When a tenant moves…

#590 in a series of true experiences in real estate
July 2009, Hills Newspapers

Earlier this month I got notice that tenants in the upstairs flat of my duplex in Oakland were moving. I was sorry to have them leave; they were good tenants.

Anet and I went to see what should be done before advertising for new people. There was no obvious damage to the apartment, no holes in walls, and all appliances still working fine. But the formerly white living room walls were now an intense red, a beautiful color, actually, but the paint job was pretty sloppy with red splotches on the white ceiling and woodwork. One bedroom now had olive green paint on two walls: same problem.

We thought about leaving the red and the green, touching up the white ceilings, squaring off the edges, and that might have worked except that there was no leftover paint to work with. We finally decided that the living room, and the bedrooms too, should be newly painted.

The stairwell and hallway could also use paint. The tenants had hung pictures high over the stairs and now that the hangers were removed, the holes loomed, plus it had been quite awhile since I’d had these areas painted; they could use freshening. Bathroom walls, with the pretty ceramic tiles, were spotted from steamy water but it might wash off.

The tenants had hired “professional cleaners” after they’d moved out but the cleaners had not done any detail work. It wasn’t bad, it would just take a little time: crumbs in drawers, broiler and oven unwashed, wall heater full of fuzzies and fireplace full of ashes – those sorts of things.

I have found that I get better tenants, people who are happier and who stay longer, if my apartments look fresh and clean from the start. And so I began making my list of workmen. A crew of all-around-handy workers arrived to paint and to finish cleaning, including the laundry downstairs. And I asked them to do some clean-up in the garden and to take away an old bedstead, wilted houseplants, and miscellaneous items left by the tenants.

Anet repaired an outside stair tread that had cracked, I pruned the roses and cut the suckers from the plum, and we replaced all the mini-blinds. Angel, our window man, fixed some window ropes and put in a couple of pieces of new window glass and replaced a broken window lock. The chimney sweep cleaned the fireplace. We bought a new kitchen sink faucet (old one just wasn’t doing well, plus it leaked) and he not only attached the new faucet, the water flow was greatly improved.

Hang new shower curtain liners, add several new light bulbs and batteries in smoke detectors, lubricate a padlock, new lino under kitchen sink.

Anet lit the pilot light on the gas stove but the burners seemed plugged in spots. She wanted to take everything apart and figure what was wrong but I insisted on calling a stove man, and so glad we did. Anet said watching him was like going to stove class. He took apart all the burners, took them out into the yard and washed them very well, poking old gunk out of the holes. All fixed; $120 and worth it.

The apartment was looking good. Mostly we’d been tweaking for smoother living. It was time to advertise the apartment. Anet took photos, we sorted through them, and we posted an ad on Craigslist. Within an hour I was receiving emails from people who wanted to see the apartment.

We set times when people could come, and we met them and talked to them. Some were interested in renting and took an application. Over the next couple of days, several people returned their applications, along with credit reports, and I was able to call their references, their current and former landlords.

We chose the tenant we thought most compatible with the place and the other tenant in the building and got together to sign the rental agreement, get rent and security deposit and to go over all the government mandated forms, of which there are quite a few: lead-based paint, Megan’s Law, smoke detectors, Oakland rent and eviction control ordinances info and rules.

Both the tenant and I called the gas and electric company to change the billing and the security alarm company to record a new access code. I have always paid for garbage, water and gardener, so no changes were needed there, but once the tenant has a phone installed, I’ll report it to AT&T WirePro service which covers inside wiring. It’s like insurance, paid monthly, in case anything goes wrong inside the walls.

So, with Anet’s able help and some very good workers, I’m back in business. I hope thise tenant is happy there and will stay for at least a couple of years. Longer would be even better.

This entry was posted in Potpourri. Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

  • Sign up to receive our newspaper columns: