We are at a work slowdown on the renovation. We've had a tenant move out and now have a house to bring back on line.
We are not disappointed that she moved out. We had been agonizing about what to do. We have a cardinal rule. We don't rent to family. The reason for this is invariably, something comes up. Always, there will be a dispute about something and the next thing you know, you have the whole fam-damily up in arms. In this case, the tenant wasn't family, but she had strong ties to Tim's family. We should have known better. but, when she was interested in the house, because we knew her, she was a pretty easy choice. She stayed for five years and we truly never had a problem with her. Then she got a boyfriend.
They asked to buy the house from us, probably nearly a year ago. After discussing it, we said yes. Because she had rented from us for so long, we gave her a lower price. They seemed to be quite pleased with the offer at the time it was made. She did come back later, via IM and ask if we would consider lowering the price, which surprised us a little, considering no other house in town was selling at that price.
Tim and I discussed it, and then I sent the reply back. "No. We were going to remain firm on the price." Given the two car, two story garage with attached workshop, and the fact that the house had been renovated completely before she moved in, we thought that
$63,000 (oh man! I was wrong...$75,000) was more than fair.
Her response came back: "Okay. Just thought I would ask."
We thought no more about it until a relative sent us some very angry messages that she'd received, complaining that they'd fixed up the house out of their own pocket because we would not do anything, about the fact that the house was in poor shape, about the fact that she'd given us $60,000 in rent over the years. Even worse, she complained bitterly about me, that she knew that it was me typing the message, and how rude and controlling I was.
We messaged her expressing surprise that she would feel that way. The house was not in poor shape. Not at all. We had bought the house, renovated it, and she was the first tenant. It was newly carpeted. New bathroom. New kitchen. New appliances. Refinished hardwood floors. She loved that house, and often posted pictures on facebook of her home decorating. I pointed out that it was really unfair to expect that five years of rent would be applied towards the purchase price. We corrected her $60,000 claim to less than $35,000. We also pointed out that during the covid years when beauty shops were not open, we gave her a reduction in rent. Once, when she had a health crisis, we had contacted her and forgave her rent for a period of time until she was back on her feet. I said that it really bothered us a great deal that we really tried to go above and beyond in our duty as landlords (it forms the basis of our business model: if you take care of your tenants, they stay for the long term). I also pointed out that her criticism of me was unwarranted. Tim and I are a team. He does not like to type. We both discussed the situation, and while I had sent the message, it conveyed both our thoughts, not mine alone. To have her go to Tim's family and criticise me was unkind.
There was a lot of back and forth. She was very apologetic, and it was obvious that she did not intend that we should ever get word of what was being said. She loved her house. She thought the price was fair. On and on. She closed with the explaination that she had only reached out to the family because she knew they didn't like me.
The boyfriend got involved.
Tim got mad. This is a rare thing. Tim seldom gets his tail in a twist, but this made him mad. He simply rescinded the three month old offer to sell the house, his reasoning being that number one, they'd never be able to get a loan, both of them being people living over their means, and with some employment issues. This would mean that they wanted to do a rent to own with us. We were not willing to take on that level of risk. Number two, every time that there was a problem with the property, we would be portrayed as 'ripping them off'. We would forever be the bad guys, complaints to family, whenever a problem arose.
They were very upset about the decision, and their response was to come back and lay out the fact that terrible things were already being said about me in the family, and that the person who forwarded her messages to us was a key player in those discussions.
I know it. So does Tim. I mean, it has gone on for years. Neither one of us felt like dredging it all up again.
So there we were. The boyfriend began to become troublesome and challenging. Tim and I discussed back and forth how to handle it. In the end, she decided that the situation was uncomfortable and left on her own. We were not sorry.
We are, however, a little shocked at the damage. In the bathroom, a table was bolted directly into the wall to be used as a vanity. It did not match with anything and needs to be taken out. Wall repair. In the laundry room, a knob was broken on the washer. The shelves we had put up running behind the washer and dryer had been taken down and replaced with cupboards of some sort. They had been simply ripped from the walls leaving serious damage. More wall repairs. Quite strangely, an area rug had been screwed onto wall to wall carpeting. A cell phone charging shelf had been built next to the bed out of scrap wood. I was horrified to think someone had been messing with the wiring of the house. All these things are in violation of the signed lease.
And yet...we can still count our problem tenants over 15 years of renting on one hand.
There are a lot of horror stories about being landlords. These tenants will not receive their full deposit back and they will be enraged about it. They will complain bitterly to everyone that will listen, but they are the exception to the rule. We will take the lessons from this situation and we will make sure that we do not repeat our mistakes.