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Like a Good Neighbor?

Whoops! Look who just moved in next-door!

A well known and very successful local doctor looked out his window one day a few years ago to see a large family from India looking a the home next door that was for sale. As the foreign family wandered around the yard and down to the beach, the doctor probably began to contemplate how the wrong neighbors could change his life. Perhaps he envisioned parties with strange people, weird music playing, usual food cooking and customs that would not conform to the neighborhood. The doctor is very wealthy. He had his wife call the real estate company immediately and buy the house. Then they moved in his State Senator stepson and family - who have lived there ever since.

In the case I just related, the Indian looking at the house was also a Doctor and would probably have made a fine neighbor. But can you imagine the horror you would feel if you looked out your window and saw one of your "more interesting" tenant families moving in to the house next-door to you? Pretty scary, isn't it?

Imagine how you would like living next door to a rental property, knowing that even if it hasn't happened yet, some tenants from hell could be filling the next vacancy . and there is nothing you can do about it?

A bad neighbor ruins more than your day, they can ruin your life.

  • Imagine having to have to lock up everything in sight, pull all your shades, all the time, and cower in your own home - rather than risk confronting a drunk or drug-high neighbor who is always looking for a fight and has little or nothing to lose.
  • Imagine dirty kids and mangy dogs constantly in your yard, getting into your things, scattering your trash, taunting your children. Imagine them throwing rocks at your pet and using foul language and gestures whenever you ask them to please go home.
  • Imagine being awakened in the middle of the night, time and again, by screaming and crying that spills out of the house next-door; followed by flashing police lights and even an occasional gunshot.

That all sounds unreal doesn't it? Like something from a horror movie or TV show. But much of it happens all over most cities every day, particularly in areas of mostly rental property. Is it any wonder that homeowners hate landlords?

Our government has determined that everyone, including the "more interesting", have a right to live anywhere they want. We have a myriad of civil and fair housing laws, expanding all the time. They guarantee that almost anyone with the money for rent can live next door to anyone they wish, provided the property is for rent . and you can't afford to buy it if necessary. Pretty scary, isn't it?

I said anyone with the money, but you and I know that has not been a real deterrent in years. Even if not one member of a family has ever worked, or been sober in months, a landlord may have to rent to them anyway. That same do-gooder government who orders property owners to rent to anyone with the financial means, is also likely to give the most worthless and troublesome tenants an emergency Section Eight Voucher to pay their rent. Then the system's minions feel so good about themselves that they can hardly congratulate each other enough for their compassionate use of taxpayer's money.

I hasten to add that tenants don't usually pollute one neighborhood after another.

I've had some really good tenants. Our average occupancy is six years. Families move in, keep the house (fairly) decent, raise their kids and don't bother the neighbors. However, I have only had about three tenants in more than twenty houses over more than twenty years who ever planted a flower outside or did anything to try to improve the neighborhood. Sure that's a problem, but its correctable.

I am writing this today because my conscience is bothering me again and I seem to need absolution. We have learned the hard way to screen our tenants and now we always get a credit report. But last week I broke my rules. I rented to a woman and her teenage son who were trying disparately to get away from an abusive husband and stepfather. The woman had very bad credit - which she blamed on the husband. She has not worked long enough in her present job. She did not have all the money she needed for rent, security deposit and the city's extortionary water deposit. She had too many of the danger signs, but I felt really sorry for her plight and decided to take a chance on her. I felt really good . . . until I got to thinking.

Would I have taken a chance on a potentially bad tenant if the rental house were next door to me . or you?

Imagine your frustration at knowing that there would be nothing you could do about it except curse the landlord who did it to you or vote for any turkey who would make life miserable for those damn landlords.

I don't know the answer to the problem of protecting neighbors from bad tenants. But I do know that you need to find a way to make landlords like me do a better job of trying, or .. our neighbors will.

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