What we do so you don’t have to!

Mike 12/08/2014

In a previous post, I shared my personal Dirty Dozen statements about rental property management which never fail to crack me up. One of the most common is “I can do all that myself – it can’t be THAT hard!”

Quite often that is simply not true. Even assuming it is, the key question is “do you really want to?” Today I want to share a story about what property managers go through so landlords don’t have to.

Our company looks after a tenancy in one of the lower socio-economic areas of town. The tenant – let’s call him Bob even though that’s not his real name – has lived there with his wife and three kids for eight or more years. On the face of it, that makes him a model tenant. In reality, Bob is a funny little man with a vastly exaggerated view of his own importance and so he has a rather tenuous grasp on the realities of life.

My early encounters with him left me feeling a bit angry and frustrated. Actually, pissed off is probably the best description. However, over time I’ve made dealing with him into a bit of a game and it is actually quite entertaining. It keeps me amused at least. The reason I’m sharing this story is not just that I find it amusing, but it also provides a snapshot of the kind of people we sometimes have to deal with as professional property managers.

Long Term Tenant

Bob’s family have been in the house over eight years but they are far from perfect tenants. The garage is filled with piles of trash and – frankly – crap. This stuff would not sell on Trade Me even if they added a new section solely for “rubbish”. There are two cars parked at the back of the house which are slowly rusting to the ground. They might as well be up on blocks, or towed to the scrap yard.

Everything the family cooks seems to be deep fried in a large vat of lard which means a permanent thin film of grease covers every surface of the house, including somehow the ceilings. The family dog is doubtless loveable but it likes to chew the walls in the kitchen (probably attracted by all the fat), uses the deck and lawn as a bathroom (which gives Bob an excuse not to mow the grass) and barks at any and all moving objects.

In the bigger scheme of things, that is not too bad. Over my years in this role I have seen a lot worse. What makes it tricky is that Bob has refused or ignored a number of requests to tidy the garden and clean up the garage. The situation got so bad that the owner actually fronted up some cash to get two very polite young men from Student Job Search to spend a few days trimming trees, chucking out rubbish and generally tidying up around the place.

In other words, they were doing stuff Bob should have done years ago and they were doing it for free. The average person would be quite pleased with that outcome. Bob is not an average person. I have transcribed the message he left on my mobile after day one of the Big Clean.

Poor Old Bob!

“Richard, this is Bob here. I am sick of all the demands to clear out the garage we are currently the tenants of. My wife and I will not be spoken to in such a disrespectable (sic) manner. What is worse is these kids turned up today to do it. They are not welcome on my property. If they turn up again they will be removed by me, my neighbour or the Police, whoever gets them first. They are not welcome and I am not happy mate. You have been told. Thank you.”

The end result was that I spent a frustrating hour and more early the next morning down at the house negotiating to get the students onto the property to tidy it up for the tenants at the owner’s expense. It was like being the United Nations except I actually got a result.

You might be able to do it all yourself, but you have to ask yourself, ‘would you rather Bob had your cellphone number, or mine?

managemyproperty is an independent Property Management company based in Wellington, New Zealand. Richard Horne remains a tireless and energetic investor and commentator, running an experienced eye over the property market.