take that truck to Earl Schibes, and get it painted, I’ll pay for it!”

He was taken aback with astonishment, but he said OK, and that’s what we did.

An aside: Not long after the paint job, the truck looked so nice that he sold it.

2. We had to do some asphalt patching on the parking lot at the Viewpoint Medical Center. The patch crew had roped off some parking spaces to keep cars off the fresh asphalt. I was at the jobsite and the job was nearly done when one of the doctors came out of his office and approached me. He was irate. He told me that this disruption of the parking was affecting his practice and costing him lots of money. He was unreasonably upset, and at this point it became my job to calm him down. He was a good tenant and was coming up soon for a lease extension. It was best to be in his good graces.

So I said, “Dr Xxxx, how much do you think it cost you?” He said, “Oh, at least a thousand dollars.” It seemed like he was stretching it quite a bit, but I said, “OK,” and I walked over to the pickup, got the Viewpoint checkbook and wrote him a check for a thousand dollars. He accepted it with a sort of sheepish look, but his angry mood was gone. Now all I had to do was justify it with my partners. It would probably be fine, as they generally took the attitude that whatever I did was OK.

An aside: When the lease came up for extension, he didn’t extend it in spite of my bold move. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.

3. I rented an apartment to a woman with a six year old son. We didn’t have many children at the apartments but now and then we had one or two. The woman worked in the Los Angeles area and had a long commute, but she had been doing this and said it was working OK. It was OK for a few months. Then she began to fall behind in her rent, making partial payments and asking for time on the balance. It was winter and evidently she wasn’t able to pay the gas bill, as I had reports from other tenants that her little boy was stealing fire wood from other tenants’ wood piles, probably at the mother’s instructions.

I was sympathetic to her plight but had to find a way to end this situation. I asked her to move out and I would forget the rent that she owed, but she said she couldn’t because she had no place to go. I thought, “I may have to evict her.” There are companies who handle evictions, but their fee is about five hundred dollars and no guarantee of success. She could claim that the child was sick or she could claim discrimination. (They were black) and the eviction process could take months!

I thought of a better, more economical, way. She was strapped for cash and I knew that cash would look good to her. It was Monday morning, I said to her, “I have someone who wants this place and I will give you five hundred dollars cash if you are out of here by Wednesday night!” She agreed to the deal. I thought, “Once she’s out how will she know that I will really give her the five hundred dollars?” So I offered to let a third party hold the funds and give it to her when she really was out. She said, “Oh no, I trust you.” Strange, she trusted me, but I wouldn’t trust her around the corner!

She was mighty busy these three days, making this hasty move, but she was out by Wednesday night! Much faster and cheaper than a normal eviction, and she got the money rather than the eviction company.