Lessons from 'Fresh off the Boat'

by Andrea West

Posted on 2016-11-15 09:30:45

Fresh Off the Boat is a show about a family that moves out of Chinatown in Washington, D.C. to suburban Orlando. Season 2 Episode 21 is called “Rent Day.” The mother, Jessica, in her visionary pursuit of money, has decided to invest in real estate with her friend, Honey, and her mother-in-law. At first they try to sell the house they bought and fixed up until Jessica decides renting will be much more lucrative. Honey tells her there’s a lot they don’t know about being a landlord, but Jessica insists all they need are the perfect tenants.


That right there, I think, was Jessica’s first mistake. As the episode progresses, the list of mistakes continues to grow. You can watch the episode yourself. It gives great insight on the do’s and don’ts of first-time landlords in an entertaining way, or you can just read the lists I’ve put together.


What She Did Wrong

  • Didn’t do a background check

  • Didn’t do a credit check

  • Didn’t verify the information applicants gave her

  • Didn’t check their references

  • Didn’t know her landlord laws or the rights of her tenants

  • Didn’t check that their deposit cleared first, which it didn’t. As a landlord, make sure you know the laws about rent deposits in your state. In Jessica’s case, they’re from Florida and the laws there declare that within thirty days she needs to disclose in writing if the deposit money will be held in an interest or non-interest bearing account. Jessica does get rid of the property before the end of the thirty days, but I still get a sense she didn’t know about this.

  • Didn’t give a written eviction notice

  • Shut off the tenants’ power and water to try to get them to leave

  • Spied on her tenants

  • Didn’t give notice before she showed up at the property


Jessica wasn’t completely hopeless in her attempts to be a landlord. She did follow through with some important steps.


What She Did Right


What We Don’t Know

  • Did anyone sign a residential lease? Considering that she ended up with squatters, I don’t think so.


Jessica’s first experience as a landlord would have been much more positive if she’d simply done her homework before jumping in. She would also have had a better experience if she’d used property management software. From watching this show, I think Jessica would have appreciated how property management software makes the rental process more efficient, but as the show takes place in the early 1990’s, she didn’t have a lot of options available at the time.