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Landlord Relations: What’s the Word? (Part 1)

Open communication, common understanding keeps laundry tenant, property owner on same page

CHICAGO — Many laundromats across the United States occupy rented space, so working cooperatively with the landlord, and within the terms of the lease, can prevent headaches the laundry owner likely doesn’t need.

And that’s why maintaining friendly, regular communications with the landlord while backed by a good understanding of what the lease document accommodates puts the laundry tenant in the best position regarding the real estate where their washers and dryers reside.

If you’re a renter, what’s your experience been like? Do you check in with your landlord regularly, or is it the landlord who calls on you? How do the two of you communicate? Is your relationship based almost exclusively on your lease and the rent you owe, or has it grown beyond that?

Multi-store owner Scott Roberts operates a pair of New Jersey laundromats located in small shopping plazas. The 2,000-square-foot Wizard of Wash is in Toms River, and the 1,600-square-foot Suds by the Shore serves the Long Branch community about 40 minutes away. Collectively, they operate under the name Laundry Bros.

Robert says his tenant experience has been good for one store but not the other.

“At the Toms River store, everything was done electronically when dealing with the landlord. It was a standard lease but the process was very easy to switch over, to assign the lease from the prior owner to us. The landlord was very willing to help smooth the process along. It was just done through our attorney, and the process was very smooth.

“In Long Branch, the top page of the lease came and it was handwritten. The landlord did not employ any legal assistance throughout the process. Basically, he adopted a mentality of ‘This is my strip mall and you’re going to do what I want.’ Everything was handwritten, all corrections were handwritten on the top of a page. The meat of the lease was basically an internet download of what I would call a standard lease agreement, nothing specific to laundromats. And all addendums were handwritten by him.”

Melissa Berry runs Fort Collins, Colorado’s ExelAnce Laundry, which she named after her children, Drexel and Prudance. The 2,500-square-foot “mostly unattended” store is connected to a gas station on a busy street. While the landlord lives in Nebraska, he’s responsive and has taken care of requested improvements and fixes, she says.

“We had some slight issues when I took over four years ago that had never been addressed and he really wasn’t aware of,” says Berry, who’s worked in the laundry industry for 27 years. “We’ve been working together really well and been able to put in a new rooftop unit, so we actually have heat and air conditioning in our store now.”

When a customer broke out the laundry’s entrance doors in a fit of rage, her landlord quickly had them replaced. A couple of water leaks led to installation of a new roof.

Berry says she and her landlord worked together to update a lease agreement he’d been using for some 40 years: “I was lucky and actually got to design my own lease with some parameters that we set. There are certain things I’m responsible for, like the property tax and maintenance on the rooftop unit. Other than that, if it’s part of the building, he takes care of it for us.”

Marc Fuller owns 24 Hour Laundry, which occupies some 2,000 square feet on one end of a strip mall in Charlotte, North Carolina. His portfolio had included two other stores but he sold them shortly before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“But all three of them, the landlords were totally different, from a mom-and-pop to a big corporation that owned hundreds, if not millions, of square feet. Different cultures. The big-time landlords, their CAM [common area maintenance] fee is astronomical but you call them and they have a management team that can get stuff done immediately. Your mom-and-pop, you might have a problem with your roof and they might prolong it for two months or more, but they don’t have a CAM fee.”

Check back Thursday for Part 2!

Landlord Relations: What’s the Word?

(Photos: © depositedhar/Depositphotos & © NoonBuSin/iStockPhoto)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected] .