Category — Landlord Biz
There was mold on the window sill and black spots on the bathroom ceiling, probably because the tenant never opened the window to her bathroom. She called the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, and the county called the city, and the city told me to get rid of the mold, preferably by knocking down every wall in the bathroom and replacing them with drywall. Destroy a village. I called a back-up drywall guy, who said he’d there Monday. “What if you’re not there?” I said.
“Then I’ll be in the morgue,” he said.
He didn’t show. I called McNeeley, who said he could be there in 10 days. No thanks. (My main guy was busy.) I found Dirk on Craigslist. Not such a great name, but he showed.
“You seem like a nice guy,” I said, “but you never know with Craigslist.”
“You never know,” he said.
He painted over the mold. No new drywall. I used Dirk a season then he disappeared. I never got entirely comfortable with his name.
September 28, 2016 3 Comments
Courtlin passed out in the apartment lobby, so a cop called me: “He [Courtlin] set up a picnic on your landing with some 24-ouncers,” the cop said.
“To his credit, Courtlin has his socks on,” the cop said.
A tenant discovered Courtlin an hour earlier in the lobby. I told the tenant the trespasser was fairly harmless — no felony convictions, just criminal trespassing and disorderly conducts. She was OK with that; she didn’t say “I’m moving,” which would have been in line.
The cop said, “He goes to the well — apartment lobbies — for a while until he’s arrested, then he goes someplace else.”
The criminal hearing is in a couple weeks.
. . . Done. He got three days in jail. He’ll be back.
Yiddishe Cup plays 7 p.m. tomorrow (Thurs., Aug. 4) on the lawn at John Carroll U., University Hts., Ohio. Free. Indoors if raining. Free ice cream, kids!
August 3, 2016 4 Comments
The building manager called at 2:48 a.m. and said water was pouring from 202 into 102; the manager couldn’t get into 202 because our extra key was missing and the tenant wasn’t home. Take the door down?
The door came down at 5 a.m., right off the hinges. Sludge was backing into 202 and 102 from 302.
At 11 a.m. a tenant’s ceiling fell in. I said, “We just spent $8,500 on a new roof for your part of the building. It better not be water coming in through the roof. I bet it’s coming through the window well.” There were five inches of rain in the window well.
The above paragraphs describe two different incidents, in case you’re confused.
Water goes wherever it wants. It’s not carpet.
July 21, 2016 No Comments
Steve, the building manager said, “I got a call last night at 3:51 a.m. I was thinking it’s a tenant with a ceiling that fell on his head, but no, the guy wanted to rent an apartment. Man, did I light him up. That fool — 3:51 a.m!”
“Was he drunk?” I said.
“No, he wasn’t drunk! He said he had a dilemma. He said, ‘I’m in a dilemma.’ I said, ‘You think so? You also think this is standard business hours, too, or are you trying to get a jump on the market, you idiot!’”
Next subject: “Hey, did Billy give you the rent?” I said.
“Yes, I got the rent from your pal Billy,” Steve said. “Billy? That’s his legal name. What kind of person names his kid Billy.” Billy had flicked cigarette butts out his window onto parked cars below. One night he and his buddies flicked 30 butts. I wrote Billy a letter to straighten up and he did. Don’t knock Billy.
“That guy — calling at 3:51 am,” Steve said. “No, I don’t think so! Are there any boundaries to human stupidity?”
“Billy” is a pseudonym.
I wrote this piece, “How Much Money Can I Make Off Trump’s Convention?”, for yesterday’s New York Times online.
July 20, 2016 4 Comments
I’ve been to Dean Supply, Webb Supply, Hough Supply and Woodhill Supply. The countermen usually sit beneath Rigid Tool calendars.
On my last trip to Woodhill Supply, I asked for 50 water-saving Niagara showerheads. Niagaras look like fat bullet microphones, so most tenants don’t realize they’re water-savers, and that’s a good thing. If the tenants knew the showerheads were water-savers, they would don’t rip them out and put in water-gushers. Woodhill also sells wrenches, cutters and snakes.
But Woodhill only had 37 Niagaras. I was going from 2.5 GPM to 1.75 GPM. I did the same thing 20 years ago, but back then water-saving showerheads were super thin and cheesy-looking, so tenants ripped them out. (I pay for the water.)
I will return to Woodhill when my back order comes in. MacArthur said that.
July 6, 2016 5 Comments
Arvids Jansons. I got a desk from him when he moved out.
Argero Vassileros. Her nickname was Argie.
Michael Bielemuk, the professor. He had many floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
Maria Trifiletti. She stole light bulbs from the halls, so we glued the bulbs into the sockets.
Saram Carmichael, a transvestite who solicited customers from her second-floor window. The johns waited at the bus stop.
Stan Hershfield, one of the few Jews on the West Side. He was raised in an orphanage and loved the word bupkes (beans). “Stratton, I have bupkes so don’t hondle me about the rent.” (Hondle means haggle.) When Hershfield painted the wood floor in his kitchen, he said, “Only the best, Stratton, Benjamin Moore!”
Malfalda Bedrossian. She was never late with her rent.
Chris Andrews slept in a coffin. (He had a regular name.)
Merjeme Haxhiraj, an Albanian who talked me down every year $10/month on her rent.
John “Chip” Stephens, a Chet Baker-like figure in looks, music and name. He played jazz piano and landed a tenure-track job at a university in Missouri.
This post originally appeared in slightly different form on 9/30/09.
April 6, 2016 3 Comments
At his 90th birthday party, Mort Gross talked about real estate. (Yiddishe Cup played Mort’s party.) Mort sounded like my dad, except Mort was a lot richer, lived a lot longer than my dad, and was more outgoing and more philanthropic than my dad. Mort developed properties; my dad never did that. Mort had a yacht in Florida and a Rolls Royce. My dad never got beyond Buick.
Mort had three favorite expressions: 1) A deal is a deal 2) Wait a minute [to kill a deal], and 3) Don’t do paperwork twice. I learned this at the party.
I didn’t understand item #3, and I forgot to ask the person who did the roast for an explanation of item #3 — “Don’t do paperwork twice.” I said to one of Mort’s son, “Those were very good toasts, and I’ve heard hundreds.”
Maybe the toasts were sappy, and I was just thinking about my dad a lot. A second son toasted, “Our parents instilled in all of us a love of Judaism, and we all married Jewish girls. In fact I did it twice.”
I’m telling you, they were good toasts.
I had a piece in the New York Times 3/12/16. “I’m not Evil. I’m a Landlord.” Check out the comments in the post below, “For NYT Readers.” The comments are good!
March 16, 2016 1 Comment
1. A slob tenant wanted a spiffed-up bathroom. My drywall man said to me, “The guy ain’t did his dishes in years, I mean holy shit, and he’s bitching about his bathroom falling apart?” We fixed up the tenant’s bathroom and hauled away a couch and chair too.
2. A tenant wanted free rent because we were digging a trench in his apartment. In order to install a condensate return line to the boiler, our plumber dug a four-foot trench through the tenant’s kitchen, dining room and living room. It looked like WWI. That was a bad scene and it lasted a month. The tenant got the free month’s rent.
Here’s a top-quality article I wrote for City Journal. “Gotta Serve Somebody.”
March 9, 2016 3 Comments
Bill, the building manager, said a prospect for apartment 24 was a rapist.
“We don’t rent to rapists,” I said.
“Five grand? Wow.”
“He wants something cheap. I guess he has legal fees.”
”What’s his name?”
“That’s the name of a building inspector!”
“Different guy. He has a new car too. Makes his payments.”
“We’re not renting to a rapist. I did that once before. I didn’t know the guy was a rapist, and he got picked up on a parole violation, and I found out he was a murderer, too. We have our standards.”
“Bill” and “Kevin Barrett” are pseudonyms. By the way, I rented to the rapist/murderer back when it was hard to run criminal checks — pre-Internet.
Yiddishe Cup plays The Ark, Ann Arbor, Mich., 8 p.m. Sat. (Feb. 6). Schmotown Revue: klezmer and soul music. $20.
February 3, 2016 3 Comments
Tom Corrigan, a store tenant, said he wouldn’t pay the rent because his ceiling had been leaking for months. Corrigan, who owned single-family houses, used my storefront as an HQ for his rental biz. He said he wanted out of his lease with me. He had just a couple months to go. He would not pay the rent, he said. “You can sue me,” he said. “I don’t care. The leak has been going on far too long.”
“I’ve had two roofing companies look at it,” I said.
“So what. I’m not paying the rent. That’s how we’re going to part.”
“I hear you, you’re not paying your rent.”
“See you, buddy. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
I was ashamed.
We fixed the leak about a week after he left. We found a couple holes in the porch deck right above the rear door jamb to his store, and nobody could find the leak until a week after the guy moved.
November 25, 2015 2 Comments
A tenant broke a window in the entrance door to the building; maybe he forgot his keys and broke the glass to get in. (It helps to be drunk to do that.) The cops interviewed Larry, a Russian tenant. Maybe he broke the window. Larry, aka Valery, was peeved because I had just raised his rent $35 — a lot. He had asked for a discount: “Mr. Albert, can you lower the rent?” He got a parking space for only $5. I jacked up his rent because he invariably countered with a lowball figure, and I always met him halfway.
I don’t think it was Larry. It might have been Newell, another tenant, also a drunk.
What’s with all this glass breaking? The panes break every couple months. And not always at the same building. It happens late at night, around bar-closing time.
Enter this in the broken glass log.
“Newell” is a pseudonym.
Vulfpeck is on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Friday (Nov. 20). CBS 11:35 pm ET / 10:35 CT. Vulfpeck will sit in with the house band, Jon Batiste & Stay Human. The musicians will play snippets of Vulfpeck tunes before and after the commercial breaks.
November 18, 2015 3 Comments
Rob, a tenant, owed me $1872 for the water bill, which he hadn’t paid in seven months. He ran a bar in one of my buildings. I called, I wrote, I didn’t get paid. Rob knew my dad. Rob and I went way back.
I went to small claims on Rob. Did I have any choice? Rob got the letter from court, and called me: “The check is in the mail.”
“Don’t mail it, Rob!” I said. “Hand it to me.”
“What’s so funny, Rob? I’m not a bank. I don’t charge interest on the money you owe.”
“What about the security deposit you’ve had for 33 years?” Rob said. “What was it — $700? It’s probably worth a fortune now.”
Good point. (I didn’t pay interest to Rob on the security deposit.) Nevertheless, “Don’t mail it.”
“It’s in the mail.”
“Rob” is a pseudonym.
November 4, 2015 2 Comments
Mr. Cleveland, a tenant, said he had bedbugs and couldn’t sleep at night. The exterminator sprayed Mr. Cleveland’s apartment and set up insect monitors – sticky paper. In a few days, the exterminator had found one spider, a flea, a nymph, and no bedbugs.
I told Mr.Cleveland, but he was not placated. I said, “You want out of the lease? Because if you do, you can move.” (I didn’t want a complainer.) He said he wanted to stay. He said he had a used mattress and bed spring.
“What! “I said. “Don’t you read the papers or watch TV?”
He bought a new mattress and bed spring. And then saw a new bug on his insect monitor.
“Get over it,” I said. “You have a bug. So do I. So does everybody else, except maybe the ER at the Cleveland Clinic, which they scrub every hour.”
“Get over it sounds condescending,” he said.
“Get over it! Do you want me to send the exterminator again — a third time — for a bug? You have a bug in your apartment. I have a bug in my house.”
“You are very condescending.”
“You don’t have bedbugs. You don’t have cockroaches. We’re crazy to be talking about this – a bug.”
“Can I move out?” he said.
“No, that deal is off. That was before I spent $205 on exterminators, with another $100 coming up.”
September 30, 2015 3 Comments
Speedy, a building manager, was always falling off ladders. It wasn’t that he was uncoordinated, it was he worked too fast. He could “turn” a vacant apartment in a day. I regularly got claims from workers comp, and I paid.
Eventually I had to fire Speedy because his relatives and friends were ripping me off: stealing hoses, lawnmowers and snow blowers. Speedy’s relatives were crooks. Also, he started hanging around with a prostitute who ripped me off. (She eventually got arrested. Story is here.) Speedy was loyal and worked like a fiend. He was 5-3 and often limped. He didn’t complain and never turned down a job.
Three years after I fired him, I still received letters from workers comp: “open wound of hand, right; OxyContin, $349.00; knee, right, active, 2000; right knee disallowed, 2003; eye allowed, 2005; right arm,2005, allowed; neck sprain allowed, 2003.” Speedy’s forwarding address was a porn shop. He wrote me, “There is one thing you can never deny, I was the best manager you had. I don’t want a job as a manager. I just want to paint or do tile work. I had a major heart attack.”
I didn’t call him. Anything not nailed down: gone.
September 2, 2015 2 Comments
These are my Greatest Hits (letters) to tenants:
1. Dear Tenant, The building manager heard you yelling, “I’m a porno star and a sex machine,” out your window. This isn’t the only time this has occurred.
2. Dear Tenant, You flicked 20-to-30 cigarette butts out your window. Some of these butts landed on cars and left burn marks. This must stop!
3. Dear Tenant, You got in a fight with a female in your apartment and tore the door jamb off. Also, you have slipped unsolicited notes under the door of other tenants. That can be construed as sexual harassment, depending on the content of the notes. You are a self-described drunk. That, too, won’t do here — at least outside your apartment.
4. Dear Tenant, There was very loud recorded music coming from your suite between 3-5 a.m. That’s when people sleep. You aren’t living in a dormitory.
5. Dear Tenant, You were incessantly buzzing a neighbor’s entry buzzer, banging on a neighbor’s back door, and banging on your ceiling. You phoned me and said a neighbor’s cat was annoying you by running across your ceiling. Tenants are allowed to have cats. The tenants pay extra for cats.
6. Dear Tenant, The hallway smells outside your apartment. You need to clean up immediately.
7. Dear Tenant, you and a female visitor were drunk and screaming in the parking lot. She lay down on the ground. She could have gotten killed.
8. Dear Tenant, You disturbed other tenants’ sleep at 3 a.m. by loud talking, running through the halls, and kicking on the locked door. Three tenants complained. Three — that’s serious. Please understand, this building is not party central.
July 1, 2015 5 Comments
Howard the laundry-machine guy said I had a yiddishe kup. Thanks. Howard rented me coin-op washers and dryers.
Howard had never heard of Yiddishe Cup. What, a Cleveland Jew who has never heard of Yiddishe Cup? “But I’ll see you guys soon!” Laundry guys will say anything.
I once got a check from a coin-op company in Plainview, New York; their Cleveland rep told me, “We’re a local company.” The Plainview company was owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Somebody in Scotland was pocketing quarters from my buildings’ laundry rooms.
Howard the laundry guy had bona fides: 1) He had gone to my high school. 2) “I got in a lot of fights with the Italians there.” 3) His father had been in Auschwitz. 4) “Jewish geography is my favorite subject.” All pluses.
I said, “I don’t trust you.”
“I don’t blame you,” he said.
I hope to trust him.
Continue if you’re interested in laundry contracts . . . There was a classic screw-the-landlord lease (yes, there is such a thing) written by a Chicago law firm. (Always referred to as the “Chicago lease” by Cleveland landlords.) In clause #5 of the lease, the coin-op company had the “right of first refusal,” which meant the company could match any new bid or supplier the landlord came up with. In other words, the old laundry company could remain the landlord’s supplier for life. It was like indentured servitude. The headline for the infamous clause #5 was not “right of first refusal,” which would have been OK, but the very misleading header “exclusive laundry equipment,” which made no sense. And in very small type too.
Come to Cain Park (Cleveland Heights) 7 p.m. Sun., June 28, for a free klezmer concert in the Evans Amphitheater. No tix necessary. It’s Yiddishe Cup plus Steven Greenman, Lori Cahan-Simon and Shawn Fink. And don’t forget Yiddishe Cup’s newest singer: Tamar Gray. Klez from Kleveland: The 37th Annual Workmen’s Circle Yiddish Concert in the Park.
I had an op-ed, “Don’t Go to Music School,” in the New York Times on Saturday (June 13). Check out the comments section.
June 17, 2015 3 Comments
Evelyn had the dirtiest apartment. Her bathtub was black, like she never used it. There were about 50 roaches in the tub. Lots of beer and liquor bottles around. Cigarette butts everywhere.
She cleaned up. Then I put her on month-to-month; I wanted the flexibility to end the lease if she got sloppy again.
She got cleaner. Not Martha Stewart clean, but no roaches either. She said she wanted to talk to me. I stood outside her door. She said, “How do I know it’s Bert Stratton?”
“I’m not sure. Take your chances.”
She let me in and immediately called me an asshole and said I had disrespected her with the month-to-month lease. She had been on a 12-month lease for 21 years. She also asked for a new refrigerator, plus a two-year lease with a discount for the first six months. She wanted a new kitchen sink cabinet, too. And she wanted her stove removed. “I don’t even use it,” she said. I looked at the stove. “No,” she said, “Look at me. Look me in the eyes. You have disrespected me all these years. Think of all the money I’ve saved you by not having to redecorate every couple years. To you, I’m an asshole.”
Not true. I liked her spunk. But I shouldn’t have stopped in; I should have had let the building manager handle it, which is always cheaper for me. Evelyn said. “I was in a coma for a couple years. That’s why it’s so messy here. I was a little out of it. If you come back in two weeks, it’ll look even cleaner. I’m opening a business here. I’m bringing in customers here.”
I offered her a one-year lease with a $5 increase and a new refrigerator.
She said no thanks. She said, “Just for shits and giggles, what do you want for this place?”
“The entire building?”
“You got it. I’m buying it from you.”
“Evelyn” is a pseudonym. Here’s a pic of another dirty apartment — not Evelyn’s. Top 5:
April 8, 2015 3 Comments
The boiler died at a building I own. I called the repair company, D.B. Johnsen Co., who said try somebody else. Stack Heating & Cooling came out. Stack was no bargain. Stack was like going to 10 dentists.
Then I had a second boiler go bad, down the street. Stack’s proposal on boiler #2 was $5950 for two sections of new boiler, to replace a corner that had corroded. I was thinking zero for that corner, Stack. The boiler had worked perfectly well a few minutes ago. Now it was cracked. I had budgeted zero for #2. I had put everything into boiler #1. I called a couple guys for quotes. They were all busy. Stack himself was very busy. It was cold out. He said, “I’m getting too old for this shit.” So was I. (Stack and I are the same age).
Madison Plumbing did the job and screwed up. It cost me a few grand extra.
Then a third boiler went down. This was a couple months later. Stack said, “I want to prepare you. Eleven burners are shot. That boiler is older than me. ” Again with the age, Stack? This boiler was carboning up and sooty. “I’ll try to save it.”
“Do that,” I said. “Thanks.”
Stack called again: “I have bad news.”
I asked him to knock $500 off the price if I didn’t get a second quote. Agreed. I wrote the tenants they could buy a space heater at Home Depot and take $50 off their rent until the heat went on. I recommended a Polonis convection oil-filled space heater. About a third of the tenants opted for the free space heater. One tenant even added $37 for a comforter.
My bill: $38,350 (boiler #3). Stacked against me.
CYA footnote: Stack is expensive but he’s very, very good.
January 7, 2015 6 Comments
Mr. Shuck said the tenant above him was running a big fan on the floor and keeping him up all night. It was November. Why would anybody have a fan on?
I thought, “Shuck is out of work and has too much time on his hands. Forget about it.”
Shuck called: “I was pressing my arms over my ears so hard to block the noise, it took the muscle off the bone by my upper arm.”
“Have you tried earplugs?” I said.
“I had tubes in my ears as a child. I’m not sticking anything foreign in my ears.”
“I’ll look into this.”
“I’ve lost hundreds of hours of sleep over this. Look into this!”
I called the tenant upstairs. She did have a fan — a box fan on the floor. She said she would place it higher off the floor. I said, “You need physical space between the fan and the floor.” Matter settled.
Not settled. Shuck called again. “They’re literally stomping in the apartment above me. I’m having palpitations right fucking now! I’m calling the police. Your manager won’t do anything. I’m having a heart attack. If I die, it’s on your head.” (A Browns party was going on upstairs.)
Shuck lived. He called and said his bathtub was backed up, and he mentioned the manager had threatened to kill him.
I said, “I’ll get the plumber on the bathtub right away. I’ll call the plumber.”
“The plumber is in my apartment right now!” Shuck said. “He woke me up. I have contusions on my legs and have had to sponge bathe for four weeks because the tub didn’t work.”
“Four weeks?” I said.
“Also, your manager stole money from me.”
Five dollars? Why so little? “Your tub was down four weeks?” I said.
“Your manager tried to kill me.”
I know. OK. “When?”
“Three years ago. She tried to force me to drink a beer. I’m a recovering alcoholic.”
“We’ll have the bathtub fixed right away.”
“Somebody is tampering with my mailbox. That’s a federal offense.”
There was a noisy fan above Shuck.
“Shuck” is a pseudonym.
November 19, 2014 3 Comments
I charge a $20 late fee if I don’t get the rent by the seventh day of the month. Some tenants regularly pay the $20 late fee, because $20 is nothing compared to, say, a credit-card late fee.
I had a tenant who promised to pay on the 11th. He changed to the 15th. Then the 20th. Today — October 29 — I have just one late tenant. She said she’s not paying because she had a stroke and is broke. She sounded pretty good on the phone for a stroke. I asked my wife, a former RN, about that: “Can you talk right if you just had a stroke?”
My wife, Alice, said, “It depends what part of the brain it affected.”
I generally don’t allow late payers to slide into the next month. “Mom is sick . . . My grandmother died . . . I switched banks and they messed up my account.”
Why didn’t you call me? Why am I calling you?
Maybe I should charge more than $20. Some landlords charge by the day, like $10/day. But life is too short for that kind of intense bookkeeping.
I have a tenant who has been late every month for 30 years. I hope I outlive him to get his final month’s rent.
Sometimes I lean too hard on the tenants and get no late fee — no rent.
Yiddishe Cup is a soul band, Jewish and otherwise. Check out our version of Aretha’s “Respect.” We play a wide range of American pop music. Please don’t boot us out of your wedding after the hora. Hey, we’re better than those other wedding bands! We’re slicker than schmaltz laced with WD-40. Our newest singer is Tamar Gray. She works the crowd. Fun . . .
October 29, 2014 3 Comments