Saturday, May 26, 2012

Any Geeks Need to Rent a House?

Have you wondered what it's like to have a tenant in your old house 850 miles away from your new home? Probably not, because you would be sane and sell your home before moving 850 miles away from it.

However, when we looked at selling our house last year, we discovered that the market had bottomed out. Our home had lost 25k or so on paper, thanks to the lovely recession. I don't care if Bush or Obama is responsible at this point for the economic disaster. The economy still sucks, I still can't sell my house without taking a loss, and the two political parties piss on each other's Post Toasties in D.C. instead of getting anything remotely useful done to drive a meaningful recovery.  But I digress.

We decided to rent our home out for a couple years until the market improved enough where we would not be bleeding dollar signs at closing.

Being the nominee for this year's Nobel Prize in Anxiety, I worried about things like not being able to find a tenant for 482 months, tenants paying rent with checks that bounce, drug dealers moving in and taking over the neighborhood, the garage burning down, and/or the house exploding from a gas leak. The exploding house thing actually happened in that town only 7 months earlier, after all. These little things keep me up at night.

After talking with family and friends, we decided the best route to go would be to hire a property management company. We found a company with a very nice lady co-owner who assured us that they already had a tenant, she was an upstanding renter, paid bills on time, etc., etc., etc. With the management company finding a tenant so quickly, I breathed a small sigh of relief and thought maybe all these other awful things might not happen.

They didn't tell us about her bone cancer. Mom is planning to go back to her home country to die.

The also didn't tell us about her (allegedly) drug-dealing gang-banger teenage son. Now, I could be charitable and say that's probably because he's a juvenile and hasn't shown up in their background check system.

So, things went fine for about seven months. Bills got paid on time. We got paid, though not as much as we wanted. The property management group has been fond of finding things for their maintenance and landscape buddies to fix. I put a stop to that after asking them why we'd been charged 3 hours of work for a landscaper to shape two rose bushes, sending them pictures that a friend had kindly sent us.  I'm a big fan of Reagan's saying "Trust, but verify." It keeps everyone (semi-)honest.

On Mother's day, I got a frantic call from our friend. Her son had been offered drugs by the son of our tenant, who I'll call Alix to protect his identity.  A former neighbor had called the cops for a party where 100 teens were in the backyard drinking and smoking who-knows-what.  Now, our yard is really, really small. I'm not sure how they even managed to fit 100 people in there, much less do anything fun besides stand squashed up against each other like they were in the middle of a giant mosh pit, minus the band throwing guitar picks at them from the stage. Mom apparently was at work while the teens partied, but got stuck with a nasty fine for their under-age drinking and general misbehaving.

Then we found out from a call to our former neighbor that our buddy Alix allegedly had let 3 other gang members move in, they'd set up a drug drop box on our front porch, cut out some holes in our garage to use those for peepholes to make sure no one saw their drug dealing, sprayed graffiti all over the inside of our garage, tore down some garage interior walls, and assorted other unsavory activities.

Even better? There's a 2 year old toddler living there, too, and there were reports of probable abuse. This should be already obvious when one considers Alix has allegedly tried to sell drugs and has been allegedly seen drinking vodka in the house, all while he's supposed to be taking care of the rest of the family while mom works her butt off to take care of his sorry butt.

Now, this wasn't my definition of a good tenant. So the next morning, after a sleepless night filled with visions of houses exploding and garages burning down from meth labs cooking God-only-knows-what inside, I called the police, child protective services, and the property manager, in that order.

Two days later, the property manager was inspecting the inside of the house with a police officer, and confirming nearly all of what I'd heard from neighbors-except the drug part. Alix had had 24 hours' notice, and, in a fit of sudden intelligence, had cleared out the drop box and other obvious signs of drug use. I think the cops should have brought along a drug-sniffing dog, although the dog likely would have rolled his doggy eyes and pointed a paw straight at Alix in a 'Well, DUH' move. The police officer, of course, was not fooled by the lack of obvious evidence. He's seen Alix's type too many times, not to mention the drug-related graffiti all over the inside of our garage was a dead giveaway.

People in the neighborhood have started calling the police any time they see something suspicious, which means 'pretty much every 1.2 hours when Alix is home'.  The cops went out to our house four times on one day alone.  Our tenants are now becoming a regular part of the news cycle in town.

Even better, the mom's rent check for last month bounced, thanks to the $1300 fine she got for Alix's giant under-age drunk-fest. The property manager says this is actually a good thing, because now we can evict them before the lease is up. I asked if my appliances were still going to be there or if Alix would sell them for more drugs. The manager assures me they would do their best to prevent that. I'm feeling just a teeny bit jaded after being assured these were good tenants in the first place.

Image source: "Home Alone" movie by 20th Century Fox
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Ellif said...

Shouldn't the property management company cover the lost rent until they recover from the tenant as well as cost of replacing any appliances. It's what you pay them for after all and besides they like have an insurance policy to cover it.

Jae Onasi said...

They sent us a check already before her check bounced, and I'm going to cash that thing in a heartbeat. We do have insurance, but I don't know what it'll cover in situations like this. I'm sure I'll still have to pay a deductible. We'll be able to sue the tenants for that, but it's highly unlikely they'll ever pay it back.

Ellif said...

Personally, I'd get someone to go over your contract with the Managment company with a fine tooth comb and consider going after them for the money. Let them deal with recovering from the tenants.

They picked that tenant and it's why you went through a management company in the first place: To remove most of the worry & hassle.