Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Trashed, again

I own a second house, one that I have rented out for several years to different families. There is always a gamble in renting, not getting the rent on time, not getting paid at all or only partially. Then there is the element of damage to the property, some natural wear is built into the deal and then there are things neglected or intentionally damaged due to poor life style choices for lack of a better handle.

A few years ago we had some folks rent the house who were marginally able to afford the price we had offered. When they were on hard times we were able to absorb their inability to pay and explained that one day they would be able to catch up. It eventually got to the point that they four months behind and were never going to get caught up. Some how they managed to get into a government subsidized house of their own. That means that not only did they skip out on the last 4 months rent, now my taxes are helping them to live in a house that they still can’t afford; but no worries, the government has established the minimum standard of living for everyone, regardless of ability to pay.

So they left my house in a bad way. We had to remove all the carpet and pads so that the concrete could be washed and sealed. It turns out these folks would lock their cats in the house; enough said. One room was so bad we had all the sheet rock either replaced or sealed to eliminate the odor. In all we had to spend about 5 – 6 thousand dollars to make the house livable again. That included new carpet, new tile, all new paint inside and out, new bathroom faucets and a new dishwasher.

That was two years ago and the next family that moved in seemed to be a much better risk. The first year they always paid the rent on time, and the couple of times when they were running short they would call us to explain their situation. The fact that they were concerned about being even a week late spoke volumes about their desire to be good renters. That started to fall apart when it came time for them to pay for the next year’s garbage collection fee, something they were aware of in the lease agreement. It never got paid, at least they never paid us back.

The dues are assessed by the home owner’s association and included swimming pool access, street lighting and garbage pick up. Those home owner’s associations can slap a lien on a property for failure to pay garbage fees, that and the legal notice fees add up quickly so we always made it a point to pay those kind of things to avoid legal entanglements. The next time around for these same fees, that and one months rent which was late, brought the bill to right at a thousand dollars they were behind.

Two months ago these folks decided they couldn’t get along with each other and one of them explained that he was going to have to get an apartment and would I give him a good bill of health when the apartment’s manager asked about his payment history. I asked him about the money he still owed, and how would he be able to pay for the rent house along with additional apartment rent seeing as how he was unable to keep up as it was. I let him know that I would give them a full month to pack up and make the house available for another family. He knew it was only a matter of time, all the same he expressed his gratitude for our having been so kind and generous, letting them lag behind in the rent and all.

I went by to check on the house today, having been told that they would be out last Sunday, all packed and that they would leave the house all cleaned up and deliver the keys to us. Monday came and went and no keys, no phone calls; nothing to indicate that they had completed the move out process. I knew being a locksmith would pay off as I picked the front door lock, having had to pick up quite a bit of loose trash in the entry way. The first thing I noticed was that the stove and refrigerator were missing.

I have watched the movie, True Lies, where Tom Arnold is explaining about his ex-wife and how she took everything, to include the ice trays. “What kind of sick bitch takes the ice trays?” he exclaims as he shrugs his shoulders, “Women can’t live with ‘em, can’t kill ‘em”. My next door neighbor once rented to some folks like these. When they moved out in the middle of the night they took every single light bulb, the dishwasher and even took out the built in stove and microwave oven. What kind of folks do that?

There were piles of trash in every room, the carpet is going to have to either be professionally restored or replaced. Basically, the house had been trashed; there was a fist sized hole in the living room wall that had been covered with a piece of paper and spray painted. The master bedroom had been half way painted, as if it would have been too much trouble to move what ever furniture had been against the wall and so that section was left alone. I couldn’t get into the garage as it was wall to wall garbage.

I called the fellow on his cell phone and explained that I was disappointed and thinking of having the police report made. I explained that just because he had moved out and into his own apartment, he was equally responsible for the house that he had rented and signed the lease agreement on. I could hear him trying to explain, “ Oh well, it looks like we lose the one month deposit left at the beginning of the lease agreement”. I told him that they were already a thousand dollars in the hole and that the way the house had been left might take 4- 5 thousand dollars to bring it into a condition where it could be livable. I then suggested that he call his former co-resident and start by hauling off all the garbage so that I could have a team of professionals come in to restore the carpets, the hole in the wall, have it painted and deodorized. I asked what he wanted to do with all the junk, some of which appeared to be salvageable. He said that we could keep it. How lucky can I be, I get to keep all that unwanted crap, clean up the place and thank them for being such good renters.

I will go there tomorrow with my camera, take lots of pictures and then call for a police report just to document the state of the house for any future squabbles that may arise when I present them with a bill for damages. I may even post a picture or two on the internet just as a warning to other folks who go the extra mile with undeserving folks.

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