Landlord woes
February 21, 2017 11:44 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for some advice on dealing with tenants as a new landlord.

Due to financial circumstances, I had to let my house in September last year. I found what I believed to be good tenants. They signed a 6 month fixed term tenancy agreement. As I couldn’t afford to store my furniture, I let the property as furnished. Within two weeks, I had a call to say the electric shower had blown. I sent out an electrician who reported back that he had advised the tenants not to use the shower on the highest heat setting for long periods as this is what caused it to fuse. He said the tenant became very defensive.

On passing the house, I noticed that there are always at least 3 cars parked in front of the house, 2 on the driveway, and one in front of the window on the gravel which is not designed for a car. This gravel has a pathway of stepping stones which have all become loose and moved out of position due to be driven over. I realised that they must have a lodger. On my first visit to the house, three months after the tenancy started, I wanted to check on the boiler. From standing on the landing I noticed there were beds and clothing hung up in all the bedrooms, very obvious more people staying there. I asked about the extra car and the tenant said it was her brother’s car who was visiting from Poland.

I walked into the living room and noticed that my dining table and four chairs were no longer there. The tenant said they had to get rid of the table because it broke. She was waffling away and it seemed like she wasn’t telling the truth. They said they would leave their small awful dining table and two chairs for me. I was very puzzled and didn’t take it all in at the time. On leaving the house, the shock set in. Firstly I couldn’t believe a solid pine table could break, and what about the chairs? Secondly, I felt they had no right to get rid of my furniture without consulting me first. I could have salvaged the chairs at any rate. I emailed them later that night saying if there is anything they do not want of my furniture in the house, I will remove it for safekeeping. They replied saying there is nothing they did not want. I was irked that I had not received any kind of apology. I sent a further email later that night saying that I was really upset that the table and chairs had gone as I had spent a lot of time refurbishing them, also that all of furniture is precious to me and has taken me over 20 years to accumulate. They then replied with it wasn’t their intention to hurt me. The male tenant rang later that day. This time saying that a leg had fallen off the table, again, the story didn't ring true. He also said that he was concerned that this incident may affect my decision to renew their tenancy. They still didn’t seem to acknowledge that they should have let me know and consulted me before disposing of my furniture.

Since this incident, there has been a frosting of relations towards me. They have paid their rent a couple of days late on a couple of occasions. Whereas before, they would email/text to say that they had transferred the money, now no communication. I feel that they are sulking with me. The tenancy agreement comes to an end in one month and they have previously said they want to stay long term and even buy the house when I am ready to sell. I believe I have been very fair and generous with this couple, leaving almost brand new white goods for them to use and charging very reasonable rent. I am new to being a landlord, did I approach this all wrong? How could I have handled this better?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Go directly to the nuclear option to make sure they leave at the end of lease. These are not reasonable people. There is no relationship to salvage. Involve local authorities early. Hopefully you have a security deposit, as they will almost certainly sell (for cash) or destroy (for spite) the things in the house.
posted by metaseeker at 12:09 AM on February 22, 2017 [37 favorites]

I don't think you did anything wrong apart from in choosing your tenants. Did you go through a letting agency? Many landlords find it's worth paying out a percentage to an agent to use their vetting and reference checks, even if you don't use them throughout the tenancy. I wouldn't renew to the people, there are better tenants out there!
posted by KateViolet at 12:12 AM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sell them the house!
posted by rhizome at 12:31 AM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

The one thing I can think of that you probably should have done is put something in the lease that outright says "you cannot sublet", so you could've kicked them out when they started doing that.

Did you take a deposit? If so, that's what it's for - fixing or replacing anything they damage or break. If not, you should've.

But leaving that aside, holy shit, get those people out of there. This isn't going to get better, and it's nothing you did. These people sound like nightmare tenants from start to finish. Kick them out at the end of the lease, keep their entire deposit if that's what it takes to replace your table and the other stuff they undoubtedly broke, and vet your tenants better in the future if you want to keep letting. I, too, would suggest a letting agent.
posted by sailoreagle at 1:23 AM on February 22, 2017 [12 favorites]

This should absolutely influence your decision to renew their tenancy. They're bad tenants, and you should look for new ones. Surely disposing of your furniture or having a third person there for an extended period is a lease violation--if it's not, I'd suggest that you also look for a new lease template to use with your new lodgers. I'm a renter and am on the side of tenants in most things, but these people are absolutely abusing your trust in them.

All that said, while I don't think that you've done anything wrong, I do think that it's unwise to leave anything precious to you in a house that you're renting out. Even if your tenants are wonderful people with good intentions, there's always the chance that someone's child or dog or drunken uncle will destroy something, or your tenants won't know how to care for something appropriately and will inadvertently wreck it. If you have an emotional or substantial financial attachment to the furniture or anything else that's easily removed from the premises, I would strongly suggest putting it into storage before you let out the house again.
posted by mishafletch at 1:24 AM on February 22, 2017 [22 favorites]

There is no need to be concerned with feelings. You have a contract, it's not personal.
If you feel uncomfortable, let them go.
posted by chartreuse at 1:25 AM on February 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

"[the] furniture is precious to me and has taken me over 20 years to accumulate"

So when you decided to leave the furniture there, you made sure to include something in the contract about "keeping the furniture in good condition" right? And in case of any issues they should contact you or be liable for repair/replacement? So you'll be able to take the table/chairs cost out of their security deposit, at least. And yeah, get them out at the end of the tenancy.

You could sell them the house but these people sound like arseholes and selling a house is enough of a hassle without the other party being an arsehole. What if they're like "oh we need an extra month to get the money, can we just keep renting? Oh we didn't get quite enough money, can we pay 10k less than we agreed? Oh there's been a delay, the money won't be here until next week...."
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:32 AM on February 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

The only things that I can see that you've done wrong are to leave furniture that you care about, and perhaps the shower. For your next tenancy, make sure that you are clear that the shower can only be used for X amount of time at X temperature.

Otherwise as soon as the fixed term comes to an end, start the process of getting them out and follow it to the letter.
posted by threetwentytwo at 3:40 AM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not clear as to when was the last time you laid eyes on your table but my first thought was that they sold it. In any case these people need to go.
posted by STFUDonnie at 4:51 AM on February 22, 2017 [18 favorites]

Go through the house and document via picture the furniture, because these people need to go and you need to be able to go after them if they sell or break more stuff. Do not renew.
posted by corb at 5:41 AM on February 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

Yeah, dear lord, NO, do not sell them the house. That is the worst idea ever.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:41 AM on February 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Did you take a security deposit? In the US houses are rented out with the understanding that tenants are to return it at the end of the lease in the same condition they received it, with some reasonable wear and tear. The loss of furniture that came with the house would be grounds for keeping the security deposit - you need not take a replacement table as compensation.
posted by Karaage at 6:42 AM on February 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Get a property manager. Let them do the dirty work.
posted by james33 at 7:00 AM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Take their deposit and make them move out. You now know what to avoid in the future.
posted by Marinara at 7:38 AM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

You are not obligated to let them renew their lease, so don't. But I'm worried that you're going to have a hard time getting them to leave, and putting your things at risk of them selling them before they're out.

Here's what I'd do to protect your belongings: Let them know that in 24 hours (or whatever is legal in your jurisdiction) you will have a property manager arriving to take inventory of the contents of the house that belong to you for insurance purposes. It's not optional. Get a friend or a stranger or whomever to come over with a clipboard and a home inventory checklist, and get to documenting all furniture items in the house. Photos too.

Then once that is documented, compare it to what you know you had. If things are not otherwise amiss beyond the table, let the tenants know that their tenancy is coming to an end at the end of the month and you will expect all items in the inventory to be there when they depart. You can always dangle the "when the house is up for sale, I'll let you know in advance so you can make an early offer, but I plan to renovate first" line.

Then take those documents and get insurance on the contents of that home, right away. I know insurance won't bring back your table or replace a lifetime of sentimental furniture, but if you're cleared out or they ransack the house, at least you won't be bankrupted.

Then, I'd honestly contact your local police, and let them know that you have a bad feeling that your tenants may not vacate your property when their lease is up, and you think they sold some of your furniture out from under you. Depending on where you live, the police might be willing to go to the house on move-out day to encourage them to leave.

Next time, background checks and a better lease. Use an agency.
posted by juniperesque at 7:49 AM on February 22, 2017 [13 favorites]

Where are you? Your options may be limited by the laws in your jurisdiction.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 9:15 AM on February 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, they sold your effin' table. And they sounds like irresponsible jerks just in general. Boot 'em at the end of the tenancy agreement, guilt-free. Be prepared for a struggle to get them out, though.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:16 PM on February 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

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