Sometimes being a Landlord is kind of like being a Social Worker, Bea.
Bea was my first “special needs” tenant, I knew that there was a problem when I first toured the duplex and saw the note that she left for the real estate agent.
It was clear that she was not happy that we were there and was very concerned that we not look at or photograph her stuff. I was also informed that there was a stove for the apartment but it had been put into a storage shed because she was afraid of it.
Just before closing we went in for a pre-closing walkthrough but were turned away from Bea’s apartment by a screaming upset woman.
At the closing table the previous owner of the building filled me in on Bea’s problems, offered tips on how to deal with her, and suggested that I get to know her social worker.
My first call the next day was to the social worker to ask a few questions and set up a meeting between her, Bea and myself to get to know each other and sign a new lease with a long overdue increase in rent.
I emailed a copy of the new lease to the social worker and she went out to find Bea and arrange the meeting for the next week.
In all my years in Point I had never been inside the social services building and it was interesting with a real variety of interesting folks. After waiting for a while I went in to see the social worker and meet with my tenant.
Bea was much more pleasant today, and had lots of questions and concerns for me; most importantly she was very concerned that she would be evicted. And also a little concerned that the rent was increasing.
After assuring her that I did not see any reason why she would need to move, her social worker informed her that the rent was behind the times and the new rate was still very reasonable.
We then went through the lease line by line and I was soooo happy to have the social worker there to help me with this part of the meeting, she is very good at knowing how to communicate with Bea, and she has Bea’s trust.
At the end of our very pleasant meeting, the social worker signaled for me to stick around after Bea left so that she could talk a bit more.
She talked about what Bea’s condition was and how to handle things, like never sending anyone in to her apartment alone, partly for my staff’s safety and partially because Bea has delusions of very nasty things happening to her.
She told me that officially she is not Bea’s social worker, because Bea does not realize that she has schizophrenia or any other problem. The police had suggested that she look in on Bea and see what she can do, so now she stops by from time to time or looks for Bea along the street and helps her when she can.
Well, I left there with a list of tips on how to work with Bea, what makes her happy, what she is afraid of and how to keep her happy.
After this day I did not see Bea for several months until one day in the coldest part of January when the downstairs tenant was away for Christmas break. I got a strange call asking for “Bob Crane the Landlord”, she then repeated her name a half dozen times before telling me that she had not had water for a week and that I should come and see what was wrong.
Well the downstairs tenant had shut off her heat before going home to Madison for Christmas and now all the water in the house was frozen, time for a major plumbing job.
This was the start of our real relationship with Bea, over the next few days we would get to know her much better than many people have a chance to do as we replaced nearly every water pipe in the building.
Much of this time was spent with Nick and his helper doing plumbing while I helped a little bit and visited with Bea.
I found out how much she loves Christmas and keeps Christmas decorations up all year, I learned a little bit about her family but she was guarded about this, I learned about how lonely that she is, and I noticed that she had a beautiful red vase in her kitchen.
So I asked her about what kind of flowers she liked, and this was something that got her to really open up.
By the time we were done with the plumbing job, Bea was ready to join our family, and most days it was all we could do to convince her that she needed to stay in her apartment and not move in with us.
I also discovered this week how happy it can make a lonely person when you send a flower every once in a while.
Bea has become one of my favorite tenants over the past few years and I hope that when I eventually sell this building that the new landlord will learn to appreciate Bea for the unique person that she is and help her to prosper in a world that is not always cut out for a person like her.