Today, when I was helping a new customer get his properties setup in our property management software, we took a little time to talk "shop" - you know, the sort of thing you do with your clients that has nothing really to do with business, but matters when it comes to your business relationship? He was going in 15 different directions, only one of which involved our software, and was struggling to pull all his professional pieces together, even though he was obviously a sharp business person. At the end of the day, it's our relationships that get us through the tough stuff, so I listened, even though I also had a long list of things to accomplish after our call. I could tell his day was far more stressful than my own.
After he vented about some of his difficult renters making his job very challenging, I could sense he needed a little sympatico, so I shared a memory I have from my days as a property manager, back in 2002.
I was conducting my yearly unit inspections on a 100-unit property in an nice, middle-class suburban area. I had inspected about 850 units at this point, and was happy I was nearing the end of inspection month. The site manager was accompanying me with the maintenance records and filling me in on any needed property repairs. When we got to unit #91, I read the notes that the tenant had lived there for 3 years, yet this was the first time we had inspected his unit. I asked the site manager why and she said "he's a nice guy, works as an engineer, super quiet, yet was always sick and asking us to reschedule..." I started to give the "well, we still need to get inside each year..." lecture as I was opening the door to his unit and before I could finish, the worst possible smell on the planet came wafting into my nose and we both actually turned and ran away! After the gagging stopped, we weren't sure if we should even enter or if we should call the police, as something smelled very dead.
Trepidly, we went back, with respirators, and peaked in the door. The entry closet was open, with freshly dry-cleaned clothes on the rack, polished shoes lined up on the floor and Freebreeze on the shelf. All the lightbulbs were burned out, and the curtains were closed, so we could barely see. Yet we could make out that the air was full of flies, sort of stagnantly floating. Even in the dim light, I had never seen such a mess in all my life! Two-foot-tall piles of cigarette butts next to the couch. Standing goo on the floor. Bags and bags of garbage. Endless dirty dishes. I saw a broom bracing the refrigerator door shut. When I moved it to get through the kitchen, 3 years of decomposed food fell out of it. The bedroom was stark, with only a blow-up doll and a bed. The bathroom plumbing had not worked for a long time. It was a horror story stage, for sure. But, nothing dead.
We filed eviction papers immediately and were sure we would have to completely gut the unit when the tenant finally was out. I imagined the sub-floors were rotten from standing fluids.
30 days later the tenant returned keys to the office in the night-drop and left without a word.
When we entered again, to begin the punch-list, we were equally blown away. The home was spotless. Not a trace of what we had seen just weeks before. Nor smelled. Like it had never happened. Ten years later, I still think about that incident and wonder what the story was behind that person. Inadvertently, he taught me a quasi-life-lesson about reserving judgement. Good and bad.
Oh... and my customer enjoyed the brief distraction from his daily grind. There are days it's good to remember someone, somewhere is dealing with crazier stuff. Helps keep it all in perspective.
So, who out there in the Rain has a good crazy story to share?
Janell is a member of Rentec Direct, a web-based property management software program designed to help streamline tenant criminal and credit checks and the day-to-day operations of landlords and property managers. You'll find many other useful articles like this on the Rentec Direct Blog.