Because I have been a landlord for a very long time, newby landlords often ask me for advice, especially when dealing with odd situations. About a month ago, a young man who recently bought a 6 unit apartment house here in Berkeley began getting complaints from tenants in his building about loud rhythmic banging noises. His tenants reported hearing these noises every morning and every evening but none of them could tell where the noise was coming from. I told the landlord that the most likely explanation for this noise was air hammer, a common plumbing problem. Unfortunately, air hammer in an apartment house is often hard to trace back to its source, which is usually inside a wall. I advised this landlord to walk through the common areas of his building with one ear against the wall to try to find the source of the banging noise. He did that, and eventually he traced the banging noise to one apartment. (It turned out that my guess was wrong. The problem wasn’t air hammer.) The tenant in the apartment admitted that she was the source of these noises. She explained to the landlord that her apartment had a lot of ‘negative energy’ in it, and that every morning and every evening she walked through her apartment banging the bottoms of pots and pans together to drive away the negative energy in her apartment. The landlord told her that she had to stop doing this because she was violating the rights of the other tenants in the building to the quiet enjoyment of their apartments. ‘Quiet enjoyment’ is an important legal concept in housing law. The woman said she would stop banging her pots and pans together, but only if the landlord found some other way for her to get rid of the ‘negative energy’ in her apartment.

I don’t know what this landlord should do. Banging pots and pans together in your apartment is a violation of the nuisance clause which you can find in nearly every lease, but I’m not sure that a Berkeley judge or jury would allow a landlord to evict a tenant for doing what this woman is doing. She has a letter from her ‘psychic advisor’ that says that: “the negative energy vibrations” in her apartment are “off the charts.” (I wonder how you measure negative energy vibrations.) A lawyer advised this landlord to: “tell the tenants who are annoyed to call the police every time they are disturbed. Police reports would document the problem in such a way that the landlord would be less likely to be characterized as some sort of villain and would make it easier to evict if the problem persisted.” The landlord tried that, but the other tenants in the building don’t want to call the police. They told the landlord: “We want you to take care this.” I think they may be afraid of retaliation by the woman who is banging her pots and pans together.

I went to Google and looked up ‘negative energy’ in apartments. I was surprised to find that there are a lot of web sites that offer advice on how to remove ‘negative energy’ from an apartment. Several web sites specifically advise people to bang pots and pans together with their doors and windows open to drive out the ‘negative energy.’ Other web sites advise people to get rid of the ‘negative energy’ in their apartments by doing things that would create other problems for a landlord. For example, several web sites advise tenants with ‘negative energy’ in their apartments to walk though the building holding smudge pots full of burning sage. I think that might be even worse than banging pots and pans together. Walking though an apartment house holding a pot full of burning sage would be a huge fire hazard, it would likely set off the smoke alarms, and the other tenants in the building would undoubtedly complain about the smoke in the halls and the smell of burning sage. As I said, I don’t know what advice to give this landlord. I’m stumped. Have you got any ideas? I haven’t read all the web sites on Google on this subject. There’s too many of them. (Yeah, I know this sounds like another ‘only in Berkeley’ story.)


Four Corners is the place where 4 states meet at 1 point: Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. This is the only place in the United States where 4 states touch at 1 point. Four Corners is marked by a plaque on the ground where quite literally¬† ‘X marks the spot.’ Unfortunately, that’s all there is at Four Corners. There is nothing else there. Nothing. Just an ‘X’ on the ground. The surrounding landscape is a featureless desert. Four Corners National Monument should not be confused with Monument Valley, 100 miles away. Monument Valley has spectacular scenery. John Ford filmed many famous Westerns in Monument Valley. Nobody makes movies at Four Corners. Four Corners National Monument is a 5 hour drive from Albuquerque, the nearest big city. I know a number of people who have gone to Four Corners. I know one couple who spent their honeymoon driving from San Francisco to Four Corners and then back home. They drove for 3 days to get there, looked at at the ‘X’ on the ground, and then spent 3 more days driving back to San Francisco. A lot of people drive to Four Corners from faraway places. Four Corners National Monument is visited by over 400,000 people a year, but I can’t figure out why they go there. The U.S. Park Service charges $5 per person to look at the ‘X’ on the ground, which is all there is to do at Four Corners, just look at an ‘X’ on the ground. There’s nothing else there aside from a few picnic tables and a souvenir stand. There is no running water or electricity at Four Corners National Monument, there’s no cell phone or internet service, and there’s nothing for kids to do. There’s no umbrellas or shade over the picnic tables, and the temperature in summer can be over 120 degrees.

To top it all off, the ‘X’ on the ground is in the wrong place. The location of the ‘X’ was based on a survey conducted in 1875; however, in 2009, a new and more accurate survey of the site showed that the place where the 4 states come together is actually about 1,800 feet away from the ‘X’. Rather than incur the cost of moving the entire monument and the road, the 4 states agreed to just leave the marker and surrounding concrete circle where it is – in the wrong place. So – in addition to everything else that makes this my choice for worst major tourist attraction in the U.S. – it is also in the wrong place. A lot of people who go to Four Corners from faraway places already knew before they left home that Four Corners Monument is in the wrong place and that there is nothing to do there, but they went there anyway. Can you explain to me why 400,000 people go to this place every year? I don’t get it. Have you gone there?