Having spent thirty years as as apartment manager, I have seen it all; from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the frightening to heart-warming. Having managed a maximum of sixty apartments, I have rented to hundreds of people.
Woman Moved for Recreation
Here are a few of the stories. The apartments were usually rented furnished, so the renters could move with little difficulty. A woman I will call Lucile dearly loved to move. She lived in about 12 different apartments of mine. After about six months in an apartment, she would begin to get restless. Each time she moved, I would ask her if she liked the new apartment well enough to stay a while. She would invariably say she did, but in a few months she would want to move. She was a modern-day nomad.
One day, she was moving to one of our apartments next door. She was half-moved and decided to move back to the original apartment. Why did I agree to keep her as a renter? She was a meticulous housekeeper and always paid her rent on time. If I had not let her move, she would have moved to a competitor’s apartments.
Large Sinkhole Appeared in Yard
The collapsing sinkholes in Florida remind me of the problem in our apartment house yard. A circular sinkhole 12 feet in diameter and 10 feet deep inexplicably appeared in the side yard. It extended under the side of the house. It was the remains of a terribly old cesspool. Luckily it was dry, and nobody fell into it.
Before the installation of public sewer systems in cities, most homes had a cesspool or an outdoor toilet. Holding raw sewage, a cesspool was a large underground reservoir built from masonry, stone or concrete. It was like a modern day septic tank, only larger and without a leach bed. No longer used and often forgotten, the tanks lie hidden beneath the ground, waiting to collapse. Children have been known to drown in old cesspools. We filled the hole with a large load of gravel and covered it with soil.
Apartment Was Filled With Chlorine Gas
A renter called one evening and said her apartment was full of gas. I rushed there, and the gas odor was overpowering. I noticed it smelled like chlorine instead of natural gas. The renter said she was cleaning and had added some laundry bleach to the cleaning solution. I knew immediately the bleach had reacted with the cleaner and released chlorine gas into the room. We opened all the doors and windows and cleared up the situation.
Woman Wanted Husband’s Girlfriend Evicted
A woman renter told me her husband was bringing another woman into the apartment to live with them and wanted me to evict her. While I sympathized with her, I regretfully told her I could not get involved in personal matters.
Ex-Husband Threatened to Blow Up Apartment House
A woman renter called and said her ex-husband was threatening to blow up my apartment house where she lived because of a marital dispute. He had expertise with explosives from military service, so the threat was credible. The police had been called, so I left the decision of whether to evacuate the house in their hands. I had no feedback from the police, so all I know for sure is that the house did not blow up.
Gasoline and Pilot Lights don’t Mix
I had a male renter who liked to work on cars. I had cautioned him never to bring gasoline into the house. After receiving a call that the fire department was at the house, I found that the renter was using gasoline to clean greasy auto parts in his kitchen. Inevitably, the vapor contacted the pilot light on the gas range and kaboom; the gasoline exploded. The resulting explosion ruined his apartment and smoke-damaged three other apartments. The renter was uninjured except for singed eyebrows.
These are a few of the incidents in the everyday life of an apartment manager. Luckily, there were no serious injuries or accidental deaths. Like doctors, apartment owners live in fear of a lawsuit. The only safeguard is to carry a comprehensive liability policy.
“Cesspools”/Northern Arizona University