Mike – I know you guys have been having trouble between jobs these past few months and I just wanted to thank you for always being current on the rent. So my gift for you and yours is that I’m waiving your December rent so you can give your family a good and decent Christmas this year. We’ll just pick it back up in January. Merry Christmas, Jack.
First of all, let me say I LOVE JACK. I idolize Jack as a landlord. I hope to one day, in the not so distant future, be able to afford to waive my tenant Mike’s December rent so he can give his family a good and decent Christmas.
Unfortunately, I can’t. I’m not there yet. Without Mike’s rent payment I’d miss the mortgage payment. Or not have enough to pay the quarterly sewer bill. Or be late on the property taxes – all of which will result in my being assessed steep fees I’ll have to pay when I finally do get caught up. IF I ever get caught up.
I know, it sounds like I’m being overly dramatic. But I spent much of the last two years catching up on I back sewer bills and property taxes that went unpaid because our business went through some financial difficulties as we lived and learned from our mistakes. A tenant in financial trouble has a few resources to turn to – government agencies, churches and private charities. A landlord has… no one.
Still, I’d like to be able to help Mike. The most I could do for Mike now would be to accept a partial rent payment for December, get the rest in January and waive his late fees. Because Mike’s been current with the rent all along I would feel good extending him this credit. I’m pretty sure he’s good for it. And I hope he understands that I can’t just waive December’s rent altogether.
The Landlord-Tenant Battle Comes To Social Media
Someone posted this letter to the Luzerne County Homes & Apartments Facebook page with the heading “Best. Landlord. Ever.” I know who this person is – she’s one of our tenants. One of our best ones, actually – always pays on time and in full, takes good care of the place, causes no problems.
My husband, however, didn’t recognize her name. Probably didn’t even read it. He just commented on the post. Something to the effect of, “and I would like for my Christmas gift the tenant to pay me an EXTRA month’s rent because I’ve been such a good landlord and fix things when I’m supposed to. Do what you’re supposed to do – pay your rent – and your landlord will do what he’s supposed to.”
Another landlord clicked “like.”
I publically called my husband an ass on Facebook. There’s a reason he doesn’t manage tenants anymore!
Landlord v.s. Tenant – a battle as old as time
It’s at least as old as my time. My parents were renters. The landlord was someone to be feared. I remember a few times growing up Mom and Dad being late with the rent and the tension and uncertainty that followed. On two occasions we even had to move – I remember we even had to go live with my grandparents for awhile. I rented my first apartment at age 19 with two friends from college. Steve and I lived in rented apartments right up until we bought our first home in 2004. I found out that landlords have all these rules, too, besides the rent – they don’t like it when you move in your boyfriend without telling them, or if you move in with two cats and suddenly end up with four. I remember thinking, “what is their PROBLEM???” Now I know. I have paid for every shitty thing I ever did to a landlord, and then some. The Karma Fairy has collected her debt. Did you hear that, Karma? You can stop it now!
A note to tenants: every rule spelled out in your lease is there for a reason! You may not understand what that reason is, you may be offended by the suggestion, but there’s a good reason those rules are there.
A lot of the crap tenants try to pull on landlords comes from this ignorance. They don’t realize their actions have consequences. They don’t realize a missed rent payment can mean serious financial difficulties for the landlord. Landlords are all rich, right? What does it matter if I don’t pay? (This is how a lot of slumlords are made – see my blog post: http://thisgingerjustsnapped.weebly.com/blog/anatomy-of-a-slumlord)
Tenants – especially younger ones – don’t realize how serious it is to take on a roommate or move in a significant other without your landlord’s knowledge or consent. They may think, as I did when I was 22, that it’s MY BUSINESS if I want to move in my boyfriend and that they are interfering with my life and my right to privacy by making an issue out of it. In my case, that boyfriend was Steve and there was a happy ending. But it could just have easily been the case one of our units a few years ago – our tenant’s boyfriend, who was not on the lease, physically assaulted her with a knife and police had to be called. There was blood on our new carpeting. Besides that, we were told by the police that we had no right to remove the boyfriend without a full-blown court eviction, because he legally lived there. He had mail in his name sent to the apartment – that’s all the proof he needed! The only way we got him out of the apartment was the girlfriend, our tenant, filed a PFA against him.
Then there’s the matter of sneaking in pets. The majority of landlords do not allow pets. The reason is, the majority of tenants do not know how to properly care for pets so that they don’t destroy the landlords’ property. We DO allow pets, within reasonable common-sense limits. But that didn’t stop one tenant from sneaking in TWENTY-FIVE CATS: http://thisgingerjustsnapped.weebly.com/blog/tenant-horror-stories-the-cat-hoarder
We are still trying to fix that apartment after the cat hoarder. The damage is well into the thousands at this point, plus lost rent. It was in the wake of this disaster that my husband, fed up with landlording in general, made that asinine comment on our tenant’s Facebook post.
Why Landlords Are Assholes. I always wondered growing up. Now that I’m a landlord, I know why. It’s because we’re human. You get screwed by a bad tenant once, twice, thirty times, you start thinking everybody’s out to screw you. You try to be nice and get taken advantage of by a scammer, you start suspecting everyone is out to scam you. It is a conscious effort I have to make, every day, to keep my humanity intact while still running a successful business. One of the main reasons we’ve hired a property manager is so we can focus on the big picture of building a successful business and let someone else deal with the human beings involved. Otherwise, we’d snap, much like my husband did when he made that Ebenezer Scrooge-like comment to our tenant’s Facebook post.
Landlords are people. Tenants are people.
Consider the following stereotypes:
Landlord – rich, cigar-smoking, Cadillac driving, mean old man with $100-dollar bills falling out of his pockets. His wife is a cackling hag wearing a mink coat and diamonds, kind of like Cruella De Vil. They own a bunch of dilapidated old buildings and only fix what they have to to keep them open. They’ll blow out your last candle and take food out of your poor childrens’ mouths to get the rent money. Their poor tenants are forced to live in drafty squalor while they live it up in the mansion on the hill.
Are you a landlord? Does this sound like you?
Tenant – lazy, doesn’t work, lives off the government teat while buying large flat-screen TVs and the top-of-the-line i-Phone. Fills up the shopping cart with steaks and lobster on their EBT card. Loads all those groceries into the back of their late-model SUV. Can’t pay their rent this month because they had to get new rims. They’ll have it for you next week. Well, some of it anyway. Maybe.
Are you a tenant? Does this sound like you? Are you offended as Hell?
These stereotypes reduce us to little more than simplistic cartoon characters. They are what’s causing the Class War. They are the reason we may end up with either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders as our next president!
We are people, dammit. It’s time we started looking at each other as people. It’s Christmas, let’s try a little understanding!
That’s kind of sad. Well, the letter might be fake, but the sentiment is real. Because I would totally do that, if I financially could. I’ll have to build a successful rental business first. Until then, I’ll do the best I can. That’s all anyone can do.