By Irma Vargas, RST & Associates
It’s Christmas morning and my phone rings, I pick up the phone and a tenant says to me: “I went to use my stove and it’s not working. Can you get it fixed today? “
This is just one of the many calls homeowners receive almost daily, and due to COVID-19, since March 2020 the number of such calls has only increased. Here are some examples (To note: all swear words have been removed so as not to offend anyone reading this article):
- “Can you come and clean up the human faeces on the front sidewalk?” Don’t you know it’s unsanitary?
- “My kitchen sink is clogged. Can you send someone now? “
- “The children upstairs make a lot of noise; can you tell the tenants upstairs to control their children? “
- “The guy downstairs is smoking weed and it goes through my window – it’s hot today and I don’t want to close my window. Can you come down here and get him arrested?
- “Isn’t this building supposed to be secure?” Someone put a block to prop up the front door and it’s wide open !! Please send someone to close the door and tell whoever does it to stop. “(At least they said ‘please’.)
- “Why did you tell my lender I owed rent?”
- “The garbage cans in the back are overflowing again. Can you send someone to clean it? “
- And, as if we were running properties in East Africa (we’re not) where they reside today, “I think I have a locust infestation. I killed five of them and heard them mate all week.
State and local emergency ordinances that have shut down businesses and left millions of Americans unemployed have taken a toll on all of us, but no one seems to be talking about how it all affects the typical homeowner. Since tenants, on the whole, are at home, there are a lot more people in our rental properties. As a result, this situation created many problems for neighbors who usually never see each other except maybe in the morning or evening when they pass each other on the way to work. Now apartment residents see and hear each other all day long, and rather than talking to their neighbors like civilized adults, they call their landlord to complain about noises, smells, children, pets and people. additional garbage that has accumulated in the trash cans of all take-out and Amazon shipments delivered.
In the media all we hear all day is nurses and doctors working around the clock to save lives. Yes, they are truly exceptional and they are our heroes these days, but as in any war or major emergency (and this pandemic situation is truly a war albeit of a different nature), the support personnel behind the battle lines are just as important as those who fight on the front lines – they provide much-needed support in helping to meet the needs of front-line staff. Well, we, the landowners, are the soldiers behind the front lines of tackling today’s pandemic. There is no doubt about it.
As of March 2020, the number of incoming calls to property management offices and rental property owners for virtually all types of assistance has more than doubled, and in some cases tripled or quadrupled, and property management staff often works 10 to 12 hours a day trying to answer questions, allay fears, mediate neighbors, and oh, let’s not forget, also clean someone’s clogged toilet. Yes, we’re all in the same boat, but when it comes to owning it, it seems all we hear is that our needs and the struggles we continue to endure just don’t. matter – after all, they’re all rich, aren’t they? Well, maybe in the minds of our ignorant politicians and tenants.
Like any other small business, the city and state is slowly choking the lives of landlords and the rental housing industry. Since the start of the pandemic, elected officials have told us that we “cannot charge late fees”, or “no increase in rent”, or “no eviction”, or “no attempt to collect the fee. rent from a tenant alleging COVID impacts, ”But despite all of this, the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Energy, for example, has seen a marked increase in income as our water have more than doubled and in some cases tripled and quadrupled. Today we have more and more tenants at home using water or creating waste for removal, all of which are paid for by us the landlords. The City of Los Angeles trash transport monopoly known as “RecycLA” has charged landlords much more for the additional waste created by our tenants’ take-out containers and the long list of other rejections created by our tenants. the tenants when they squatted in their home today. . Then there are a lot of other things that cause “cost creep” like all the extra plumbing charges for all clogged toilets, sinks, tubs that have only increased dramatically since the lockdown. In the summer, during the heatwave, the number of calls also increased, as air conditioners were not working “at full capacity” and suppliers had to charge more because spare parts were more difficult to obtain.
These are just a few of the many cost increases homeowners have suffered in the past few months after the start of the pandemic and the restrictions placed on us by our city councils, county supervisors and members of our community. state legislature (which incidentally have not missed a single paycheck). To make matters worse, we can’t expect to collect more than 25% of the monthly rent owed by our affected tenants and in some cases no rent when local jurisdictions like Los Angeles have regulations that conflict with the law. of State. Nonetheless, business licenses from the City of Los Angeles (and other jurisdictions) and Rent Stabilization Fee Notices have just arrived and there is no right to defer these government-imposed taxes and fees. . To add insult to injury, substantial late fees and often interest can be levied for non-payment of these taxes and fees in a timely manner. In fact, there is a 50% late penalty for even being a day late!
Like many other small business owners like those in the restaurant business, we’re told to do a lot more for a lot less or in some cases nothing, and just like restaurateurs, we wonder how long will owners be able to hold on? Even now, we hear our state’s lawmakers discussing an extension of all the restrictions so far endured by us rental property owners to save the face of their political failures in handling this crisis. It’s easy to shout “Stop the evictions” when there’s a major tendency for California residents to move out of downtown areas and even the state. Look at the number of vacancies in urban Los Angeles areas. These were not the result of ‘evictions’ but the fact that tenants were moving out of their rental accommodation to buy a house (yes, tenants can afford and are buying a house – we got a call from the lender for check the payment records of tenants, who hadn’t even paid a ‘dime’ to us since April 2020) or they are moving out of state if they just can’t afford to live in a neighborhood at cost of living that high, or if some are just moving across the street or to another part of town for a cheaper apartment in what is now a depressed rental market.
No, we the owners are not the bad guys our elected officials mistakenly claim we are – we are just small business owners trying to make ends meet with both hands tied behind our backs in a cost environment higher – lower incomes with no end in sight. . Yet we, the homeowners, are some of the real heroes of this crisis, who are doing our best to keep a roof over our tenants’ heads, their toilets are working properly, their stove is working properly so they can cook. a meal for themselves and their family, and at the same time we the owners even deal with the noisy neighbor at all hours of the day and even the police can’t or don’t care to do anything.
So before you believe anything you hear in the media today, like Paul Harvey used to wrap up his national radio show, “and here’s the rest of the story”.
Irma Vargas is the CFO of RST and Associates, a property management company based in Los Angeles, California. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles and has served as past president. Ms. Vargas also owns and manages rental properties in the Los Angeles, California area. RST and Associates serves residential and commercial clients and has approximately 285 properties and 3,000 units under management. You can reach RST and Associates at (310) 477-3192.