July 2017 / mental health / 4 minutes (850 words)
I’ve drifted into blogging about mental health, but this month’s might seem the most obscure of all. But stick with it… it might relate to you.
Last month’s blog was on the three things that help me get positive and previous blog posts were about dreams and burnout and even spilt milk. This month is about how I inherited a house from my parents when I was born. More people inherit them than you’d think. A lot more.
The house I inherited is broken down into flats with mostly long-term tenants. Obviously my parents managed it for me when I was young, but as I got older it became my responsibility. It’s been mine so long now that I can’t blame my parents when there’s a problem with it. It’s my building now
I shouldn’t complain really about it, but over the years I’ve hated this building and its tenants. I’ve hated being a landlord. I know you’re thinking I should sell it, but that’s not possible. You’ll soon realise why.
Last week I went down there with my wife to get a few photos of the house and its weird group of tenants for this blog. I wanted to tell the story of how I gave up fighting and accepted I’m a landlord, but it didn’t go exactly as I planned.
Here’s a photo from across the road. Just look at it. It’s a mess. Despite my best efforts the wiring can be faulty and the switch constantly gets tripped and the power to the whole building cuts out. The plumbing is a disaster. Plus the walls are so thin that the tenants can hear each others’ every little movement. I’ve tried over the years to put sound proofing in, but it has never worked.
Sometimes the costs of keeping the building going have been so high that there’s really little benefit in the rent. But mostly what made me resent this house are the tenants. There were already some tenants in place when I got it and they’re still in it more than 43 years later. Other tenants moved in during my childhood and teenage years and a few more since then. None of them seems to have any intention of moving on.
After taking my few photos outside last week, I wanted to get in and take some photos of the tenants and the inside of the house. My tenants are an eccentric bunch. I had told them about this blog before and they had agreed to it, but when I arrived they refused to let me in or take any photos of them. I was left standing outside talking to them on the intercom so I’m just have to describe them to you here and you can try to imagine them all cooped up in that house together.
One of the tenants is timid. Terrified to leave the room, let alone the building. Another is hyper and quick to excitement, keeps the others awake at all hours. Another is paranoid. The others tell me he put trip wires in his room to protect himself. Rumors are he has homemade weapons in case there’s an attack on the house. It’s worrying. The tenant in the front has this great imagination, but expends a lot of it on imagining what others think of him. There’s a couple of cheerful ones, hopeful ones, but they can get lost in the noise of the house and be brought down by the others. Perhaps the worst of the lot, one tenant spends most of his time patrolling the house and telling the others what they’re doing wrong and getting angry at them. Blames them for everything, even the weather.
So it can be a wild house. Those tenants fighting with each other. If one kicks off then the others are likely to kick off too. Chaos.
And all of them want me to solve their problems, but I haven’t always done that. In fact for years, I wasn’t much of a landlord at all. I ignored their calls and the complaints or else I occasionally rushed over and made all sorts of promises then disappeared.
Essentially I denied I was their landlord. I kept myself busy doing what I wanted to do with my career, family, etc., but the tenants just got louder and louder. Letters then calls all day and night then tenants turning up on my doorstep refusing to leave, forcing their way into my home, in my workplace, into my family life. It got unbearable.
Now I try to visit there regularly. I talk to them every day. It took a while to get to know all of them. But the more I know them, the more fond I am of them, even the ones I thought were the most difficultly. Obviously now some of them still don’t trust me, but it’s not all about trust. It’s also about authority too. It is my building after all. Now that I’m doing my job, I have the authority to tell them when they’re over-reacting or being unreasonable or just plain wrong. And more and more they are listening to me, but it can still kick off at times. It’s been kicking off a lot recently – maybe that’s why I’m writing this blog post.
Anyway last week after much negotiation, they agreed to one photo to finish this post off, but only a few of them would join me in it. And those ones who would be in the photo refused to even leave the house.
So to finish, here’s the best photo my wife could get with some of my tenants and me, their reluctant landlord. Hopefully it’s gives you an idea of the weirdos I’m dealing with and why I can never sell this house, but also shows why being a good landlord is the best way to manage your mental health.
Thanks very much to artist, designer and kidslit writer and all around good guy Marc Diamond who gave me a little assistance on this last photo. Check out his work at weegem.com
Thanks for reading. I would love to hear from you in the comments section below. When did you realise you were a landlord too? Were you a reluctant landlord like me or hands on? Go on. Tell me about your landlording life.