When we bought 854 Pennlyn back in January of 2005, the building was 4 years old, and we were the 3rd owner of the first floor unit. In the thirteen and a half years we have owned the first floor, the second floor has had 4 different owners. This part of our story will deal with the relationship we had over the past 13 years with these folks. Our first owners were the two young couples we spoke of in the last chapter. They were truly absentee owners, and with the exception of a couple of winter rentals they had during our early years, they were good to interact with.
I should tell you that when Susie and I bought 854, we found out that the former owners were the ones charged with the insurance needs of the Condo Association, and after buying, we continued with that task. It involved a Liability and Comprehensive policy and another for Flood Insurance. We used a local insurance agent, so all that really was involved was collecting the other owner’s share of the premiums, and getting them to the agent. The Condo Association’s documents specified that because of some differing footprints between the 2 floors, the second floor owned 54% of the building and we owned 46%, so that was the split on expenses too, like the insurance. Easy, right?
Yes, it was with most of the owners. We’d get the bills, copy them to their attention, and a check would be returned in short order. It was like that with our interactions with most of our co-owners, but as with every rule, there are exceptions. We woke up one day, and discovered that the upstairs unit had been sold to a new owner. Let’s just call this owner “Bob”, and like on Dragnet, the name has been changed to protect the..well, you get the idea.
Bob had a wife and three sons. Bob, I think, was going to go into real estate and make enough money to send those three boys to college. In addition to our upstairs, Bob also owned a rental property in Brigantene. Sounds like just the kind of person you want to co-own a building with, right? Well, we hoped so as our relationship started. He had a good job with a company car, and provided us with all his contact info. That was the good part. The first year when the insurance bill came due at the end of May, I guess he hadn’t yet pocketed any rent money, so the check was a little slow in returning and I believe we carried him for a week or so till he made us whole. Okay, new owner, new procedures, we were good with that. Well, we really shouldn’t have been, because it was a pervasive part of our relationship with him.
Turns out that he had bought the two properties on a shoestring, and was stretched really thin on the money side. That made him do stupid things. The first of the stupid things was taking a “Senior Week” rental.
Most people in Ocean City, avoid “Senior Week” rentals like the bubonic plague! The idea of 4 or 5 drunken high school or college seniors doing God only knows what in your beautiful beach home, is just not something that most owners can stomach. Factor in that since “Senior Week” is in early June, and you will be getting the least rent of the entire rental season, and its a no win situation for most. I guess that $1200 was too attractive for Bob to pass up, so he went for a “Senior Week” rental.
While we were thankfully not there during this rental, our across the street neighbors Georgia and Vinny told us many stories. Like the piles and piles of black bags that were filled with empty beer cans on trash day. Or the reveler that they saw sound asleep on said pile of empty beer cans one morning. Or the people they swear they saw sleeping in the garage, and the loud parties that they had a clear view of from across the street.
So Bob made his $1200, but in the end, it probably cost him that and more. There was the hole in the master bedroom wall that he had to fix (somebody put their fist through it). Also the rugs he had to replace because of the burn holes in them, from the cigarettes that were not allowed to be smoked inside the property. Let’s just add that after they left, there was a great deal more than the usual after-rental cleaning to erase their stay. All in all, a mistake from beginning to end!
In addition to his bad decisions, Bob and his wife also had 3 sons who made questionable decisions. Like the time they managed to lock our garage door, so that when we came home and hit the garage door opener, instead of opening, the door folded like an empty Budweiser can. Or the time that they were in the house alone, and decided it would be fun to stand on the second floor front porch, and hurl glass soda bottles at our neighbor Doc’s recycling can. Unfortunately, their aim sucked, and they left Doc with red stains and a number of shattered bottles to clean up, and never admitted they’d done it! Oh yeah, they were lovely little boys!
I think Bob owned the place for about 3 summers, and as time went on, it appeared that his financial situation got worse and worse. Like the summer we had to replace our original air conditioning unit. Of course, both of our air conditioning units were installed at the same time, but for some reason he thought he wouldn’t have to follow us and install new AC. We discovered it was because he couldn’t afford to change it, but alas his AC unit suffered the same fate as ours. Did he replace it? Nope, he installed a WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER in one of the living room windows. I’m sure his renters were dismayed and probably mad when they showed up at the house they had rented that listed it had Central Air, only to find a noisy cheap window air conditioner! There was no way that one window AC unit was going to cool the house, and in addition, the evaporation drain dripped on and ran across their front porch, and right onto ours! This was really the beginning of the end for Bob.
I say that because in addition to our having to wait for his part of the insurance money even longer than usual that year, we found out that he’d apparently also stopped paying the mortgage. It wasn’t long before we heard that his place was up for sale as a “short sale”, because it was on the verge of being foreclosed on by the bank. While the new owners got the place for a reduced price, they also had a lot of work to do because Bob had been scrimping on everything!
He’d apparently never had the air conditioning/heat plant serviced, and even was too cheap to install a couple of dollar air filter in the system. Not only did the new owner have to update the air-conditioning, he also had to have the ducts professionally cleaned since the system was run filterless! In addition, walls needed to be repaired and painted, carpeting needed to be replaced, and the whole unit updated, as Bob had done nothing that wasn’t absolutely necessary during his years of ownership!
With the exception of Bob, we have been very lucky to have good neighbors and co-owners during our 13 years in the house. We are fortunate to have had our current co-owners John and Kim for the last couple of years. There is never a wait for insurance money, plus they have been great partners as we update and provide upkeep for the building. From power washing, to new fencing, to landscaping the property, we’ve handled it all as partners. Our home is better for their partnership, and we hope they remain our co-owners for many years to come.
Would we like to own a home that was all ours and not have to share with others? Yes we would, but the reality of our situation is that there is no way we could live where we do, just 500 feet from the beach without living in a two unit dwelling. It’s just the way it is, and for the vast majority of the time, it is just fine for us. However, once that lottery win comes…well, that’s a story for another time!
Next…a House becomes our Home!