DIY Housewife: Spackle, Paint, Rent

For a while, my parents had two rental units on our property. The first year or two of it, I was a little young to understand the complications this brought, but as I got older, it became more obvious.

Most renters are really nice people who either can’t afford to own or don’t want the responsibility. However, there are others that really take the cake. All of them, it seems, like to make holes in walls and otherwise make work for the landlord when between tenants.

The first renter I remember was there when we bought the place, I think. I don’t remember her very clearly, but I do remember the night my parents told her she’d have to go. For some unknown reason, she was burning paper on the stove. That’s all I remember of the incident, and I think it’s all I really want to know.

Cleaning up after her was a major job. She’d been there quite a while, and it took a couple of weeks (or more) to get things back into shape. The smallest part of the problem seemed to be the walls, where her pictures had hung.

Because mom was a housewife, it was her responsibility to rent the units, check on the tenants and fix them up again afterwards. While dad helped on some of the big jobs, mom was the real DIY.

The next few were of the “nice” variety. The only problems they left behind were the inevitable picture frame holes and a few places that needed patched due to climate. I was allowed to help a bit, mostly with a paint brush. It’s kind of hard for a kid to mess up with a paint brush as long as there are sufficient floor coverings…

The renters that stand out the most clearly were “the hippies.” This was in the early 1970s. I remember hearing bits and pieces on the news about “hippies,” but had never met any.

I don’t think mom knew they were in that group when she rented them the apartment. Her first clue came when the water company knocked on the door. They feared she had a main line break because her water bill was already $400. At the time, that was a small fortune.

There was no line break. There were four young people spending *lots* of time in the shower. Don’t ask me why and I don’t want to guess what they were doing. They were politely informed they would have to go.

Cleaning up the apartment after them was an adventure. We kids weren’t allowed in there after the first couple of “finds.” From what I overheard, the renters were lucky mom didn’t have them arrested. Some of the “stuff” was very illegal. I didn’t know you could hide stuff behind light sockets…

After watching what my parents went through, I’ve come to the conclusion that being a landlord may not be worth the rent you might charge. I don’t mind doing a little work, but I could live without surprises like those described above.

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