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when my folks left north carolina they decided to not sell their home and rent it instead. at this time i'd had some experience with people who owned and rented vacation properties. all of them said the same thing to me; if you ever have a rental property, employ a property management company. i suggested this to my father but he waved the advice off saying those companies wanted five or ten percent for essentially nothing. i explained that he would be out of state and wouldn't want to worry about finding and vetting tenants or the routine hassles that were sure to arise with the house. he held his ground.

eighteen months later my father drove halfway across the country to his home in north carolina. with a trusted friend by his side he knocked on the front door of the home he owned but rented out. when the man answered the door my father handed him a check for two thousand dollars and politely asked him to move out. this was my father's first tenant and after a year and a half this was the first money to change hands between these two men. as for why my father paid this man two thousand dollars instead of asking for the many thousands of dollars this man owed him was that this is what my father's lawyer advised him to do. when my father scoffed at the lawyer, the attorney said that it would be a significantly cheaper for my father to bribe the man out of the house than to attempt to litigate him out. and the bribe was likely to have far better results.

so a year ago when my friend bookguy was leaving the country for a year and looking to rent his family's home, i suggested he retain the services of a property management company. he commented on the exorbitance of their fees and added that his wife had already found some tenants. i came to learn these tenants were four local university students. from that point on whenever talking about his home i referred to it simply as 'animal house'. one month after turning over the keys and moving to the other side of the globe, bookguy received an email from one of the four frat boys living in his home. one of the first sentences of the three page email read, 'We want to assure you that there is nothing wrong with the home's condition or structure.' when i read the forwarded message i laughed out loud. there is no way someone could have read that opening and not laugh out loud. although, i reckon bookguy was the one exception to the rule.

now weeks from his return, bookguy made a post on his website about his family's experience in their rented new zealand home. he wrote: 'a broken dish here and child vomit launching there so i can't say the property we were given here doesn't show some signs of additional wear.' i myself can't help but see the similarities in these two scenarios and think if you swapped the word 'child' in bookguy's account for 'underage-drunk-girl', his north carolina tenants could make an identical post on their website summarizing their rental experience.

AUG2008

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