Monday, March 4, 2013

lease lessons

  My mother used to grumble and fret for a good three days before she would hole up in a closed room to pay the bills.  But her real stress was her role as a landlord. My father claimed he was unsuited to handle such matters.  My mother often lamented that she wished, just once, to live in a house that did not need to be rented.  We lived in Connecticut for nine months a year.  When we moved up to the Vineyard for the summer, the Connecticut house had to be rented.  Readying the house for tenants was also my mother's job.  My father would disappear to the golf course.  I was supposed to help, but cleaning was never my ambition.
  If it were but one house, she could have handled it.  My father was a writer and my mother an artist.  In the early years, there was a certain herky-jerky quality to their financial stream.  My father's grand idea was to invest in real estate.  He had lucked out in 1953 by purchasing a Victorian house on 25 acres on Chappaquiddick for $8000.  To improve future cash flow, he created more rental houses.  First, he moved a goat shed, an art studio and other out buildings on the property across the way, paid $500 for a foundation, and voila, a rental house.  Later he made my brother Randy climb trees to find the highest point on our land.  He then had a house built of his own design.  It had no inside stairs, a widow's walk on top, and electric heat, which extended the rental season.  Mother, quite reasonably, hated being a landlord.  One year tenants in the goat shed house complained that there was a wretched stench in the wall by the fireplace.  Something big had died and they wanted it out. Now. Or a rebate on the rent.   So, Mother hired a team to remove the wall at no small cost. They found nothing.  It was later determined that the offensive smell came from a pretty conch shell, placed on the mantle by the tenants.  There was nothing pretty about the dead conch inside.
  I have inherited her dread of tenants.  And leases.  Which makes me wonder what sick impulse led me to volunteer to be lease chair at The Torpedo Factory. There are 70 or 80 studios rife with paperwork and problems.  And mine for another 21 months and 27 days.

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