I want to set the stage. We purchased an apartment building that had a live in superintendent. I had met him when we looked at the building and he seemed like a great guy.
I should have noticed the first red flag, which was from the previous owner. He had said that (we will call him Jim to protect his identity) Jim is good for showing apartments and cleaning, but do not allow him to collect the rent or handle any cash.
The day we took over, I got in touch with Jim and set up a meeting. I told him we were willing to honor the previous owners deal, and continue his cleaning service for a rent reduction.
I told Jim that I was going to meet with each tenant individually to sign new leases and find out if they needed any repairs.
My second red flag came when I went to see Jim after my tenant visits and he asked if anyone said anything about him. I asked him what he meant and he proceeded to tell me how a couple of tenants did not like him. The reason he gave was because he had stopped the dryers in the laundry room after hours of operation. He also mentioned another tenant liked to drink and play loud music. He said he has had to get after her for disturbing the other tenants. I told him the truth, nobody said anything bad about him. I believed his story, it sounded reasonable.
My third red flag was during the course of our conversation we were talking about smoking. I told him I wanted to make the halls smoke free, and eventually make the building smoke free. He told me he had a permit to smoke medical marijuana. He said he only smoked it by his back window. He also said he occasionally smoked cigarettes, but not inside.
The night was New Years Eve. When I woke up in the morning, I had two messages on my phone. The first one was from Jim. He wanted to tell me he had a fight with the woman he claimed was an alcoholic. He had gone to her apartment to ask her to turn down her music. In a drunken rage she pushed him down the stairs. He decided it would be best to call the police. He said the police came and it was a bit of a circus. The neighbors were out on the street, the alleged alcoholic tenant was yelling, however, he was able to get it all under control. He claimed he wanted me to know the truth in case I heard a conflicting story.
The second message was from the accused alcoholic tenant. She left a message to say that she was innocently hanging out in her apartment drinking a few New Years celebration beverages. She said Jim showed up at her door. He was visibly drunk and wanted to come in. She declined to let him in, he started to yell obscene things at her. She pushed him back out of the door way, he lost his footing and fell down the stairs. Then the lady across the hall who witnessed the incident called the police.
She also told me not to let Jim fool me. He is actually a mean drunk. He likes to get drunk and fight.
Both messages were long winded drunken ramblings. I figured there may have been some truth in each story, but at this point I did not realize the way Jim was. That day (New Years Day) I typed up a warning letter for each about inappropriate conduct. I met with each of them separately. They both agreed to a truce and apologized for causing me grief on my first full day of owning the building.
Then about one week laer, I was called by Jim. He said someone had thrown a rock through his livingroom window. When I met with him, he claimed it might have been retribution from some kids he chased away, who were trying to gain entry to steal and deploy the fire extinguishers (I did not even realize that this was a favorite past time for many youth). He said it should not happen again, so I had the window replaced.
A week later, guess what? I had a complaint from a lady who lived across the hall from Jim. She claimed he would get drunk and make unwanted advances at her. I talked to Jim about this and he said it was her bothering him. He said he would make sure to stay away from her, but she was not happy about his rejection. He went on to say how important the job of looking after the building was to him, so he did not want to lose it.
The paint ball incident, you guessed it, about a week later. Some kids had paint balled the front of the building. I ended up resolving this situation by personally negotiating with the kids that did it. I gave $20 to each member of the gang of kids, and asked them to protect the building. They appreciated the money and kept there word.
It seemed like at least once per week I would hear a new Jim story. Unfortunately since I believed Jim I did not take the action I should have. It was not until two really good tenants left that I decided to take action. I realized the theme of all the stories was similar. Jim liked to get drunk, smoke weed and cause drama. I also noticed that since many of the tenants in the building did not have cars, they relied on Jim for drives, so most did not want to complain.
I could not take it anymore, and so I had to take action. He reminded me of a character from a TV show. The character in the show managed a trailer park. When the owner came around he would tell her how he had everything under control. The reality was, he was the instigator of most the drama. He caused more problems then he solved.
I felt I had the real life version of this character as the superintendent of my building.
I arranged a meeting. I had a real “come to Jesus talk” with Jim. He seemed really sorry, and was close to tears. He was on disability for MS, so since he could not work anymore, he felt his job as a super gave his life value. It kept him moving and made him feel important. He said he wanted to clean the building as long as he was able, and even at this point some days he had to pay other tenants to do the work, if he could not move.
I will admit, I started to feel really bad, however, we had to have a solution. I was getting calls at all hours of the night. I needed peace back in my life.
We had a great chat. He claimed he was going to give up drinking and make sure he did not cause any more drama in the building.
The interesting part, is that he did manage to toe the line and behave. I did have to have the odd tune up chat, but he did well, right up until I sold the building. When the new owner took over, I told him the full story. As far as I know he is still the superintendent.
The main purpose of my story is that you need to hold anyone that works directly with your customers (tenants) accountable for their actions. They are representing you. A bad property manager, superintendent, cleaner or any other person or company that helps you manage a property can harm you and your buildings reputation.
If tenants are unhappy, they will leave. When tenants leave it costs money. The job of the buildings owner is to make sure the tenants and the building both physically and reputation are looked after.
Michael P Currie