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Landlord's Way

August 13, 1989

In response to the Small Investor article by Vivian Price ("Finding and Renting to 'Perfect' Tenants," July 30), I have something to share.

Throughout the 1970s I acquired several beach rental properties that mainly, because of location, attracted young people, college age or slightly beyond. For the most part I had unusually good relations with my tenants, and I attribute that to sternly "laying down the rules" before they moved in, i.e.:

--I expected the rent to be paid on time. If, for any reason, the rent would be late, I wanted to be informed about it in advance and if its delay was for a good reason, I would accept the explanation in good faith.

--As most of these kids had stereos, I stressed noise levels and let them know that just as their neighbors in the building had a right to complain if they were being disturbed, they had the same right to complain against their neighbors. The point was that we wanted to live in harmony with each other and not invade each others "space."

--Drugs. I told them I couldn't moralize because I drank alcohol, but if you're going to use them to "party," just don't do it on these premises.

--I also told them that I felt a responsibility as their landlord to provide them with a clean and well-maintained place to live. I informed them that I had a contract with an exterminating company, and if they encountered any kind of infestation, to contact me and I would have the problem taken care of immediately, at no expense to them.

--I gave every new tenant five days after moving in to report anything that was out of order or not functioning properly, and promised to have it attended to. I also stressed that if any plumbing problems arose after that time, I would get it fixed but they would be responsible for the repair. You would be surprised by how careful everybody became!

While much of this may sound harsh, I also made a point of placing an inexpensive bottle of champagne in the apartment on the day my new tenant(s) moved in with a note that read: "Welcome to your new home. I hope it will be a happy one!" You'd be surprised at how many units at the time of turnover still contained that empty bottle, usually with a candle in its neck.

Bottom line for me as a landlord(ess) . . . try to get across to your tenants that you want to create a relationship of fairness between both parties. That, I've found, goes a long, long way toward avoiding unpleasantness and disputes.


San Diego

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