Saturday, December 12, 2015

Stalking The Wild Tenant

New Victims
It's a chilly day and I'm watching our new tenants move into the rental house next door. We gave them a hand with some of the heavy stuff earlier and now I'm just sitting up in my writing room snooping out the window. I always do this, and I'm told it's unbecoming. The last folks to move in, I found myself popping over there every few minutes to see if they needed anything. I was being nice, I thought. But genuine human interest and warmth can skid into sketchy territory pretty fast. You start with Nice and soon you're on the road to Overly Solicitous and before you know it, Stalkerish is coming into view. After a week or so, with the last tenants,  I pulled back and made myself completely scarce for a while. They didn't know me. I didn't want them to have to worry I was going to be one of those pain-in-the-ass chatty landlords.

But these people do know me, already. They know exactly how I can be, and they're already resigned to it. So.

We met Anna years ago, in fact. She played cello in a band with our very first tenants, Big Dave and Little Dave. Evidently, she tells us now, she lived there. In the basement. Illegally. Along with a rotating crop of sofa surfers. "I hope to get around to repainting that dark-ass green room in the basement," I told her when she was checking out the place. "I don't know who was responsible for that."

"I did that," Anna said.

When The Daves moved in, I couldn't stop snooping. I'd be in my darkened living room peering into their window at night. "Dave!" I said to my Dave. "Aww! They've got a floor lamp!"

"Get away from that window," Dave said.

"Dave! Aww! They're putting a little table in the kitchen!"

"Get away from that window," Dave said.

I quit updating Dave. But you know? It was just like when you bang a birdhouse together and hang it in just the right spot, and an actual bird shows up, and starts taking care of things. Or when you get a little bitty kitten and bring it home and it pokes around and finds the food dish and the water dish right off, because it's the smartest kitten ever. And then later you hear it flushing away in the basement litter box that it found all by itself. Genius kitten. We'd fixed up the house, and now there were authentic humans in it, young ones, feeding themselves and using furniture and everything. Would they know where the litter box was? Yes! They do! They're so smart!

Doesn't mean they ever cleaned the litter box. Five years later Big Dave strolled in just as we'd finished spiffing up the place for the new tenant. We'd had the carpeting removed and torched, and set off a bleach bomb, and were just about done squeegeeing mystery sludge off the walls, and he stood at the bathroom door, admiring our work.

"Gol, you guys," he said, "if this bathroom had been this clean when we moved in, we might have taken better care of it!"

"It was new when you moved in," Dave pressed out, through clenched teeth.

"Oh," Big Dave said, there being nothing else to say.

We loved those filthy boys to pieces, and we still do. And the splendid and indomitable Beth who succeeded them, and Extraordinary Dean, whom she lured in fair and square. And Molly and Zach who replaced them, two people who claim to be writers and yet never failed to pay rent. And now Anna and Noah. We'll be giving them keys to our house and pickup truck in a few days, because they're just two more in an unbroken line of spectacular young people we love like they're our own children, only without any of the unfortunate genetic repercussions. But I'm not that worried about being a pain in the ass this time.

If I were truly an overly solicitous landlord, I'd have had their furnace fixed by now.

28 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. My comment was going to be there is a little Mrs. Kravitz in us all.

      Actually, that is still my comment.

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    2. And Dave should talk. He's the one who knows exactly which cars belong where on the street and speculates about who's home and not and who has visitors and who has (ahem ahem) and I don't know ANY of this stuff.

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  2. If I had moved in and you, say, brought cookies once a week I would still be there to this day.
    Having been in the landlord business at one time I would say you and Dave have been pretty lucky.

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    Replies
    1. We prefer to think of it as Our Due, but I guess you're right.

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  3. Lucky you. I sold out, tired of the rent skipping plumbing pluggers. Guess I am not so adept at screening as you are.

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    Replies
    1. We don't even screen. "You look good," we say.

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    2. She's not kidding, either, vanilla.

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    3. You looked good, Big Dave. "Next time do I get to pick?" said Old Dave. He had in mind female basketball players.

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    4. Or beach volleyball players.

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    5. You two are on exactly the same page.

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  4. I think that the secret to "good luck" for landlords is checking references, requiring high credit scores, and most important, being a somewhat conspicuous neighbor. (In the case of our Arlington VA properties, where we are obviously not neighbors, our tenants always know that we are good friends with *their* neighbors, which is kind of like supervision by proxy...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, we do say one thing to prospective tenants. "We have one rule," we say. "You need to get along with the neighbors. Oh, and we're the neighbors." Could be there is a bit of self-selection going on there.

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  5. If I could bear the thought of moving ever again, I know where I would like to move.

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    Replies
    1. If you're in the area, holler! We do have a guest room.

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  6. I think you should get that furnace fixed, it's winter already! (over there anyway)
    I used to offer help to neighbours moving in, cup of tea? sandwich? Help with unpacking? Then I'd disappear and leave them to it. Funny thing is, no one ever offered me the same. people are funny.

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    Replies
    1. Oh man! That ain't right.

      Furnace is fixed.

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  7. I love the mental image (and also the photos) of you snooping on the tenants :)

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    Replies
    1. Just at the beginning. Like, the first few days.

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  8. When you've had the binoculars to your eyes, have you ever seen a set looking back at ya?

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    Replies
    1. No, but sometimes they turn toward me and they're all of a sudden really BIG, and that's frightening.

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  9. I was this way with my Dad when they lived in the manufactured home we moved onto the property. I had peace of mind and of course I suspect they were glad that their picture window was facing west.... away from our house!

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    Replies
    1. I can think of a way your Dad could have squelched all stalking. It would only take once.

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  10. We had a rental over in N, on Borthwick. The last tenants dug a 10X5 fire pit in the backyard, pig bones were found in abundance. As were the 8 washer and dryers in the basement, none working. I gave up after that, it's a great neighborhood now, albeit yuppified.

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    Replies
    1. If you had a rental with room for 8 washers and dryers, it'd be worth a fortune now.

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  11. Well, at least the tenants need not fear that they will be left undiscovered for any length of time. I guess it is not so bad. At least you like your tenants and are not giving them the hassle like some landlords might try to do. Good luck with your future tenants.

    Janice @ Houserie Inc.

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  12. Being a landlord comes with the good and bad. The good is that you get to meet new people. The bad is that you might potentially not like your tenants. But at least you can check references and credit before you have them move in, in case they decide to skip out on the rent. Good luck with your new tenants!

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