Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 59


The owner of the building I had been renting for the past eight years was unwilling to give me a lease on the property. He was content to rent the building to me one month at a time but I was afraid that he’d eventually raise the rent to an outrageous level so I bought the commercial property that was directly next to the store. The property consisted of a brick commercial building that was currently rented as a restaurant and a separate three-story apartment building. The apartment building was fully rented but the rents were significantly below “market value”. I notified the tenants that I would be raising the monthly rent and they all agreed that I was being reasonable.

A young, single man named David rented the top floor apartment. He paid his rent for the first two months that I owned the building but when he was late paying the third month’s rent I became concerned. David told me that he didn’t have the money to pay his rent. I asked him if he was thinking of moving out and to my surprise, he moved out that weekend.

The second floor contained a three-bedroom apartment that was rented by a young, newly married couple. They continued to rent this apartment for the next two years but when they decided to have a child they moved to a safer neighborhood.

The first floor apartment had three bedrooms, a large living room, a dining room, and a large kitchen. An elderly lady, Mrs. Ducharme, had rented this apartment for over twenty years. She lived alone but she was quite active. She volunteered at a local senior center and she walked all over the city. She kept the front of the property clean and always paid her rent on time. Since my store was right next-door, she’d bring her rent of two hundred and fifty dollars in cash to me on the first day of the month. I’d write her a receipt for her payment. After I had owned the property for about six months I noticed that she seemed to be getting more forgetful. She began coming in to my store to apologize for being “late” with the rent and she’d give me another envelope with money in it. I’d explain to her that she had already paid the month’s rent but she’d insist that I take this additional payment. I’d tell her that she didn’t need to bring me any more money until the next month. The very next week she’d bring in another envelope with two hundred and fifty dollars in it. At one point I explained to her that she had now paid her rent six months in advance. I told her I couldn’t accept any more money from her. I was worried about her so I located the phone number of her son who lived in Arizona. I called him and introduced myself and explained that I thought his mother was losing her mental ability and I wondered whether she should be living alone. At first, he got angry with me and said it was none of my business. He later calmed down and thanked me for my concern but he offered no solution. Two weeks later he showed up with a moving van and he loaded up all of his mother’s things and was moving her out to Arizona. Mrs. Ducharme came into my store crying. She asked me why this man was making her move out. I had to convince her that her son would take care of her and that this was for the best. Her son didn’t say a single word to me and I never heard from Mrs. Ducharme again.

I rented the second floor apartment to three guys. Rick, Ray, and Bernie were “gamers” and they were primarily customers of my main competitor but they began shopping at my store after they rented the apartment, probably because we were so nearby. Rick was a serious guy but he was friendly to me. Ray was a great guy. He was friendly and soft-spoken and he had a generous, easy-going spirit. Bernie was much older than the other two and although he was friendly to me, he was also kind of “gruff” on the outside. These three guys rented this apartment for a few years until they decided to move out of state to North Carolina. Ray got a job doing social work. I just recently learned that Bernie killed himself.

I rented the first floor apartment to a family consisting of a mother, a father, and two children. This family always paid their rent on time but they were disgustingly sloppy. There was trash and garbage all over their apartment. The basement began to fill up with their junk. The grass in the front yard was destroyed and littered with broken bottles and trash. The apartment building ended up infested with cockroaches after this family was there for six months. We had never had any of these problems before this family moved in. I knew I had to do something about this but I quickly learned that the liberal Democrats of Massachusetts had essentially removed the rights of the property owner. As long as these people paid the rent on time, I couldn’t force them to move out. The next two years were full of constant repairs to the building, pest exterminators, and mediating conflicts with the other tenants. This family would actually call me at home to complain that some other tenant had parked in “their” parking space. I’d explain that there were no reserved parking spaces but it usually required a trip into the city to smooth it out with everyone.

One day I received a notice from the Board of Health stating that I had three days to clean up the mess in the yard before they’d fine me five hundred dollars per day! I called the Board of Health and explained that I couldn’t possibly get it all cleaned up over the weekend because the trash companies were now closed until Monday. They gave me a twenty-four hour extension and I spent most of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, cleaning it up. I hired a trash company to pick up all of the junk first thing on Tuesday morning so the city inspector could examine the property on Tuesday afternoon. In typical city government fashion, the inspector didn’t come to the property as we had arranged. He came ten days later. By that time, the gross tenants threw more trash in the front yard so all of my work was in vain and I was summoned to court. I was furious and I tried to explain the situation to the judge. He was not sympathetic. He said it was my responsibility to keep this property clean. I asked him if he’d feel the same way if I threw old tires and trash on his front lawn for him to clean up. He was clearly agitated by my attitude. I then told him that I was tired of the “Nazi Gestapo tactics” of his court and he threatened me with contempt of court. My wife didn’t really want me to be thrown in jail so I didn’t tell him that I did indeed have contempt for his court. I had no choice so I paid the fine. It was clear that the landlord business was not for me.

Next chapter: More wacky tenants.

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