In speaking with several of you, I thought it might be of interest to send you some examples of our stories as mom and pop housing providers. These involve the personal touch and judgement used when renting and managing. I personally know of several who have never filed an eviction in over 30 years and those only taken to small claims court once in 30 years and won. This is the type of relationship that is being destroyed by the micromanagement of San Jose.
Who We Are
I don’t have a property management company; I do all the work myself. I work and talk directly with my tenants for repairs. I don’t have a cleaning company and I clean toilets. Nothing I do is automated. English is not my first language.
I’m first generation. I help my mom with her property because she does not ever use her own computer.
I bought a futon for a tenant when his bed broke and never asked to be reimbursed. I picked it up for him in my truck and took it up a flight of stairs for him. I installed a new carpet because I thought it needed it and didn’t raise the rent.
I installed a new kitchen because I thought it needed it and didn’t raise the rent. I’ve never done a pass-through.
I work every day on my apartments and managing.
When we had only one apartment available and seven applications, my husband drove six people around to look at other places to help them find a place to live. He personally drove them around from 1:00 until after 6 p.m. Who else does this but a mom and pop?
We gave rent decreases to an entire building when the market softened to make it fair. We haven’t given rent increases for many years.
I am as transparent as I could possibly be with my tenants. My tenants like me and have sent me thank you cards when they leave. My tenants tell me they are glad they found someone who cares. My tenants trust that I will find other good tenants to make good neighbors.
My six apartments have been given $25 increases over the past five years. My rent includes everything but the high-rise apartment rents nickel and dime for everything. San Jose can’t compare mom and pop rent to high-rise rent.
I pass through utilities with the actual bill so tenants can see the bill. They prefer the actual bill because they were given a choice in the contract.
What We Do
No one understands the risk of providing housing. It’s not like getting a guaranteed salary in the morning. We manage the risk of earthquakes and the risk of heavy maintenance and improvement on very old buildings.
I’ve had three tenants die in apartments, two go to jail and stop paying rent, and two developed severe psychiatric problems resulting in their families choosing for them to be removed and refuse to pay rent of damages. I was under investigation by Fair Housing for three years when tenants made a false claim.
I leave our cell phone on by the bed at night in case tenants call. Have grandparents move in five grandchildren because their own adult children have drug problems.
Loaned a tenant money to buy a car. I don’t have a government pension or government healthcare. I plan to work forever because this rental is my healthcare and my pension.
I’ve given 3-day notices to pay before but I’ve never filed one. I don’t want it to go on the tenant’s credit report and make it more difficult for him.
Dealt with black water thigh high and a hazmat team on Christmas Eve to make sure tenants did not wake up to a terrible smell.
I never paid someone to leave an apartment. I rent to people with bad credit, as long as they are honest about it up front. I work with tenants in variety of ways when their credit is bad or have difficulty paying.
I’ve been a landlord for 28 years and never evicted anyone. 27 years and no evictions filed. I’ve never filed an eviction.
After 31 years we’ve had numerous tenants whose security deposit did not equal expenses and we did not pursue in small claims court and experienced financial losses as a result. We have never filed a small claims suit.
I have mentally disabled adults with no local family and make sure they are respected by other tenants. I helped a senior citizen tenant who has health problems even when his own family would not even talk to him. I helped a new tenant work with his previous landlord who was not giving back the correct amount of his security deposit.
I’ve helped tenant’s children with math homework because their parents can’t. Made upgrades without charge because we want our tenant to be comfortable. I’ve invested approximately $60,000 re-piping our building – without using a pass-through. Put in parking lots where there were none, installed many new roofs, upgraded kitchens while tenants lived in the apartments and NEVER EVER filed for a pass-through.
Provided counseling for our tenants who are having family crisis. I’ve worked with hoarders and their psychologists. I’ve tried to protect my current tenants from fire hazards from hoarders. I’ve worked with family members as a tenant had psychotic schizophrenic episodes. I’ve rented to numerous tenants with physical and mental disabilities without Section 8 support.
What We Deal With
I’ve been stalked by tenants on social media who threatened my family. I’ve been threatened by the Law Foundation too.
I DO NOT give 3-day notices for every lease violation. A second floor tenant left on water in bathtub and flooded several apartments below. He paid for all damages but was never give 3-day notice.
Code enforcement looked up when I bought the house and how much it was worth. He told me that this would influence his decision as to how much he would write up for charges.
Work with neighbors to resolve noise and drug problems. I’ve had tenants park on the landscape because they could find a spot and break the sprinkler system. They never paid.
More frequently than not, my tenants have newer cars than I do. Rent control is not income-based.
When neighbors complain to me about noise, I take action and will ask someone to leave. Now I will have to tell neighbors to call the City because my contract doesn’t matter and I can’t hold tenants accountable.
My apartment buildings are all in residential areas next to R1 houses. Neighbors are really important to my tenants. And my neighbors want me to get good tenants. Invest in and restore a slum, crime-ridden property.
I’ve had tenants live in a closet so their bedroom and living room could act as a server farm. I’ve had tenants who grow marijuana in the closet.
Participate in neighborhood association of up to 500 units, and work with other neighborhoods to make them safe.
Accessible 24/7 and fix maintenance problems in a timely manner. Allow pets.
I’ve had tenants who didn’t consider snakes a pet and kept several reptiles. One escaped and went through the toilet of another tenant and I had to personally resolve the issue.
I had a tenant who thought the best place to work on his motorcycle was in the living room – convenient, warm, TV for entertainment and a lot of greasy oil spots on the ruined carpet, hand prints on walls, and oil poured down a toilet. Try and get that fixed for a $600 deposit.
I had a tenant clean his car’s carburetor in the kitchen sink and cause the entire house to back up. No one had water for several days. He never paid the plumbing bill.
I had a tenant paint red enamel paint in the halls, with dark blue gloss enamel in her sons room. The second bedroom, hers, was a nice bright pink and yellow. Oh yes, let’s not forget that paint was slopped onto the wood baseboard and the hardwood floors. Do you think that was repainted and cleaned up when she finally moved on?
I had a tenant paint without permission and add sand into the paint for ‘texture’. 15 years later we still can’t get it off the walls.
There have been many tenants who think the proper way to extend their cable services without paying is to simply drill holes in the 1921 built hardwood floors to stick the cable through. Or drill through stucco walls, shove cable directly through the wall and out the sheetrock, without its being boxed in or properly sealed from the weather.
Another incident: Tenant in a two level apartment wanted cable in their bedroom. So he drilled through the bedroom wall to run the cable down to the foundation (on the exterior). They didn’t tell me about the fact that they drilled through a down spout, which eventually caused water damage to the exterior siding – that was an $800 “maintenance” cost that I never recovered.
I had a guy with a medical marijuana authorization to smoke. (in an agreed to “smoke free” apartment). He had an entire room modified into a grow farm – fan- driven heat vents fueled by an electric space heater pointed directly at his innumerable marijuana plants. Of course, he needed enough water to keep the environment moist for his project, which caused mold to grow on the sheetrock, since the windows were sealed up with aluminum foil to retain the heat and moisture. It took four months to evict him since he had free legal services with the assistance of his legal aid attorney. BTW, it was a master meter. I was paying the electric bill for him to grow his weed.
WE are not the ENEMY – Lack of affordable (income-based) housing is the problem!
No one from the Housing Department has asked for our personal story. We are immigrants, second generations, and people who roll up their sleeves to clean toilets. A story that includes replacing walls, windows, doors and sub-flooring for a tenant who only stayed a year and a security deposit that couldn’t possibly cover all that damage. Or stories that include the deaths of tenants in their apartments and having to call the relatives and hazmat to remove the bodies. No one has heard the stories about suicide on the premises. Or the stories that include Christmas Eve up to my thighs in black-water because San Jose burst a street pipe and I managed a five person hazmat team to remove 19 26-gallon drums because I want my tenants to have a breathable Christmas morning. Or the attorney from the Law Foundation calling to threaten that despite the tenant causing a fire and health hazard to adjoining tenants with junk piled up past the windows, clothing and debris on the floor two feet thick topped with numerous areas of cat feces, she will not give 30 days’ notice and not pay this month’s rent and wants a full security return and if I don’ agree she will make sure the tenant stays in the apartment for six months without paying rent – for free and force an eviction. She slyly mentions she has lots of other free attorneys at her disposal but I will need to hire one and I’m helpless to protect my current tenants against risk. No one asks about the storage fees for belongings when a tenant goes to jail and doesn’t want his stuff and I’m stuck with storage fees. Or that after 27 years I have yet to file for an eviction. No one has heard the story of a tenant who stalked me through various social media sites and threatened my family. When you are in the business of providing housing you are expected to do your job without complaint but no one ever calls to say hello. If someone calls, it’s with a complaint of their own. No one has asked about our stories as to how we started our businesses and the sacrifices and risks we took to make our business. No one has heard about the variable interest rates that we have to manage or the loans that come due every 10 years and you need to refinance again and again. No one has asked how many times we started to fill out bankruptcy forms hoping something would work out. And no one has heard about how many other jobs we have had in order to support the mortgages despite being paid rent. Someone at the Council said ‘cry me a river’. But I’m trying to do my job and be proud to provide housing that I, too, would want to live in.
Someone else said that ‘housing providers shouldn’t make a profit’. After you hear our stories, let me know how much you would pay someone on Christmas Eve to remove thigh-deep black-water or call a dead tenant’s relative. Our stories are many, our community diverse, but no one has asked.
The Bay Area Homeowner Network, BAHN, is a non-profit trade association representing owners of rental properties in the North California Bay Area. It promotes education and professional development among members for their daily property management issues. Its mission is to help members achieve more success in their rental housing business. Also it provides a platform for homeowners to connect and help each other.
BAHN-SJ is a non-profit group of mom and pop rental property owners in San Jose. We help members by advocating for affordable, quality housing and small business policies; educating members to abide by the laws and improve business acumen, and by providing a way for homeowners to connect.