Category — Landlord Biz
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.
A version of this first appeared on this blog 6/25/09.
March 29, 2017 1 Comment
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.
“Stewart” is a pseudonym.
March 15, 2017 3 Comments
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 . . .
February 15, 2017 2 Comments
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.
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.
November 16, 2016 1 Comment
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