housing landlord rent tenant

What ‘Hey Arnold!’ taught me about being a landlord

Hey Arnold!, the 90’s Nickelodeon cartoon, was great for many reasons. It was based in New York City and had a diverse cast of characters. It had interesting story lines that could draw in audiences from children to adults. It even had a few lessons on being a landlord sprinkled through the episodes. The episode Gerald Comes Over is a case study in problems landlords face. Here’s what I learned about being a landlord from Hey Arnold!

Being a live-in landlord can be tricky

Hey Arnold - DinnerCollecting rent the old school way can be tricky, especially if you live with your tenants.  As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. Getting kids to do the task is even less effective. In the episode, Arnold’s grandfather, who is a live-in landlord, sends Arnold to collect rent from all the tenants in the boarding house. Each tenant has a clever way to dodge paying though, and there isn’t much that Arnold and his friend Gerald could do. At the end of the day, all the tenants sat down to a hot dinner prepared by Arnold’s grandmother – the landlord’s wife. Needless to say, they’re more of a family than tenants who actually pay rent on time.

Be prepared for the prohibited pet or two

Hey Arnold - Gerald listens to Arnold talk to tenant hiding chickensWhen Arnold and Gerald knock on the first door to collect rent, they hear a flurry of feathers and clucks. It seems the guy who lives here is hiding chickens, which are probably aren’t allowed in the boarding house. The tenant plays if off like there’s nothing strange going on… and asks Arnold to come back next day for rent.

You may have to deal with property damage

Hey Arnold - Ernie with bricksThe next tenant is Ernie, the demolition guy. He has brick from all the buildings he’s knocked down. When Arnold and Gerald come to pick up rent, he’s more interested in giving them a demonstration with his wooden hammer than paying up. Arnold and Gerald run for cover, and of course are unable to collect rent. With a tenant like that, you’re sure to have damaged flooring and walls to repair when they leave.

Some tenants love their privacy

Hey Arnold keycode

Most tenants wouldn’t appreciate their landlord barging into their home without notice very often. But Mr. Smith takes his desire for privacy to a whole new level. When Arnold comes to collect rent, without saying a word, he sends out a keypad from the door. Arnold puts in a code and a few wood panels on the floor open up, revealing a safe. Arnold enters the code to unlock it and when he opens it up, there’s nothing but an I.O.U. note. Arnold takes the note and leave to go to his next stop. As he goes, Mr. Smith’s camera watches them walk away.

Of course, most landlords won’t have to deal with this type of thing, but hey, you never know.

Some tenants are just plain petty

Hey Arnold - Chores for Mr. Hyuhn

When the boys get to Mr. Hyunh’s door to collect rent, he says he needs just “a few minor chores” done for “building maintenance” before paying the rent. He has them work on his plumbing, lay tile in his kitchen, and put up wall paper. After all this hard work, he rewards them with a dime each and tells them he’ll have rent tomorrow.

Dysfunctional families make terrible tenants

Hey Arnold -tenants trying to settle the Kokoshas

The last apartment is that of the Kokoshka’s. When Arnold and Gerald get there, they’re in the middle of a fight that has Susie throwing her husband Oscar’s things out the door.  The other tenants gather to offer solutions to the couple’s issue. Clearly, not a great time to collect rent. Arnold isn’t able to get a word in edgewise, and Susie and Oscar seem to be oblivious to the fact that rent is due. To deescalate the situation, Arnold rings the gong for dinner and all the tenants rush downstairs.

The wrap-up

This episode of Hey Arnold! shows the reason behind so many standard rental policies, and makes one wonder if it’s worth the hassle. But it can’t be quite that bad in real life, right? *Insert awkward laugh*

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