NEGATIVE ENERGY IN HER APARTMENT.

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.)

THE TOUGHEST LANDLORD IN MARYLAND

Many states have strange landlord-tenant laws. For example, in Maine it is a crime to bite your landlord. This law just criminalizes biting your landlord, not kicking, stabbing, or punching him. (I wonder what incident led to the passage of this law.) In every state in the U.S., a landlord can evict a tenant for non-payment of rent. A landlord can also sue a former tenant for unpaid rent after the tenant has moved out. However, in my home state of Maryland and a few other states, landlords and real estate investors can also have former tenants arrested and sent to prison for non-payment of rent. (Sounds medieval, doesn’t it?)

As Robert Reich recently wrote: “Jared Kushner’s real estate company uses arrest warrants to collect debts owed by low-income tenants. In recent years, the firm has sought 105 warrants for former tenants in Maryland, more than any other landlord in the state, according to the Baltimore Sun. The debts average less than $5,000, but Kushner tacks on thousands of dollars in legal fees. In some cases, people aren’t even aware they owe Kushner money because his company purchased the debt from a previous owner. When a tenant fails to pay, the company seeks an arrest warrant in a process known as ‘body attachment.’ This predatory practice can result in jail time. Kushner owns 9,000 properties in Maryland, which turn a $30 million annual profit. Since 2015, the company also received $6.1 million in rental subsidies from the federal government.”

Baltimore Sun Article on Kushner.  Donald Trump also uses this same practice in his business, having people arrested and sent to jail for non-payment of rent.

The penalties for non-payment of rent have been much harsher at various times in history. For example, in ancient Rome, a landlord could have a tenant sold into slavery to recover unpaid rent. Incredibly, there are some places in Asia where this practice is still going on. In medieval England, if a serf’s house burned down, he was still obligated to pay his landlord the same amount of rent, and if he refused to pay the rent or ran away, he could be hanged. Now just in case you were wondering….In California, you cannot be arrested, sent to jail, hanged, or sold into slavery for non-payment of rent. However, you can go to jail in California for biting your landlord. That’s assault.

 

Landlord Drones?

The last time I saw Aaron Levie, he was speaking at a Box.com developer’s conference at Fort Mason in San Francisco. While he was giving his talk, a drone was flying around him on the stage.

It seems like everybody these days has drones. Private investigators are using drones to spy on adulterous spouses, parents accused of abusing children, and people suspected of filing fraudulent disability claims. People have gone to prison based on evidence obtained by drones. “Drones are a game changer” said one private investigator.

I saw a drone at a landlord conference last year. A drone was flying around the room. The drone salesman told me that: ‘every landlord should have a drone.’ I can think of several legitimate uses that a landlord might have for a drone. For example, a landlord might want to examine the condition of the roof of his building after a severe storm without climbing up a 30 foot ladder. However, I wondered if some of the landlords who were buying drones really wanted them just so they could spy on their tenants. As I was watching this drone fly around the landlord conference, I thought of all the tenants I have had in the past who were doing suspicious things that I wanted to know more about. A drone would have been handy at times; however, I am not going to get one. I suspect that my tenants would regard it as an invasion of their privacy if I had drones flying around their apartments just to make sure they weren’t doing anything naughty.