As I mentioned last week, one of our rental homes was empty for a few weeks this summer when our tenants moved out without notice and left the place a mess. So last week Mr. CMF and I got to experience the deep joy that can only come from getting to clean up a filthy mess left by someone else. It was great.
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I also mentioned in that post that our tenants left multiple items behind for us to deal with: a mattress box spring that was not going to come out of the basement in one piece, a broken car jack in the front yard (those things are HEAVY!!), three huge old speakers, a crappy TV stand, an ugly patio umbrella, and the inexplicable, a giant roll of soggy carpet padding in the backyard.
There was no carpet put in the home during the three years they lived there. One of the tenants was a bartender and the other was an electrician. Why in the world they came to possess a giant roll of carpet padding is beyond me.
Crap to Give Away
Anyway, so one of the first things that we had to do while cleaning up the property was haul all the crap away. We don’t own a pickup truck, so we called up a rental agency to see about renting a truck. We were able to arrange to rent a truck for a half day for $19.95. All we needed was a way to haul a bunch of crap to the dump.
We managed to get the job done in three hours. Unfortunately the three hours included time spent waiting for a tow truck, since one of the first things Mr. CMF did was get the truck stuck on an embankment. Here’s a tip: don’t go for shortcuts when using a rented truck. For a brief period of time that morning I wanted to kill him. Tow truck showed up quickly though, and $100 later we were back in business (the hubs DID have the decency to haggle with the tow truck driver, who initially wanted to charge $150 for the job).
Approximately two hours after we returned from the dump/rented truck/tow truck fiasco, we were in the house cleaning when we heard a knock at the front door. I opened it to find a man who introduced himself as the next door neighbor. He said it had been windy a day or two before and his patio umbrella had disappeared. Had we by any chance seen it?
He described the umbrella he was looking for, and our hearts sank as we recognized the description. Yep, it was the umbrella we had hauled to the dump just a couple hours earlier.
I couldn’t lie to him. So I told him that we had hauled his umbrella to the dump thinking it was left behind by our tenants. In retrospect, the umbrella, although ugly, had seemed a little bit nicer than everything else that had been left behind, but in the wake of the tow truck frustration we had really not stopped to give it a second thought. We just tossed the umbrella into the rented truck along with everything else that was going to find its final resting place at the dump.
What to Do?
What I did next was something Mr. CMF and I would later debate. I asked the man how much his umbrella had cost. He said he had bought it two and a half years ago at a local warehouse club for $60. I asked him if it would be ok if I gave him $40 to compensate him for his umbrella, and he agreed that would be ok. I took $40 out of my purse and gave it to him.
Mr. CMF later told me that he would not have given the man anything. And I know I didn’t HAVE to compensate the man for his umbrella. After all, we had arrived on a Friday night to find that umbrella in our backyard, apparently abandoned. It was still there Saturday morning when we were making our trip to the dump. Of course we thought our tenants had left it, as they had left so many other things.
The Value of Being Neighborly
But more importantly than the umbrella itself, I thought it was important to treat this man extra kindly because he lives next door to a house we own. Even though we are not there very often (this rental home is located approximately five hours away from where we currently live), I think that there is value in making friends with your neighbors.
Would he have been our enemy if I hadn’t given him $40? I doubt it. But now I hope he will think of us as the nice people who own the house next door, and I kind of like to think that what goes around comes around. I think if given the chance in the future to either help us out or not help us out, there may now be a better than average chance that he would choose to help us out. How much could that one day be worth? I have no idea. Maybe $40, maybe nothing. Or maybe a LOT.
My mother (who lives alone) and her next door neighbors watch each other’s dogs when they are out of town. Since my mother recently had surgery out of town and stayed with us for a while, that means that her neighbors were taking care of her dogs for about three weeks straight. Now that she is home her neighbors are still walking her dogs for her every day (she has big dogs, and she had shoulder surgery so cannot walk them herself). Her neighbors even went to her house twice a day when Mr. CMF and I were out of town on our rental house cleaning expedition, to do her physical therapy with her. A different neighbor is taking her to her physical therapy appointments 2-3 times per week.
My mother and her neighbors are such good friends to each other that one recent Christmas one of her neighbors got her an automatic garage door opener, and a different neighbor installed it. Not kidding!! In my mother’s case, I would say that the value of being neighborly is HUGE.
In my own life making friends with neighbors has been valuable as well. A few years ago the hubs and I were living in a suburb of a large city and I locked myself out of the house one day. Mr. CMF had just started an 8 hour shift at his work downtown, and he had the only other key. My options were A) wait outside for eight hours until he got home, or B) borrow a car from our neighbor. Even though we had just moved in, we had already met the neighbors and gotten to know them somewhat. They did not hesitate to loan me their car for an hour so I could go get hubby’s key.
I’m guessing many of you out there may have similar stories about times when making friends with your neighbors has been valuable to you. We can probably all agree that there is value there, although there really is no concrete way to put a price on that. Was I right to give the neighbor $40? I still don’t know, although I think my conscience rests easier knowing that we went the extra mile to make it right for that neighbor. And I think there’s value in that as well. 🙂
Would you have compensated the neighbor for his umbrella? Has anyone else out there ever had to call a tow truck for getting a rented truck stuck?
Suggested Reading: This incident with our tenants has gotten us reading more and more about tenant selection. If you are a landlord as well, or are interested in landlording, you may be interested in reading Every Landlord’s Guide to Finding Great Tenants.
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