Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.
 

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz too. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.
 

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)
 

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.
 

Stratton has written op-eds for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.


 
 

Category — Landlord Biz

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

I had a commercial tenant who sold gravestones and pistachios. His main window sign read Porter Monuments and a smaller sign was Pistachios. Not a good sign. He went under.

I had a tenant, the India Food Emporium, which sold Indian spices, Indian bread, Indian music. Then came the Marlboros and malt liquor. Went under.

You want a samosa with that 40?

You want a samosa with that 40?

I got a call from a prospective tenant for a headlight removal business. Not a bad concept; headlights are tricky to remove. The caller corrected me: “Head lice.” I was still OK with it.

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July 4, 2018   2 Comments

A GOOD RISK, OR NOT?

I predict Garcia will leave a pile of junk in his apartment tomorrow. He was evicted and has to move out pronto. Today I saw him get on a bus carrying a TV and a lamp. He conned me  — and the court — because he told the court his mother had had an operation and he had to help her recover. He got a continuance and an extra week. Nice play, Garcia.

In court he showed me pictures of his daughter. He didn’t know he had a daughter until last week, he said. He said the girl’s mother had put her in the trash. I said, “Didn’t you know you had a daughter? You had an affair?”

“It was in high school,” he said. “I was pretty popular back then.” He said his daughter, later adopted, has a PhD and is a weightlifter. Maybe she can help him lift his bed, box spring and couch tomorrow.

I bet the furniture stays. Garcia has until 8 p.m. tomorrow to get the stuff out. I told him, “Everything after 8 pm is ours, even if it’s your grandma’s diamond watch.” He laughed.

I could call the bailiff on him. But what’s the hurry? If I wait another day — and he moves the stuff out — I won’t have to hire a hauler. Garcia has already gotten $500 in free rent. What’s another day? His apartment has a lot of pizza crusts and cigarette butts. No roaches.

I shouldn’t have rented to him, but he looked good on paper. He’s 51 and had a job. Now I’m thinking “51, male, and single” isn’t such a good risk.

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May 23, 2018   3 Comments

SHE KNEW SHE OWED ME

Gilbert, a tenant, said the plumber stole a roll of dimes from her apartment. Next, it was a jar of pennies. “I want to call the police,” she said. “I know he took it. Everything in my place has its place and it doesn’t deviate. Even the spices on top of my microwave have a place. I don’t have clutter.”

claw foot tubWhy would a plumber steal a jar of pennies?

Gilbert has to go. Or not. She’s been a tenant for seven years. Last year she caused a $800 leak and only partially covered the damages. She overflowed her tub. Cost me some bucks with the tenant below. Gilbert had said, “Take the rest of out of my security deposit when I move.” She owes about $400, still. I wonder when she’ll move.

Hey, she just moved! No forwarding address. She knew she owed.

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May 2, 2018   3 Comments

WHAT DOES HATE MEAN?

I hired Sabina’s husband, not her. She was not into shoveling snow, cutting grass, or climbing ladders. She was a Russian Lit major from Russia. But then her husband deserted her, and I was stuck with just her.

When I asked a tenant how Sabina was doing, he said, “I hate her.”

mower crew“Do you hate me, too?” I said, trying to establish a baseline on what hate meant. He said I was OK, but “Sabina doesn’t clean, she has her young kids cutting the grass, and she doesn’t tell us anything — when anything is going to get fixed.”

I fired her. Then I rehired her because she said she couldn’t feed her kids. Eventually she found a boyfriend in Avon Lake and moved out. I owe that guy.

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April 11, 2018   1 Comment

I’LL PAY THIS TENANT’S
MOVING EXPENSES

I’ll give Caleb $200 to move out. I’ll give him his security deposit back, too. Maybe I should offer more. He kicked out a radiator vent in the hallway. He’s always breaking blinds in the hallway. His buddies kicked out the windowpanes in the front door. He has a 10-year-old conviction for drugs. From now on, no felonies, period; I don’t care how old the crimes are.
bad gig

He’s got a disorderly and is on probation. The cops are coming out regularly. I gave Caleb a letter saying I wouldn’t renew his lease. He’s mentally unhinged, but not so much I won’t call the cops on him. He has threatened to steal the building manager’s car and “drive it to California.” He also called the manager a “fucking Jew,” which he’s not. (He’s not Jewish.) Caleb said he’s going to smash every window in his apartment.

I’ve been on the cops just about daily, but they aren’t as gung-ho as I’d like because everything is “hearsay,” according to one dispatcher. We don’t have video cameras everywhere.
Maybe $200 isn’t enough. Maybe I should go $400.

Caleb is a pseudonym.

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November 29, 2017   3 Comments

OLD THIEVES

mr 1939 crossroad

I got a rental application from Joe, a retired 71-year-old factory worker who made $1600/month. Welcome, Joe. But then I ran a criminal search and came up with aggravated arson, forgery and sexual battery. Pre-internet, I would have rented to him because it was hard to run background checks back then. I once rented to a rapist/murderer because I didn’t want to schlep to county records to check him out. The man got picked up on a parole violation and moved out before killing or raping anybody in my building.

I once rented to an elderly nurse who was a felon. Her previous landlord followed her to my place and told me she was a forger and thief. She didn’t look it. She already had the keys to my building; the building manager had given her the keys in exchange for a dime store ring. We moved the nurse’s belongings into the basement and locked the stuff up.  She said, “Give me my meds!” Good point. I gave her meds, plus her toothbrush.

This cost me. I’ve learned two things: a) Don’t do a “self-help” eviction. Lawyers love self-help evictions. b) Screen all tenants like crazy on the way in.


Rerun

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October 18, 2017   1 Comment

16-CUBIC FEET OF FUN

The Hotpoint refrigerator — the “value” brand of G.E. — is a good product. It lasts 20 years.

I got 24 years out of a Magic Chef stove.

I used to buy Spanish refrigerators, called Welbilt. The spelling said it all. Good for only nine years. Frigidaire isn’t much better — 10 years. [Exception: the Frigidaire in the photo below lasted 22 years, then got a rash.]

I buy appliances from a small distributor out of Stow, Ohio. He’ll hook up the gas flexline (pigtail) to the stove for $20.  I could buy at Home Depot or Sears, but my Stow man is hassle-free. Sears is the worst.

Refrigerators are fun; they don’t screw up that often, they’re cuddly, and you can occasionally get a free beer or pop in the refrigerator after the tenant moves out. Also, open ketchup.

Frigidaire with a rash

Frigidaire with rash

A version of this post first appeared 6/26/09

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June 28, 2017   4 Comments

DIE IN THIS BUILDING

When you have a dead body in the real estate biz, go in with the cops. The tip-off is the smell. One time a tenant died without heirs, and the tenant’s estate lawyer practically begged me to take a few months’ extra rent. It was free money. But that’s the exception. Usually there is no money involved. In fact there’s often a loss — hauling stuff away.

I once put an ad on Craigslist captioned “50-year lease available. Die here.”  Craigslist spiked that one pronto. My point was the building had three residents who liked living there so much they had each clocked more than 50 years on site.

Reality: a third of tenants move out in a year, a third stay 2 years, and a third stay 3-to-8 years — and a minuscule fraction stay longer than that. Doesn’t matter what you do.

50 years of stuff

Hauling stuff away

A version of this first appeared on this blog 6/25/09.

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March 29, 2017   1 Comment

MONTEGO BAY

Stewart, a tenant, skipped and went to Jamaica. I saw a picture of him on Facebook with a long beard, drinking Red Stripe, and sitting on the Jamaican beach. Was I going to file — spend $36 in small-claims costs — on a guy who was on a beach?

Before skipping, Stewart had written: “I’ll have my legal team on standby if you oppose my actions. I’ve already sent the contract to them, and it has been looked over and deemed inappropriate and audacious in demands. Have a great day. The keys have been left inside the premises.”

I wrote back: “Is your legal team going to move the furniture and clean the refrigerator too?”

No, his legal team wasn’t going to do that. Stewart left the apartment a mess. He worked (or had worked) for the Veterans Administration and was 36. Might be collectable. I called his parents but they didn’t answer.

Maybe I’ll sue him when he gets back. Maybe I won’t. Have a great day.

montego bay


“Stewart” is a pseudonym.

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March 15, 2017   3 Comments

FREE PIZZA

I used to give Kelly, a tenant, an eviction notice every month and file on him in court. Then he would always pay the day before the court hearing. He’d pay an extra $120 — to cover my filing costs.

I got tired of it. When his lease was up, I gave him a non-renewal.

I wasn’t sure he would  move, so to protect myself I filed an eviction. He moved. But he left some pizza . . .

pizza steve kelly b 202 1_30_17.

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February 15, 2017   2 Comments

TRADE SHOW

At the apartment owners trade show, I talked to a salesman about toilets. I talked to Sears about refrigerators. I talked to AT&T about the high bills for intercom service. Another subject: halogen lighting for my parking lots.

toilets

My wife encouraged me to attend the trade show. I hadn’t been to one in years. She said, “You’ll have fun.” I ran into Marty Cohen, who owns about 900 rental units and “a dumpy shopping center in Amherst. You want to buy it?” He said he had previously owned five or six other shopping centers. Landlords tell you what they used to own, as well as what they own. Another landlord, Lou Powers, has some doubles in the Heights and wouldn’t mind selling them, he said. John Marcus – whose wife is a rabbi — was there. He has something to do with real estate, not sure what.

So the trade show was good, people-wise. But I’m sick of toilets.

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November 16, 2016   1 Comment

DIRK

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.

mold be gone

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September 28, 2016   3 Comments

ALMOST NAKED

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.

socks“My custodian says he’s naked.”

“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!

yiddishe cup 12_15_15 300 dpi maybe

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August 3, 2016   4 Comments

WATER IS NOT CARPET

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 and electricIn the rental business, it’s always about water. One time I had a water line burst on the fourth floor and leak through four floors of the building.

Water goes wherever it wants. It’s not carpet.

 

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July 21, 2016   No Comments

ARE THERE ANY BOUNDARIES
TO HUMAN STUPIDITY?

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.

blindfold test

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July 20, 2016   4 Comments

SUPPLY HOUSE BLUES

I’ve been to Dean Supply, Webb Supply, Hough Supply and Woodhill Supply. The countermen usually sit beneath Rigid Tool calendars.

woodhillOn 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.

 

 

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July 6, 2016   5 Comments

GREAT NAMES IN THE RENTAL BIZ

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.

herschfield floorStan 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.

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April 6, 2016   3 Comments

A DEAL IS A DEAL

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.

a deal is a deal mort gross

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!

 

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March 16, 2016   1 Comment

TWO UNITS

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.

two bad units

Here’s a top-quality article I wrote for  City Journal.  “Gotta Serve Somebody.”

lolly gag

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March 9, 2016   3 Comments

WE HAVE OUR STANDARDS

Bill, the building manager, said a prospect for apartment 24 was a rapist.

“We don’t rent to rapists,” I said.

standards we have standards  rapist“It’s an open case,” Bill said. “He’s innocent until proven guilty, right? He’s got a DUI from 20 years ago. He makes $5,000 month on disability.”

“Five grand? Wow.”

“He wants something cheap. I guess he has legal fees.”

”What’s his name?”

”Kevin Barrett.”

“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.

klez dogs

 

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February 3, 2016   3 Comments