Best worst landlords in pop culture.

Lessons From the Best Worst Landlords in Pop Culture

Let’s face it – landlords have not been portrayed in the best light as far as popular culture is concerned. Whether you’re sitting down to watch a thriller, an animated comedy, or something in between, you shouldn’t be surprised to see a villainous property owner making life difficult for their tenants (despite the fact that our original research says tenants and landlords like each other quite a bit).

Though Hollywood seems convinced that landlords are inherently evil, we think there’s a lesson to glean from even the most curmudgeonly of pop culture property owners. In this article, we’ll discuss three landlords that fans love to hate and the most important takeaway from each character’s best episode.

1) Ethel and Fred Mertz - I Love Lucy

On February 11, 1952, season 1 episode 18 of I Love Lucy aired. Titled “Breaking the Lease,” this 30-minute laugh-fest centers on the relationship between tenants Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and their landlords, Ethel and Fred Mertz.

At first, the foursome enjoys a lovely evening together in the Ricardo home – until the Mertzes decide to leave sometime after 2 am but found the party didn’t stop in their absence.

The Mertzes, who both live in and manage the apartment building, get angry about Lucy and Ricky singing a duet so early in the morning. The problems continue escalating as a loud argument about keeping the bedroom window open or closed kept the landlords awake. But the third strike came about due to a maintenance issue.

Upon discovering the bathroom faucet is leaking, Ricky takes matters into his own hands and acts as a handyman. Unfortunately, his repair efforts are louder than they are successful, prompting another run-in with the Mertzes. Barbs about the ancient plumbing system and Ricky’s unskilled maintenance work fly back and forth until the Ricardos declare they will move out.

At this point, Ethel reminds the Ricardos of their lease agreement, which states they would owe the remaining amount of rent on their lease if they backed out early. In other words, the Ricardos would owe five months of rent if they broke their rental agreement. Ricky decides that the best way to solve this problem is to act so terribly that the Mertzes break the lease instead.

At their wit’s end after the tenants host a 16-piece band rehearsal, complete with a stomping dance, the Mertzes decide to let the Ricardos move without paying up their lease. Though the Ricardos originally discuss how nice it’ll be to leave the Mertzes’ residence, the foursome realizes they miss each other in the end, and the Ricardos sign a new lease.

What Did We Learn?

It’s never a good idea to go tit-for-tat with your tenants, nor is it recommended that you blur the lines of your relationship. Instead, focus on being kind but professional with your renters. If you need help resolving an issue, consider bringing in a third party, like a counselor, to assist with mediation.

Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz

2) Mr. Heckles - Friends

Episode 3 season 2 of Friends was titled “The One Where Heckles Dies,” and it aired on October 5, 1995. Though this episode clearly focuses on Mr. Heckles, it wasn’t his first appearance on the show. According to the fan Wikipedia page, Heckles often complained to Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe about how much noise they were making. Typically, he’d start by saying, “You’re doing it again! You’re disturbing my…” and fill in the blank with a nonsensical claim, like oboe practice or a dinner party.

In this particular episode, Mr. Heckles dies as he lived: complaining about the gang’s noise by banging on their floor with a broom.

However, to their utmost surprise, Heckles leaves all his earthly possessions to “the noisy girls in the apartment above mine,” according to his lawyer. Though they are originally touched and excited by the prospect of finding fortune in the apartment downstairs, the gang quickly learns that Heckles lived a humble life surrounded by junk. 

All isn’t lost, however. While going through Heckles’ belongings, Chandler discovers that he shared many similarities with the late landlord and decides to live life with a greater focus on building meaningful relationships.

What Can We Learn?

No amount of income is worth getting so worked up that you die. While Heckles was entitled to the covenant of quiet enjoyment, we can’t recommend his ceiling-banging strategy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your property management business, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Maybe you just need to talk through current issues with your tenants, or maybe you want to change your real estate investment strategy. Either way, it’s better to reach out than to die alone, broom in hand.

Goodbye, Mr. Heckles

3. Mr. Fischoeder - Bob’s Burgers

When it comes to fictional landlords, Mr. Fischoeder is truly in a class of his own. When he’s not terrorizing the Belcher children or rigging games in Wonder Wharf, he’s forcing his younger brother to live in a treehouse. But his shenanigans rose to new heights in season 5 episode 21 of Bob’s Burgers.

Airing on May 17, 2015, the episode titled “The Oeder Games” starts with the threat of a rent increase. Angry, Bob Belcher and the other tenants approach Fischoeder with a threat of their own: a rent strike. But Fischoeder has other plans in mind – namely, a winner-take-all water balloon fight among the tenants in which the last person standing gets their rent cut in half.

The tenants’ original plan to stick together popped like a water balloon hitting a cactus. Our heroes, the Belcher family, split up as tenants fall left and right. Still annoyed at Bob for leading the tenant group, Fischoeder announces the burger restaurateur’s hiding spot and instructs all participants to attack him immediately. As further incentive, the landlord says that every balloon that hits Bob will reduce the thrower’s rent by $50 and increase Bob’s rent by $50.

With the help of his family, Bob safely hides out in the on-site Ferris wheel. His wife Linda gives a speech about Bob trying to bring the tenants together, which successfully convinces everyone to stop fighting, and the rent strike is resumed.

Fischoeder takes the opportunity to play the good guy by agreeing not to hike the rent, and the episode ends with a less stressful water balloon fight.

What Can We Learn?

No matter how annoyed you are at your tenants, organizing a fight to the death in any capacity should be avoided. Not only did Fischoeder risk his landlord-tenant relationship by taking this approach to tenants organizing, but we suspect it isn’t entirely legal to let your tenants tussle in exchange for affordable rent. Instead, prioritize good communication with your renters and be open to discussing changes, such as rent increases, as needed.

Mr. Fishoeder from Bob's Burgers asks if Bob is going to die to avoid paying rent.

Whether you’re a residential landlord like Ethel and Frank Mertz or a commercial property manager like Mr. Fischoeder, we hope these tips help you maximize your business while treating your tenants kindly. Your relationship with your renters is critical to your long-term success – so when in doubt, do the opposite of what a Hollywood landlord would do, and you should be just fine.

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