Smith Says

  • Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The only thing more fun than owning a rental is hitting yourself in the head with a brick. Until you pass out.
I know, it’s a first world problem… but being a landlord is a special kind of crazy. Still, I won’t sell it because I have this silly hope that the market will rebound, and I’ll actually make a little money someday. Hahahahaha!!
Besides, I’ve owned my cozy condo for nine years and I’m attached to it. I loved living there. So when I wed Widdle and moved to Tinytown seven years ago, home sweet home became a rental.
Thankfully, in all that time I’ve had only two tenants, thanks to a combination of good luck, a good property manager and a good rental market.
There was one wee little problem with the first ones: The upstairs bathroom toilet kept clogging. Apparently the man of the house, who hailed from another country, thought American disposable razors could be disposed of in the toilet. He was quickly educated, and they were perfect renters to the day they departed (and left the place spotless!)
I’ve learned a few lessons as a landlord, some the hard way. These may help you, if you ever wake up one day and think, “Hey! I want total strangers living in my house.”
Lesson # 1: Never, ever become attached to a rental. It’s four walls and a floor, nothing more. In the early days I used to lie awake thinking, “Are they finger-painting the walls with wine? Will they be nice to my washer and dryer?” Eventually you learn…
 Lesson # 2: No news is good news. Silence + timely checks = all is well.
Speaking of checks, I’ve written a bunch since the last tenants moved out. (They were a lovely couple who stayed even after lightning struck the unit and destroyed their TV days after they moved in. Now THAT was a mess. Try living in one county and getting utilities turned back on in another county after everything’s shut off “on account of fire.” That permit-and-fee dance will make you sweat.)
The latest checks were for having the interior repainted, and replacing the AC when it croaked. The only thing I hate more than spending money is being hot, so I couldn’t ask the painter to work without AC in July. The good news: several thousand dollars later, the condo is refreshingly chilly and freshly painted.
Lesson # 3: You will not get rich renting property. Even if the rent covers your mortgage and HOA fees, which mine doesn’t, you are required by law and karma to keep the place up, and that costs money. If you break even, you’re a wildly successful landlord. Just keep repeating those magic words, “I’m building equity, I’m building equity…”
The best thing about renting is that you meet some really decent people. (My husband might disagree with that: He’s had tenants who ran a clandestine dog-breeding operation and others who left at 2 a.m. owing back rent.)
In seven years I’ve never met any crazies, because the property manager takes care of all that. She does the credit and background checks and decides who’s a good tenant, so I don’t have to. Which brings us to…
Lesson # 4: Don’t try this alone. You will go stark raving mad and end up in the nuthouse.
And I hear the rent there is pretty high.
Julie R. Smith, who is a cowardly landlord, can be reached at widdlewife@aol.com.

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