An open letter to Tenants: A house is not an apartment!!

This post may come across as a bit harsh or unsympathetic.  I hope not; it isn’t intended that way.

I get frustrated by tenants who believe their home is an apartment.  They feel like they do not have to do any of the landscaping and that maintenance is a concierge service 24/7, just like they have at those large apartment communities….or Holiday Inn!!!  Therefore, I have penned the open letter below.

If you are a tenant — and especially a tenant of ours — already doing these things then I want to tell you how very much you are appreciated!  You are in the minority, and maybe for that reason your efforts are noticed and are appreciated!  Immensely.  You “get it”.  Thank you very much.

If you are a tenant who wants to be responsible but is new to living in a house, then please rb02efe50251427c680c853629abfb734ead the letter below from an informational perspective and try to glean from it what you can and help out.  And if you are one of those tenants who want all the privacy and room that a house provides, but are just too darn lazy to lift a finger then no worries!  Just read the letter, get your checkbook out, and pay somebody else to do the work.

Dear Mr./Mrs. Tenant,

A house is a wonderful place, isn’t it?  You have so much privacy compared to an apartment — no more listening to the neighbors fighting!  And the room!  My God!  No more storing all of your worldly possessions in one balcony closet.  Finally there is space to get some real furniture and spread those wings, so to speak.  A house provides so many wonderful ‘quality of life’ benefits over apartment living.

But with those benefits come some responsibilities.  Allow me to highlight a few:

Landscaping: Landscaping means don’t just mow the lawn twice in the Spring and once in the Fall.  It means edging the grass, trimming the shrubs, and cleaning out the flower beds of not only water bottles and Frisbees, but flowers and leaves as well.  To live in a house, you are looking at investing in some garden tools.  The less you like gardening the more I would invest in the tools.  For instance, a leaf blower/vacuum and a week whacker should be considered ‘de rigueur’ for home leasing.  Don’t worry about the tree trimming — we can take care of that.

Light bulbs: Yes, light bulbs go out and yes, you are responsible for them.  If they are 20′ in the air (like over a stairwell) call us and we can probably take care of themfor you.  But the bath vanity lights, bedroom lights, and all the other lights are your responsibility.  So please change them out when they die.  In fact, we keep a box of spare light bulbs in our hall closet!

Trash: This is a big one!  I know you have weekly trash pick-up service.  Thank you for that.  But the broken couch, basketball hoop, box spring & mattress, and 2,000 empty DVD cases lying around can be thrown away by you!  That’s right.  I realize they all won’t fit in your VW Jetta.  But U-Haul rents trucks solely for that purpose and the cost is very reasonable.  Or maybe you have a friend with a truck and one 6 or 12-pack will buy him off.  (Plus, he can help you!)

Carpet cleaning: Did you know they rent carpet shampooers right there at the grocery store?  You can pick one up on this week’s grocery run, shampoo the carpets,and return it on next week’s grocery run!  No fuss,no muss.  They work pretty much like a vacuum cleaner.  And just think of all the dead skin, dirt, and bacteria you’ll be picking up along the way.  If you miss just one day of work due to illness then your lost wages will be ten times the cost of renting a shampooer.  So why not buy that insurance policy and do the carpets — once in the Spring and once in the Fall.

24/7 concierge service:  Due to budget cuts we are having to discontinue our 24/7 concierge maintenance service.  That means that if you get a water leak in the middle of the night then you are going to have to find the water shutoff valve yourself (just like we have to do at our house).  Feel free to call us when our office opens in the morning.  And that plumbing clog from long hair?  That was your hair that clogged the drain, so I am afraid you are going to have to pay that bill.  Sorry.  You see, you are just going to have to accept the fact that in a house there are more things that can break than in an apartment, and some of those things are your responsibility.  Not all, mind you — but some.

That isn’t the complete list, but it’s a good start!  Thanks for reading this far.  If you  have any questions, or need help with any of these things, feel free to give us a call (during normal business hours).  Like I said, we LOVE our tenants who take responsibility for the property they reside in.


Your Landlord

Mold: created from the outside

My maintenance manager and I were looking over a rental house that recently became vacant.  The tenants had lived with mold and never told us about it.  The extent of the mold was large and it re-emphasized our need to do annual inspections.  We normally inspect every house every year.  But this one had slipped through the cracks.  Had we been diligent and done our annual inspection we would have caught the mold early on.mold

But what was really telling was the cause of the mold.  It had grown on various walls, around windows and sills, and really in areas I wasn’t used to seeing.  My maintenance manager immediately offered up the idea that the mold was actually coming from the outside!  Huh?  What’s that you say?  The outside?

We went outside and he showed me cracks in the caulking around the windows.  Water would travel into these cracks and migrate anywhere and everywhere it wanted.  In addition, it was horizontal, cedar siding and many of the butt joints had cracked open, allowing water inside.  The paint on the exterior siding was failing because the siding had not been primed before it was painted.  (Why people paint like this continues to baffle me!).  As the paint was peeling from the wood, it was creating pockets that were trapping water. Simply put, the exterior siding was wet in many places.

The moisture on the outside of the walls and from the cracks was migrating in the wall and creating a moisture-rich environment.  With the warmth from the inside of the house, a healthy crop of mold had sprouted!

It would be easy enough to wash the walls and window sills with vinegar and baking soda, prime, and paint.  Vinegar and baking soda is our non-toxic, effective alternative to the usual bleach approach.)  But this would have been only a temporary solution.  Soon enough the mold would reappear.  The key to mold remediation is to get rid of the source.  That source is almost always moisture, and often warmth.  We can’t and aren’t going to remove the warmth, but we can get rid of the moisture!

We will begin by scraping and wiring brushing all of the old paint off the exterior siding and get down to bare wood and/or good paint.  Then we will caulk and re-caulk around all of the windows, openings, pipes, and other penetrations.  Then we will prime with a good, oil-based primer.  (Always prime bare wood with oil-based primers; never latex.)  After that we will give the entire siding a good paint job — probably spray with a back roll.  Spraying insures good coverage — back rolling insures good adhesion.

Mold is serious business.  To get rid of it you have to do the job right.  Don’t cut corners and you’ll be rewarded with a dry, healthy home.  Cleaning up the mold is step #1.  But beyond cleaning it up, ask yourself why did it grow in the first place.  You may find a water leak you best plug up!