Lord of the Land


Some people want to be landlords. I’m a landlord by curse of death. The last home my parents owned fell into my hands
when my father died. Rather than sell the place, I rented it out. I’ve made bigger mistakes, but none come to mind right now.

The house is a three-bedroom, two-bath production model, built in Rancho Cordova during the 1960s. Wood frame and stucco, the design was called “ranch style,” a phrase you don’t hear much anymore. The word ranch raises more questions than it answers.

Where’s the ranch?

Everybody knows stories about greedy, heartless landlords. I wanted to be a
good landlord. I hired a rental agent and told him to never raise the rent as long as the tenant was good. The agent smiled. He had heard that one before.

The agent found good tenants—an older couple. For eight years, they paid the rent without complaint. The price didn’t budge.
This past winter, the tenants left California. The agent surveyed the house and said it was in good shape, all things considered. He said it needed a few repairs. He could arrange for the work. I asked whether I could do it myself. The agent smiled. “Sure,” he said.

The house needed new carpet. Kitchen flooring was ruined. Tile was chipped. I don’t know how to install carpet. Vinyl is easy, but since the flooring guy was coming, I paid him to fix the kitchen floor. I did the tile. Any fool can do tile.
The exterior was last painted by my father in 1975. Lacking a sprayer, I tackled the exterior with brush and roller. It needed three coats, 13 gallons and two weeks. Tree branches had dislodged several roof tiles. This meant a chainsaw and ladder. A section of Sheetrock was torn away. A door was warped. There were light fixtures and miniblinds to install. And the backyard was a mess, overgrown with ivy. I pulled out 12 cubic yards. Debris stretched the length of the house. I worked like a dog for three solid weeks.

I was sick of being a landlord when the rental agent called to say he had found a new tenant. “Great,” I said. The tenant came by while I was installing a porch light. He said he and his family had lost their home to foreclosure.

“We’ll treat your house just like it’s our house,” he said.

The weary landlord shook the man’s hand and promised to never raise the rent.


R.E. Graswich co-hosts the afternoon news weekdays with Kitty O’Neal on NewsTalk 1530 KFBK AM radio and reports for CBS 13 news.