|Pop Culture Gadabout|
Tuesday, March 14, 2006 |
( 3/14/2006 07:54:00 AM ) Bill S.
DÉJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN – Longtime readers of this blog may recall that last year at this time, yours truly was in an overly stressed state due to financial probs sparked by a family of deadbeat tenants who stepped out on the rent for the house next store that we own. (For that story, check here.) At the time, I wrote that earlier blog piece, I was unsure whether we going to try and sell the house or rent again, but in the end we (Spoiler Alert!) foolishly made the decision to rent to a second set of tenants. After spending two months doing paint and repair – eating the mortgage cost along the way – we finally found what we thought were decent tenants: an elderly woman whose husband was living in a nursing home plus her adult daughter.
Because we'd been burned with our first tenants, we did some extra work on the new batch. We followed up on the old woman, Carol, who was living at the time in an old folks' apartment complex and looking for a place in our neighborhood since her husband's home was in the neighborhood. We spoke to the manager of the apartment complex and learned she'd been a model tenant, punctual with the rent and conscientious about keeping up the place. We decided to rent to Carol and her daughter Shannon, confident that we'd made a good decision.
Unfortunately . . .
Carol's husband died in the nursing home less that three months after they moved in – and after the old man was buried – she disappeared for months at a time. Still in the home was daughter Shannon, her two teen-aged sons – and now an ex-husband. They still paid the rent, and for a time the ex- was active doing extra work around the yard. But it didn't last. By Thanksgiving, Shannon and her hubby were getting later and later with payments – making the monthly rent in bits and pieces. We didn't get December's rent until the 31st of that month. We still haven't seen anything for January and February.
Yeah, I know: insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results. As with our first bad tenants experience, we took too long going after 'em. A part of us was still trying to be helpful to a family that had recently seen a death and was struggling to make ends meet. What we ignored was a fact that every burned businessperson learns: there are plenty of people out there who habitually use every slice of hard luck in their lives to make it just as hard for the rest of us.
We're not landlords, that much is certain.
Since December, we've spent a lot of time trying to get in touch with the old woman Carol, who'd periodically show up at the house to stay for a spell than disappear again – and also trying get our rental payment. We heard a lotta stories and excuses from our tenants, the most elaborate of which involved an annuity payment from the ex-'s health and welfare fund at work that they'd be able to use to catch up: unfortunately, the day for that purported payment kept getting pushed back. After two months of this crap, we finally got the point of threatening eviction.
The family moved out last weekend, leaving the house a mess (but not as filthy or damaged as our first tenants since we'd occasionally popped in to take a quick look at things – at least we'd learned one thing from our first experience) and owing us two-and-a-half months rent. The utilities are all in arrears, but it's likely that the only we'll have to eat is the water bill. As they packed up to move, refusing to give us a new address, Shannon and her ex- Andy continued to promise to pay the money they owe, but listening to it was like being Danny DeVito in Romancing the Stone, watching his double-dealing brother flee and scene and promising to return and pick him up, "Soooooon!" We may've been naïve and overly hopeful going into this house-renting thing, but we're not complete morons.
So, now, the next order of business is to see about suing for rent and utility payments, then working to fix the place up for sale. Though our family finances aren't as strapped this year as they were last – in large part due to my working on my own bad spending habits – it's still gonna be tight 'til we can get out from under that second mortgage. And, I've gotta say, the experience has made me a whole lot more empathetic toward those "heartless" landlords who refuse to cut their tenants any slack. Too many experiences like this, and it's easy to slip into the People Are Pigs mindset. (Perhaps it's the cigarette ashes on the bedroom windowsill – or the holes in the living room wall that'd been masked by furniture.) I'm going to do my darnedest to keep from falling into that mental trap, but don't ask me what I'm thinking or feeling when I'm cleaning up a filthy basement . . .