Working Together IS Better – Feature Article

Originally written some time in 2011.

Feature article:

It’s a common known cliché that couples who work together don’t last a long time with each other because of the total time spent together.

“How can you stand working with him then seeing him at home right after too?” a friend of Diana Cavazos, 30, asked her one day.

“I like being around my husband. I know many couples say they wouldn’t be able to stand working with their spouses then seeing each other at home right after,” responded Cavazos, “But I enjoy being around him all the time—it makes everything seem more equal between us.”

Cavazos works as the property manager for two apartment complex buildings: University Manor and University West, both located on streets near the University of Texas-Pan American—her husband, Julio Barreiro, 32, works as the head of maintenance.

As property manager, Cavazos sits in the main office Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. talking to walk-ins who wish to rent a new apartment, tenants who go to pay the rent or complain about maintenance or simply doing paper work.

“My wife [Cavazos] calls me every time a tenant goes with a new complaint about maintenance to the office.” said Barreiro, “The complaints vary from clogged septic tanks to broken air conditioners or broken appliances—I hate the calls for septic tanks fixing.”

As head of maintenance, Barreiro doesn’t only take care of tenant complaints; he also has to get apartments ready, when tenants leave, for any new tenants that might come in. He paints them, fixes any broken appliances such as electronics, bath tub, sinks, windows, doors, floor, etc. and leaves the apartments looking just like new—or a lot better than they were before.

“Ever since my sister moved in here, the drain has been clogged—she goes to the office to tell the manager [Cavazos], but until now they haven’t fixed it.” said Iris Cipriano, 26, University Manor tenant, “I guess it depends on the apartment though, because I live with my mom, next to my sister’s apartment and our drainage is fine.”

Cavazos and Barreiro have been married for 13 years and have been working together for five and a half. They don’t get any benefits from their job, except a free apartment in University Manor where they live with their 12-year-old girl and 9 and 4-year-old boys.

“The free apartment has been very helpful for us. We get to live near the main office, so no spending gas and it saves us stress because it’s one bill less to pay.” said Barreiro.

The only person Cavazos has to notify for anything that goes on in the apartment complex buildings is the owner John Lackey. Cavazos and Lackey rarely see each other—they communicate via emails and Cavazos pays him the rent of the tenants through bank deposits.

Cavazos said that Lackey tries visiting the apartment complex buildings at least twice a month just to make sure everything is running smoothly, but other than that he doesn’t get involved in the business much; her and her husband are the ones pretty much running it.

“The only times I ever have to call the owner,” said Cavazos, “Is when we have to make big purchases such as a big amount of tile to fix the flooring of an apartment or buy new appliances such as a new refrigerator or stove.”

The owner tried putting a supervisor to be checking up on them every once in a while for a short amount of time, but figured it was just a waste of money because both Cavazos and Barreiro work perfectly fine together without him, so the supervisor was dismissed and they were left running the business on their own since then.

Out of the five years that Cavazos has been working in the apartment management business she has had to kick out five tenants for not paying the rent. The only times that she is allowed to make an exception is if the owner is notified first and he agrees to give them an extension for them to pay their rent.

“I’ve noticed that she [Cavazos] only insists on the rent when the owner tells her to email him all the names of the tenants that haven’t paid the rent yet.” said Rachel Herrera, 24, tenant of University Manor, “So I’d say she’s pretty lenient with it.”

Normally, the tenants are given 30 days to either pay the rent or move out, after the three day notice of over-due rent has been given to them and the tenants are usually understanding about that.

The tenants are also usually understanding with after-hours phone calls or “emergency calls.” Cavazos said that she rarely gets them, but when she does they’re usually for lock-outs.

“One time my family and I were at the zoo and some lady kept calling and calling and calling our cellphone, until we finally answered—she said she needed us there right away because she had been locked out,” Cavazos explained, “I told her she had to wait until we got back because we were all the way in Brownsville and couldn’t just leave to open her door.”

Cavazos assures that both apartment complex buildings are safe and have never had any big disturbances where the cops had to get involved in.

“The mood is usually pretty serene around here; I’ve never had to call the cops myself because of disturbances, the tenants respect us around here.” said Cavazos. “If anything, the problems are small enough that the tenants can solve it between themselves.”

Aside from all the work they have to take care of for the apartment complex buildings and the three kids they have to take care of at home they both claim to enjoy all the time they spent together, whether it’s alone or not.

“I think all you need is good communication with your partner in order to be able to withstand being with them 24/7.” said Cavazos. “We can’t both want to do the same thing, we need to decide who takes on what role—and communication does the trick.”

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