Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Instead of honoring a single person like George Washington or my mom, it honors the sharing of a meal. I like to eat.
The history of Thanksgiving seems a little 2- dimensional. After Pilgrims land and nearly die off from a cold winter, they plant a harvest and store it up for the next freeze. Then upon realizing their abundance, they invite all the neighboring Indians over for a big feast. Everyone gets fed and gets along swell. Pumpkin pie was invented then I think, and food comas too.
Whatever the truth was and is – however much more distress and trouble or trauma and turmoil actually occurred – a great fact remains: Nearly 500 years later we are still coming together as family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. We are still taking one day off this year to make a meal, share and give thanks.
It’s true that not everyone has a great or even a good Thanksgiving, yet we celebrate it as a community. We try to make it special and many of us succeed. Still, family fights are a common theme. Volunteers everywhere serve people living outside who are cold and hungry the other 364 days of the year. Turkey grease fires are YouTube classics.
Yet Thanksgiving has grown to be more than a day. It’s a season. It’s a time to consider what we have done and not done and how we have helped and been helped. It’s our annual passage when we are called on to come together and cross those lines and share, in spite of all of our differences. It’s a communal reflection. It is the Great American “Kumbaya”.
So as a landlord, and someone who has spent a great deal of time promoting property owners’ rights, I shall share my solemn and humble reflections for you this year. First, please excuse me as I must pause and swallow here. (Gulp!)
You see, I’ve discovered one thing that I truly have in common with the tenant advocates in our debate over our many landlord/tenant conflicts and it is this: Like them, I too am fed up with bad landlords. I am not even “sorry” to say it. I want landlords to get educated and get better or get out of the rental housing business. To continue my Thanksgiving metaphor, the coma that bad landlords induce by their over-indulgent profiteering and lack of regard for their tenants and inadequate investment in maintaining their properties is simply poor meal planning that tempts me to get up from the table of plenty and head out.
Like many of my peers, I spend literally thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours nearly every year in training and continuing education to learn the best practices of property management, legal review, updates and compliance. This is not because I am a licensed real estate broker and property manager.
It is because I’ve been fascinated with this business since I was 20 years old and that is WHY I became a professional. I have never been able to get enough, and never gotten entirely “ahead of it”. The rental housing industry has been changing every year since I began and will continue to change long after I am gone.
For anyone who buys a property just based on the numbers without regard (or the financial commitment) to uphold their responsibility of providing a safe and secure habitat, I say, Scram!
The Rental Housing Alliance Oregon has been training landlords since 1927. We have great resources, education, forms and advocacy for a nominal investment of about $100 per year. Even with that, however, I regularly hear from owners who are not up on things and are still doing it all wrong.
Are you using current RHA forms, or are you using the leftovers from last time? Does your screening guide respect protected classes and have you taken a Fair Housing course recently? Do you ever show up at your rental unannounced? Are you mad at your tenants? Do you expect them to leave the property in “rent ready” condition, because that’s how it was when they moved in 2 years ago? How old is the roof or water heater or when is the last time the chimney or the furnace was cleaned? Do you have safety stops on 2nd story windows? Are your smoke detectors over 10 years old? Do the bathroom fans vent properly? Would you want your mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, niece, or nephew to live in your rental? Are your tenants giving thanks for their home this month?
Is your passion over your property-rights as strong as your commitment to being a good landlord? Or is your rental property something you are simply holding onto with a minimum of thought and investment? At the risk of appearing self-serving, is it time for you to get professional counseling?
We all know that when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock the Pilgrims’ lives were on the line daily and their struggles were brutal and severe. We can bet that carving out a community required a lot more than carving up a turkey. Likewise, being a rental property owner is not as easy as owning a unit, getting a tenant and collecting the rent. (Talk about being 2 dimensional!) Thanksgiving is the season of generosity. Let’s consider our responsibility to providing the best experience we can by ensuring our tenants are safe and secure and proud of their home. And for more on these reflections, please watch for my December story about the Tales of The Bad Santa Tenant Clause.
Ron Garcia, RHA Oregon President