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Thursday, 08 September 2011


By Joanne Zimmermann

Do you think you would like to own rental property? I own a small commercial building with a duplex in the rear across the street from the ocean. Both buildings are more than 50 years old. In the past it was pretty easy to rent it, but I live 30 miles away so it is hard to manage it.

Enter Flo, a 72-year-old lady who insisted she wanted to rent my duplex.

It is very small, with one bedroom. A nice, quiet, 70-year-old man lives on the other side. I tried to dissuade her but she gave me references and signed up for a one year lease. She owned an old camper. She told me she left her former place because of druggies and surveillance cameras.

That seemed a bit odd but her references said she was honest and always paid on time.

Things began to go downhill after a few months when the commercial tenants said she took their trashcans. Then the man next door thought I hired a crew to remove a palm tree at 5AM. He said he heard several voices outside and fronds being cut.

It turned out to be Flo, using several voices, high and low, and hacking away at the palm. I wish he would have called the police at that time.

When I finally got all the information and the police checked, they said she appeared able to live alone and the tree incident was hearsay. The nice man threatened to leave. She followed him to the beach and he was afraid of her.

She was pretty abusive to any repairman I sent out; some refused to take the jobs. When one called to get directions, she told him to figure it out for himself. Everyone called her the “Crazy Lady.”

I told her I was not renewing the yearly lease and gave her a few months notice. I tried contacting relatives up north and a granddaughter was willing to try to help but Flo suspected a rat and hung up on her.

I learned she had been “Baker-acted” three times (holding someone for 72 hours for observation.) They always let her go as she could quickly switch on her “normal self.” I learned she drove the wrong way trying to go back up north, and that she was a paranoid schizophrenic.

I was afraid for her and contacted Department of Children and Families. She refused to let the case manager in, along with the police that accompanied him. So they could do nothing.

On the day she was to leave, I brought a friend along. She was still cleaning up, with a big white twistem in her mouth. It looked like a crooked cigarette. I peeked inside and was shocked to see masking tape covering the walls and ceiling, thousands of little pieces about three inches apart. I told her to remove it to get her deposit back. The bathroom knob had been removed and was in a coffee can marked Bathroom Door Knob.

We waited in our van outside as it was blazing hot. She came to the car window and told me I knew very well it was the “Judical.” She said it was all around.

My friend said, do you mean “Judicial?”

She went on about the rapists and druggies and surveillance. The tape was covering up all the surveillance cameras!! Was I so stupid not to know that, she asked?

She refused to remove it. My friend said to just give her the deposit and he would help me remove it. She still had the twistem in her mouth. I gave the deposit it to her and wished her well.

It took four hours to remove all the tape. Then I began to give the apartment a fresh coat of white paint, this time going down alone, early in the morning. I took my brush into the little bathroom to do some touchup. The power was off and again, blazing hot.

I was painting the back of the door, gave it a little push and voila, I was locked in!!! The knob was gone, but the little lock lever would not move and I was stuck!!

There was a small window above the tub, so I opened it and began to scream to attract some of the beachgoers that walk to the beach. There was no one in sight. I pounded on the wall of the adjoining side and of course, no one was home there.

I removed the screen and screamed and waved out the window. A huge green trash truck came right alongside with windows open but it made so much noise, my screams went unnoticed. The window was too small and too high off the ground for me to climb out.

I finally quit screaming; my throat was sore. I sat on the little toilet feeling like Flo had finally driven me crazy. How could this happen? I had been so nice to her. I am older than she is. It seemed like hours.

Suddenly, I felt my car keys in my pocket. I inserted the key into the slot and pushed on the latching pin. It MOVED and I was free!! I could also have set off my car alarm with the key device. Brilliant!!

I learned she just moved down the street into a motel for three months. Since she is still in the same little beachside city, the police and residents of the motel are in for a treat. And I feel like mental illness is contagious.

Wanna buy a nice beachside income property?

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Joanne, I had heard from you previously about some of the problems with your tenant but what a nightmare trying to evict her!

What an ordeal! I feel for you. For 4-5 years, I and my senior government-subsidized residence neighbors were terrorized and driven nearly crazy by a mentally-ill resident, who, sadly for her and for us, had fallen through the cracks and was not supervised properly.

Life is an adventure at times for sure..I love your writing; the scene about being locked in the bathroom was especially chilling..Being locked in seems to be one of those horrors that haunts lots of people or at least it is one of the ones everyone is willing to admit to...

Renters don't have it easy either.
The first year my husband and I rented a furnished condo in Florida we had lots of problems!!
We were told we had a telephone in the unit - what we had was a place to plug the phone into so right away we had to go buy a phone.
There were twin beds in the unit - one of the mattresses was so bad - that was the one my husband used! ;-)
When my son came for a visit he slept on the sofa bed which when he was putting on the sheets he found a GUN tucked inside the bed.
When the police came over they looked at the gun closely and announced that it was a toy gun.
These are just a few of the things that we experienced as renters!!

You have my heartfelt sympathy. We had a rental house, one of the tenants cut a hole through the closet floor and a house beam so he could get into the basement without leaving his room. Hearing your story I think we were lucky.

Wow, a horror story for sure. My husband and I considered buying rental property when we were younger (but we were both working odd schedules + long hours and decided we really didn't have the time). Looks like we may have lucked out after all. I work P/T for a NPO that provides some low-income housing, so I know it can be extremely difficult to evict a destructive tenant. I'm glad you were finally successful and your property was basically O.K.--except for the tape, of course.

You shouldn't put your freind in such a dangerous spot. I'll bet he was terrified.


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