Years ago, I started a journey in hope of financial stability when I reached retirement age. I purchased my first house when I was but 20 years of age. Why? That’s simple — I wanted a home of my own. A home that I could be proud of. The first was not much. It was an old mill house that had been remodeled, to a degree. The rooms were too big and the ceilings were too high.
You could not heat it or cool it, but it was mine. I was tired of being hot in the summer and cold in the winter. I needed something a lot smaller. I did find a small two-bedroom house in Jefferson Park. I bought that house from Mike Stogner. I could not get another house financed through a bank because the first one was still financed through the old Richmond County Savings and Loan.
Mr. Stogner did not know me but, he financed it for me. Part of the reason — the down payment. I was able to pay him 20 percent of the cost of the home. It was not the fact that I had the 20 percent to pay him, it was the fact of how I got the 20 percent that impressed Mr. Stogner. I had worked and saved the money.
What had impressed Mike was that I had saved that kind of money at my age of not quite 22 years old. I worked hard. I was working in the dye house at the Leggs Sandhurst plant. It was a hot and nasty job. I worked on Thanksgiving Day and even on Christmas Day if they needed me. I worked hard to have the little extras, just like so many others here in the county. We are the ones who know if we do not work for it, we will never have it.
It did not take long to see, with almost all of the tenants that I have had to deal with, they did not care. They did not care about the hard work put into this to achieve my goal of having a better life someday. The landlords that can do their own repairs came out to the good. The rest of us — we did learn, in time, that we had to do our repairs or just go deeper in debt.
I will never say that there are not good tenants, for I know there are. For me it has been far too many bad ones.
In the past I tried to help others — some you can, others you can’t.
Even today, I still have hope in people. About 20 years ago, one couple left owing me the deposit and last month’s rent. This was the way that they did all of their landlords. They had already found another place and to Hell with me, they thought. You see, I can — and will — get a little crazy when I have to.
They would not come and get their car, the home was full of their belongings. I was fed up. The house had been abandoned. When I got to the home, it was already over 90 degrees. I was hot and pissed off, so I started.
I took all of their clothes and packed them in the back seat. I then took all of the food that had been in the fridge and packed this on top of their clothes.
By the way, the power had been off for a month. Do you have any idea what month old rotten chicken smells like? I do — and they found out.
Everything that could be packed into that sub compact, was. I placed the mattresses on top of the car and tied them down with wire. All by myself, I moved a full-size couch onto the front porch, where I knocked it off onto my back and carried it to the car. I had to do one last thing: I took a Big Bird that was about three feet tall and tied this bright yellow bird to the front of the car.
You think I’m a telling lie? Just ask Tony Clewis from Hamlet — he came over to the house at 6 a.m. to pick up the car with his rollback. Tony dropped it right in the middle of their new yard. Tony told me later that day that people were stopping to look at Big Bird riding down the road, strapped to the front of the car. I never did talk to those people after that.
About eight years ago, a girl signed a 12-month lease. All was fine — until she broke the lease by not giving a 30-day notice an only stayed three months. She asked when she would get back her deposit back.
I informed her that she was not due any deposit. She informed me that if she did not get back her deposit, then she would leave her stuff in the house for the next 12 months. That was when I told her, “Do what you need to do.”
On that day, I was fed up with this type that would not pay what they owed. I placed an add in the paper. I wanted to meet with other landlords that had had enough. On that first night, it was a small group, about 25 people showed up. It was a start. We have grown, we have gotten better.
I am co-founder and vice president of Richmond County’s Landlords Association. Mr. Tony Martin is my co-founder and president of our L.L.C. This group was put together to not only help out our members, but to also help tenants find good housing. We put together, every month, a list of people that have left owing, that have damaged homes or ones that have had judgments brought against them. I personally have never put any name on the list if the tenant got sick or lost their job. I can not hurt a man that is already down.
Some in the county are not happy with this list. I say this: Pay your damn bills, I do. You can too. Don’t smoke, don’t drink. It’s that simple. Do you want a beer or a place to sleep?
To become a member of Richmond County’s Landlords Association, call Tony Martin at 895-2700. Yearly dues are $20.00 per year. One bad renter will cost you more than that. Join up and help yourself, by not getting hurt by these bad renters. Again, I say , there are good people that we rent to. The bad ones cost us all, in the long run.
Robert Lee is a concerned citizen and U.S. Marine veteran who owns and operates Rockingham Guns and Ammo. His column appears here each Saturday.