Cape property owner's book tells how to be a better landlord

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A city rental inspection program shouldn't be a burden for landlords who do their jobs, according to former Cape Girardeau police chief Rick Hetzel, who has a new book out titled "So You Want to be a Better Landlord."

In the book, Hetzel relates the lessons he's learned as a property owner, including a "Landlord's Code of Conduct" that emphasizes respect for tenants, prompt repairs and keeping property maintained to attract quality tenants.

"A good part of the code of conduct is to remember that it is someone's home," Hetzel said. "When I go in and see the pictures and personal mementos, it reminds me of that. Sometimes we get too caught up in thinking it is our property."

Hetzel retired as police chief in 2001 after a 27-year career in law enforcement and bought his first rental property the same year. As the city considers licensing landlords and beginning a rental inspection program, Hetzel said it will help good landlords while pushing those who neglect properties to invest in repairs.

"Isn't it a reasonable expectation for the tenant that the property is safe and sound, and that someone, somewhere, is going to make sure businesses do what they should?" he said.

The city is considering whether to begin regular rental inspections and how to perform the inspections. City officials have been working on a draft ordinance in consultation with landlords before bringing the issue the the city council.

The vast majority of Cape Girardeau landlords are doing a good job, Hetzel said.

Hetzel's book is common-sense advice for landlords. When a tenant calls for repairs, he writes, a landlord should use the opportunity to glance around the unit to see if it is being well kept, but not pry into closets or under countertops. Also, visits for repairs or other reasons should be made at a reasonable time, he writes.

In addition to setting reasonable times for repairs, a good landlord will be reasonable about who is responsible for the cost of repairs. Almost all landlords require damage deposits, but normal wear and tear on a property cannot be charged against those deposits, he writes.

"If you want your tenants to take care of your property, then you need to convey that message through your own actions," Hetzel writes. "In the long run your tenants will appreciate it more and your referrals will increase as a result. If you want to have a reputation of a slumlord, ignore your tenants and it will happen."

Hetzel is self-publishing his book. It is available now on a new website he named after his cat, Moxie, www.moxiepublishing.com, and in June through Amazon's Kindle service. A paperback version should be available within 90 days, he said.

A publisher was interested in putting out the book, Hetzel said, but wanted 50 percent of the royalties.

"Publishing it as an e-book was the fastest and most efficient way to bring it to the public," he said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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