Who’s The Victim?
One way my husband and I plan for our financial future is investing in real estate. Nothing fancy. Just modest rental properties where folks can live with dignity. We’re hoping one day to live off the profits, but we pretty much invest everything back into the homes these days.
When we first got into this, I just figured everyone lived like me. I figured everyone could turn their faucets on and actually get water. They could mess with the thermostat and actually get warm. Not the case. Not with the properties we’ve seen.
I spend a lot of time just standing in these homes – observing the vast ceiling heights and the cracks in the plaster and the 8” mop boards. Looking out the windows to see what my tenants will see. Envisioning bushes along the back fence or awnings over the second floor windows. As I scrub the bathrooms or rip out thread-bare carpeting, it’s as if the house speaks to me.
I see the house in happier times, in more stable times, and I strive to do it justice in our renovations. I picture the families who will live in the homes. I want them to feel safe and secure, to feel good about their decision to move in. I want them to call it Home.
People often say, “Oh! Rentals. Don’t you have problems with the tenants?” Our answer has always been the same. “No, our tenants are great. We have no problems.” We were feeling pretty good about the nice homes we were creating, and our tenants were rewarding us by being responsible and paying on time.
Then came the Mason Street house, a cute 900-square-foot, single-family bungalow with a full basement, a two-stall garage off the alley, and the perfect porch for a swing – reminds me of my front porch growing up.
We re-roofed the home, installed a new hot water heater, had some re-wiring done, painted every wall and ceiling, gutted and reconstructed the bathroom, and recovered every floor except the kitchen. We had several trees cut down and hauled several loads of junk away before proudly listing it.
Though we had several interested parties, we settled on a couple with impeccable references who moved in on June 2 with their deposit and first month’s rent. July’s rent was no problem. August’s rent was late. When we hadn’t heard from the tenants by September 4 for that month’s rent, John went by and found the house trashed and abandoned.
Every inch of the new carpeting was stained. The new vinyl flooring had been ripped in three places, and chunks of the walls had been gouged out. They had taken everything out of the refrigerator — our refrigerator — and spread the food all over the kitchen before hauling it and our stove away. And, of course, the food decayed for several days before we knew the tenants were gone. Ugh! The stench.
As I stood in bewilderment in the center of the house, neighbors came from far and near to bad-mouth the tenants. In fact, everyone seemed to know a whole lot about the female tenant. “Oh, yeah, she’s a heroin addict.” “She went on a heroin binge – had the whole house swarming with her heroin friends.” “She does this kind of thing all the time.”
She must also be a pro at producing impeccable references, I thought. Where was all this information when we were considering the application for tenancy?
I felt like a victim.
How dare someone trash this place? How could the house be infested with fleas and mice?
We realized the only way to get through this was one step at a time.
We started by bombing the house for bugs and set mouse traps baited with peanut butter. Two rounds of bombs and several filled traps later, we bagged and hauled belongings onto the front porch. We swept up lots and lots of broken glass and had the carpets cleaned and the vinyl flooring repaired. We scrubbed until the house glistened like its former self. And we listed it again.
In the midst of all of this, I started to feel less sorry for myself and sorrier for those who abandoned the house.
- There was the male tenant who thought he knew his girlfriend. He called us after we discovered the mess and explained that he had left the house a couple of weeks before, when his girlfriend started her heroin binge. He stated this girl had stolen from him continually during their time together and that it wasn’t until recently that her mother told him that he was the sixth or seventh man the girl had victimized.
- There was the child whose videos and toys were left behind, who couldn’t live with her mother because of the mother’s history. She lost, not only a place to visit, but her belongings and, more importantly, hope that her mother might be different this time.
- There was the female tenant who probably never realized the grip heroin would have on her with that first hit. She probably never knew it would consume her life to the point that she couldn’t function without it, losing everything else in the process. We found communications from a local college that indicated she would be starting classes for the Fall semester. That wouldn’t be happening now. Who knows if she would have another chance at seeing her own child again?
Out of all the belongings we hauled away, I kept a plate to remind me of the lessons I learned through this experience:
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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/27065690@N07/5406393921″>Overwhelmed</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>
About Anna Bradfield
Anna Bradfield has been spinning tales, exaggerating the truth, and flat-out lying almost as long as she could talk. Nowadays, though, she calls it fiction. Buy her ebooks, Hey Grampa! or Barnyard Babies today. Join the online community and receive a free copy of her ebook, Boy Crazy.