I worked in real estate management for a few years. I managed some high class buildings like the Iowa Lottery Building and 4300 Grand but my daughter still called me a slum lord because of one property at 4815/4817 University just west of Polk Blvd. The property was not a slum but indeed that property did have some slum like properties. Enough qualities to easily fill a short book therefore I will attempt to summarize.
The building was a two story white brick that was built attached to and across the front of two old existing residences. The old houses at the rear were each divided up into two apartments up and down and the front was two stories and consisted of 4 office spaces.
Here is a partial list of the tenants that occupied the front offices when I was the owner/manager.
A Feng shui consultant who lost her living arrangement at an apartment/house probably due to it facing the wrong direction and was found to be living in the office illegally with her daughter. Of course this was discovered by the housing inspector rather than myself. I must admit that if ever there was a building that needed a whole bunch of life balancing crystals she was in the right place but I have to question her effectiveness. She often complained because the electric meters for the whole building were in a closet in her office and the meter reader moved things around in the closet to get to the meters which caused an imbalance in her space.
Coffins For Rent
A coffin rental store, Yup, You rented the coffin for the funeral and then they put you in a fiberglass case for the burial. There are still several coffin rental places and you can still “ get er done” for around $1000 while impressing everyone with a fancy coffin at the funeral. This organization was replaced in the same office space in a perfect reverse segue by a hospice organization.
A hospice society that played music constantly to soothe the clients and mute the sounds coming from the “massage
parlor Therapist” upstairs. The hospice place also constantly burned scented candles which cause unending problems with staining on the ceiling tiles and a thin film of an oily feeling substance on almost every surface in the office. I will admit that the scented candle burning did start after an unfortunate plumbing incident which will be detailed later.
Massage ” Therapist”
A massage parlor whose owner regularly complained about the hospice lady playing her music too loudly in the office below because it was a “downer” for his clients and it was ruining the atmosphere required for a proper massage.
A tattoo parlor that was the only class act in the whole building
Lousianna Pacific University
A mail order university called Louisianna-Pacific University. A very private bunch. When I finally entered the space because of non-payment of rent I found that the University actually consisted of a mail slot, a fax machine and a telephone answering machine. LPU apparently embraced the idea of, ” no more tests, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.” Based on the mail and brochures left behind, LPU gave college credit hours for life experiences and catered almost entirely to prison inmates.
An artiste who literally forfeited his deposit on day one of his tenancy. Apparently working on large projects like his wall and floor painting techniques to save money on canvas. His office was a net loss as the rents he paid did not cover the damages.
An aquarium and tropical fish sales place that had an owner who when he forgot his key or got a little bit drunk rather than calling the landlord to get in, just kicked his door open and then put a bigger security plate on the lock side.
The Gay Dentist
An eccentric dentist who had an auto-dialer that called people 24 hours a day promoting a gay agenda with a message that included the address of the building. For some reason some people were not pleased about a message at 3:00 AM praising the gay life style and occasionally took it out on the building itself.
Tenants who regularly changed the lock sets on their doors without my permission or telling me. To the point that I almost put Midwest Lock on a retainer. You usually found out the locks had been changed when the building inspector showed up. Even with the required warning that I was going to enter the apartments the tenants either forgot or didn’t care that I no longer had a key. The building when I bought it came with around a hundred keys for 8 spaces. Apparently the lock changing thing was not a new trend. I was amazed to watch the lock guys generally easily open up locks usually with a set of picks but sometimes with a 5 lb hammer.
A partial list of the residential residents would include:
The Drunken Gambler
A drunk who worked at a liquor store. He still managed to pay his rent until Prairie Meadows opened at which point he stopped paying rent and I eventually had to evict him. He was served notice but refused to move out. The sheriff and I both told him what was coming and he did not move anything out. I called him at work before we started putting his stuff on the curb to ask him to at least come home and get his electronics, which he did not do. So we started moving stuff to the curb while the vultures in pickup trucks started circling in the parking lot across the street. In my defense he was 6 months behind in his rent I was actually a lousy landlord in this way. This was the first eviction I had to do and I learned two things about evictions. First as soon as the deputy left the scene the material on the curb was legally anyone’s and Second , the one thing that didn’t go to the curb was money. Any money found during an eviction is logged by the deputy and returned to the evictee.
A Friendly Woman
A Woman who had many visitors and no visible means of support, she also smoked a lot of something, to the extent that one night while working on the unit’s furnace in the basement, both I and the furnace guy felt a little woozy and were amazed that fixing a furnace could work up such and appetite in you.
The ADA Avoided
A physically handicapped guy on two crutches that lived on the second floor. When he left, he left with 4 months of rent in arears and a leaking water bed in his apartment. Today he would probably sue me for access and win.
A Drug Saleswoman
A drug saleswoman, at least that’s what the police said when they threatened me via registered mail, with labeling the building a disorderly house. When labeled a disorderly house your property can be seized and sold if you do not evict the identified drug dealers.
Dogs and Cats
Several dogs, more than one of which was capable of biting and cats that I neversaw but had olfactory evidence of their presence. The dogs were a problem but the cats were free pest control
A Woman and her sister who between them had half a brain. And I believe that if they ran a foot race on a track would somehow collide head on.
A woman who was afraid of ghosts and still rented a place next to a Grave Monument company, only to call me two days later and ask to get out of the rental. She told me that she couldn’t stand to look out the windows and see head stones. I told her to close the blinds but she left anyway.
A guy who lived in a van out in the parking lot for several months before I discovered him. I thought the van was from a neighboring building until the police called me about him. Even after moving the van he continued to use the building as his address.
The Hallway to Nowhere
Not a tenant you say! But wait the building had a hallway straight through the center that went from the back parking lot to the front of the building and that is all it did.
A Hallway that seemed to exist primarily to supply people with 9 volt batteries out of the smoke detectors and free light bulbs out of the sockets. As to tenancy, because it was a fire exit and therefore unlocked 24/7, and a warm place at night it served as a gathering point for the homeless and with the batteries out of the smoke detectors gone and the lights gone it was dark and quiet except when people walked in the trash they left behind. I am grateful that no one that I know of used it as their own private warm bathroom.
Some Events at the slum
I call it a slum but I was a good landlord and did keep the place up in the face of numerous difficulties. In no particular order here are some events that occurred at that property.
A League of Her Own
One night a female tenant mad at her boyfriend took a baseball bat out in the parking lot and smashed the windows of all the cars because she was drunk or otherwise under the influence and could not remember which one was her boyfriend’s
Fire Extinguisher lotto or what’s the going pawnrate for a nice new fire extinguisher
I was required to have 4 large fire extinguishers in the commercial end of the building Those fire extinguishers were apparently made of gold as they never lasted as long as the batteries in the smoke detectors and always seemed to amazingly disappear the night before the fire inspector showed up.
Friday Night Fights
Two tenants who did not like each other and had actually gotten in physical fights over really stupid problems were a continuing problem. Tired of the ongoing phone calls, I in my infinite wisdom declared that they should each stay on their side of the sidewalk and that the first one to cross the sidewalk that ran between their two apartments would be evicted. This policy failed in two ways. First it did not ban swearing at each other across the sidewalk and then shortly after it’s implementation a dog owned by one of them crossed the sidewalk and bit the other one. Now the question was posed to me via numerous phone calls, did that constitute crossing the sidewalk? And if it did when was I going to evict the bitch with the bitch.
Drugs were found under the siding in the back one of the houses.. Now after my disorderly house summons I wondered, do I call the police or just dispose of them? I called, the officer arrived and suggested that perhaps it would be better for all of us if I just flushed them as we had no idea what the pills were and who had placed them where I found them. I’ve often wondered if the officer was being nice or it was close to the end of his shift.
Plumbing is often featured in land lords nightmares. The in inability of tenants to use a plunger, water that was too hot or cold and getting constant calls in the middle of the night complaining of running toilets could, and some might say did, drive me nuts. For God’s sake people all of you’ve been using a toilet for 20 or more years has no one ever told you to “jiggle the handle.”
A Relaxing Bath
A call from a lady complaining that while she was taking her bath the tub full of water with her in it had fallen through the floor into the crawl space. She was right as when I got there the tub was now a walk in tub with the rim located just below floor level. Luckily she took it well and the water from the broken pipes ran into the crawl space and in to the basement drain. Slow leaks do funny things in old buildings and the results often appear not were you might expect them. Bullet dodged you say on the water damage, well sort of, but when the crawl space foundation collapses two months later you have to wonder if all that water actually went down the drain. Another ongoing problem here and in other building s was that if you shut of the water to one tenant you shut if off to all and that does not lead to happy tenants.
The marijuana growing around the dumpster was so large that one year we had to cut it down with a chain saw. Somebody was smoking some strong stuff.
Roaches are almost a given in old rental properties. but a wasp invasion from a nest in the walls was new. An invasion that had wasps crawling out of the light fixtures and switch plates all over the building. It was of such a large size that Billy The Exterminator would have been envious. This leads to a decision about whether to tear out a wall where you think the nest is or to drill holes every 16 inches all over the building and inject insecticide between all the studs. We went with the holes and it worked. The wasp nest was actually in the attic of one of the old houses so tearing out walls would have been in vain. The nest was only found when the HVAC failed in the old house. Luckily the nest was dead when we had to move the HVAC. And why the Hell is it called HVAC anyway.
Strangely the pest control people never shied away from discussing roaches but would never say the word “Rat” aloud, often times glancing around nervously before referring to rats as Mr. R. From my pest control adventures I also learned to identify which restaurants in town had rat traps on the perimeter.
Not Grease The Movie.
Tenants who poured copious amounts of grease down the drains in their apartments such that you had to have the sewer to the street roto rooted every couple of months or so.
Speaking of Roto-Rooter another learning experience and growth opportunity occurs when the sewer from the second floor becomes blocked in the lower level of the building. When this happens and people continue to use water and flush upstairs this causes the water and ” other things” to erupt forcefully from the toilet bowls downstairs, Usually at night or on a Sunday morning.
Check off the box, Managing Residential Real Estate, that is not in my future ever again.