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Is it hopeless to try to rent a home to a like minded permie in an urban area?

 
Posts: 11
Location: Arizona 8a
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I am moving further out in the country to a larger property but I don't want to sell my current home in the city just yet as I might want to move back here someday in the future if my endeavors on a large property don't work out. I had a property manager come look at the house last week and he recommended that I hire landscapers to cut down several trees/plants, spray with roundup, get rid of all my chop and drop material and replace it with gravel for easy maintenance.

This got me thinking how nice it would be to rent the property at a discount to people who would like to continue to improve the landscape and soil, grow food, etc.... Is this a hopeless idea? Permaculture seems like it often involves a large upfront investment of time and effort for long term payoff. This is not something renters care much about in my experience.


 
Rocket Scientist
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Hi Stan;  
Its not hopeless but it won't be easy.
You are the boss and the property manager has no say.
I don't know what urban area your home is in, but there has to be people who care about the land.
If you have time then advertise, asking for the kind of person your wanting. Mention  permaculture but don't stress it.
My sister inlaw is the most caring person at a rental. The yards always look better after she has been there and poison is  not in her tool chest.
However she would not have a clue what permaculture is. If you told her how you wanted the yard cared for , it would be done!
Interview people. I suggest older folks with no little ones in permanent residence. Fixed income,that just want a nice happy home.
You can't openly discriminate but you do get to pick who you rent to.
.
 
Stan Warfield
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Location: Arizona 8a
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Thanks Thomas. In the past I have used property managers when I rented homes and I always felt so detached from the process, which is kind of the point I guess. It would be nice to know the people who rent the house, without being in their business, but also knowing that we have similar values. I have also thought about trying to hire a professional landscaper to help maintain what I have started on this house, but I am not sure if they would grasp the concept of "chop and drop" when their primary job seems to involve chopping everything then hauling it away so the yard looks pristine.

The property is in Phoenix AZ, so what I am trying to do here might be more challenging here than in a more environmentally conscientious place like Portland or Berkley. One of the reasons for doing permaculture in a challenging environment like AZ ties back to what Bill Mollison talked about regarding permies settling in areas where the land needs help, as opposed to migrating to places that are already environmentally healthy. Phoenix needs more trees/plants to help mitigate our urban heat island, etc... so maybe if we can set a good example of what can be done here on 7 inches of rain and 110+ degree summers it could have a positive impact.
 
pollinator
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I turned my old house into a rental, and while not a full out permaculture design, it did have about 30 different varieties of fruit growing on half an acre. Ultimately, the chances of finding of someone who A) is looking for a rental, B) of the appropriate size/cost, C) in your area, and D) follows your specific flavor of permaculture is pretty small.

When I rented out my place, I did a bit of a compromise by mentioning fruit trees and a garden in the advertisement, but leaving out any reference of to organic practices and permaculture. A few rounds of tenants have now gone through the house, and while the way they maintain things may not be exactly how I would, if I moved back into to the place I would certainly not be starting at square one in terms of permaculture.
 
pollinator
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Alot of immigrant communities will enjoy the space to grow some of their ethnic vegetables and your existing fruit and berry plant.

That said, I think it might be a good idea to make your space a bit more 'tame'. You can have things planted every 10ft in rows and it will look tidy. And underneath those you can have strawberry, chives, winter savory, and dutch white clover, in addition to woodchip and mushroom, all with a max hight under 12inch.
If your city lot is 100ft on all sides, if you planted 3 sides that would be 300ft or 30 trees, you can have an extra 2 rows in the back yard for 500ft or 50 fruit trees and still have a 80ft by 10ft vegetable garden on the side.

When I was 1st establishing my garden, I had 90% nitrogen fixers, now that it is a bit more mature at 50% nitrogen fixers and I have added woodchip. There is a huge visual difference, it no longer looks like Sheer Total Utter Neglect (STUN). If I had to do it all over again I would still do the same thing, establishing gardens do need the excessive amount of nitrogen fixers.
 
Stan Warfield
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Location: Arizona 8a
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Something else I should mention is that I did not install irrigation. I did not want lots of plastic pipes and hoses all over the property and I wanted to see what was possible in my climate without constant water. As a result, I would imagine that several of the smaller fruit trees I put in (mostly citrus) might not make it without a slow soak every few weeks, until they become more established, but there are lots of established plants that should be fine, particularly things like pomegranates, grapes, two massive grapefruit trees, and of course natives like mesquite and palo verde for nitrogen. There are also a few acacias and a chinese elm that look like they absolutely love being in this crazy record breaking summer that has ravaged us this year in the southwest.

Maybe I can post an ad on craigslist and se what response I get.
 
gardener
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I would try to rent it as is, or as close to that as possible. I think if it's marketed as having edible landscaping you will have takers.

With things being so unstable, I think it's a real shame to destroy any sort of perennial food production. A lot of people are struggling to pay bills right now. Being able to cut down even a little on groceries will be a big relief for many people.
 
Stan Warfield
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Location: Arizona 8a
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James Landreth wrote:I would try to rent it as is, or as close to that as possible. I think if it's marketed as having edible landscaping you will have takers.

With things being so unstable, I think it's a real shame to destroy any sort of perennial food production. A lot of people are struggling to pay bills right now. Being able to cut down even a little on groceries will be a big relief for many people.



Good point. This is the perfect house if you want 10'000 grapefruits between April and June :)
 
gardener
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I would maybe see about advertising it at the kind of places that might attract "those folks" (us!) and highlight those fruit trees and edible landscaping! A food co-op, farmer's market, place that holds courses. You might get lucky!
(I would rent the heck out of a house with jillions of grapefruits!)
 
pollinator
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Stan,

Whatever you decide, please vet your renters thoroughly.  I rented to someone whom posted to here.  It was an  disaster.  Regardless of their interest in permaculture; know whom you are renting your property.  It sounds like you have experience and a good property manager.  Good call.  Wish I had done the same.
 
Stan Warfield
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Jack Edmondson wrote:Stan,

Whatever you decide, please vet your renters thoroughly.  I rented to someone whom posted to here.  It was an  disaster.  Regardless of their interest in permaculture; know whom you are renting your property.  It sounds like you have experience and a good property manager.  Good call.  Wish I had done the same.



Thanks Jack. I am worried about this as well. While I do want someone who has similar values regarding ecology, sustainability, etc.... I don't want anyone who can't pay the bills, or someone that would be hostile to me renting a house and considers me an evil capitalist landlord or something like that.  I still have a mortgage on this house and have my own bills to pay too.  
 
gardener
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what’s the chop and drop stuff you’ve mentioned? do you have particular things that you’ve brought in and really want to be there, or is it just stuff that’s shown up and won’t be too hard to allow to come back?
 
pollinator
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I think there are two separate issues-- collecting rent and maintaining the property to your desired standards.  You may not be able to find one perfect person willing to do both.  Bit maybe you could rent to someone who is indifferent to the yard,  and hire someone to maintain it to your specifications.  Or you could forgo rent and work out some kind of in-kind house-and-garden sitting arrangement, like a live-in groundskeeper where in exchange for living quarters the groundskeeper maintains things as you like, with a contract valid under local laws.
 
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NOT Hopeless AT ALL!

Having lived all over, cities, rural, suburbs, and worked in real estate management and owned rental property offering an opportunity like permaculture in-town is unique and thus valuable. I've owned a couple of rental properties and never had a problem ( one was strawbale the other very animal friendly, both oddities in the area). When you offer what is rare/scarce- be it a fenced yard, for dogs/other animals or a permaculture philosophy you have a valuable commodity.

I would have loved that opportunity early-on when I was still living in a city.

Vetting is important. In my case, I always required that renters with animals, have recommendations not just for themselves but on behalf of their animal companions. ( and my dog came with the same)

What you're talking about requires a deeper "relationship". Consider advertising only thorough know sources like an alt-housing meet-up group, an environmental conservation group newsletter etc. And don't be afraid to write a creative/out-of-the box rental agreement that helps support your philosophy - of course, it's got to be legal...

IE -  I advertised a price range for my rental near the University. Their income would have to qualify for the "higher" price, yet I gave a $100-$200 dollar per month discount for paying by the 20th or 25th of the month.
 
gardener
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I have tried to rent property twice. Both times it was a disaster.  In both cases I knew the people and still thoroughly vetted them. In both cases the property was damaged.  In the second case there was around $10,000.00 in damages inflicted on the property with maybe 6 months. In the second case they tore down a new chimney because it cast a shadow at night that scared the wife.  They also built an outdoor privy next to the well head.  Of course, there was already an indoor toilet as well as an outdoor privy a legal distance away from the well.
 
Andy John
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John F Dean wrote:I have tried to rent property twice. Both times it was a disaster.  In both cases, I knew the people and still thoroughly vetted them. In both cases, the property was damaged.  In the second case, there was around $10,000.00 in damages inflicted on the property with maybe 6 months. In the second case they tore down a new chimney because it cast a shadow at night that scared the wife.  They also built an outdoor privy next to the well head.  Of course, there was already an indoor toilet as well as an outdoor privy a legal distance away from the well.



Sorry to hear you had such a tough experience. I will say from my own experience as both landlord and renter with "people" I knew beforehand as friends, and others in similar situations, I've found that the  "friendly" casualness of the previous relationship hindered the landlord-tenant relationship.

I want to be very business-like regardless of which side I'm on when transacting business even amongst friends.  I've found others not so willing to follow these more formal business-minded rules, etc.  Courtesies, and customary procedures for rentals that would have been afforded a "stranger" in similar circumstances, often went by the wayside - ie timeliness of repairs, timeframes for notices of entering the house etc...

Whichever side I've been on,  the outcome has always been best when it originated from a neutral place to start.

Hope and a positive outcome can still exist for the future...Every-roll of the dice has the same odds, even if you've just rolled 3, 3's in a row....



 
Stan Warfield
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greg mosser wrote:what’s the chop and drop stuff you’ve mentioned? do you have particular things that you’ve brought in and really want to be there, or is it just stuff that’s shown up and won’t be too hard to allow to come back?

I have been chopping and dropping branches, limbs, etc... from the desert adapted trees onto areas that need more mulch and nutrients. This would include low lying basins with citrus trees fig trees, a guava, mangos, papaya, mulberries, etc... While these trees do need supplemental irrigation the chop and drop material has really helped reduce the volume of water needed and the soil health has really improved over the years. It would be a shame to tear it all out and cover it with plastic then rocks.
 
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