Thursday, September 10, 2009

Landlording is not for the faint of heart!

My husband has never been a landlord before. When I was in my teens, my mother and stepfather were landlords and I learned a lot…too much!...from their experiences.

One of the tenants we ejected last month has come back to haunt us. They moved out on August 11 and, despite my written request for a forwarding address, we have no idea where they went. Neither one of them provided an address so, when we finished our inspection of the property, there was no place for us to send the report. So, I wrote the report, noted there was no forwarding address, and stored it in my computer.

Today we received a letter from a lawyer. The letter is dated August 17…24 days ago and less than a week after they moved out. The letter gives us 14 days to refund the unused portion of their August rent…but the letter was not even posted until 19 days after it was written! It was sent via registered mail, so the date and time it was posted is on the sticker on the back of the envelope…that should sit well with a Magistrate, eh? Guarantee default by failing to post the demand until after the deadline has passed…cute.

We have no idea what this tenant told the lawyer, but based on the demand, the truth wasn’t part of it. First of all, there were two guys on the lease and this dude doesn’t just want his half of the money, he wants all of it. A real pal, eh? Pay half the rent but when you decide a refund is in order, demand the whole bundle for your own pocket. I’m guessing he neglected to mention his co-Lessee and flatmate to the attorney…

He also, obviously, neglected to mention that he never paid his security deposit, which was supposed to pay in monthly instalments…didn’t make even one payment! The amount he owes us for that security deposit is more than he claims we owe him in a rent refund…

Then there is the question of damages to the flat…if we keep the whole excess rent as a part of the arrears on the security deposit (which is what we did), the dude and his buddy still owe us 700 bucks in damages over and above the money his lawyer is trying to pry out of us. So, he wants R3000 from us (only half of which he paid) but he and his former flatmate owe us more than R3700 in damages. Do you think his lawyer would have sent us that letter if he knew?

Ya gotta wonder about people…did he think the cracked toilet would go unnoticed? How do you crack a toilet in four places so that it leaks all over the bathroom floor? Did he think I got a volunteer to work nine hours in that flat, carrying out rotting garbage, clearing the stench out, scrubbing nicotine off the walls, grease stains out of the wall-to-wall and the black slimy mould off the bathroom ceilings? Why was the recessed lighting fixture hanging out of the ceiling? How did the seat of the barstool get snapped in half? And why is one of the pine strips of the ceiling hanging half off? Does he think I have a magic wand that, with one wave, will fix all of that for free? The flat was in fine condition when he moved in…it was a sty when he moved out only four months later!

My husband is a kind hearted man. He wants to help people where he can, he wants to believe the best in them whenever possible. I’ve know all along that when given an inch, most people will take a mile…I remember some of the lulus my mother had for tenants and some of the incredibly lame excuses they could conjure for not having their rent or how something got broken or soiled or damaged or went missing. Forty years later and 12,000 miles away, it is no different.

Being a nice guy, my husband allowed these guys to take the flat without a security/cleaning deposit. We wrote into their lease that they would pay the deposit off in monthly instalments over the next six months. They didn’t pay a cent. And every month there was a sob story about how tight money was…even when it was obvious that they were spending a sh*tload of money on booze since, from the accounts of the neighbours, they were apparently seldom sober.

So, they paid their rent on the first of August and on the eleventh they moved out at our request. We applied the unused portion of the rent, about R3000, to the arrears security deposit…which was still about R700 short. Even if they had been up to date on their deposit payments, they would have gotten back less than R50, due to the filth and damage they left behind.

So, you have to wonder what prompted the letter. Did the guy really think he wouldn’t have to pay for the damages and dirt? What makes him think that even if we were inclined to refund the money, we would give all of it to him and none of it to his flatmate and co-Lessor?

So much of this makes no sense…he didn’t bother to give us an address to send a possible refund, but six days after moving out he sees a lawyer to demand a refund? What kind of sense does that make? Why did the letter take 24 days to get here? The lawyer’s office is less than two kilometres from our place, the post office is between here and there…19 days it sat in his office, unmailed, and it finally gets posted 5 days after the deadline had passed?

We wrote the lawyer back and told him that as soon as his client paid us his half of the damages…which amounted to about R1850…we would pay his client his half of the amount in question…about R1550. Or the man could just pay the additional R330 and we would keep the funds we already had.

And then we said that if he client decided to pursue his claim further, we would turn him over to our attorneys for collection, in which case he would be liable not only for damages, but for legal costs as well.

So, now we wait. Landlording is not a business for the faint of heart.


  1. We have several homes but we have never rented them out--and after reading this, I know I don't want to! My mom is a landlord and it is a continual problem for her. She lives in a college town and her places are more suitable for students than stable families (small apartments) and she has had *so* many problems over the years! Some of the stories she has!

    Great article, SV!


  2. Thanks for the comment...don't you wonder what goes through the minds of people when they light up a cigarette in a flat they KNOW is a non-smoking unit...and the landlord has actually provided patio furniture so they can comfortably indulge outside? Do they think we can't smell it or see the nicotine film on the walls and windows? I never cease to wonder how people can sign a lease, fully expect us to uphold our end of the bargain, but feel perfectly free to ignore any provision they don't like!

    Trust me...being a landlord is not a painless and surefire way to make yourself know how to make a small fortune in rental property? Start with a big one!

  3. And I was thinking of renting out a room in my house to save on expenses... maybe I'll rethink that.

    BTW... my ex-husband didn't leave a forwarding address or phone number either. Not sure how he thinks I would get in touch with him in the event that, God forbid, something would happen to our son.

    Hang in there!

  4. Hey Violet, its been a month since u blogged!

  5. Having witnessed the living hell 3 couples I know went through with renters has cured me of ever considering becoming a landlord. They screened renters but still got folks who had absolutely no respect for other people's property. They were filthy and broke things and it took up to 5 months to evict them as the landlord tenancy legislation where I live favors tenants over landlords.


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