Every Landlord’s Nightmare
September 3, 2014
By Robert L. Cain
Want to see even your most mild-mannered tenant froth at the mouth, turn red in the face, and conjure up Mr. Hyde? Take his assigned parking space. The complaints echo from tenancies of all strata. This issue will result in more ill-feeling and irritation than just about any other event that faces a landlord. This one will cause good tenants to move out and bad tenants to sabotage. Parking—every landlord’s nightmare.
How can we handle the situation, first, so it doesn’t come up, and second, so we can defuse such problems? It’s usually not an issue a rental owner needs to worry about with single-family homes, and most likely with even duplexes and triplexes. If someone parks in the driveway of one of these properties, the police will come and ticket and tow away the offending vehicle. But when the property has its own parking lot, the conflict begins.
One of our most important jobs as rental owners and managers is good tenant relations. After all, our tenants are paying us substantial money to live in our properties, and one of our functions is to ensure that their homes are pleasant places to live. If there’s a parking problem, after the offended tenant takes it out on the owner of the offending vehicle, it somehow becomes our fault. Go figure how that logic works, but we should foresee someone blocking access to an assigned parking space, especially if it happens more than once.
Before we ever get involved, though, fights can break out, cars can be blocked in, and near riot conditions can ensue. I don’t know about yours, but my crystal ball rolled off my desk and broke a few years ago, and I haven’t gotten back to Diagon Alley to get another one. There’s simply no way we can completely foresee what jerks will do at any specific time. Even so, we do have some options that may encourage people to park where they are supposed to.
The first thing, of course, are signs. The most forthright one says “Resident Parking Only—Violators Will Be Towed.” A less threatening one says “Resident Parking Only—Visitors Must Park Only in Visitors’ Parking Area.” Another that might be just as effective are “Visitors, Don’t even think about parking here.” How about, “Visitors’ Vehicles parked in resident spots will be parted out and sold for scrap.”
Rear-view mirror hangers are helpful for determining who belongs in a resident parking spot. Those can be moved from vehicle to vehicle, so when someone gets a new car or is using a rental, he or she can switch the hanger. The caveat is that neither the mirror hanger (nor the parking space) has the unit number on it. If bad guys can identify who’s not home, it is an open invitation to become an unwelcome visitor.
The second trick is to be sure that the lines in the parking lot are bright and clear. The Urban Land Institute, experts in all things parking, even provides guidelines for stripe painting and indeed, parking lot design. It is worth going to their site at uli.org for more information. One thing is clear, though, make sure the lines are bright yellow or white and at least three inches wide. You might even go to a shopping center or apartment complex and measure their parking-space lines. Think of your impression when you drive in a parking lot that has faded or almost invisible lines. You may not be sure where to park and certainly don’t worry about parking “just right.”
An added advantage of a clearly defined parking lot is that it gives a good first impression; the property looks cared for. That tends to attract better applicants when you have vacancies.
Third are “No Parking Notices.” Those are the notes you put on improperly parked vehicles. You can buy them from various sources, but can just as easily make them yourself. Here’s how to do them.
- Print them on brightly colored paper, red, yellow, bright green, etc. on one-fourth or one-half sheets. That way you can print them two or four-up on your copy machine.
- In the headline of, say 24 or 36 point bold, write the word WARNING or VIOLATION.
- Under that you can have language such as “You are illegally parked.” Some notices you can buy even have a checklist of reasons for the notice such as “Resident Parking Only,” “Expired or missing parking permit,” “Parked in a fire lane,” “Blocking entrance to building or driveway.” You can get your own ideas simply by doing a search on the internet for no parking notices.
- The best tag is the cartoon of the tow truck. Insert that on the notice. Some people just have trouble reading, so help them with a picture.
The important thing is to take charge of the parking situation. Jerks and other illegal parkers won’t know unless you make it clear. We don’t need our normally mild mannered tenants having apoplexy and turning into Mr. Hyde. Make our good tenants’ homes as pleasant as possible.