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How Many Landlords are Good at Customer Service?


Here’s an interesting, true story with a moral.

I went into a tenant’s apartment to examine their garbage disposal, which had stopped working.  It was just a piece of broken glass wedged into the grinder, so I removed that, reset the trip switch, and said, “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do!”

The tenant said, “Actually, the toilet is very slow.”

I thought to myself, “Oh, the previous folks had troubles with this thing…  I guess cleaning out the jets only fixed it temporarily.”

I said, “Let me take a look at it.”

It was clean, like the rest of their apartment.  I flushed it.  It seemed to work.

The tenant volunteered, “We can’t put paper down it.  It clogs.”

I said, “What?  What do you do with the paper?”

The tenant said, “We put it in that can there.”

I looked in horror at the small trash can sitting beside the toilet.

I said, “That’s horrible!  Why didn’t you say anything?!”

The tenant said, “Oh, it’s not a big problem.  We didn’t want to bother you.”

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t rent an apartment like that.  What kind of landlord have they had in the past, where they were afraid to mention that one of the most basic services — a toilet — was hardly working?

I arranged to replace the toilet that very afternoon.  I bought the one in the picture because I wanted to make sure that if they decided to flush a bucket of golf balls, it would handle it.  They were so grateful they gave me a plate full of rice and beans and a pork rib.

Two lessons to share:

1.) Use wax rings on toilets.  When I removed the old toilet, I saw a plastic flange that had been used instead of a wax ring.  I think they don’t even sell these anymore.  This flange was constricting the siphon trap exit and reducing the flow rate.  I probably didn’t need to replace the whole toilet so much as just the interface with the abyss.

2.) Tenants are people too.  Whether you tend to be a forgiving landlord or a strict martinet is up to you, but you can easily go too far to either side.  Don’t let folks walk all over you, but at the same time, don’t cow them into throwing toilet paper into the trash.  Think about it this way: if they can flush an entire bucket of golf balls, then your life will be better, too.

Have you had a similar experience?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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