Since the mortgage company wasn't going to help me and I failed to find gainful employment, what other recourse than to rent rooms? (Yes, I could have sold the house at a loss, but I couldn't for several reasons.) My new occupation as a landlord came with the resolve to never again turn the house completely over to another party.
I placed an ad on Craigslist.org in December of 2012. (This was eight months after evicting the disastrous tenants who trashed my place, inside and out, costing me thousands of dollars in trash removal and cleanup fees.) The first (and only) response was from Tyler N. He had returned from Afghanistan a year previous after serving two years, had enrolled in college, had family lived in the area, and I thought he was an honorable person. He looked normal; sounded normal. I even met his mother and sister before he moved in. They seemed normal, too. But he revealed himself to be a landlord's nightmare.
Tyler paid December's rent, but when it came time for the second month's rent, he refused. He told me he had the money but wasn't going to pay me. He turned out to be a junkie. After several confrontations and threats, calling the police, and so forth, he left and never returned. I had to pay to have his furniture removed. I should file a judgment against him for the rent he owes me and other expenses, but I haven't had the time (or money) to do that.
Then I rented a room to Sue F., a 65-year old registered nurse who earned $50.00 an hour at the local hospital. She was fine - at first. In February, another renter 55-year old Cathy W. moved in with her two Golden Setters. Cathy insisted on a six-month lease, which I told her I would draw up. Meanwhile, I was still paying a contractor to install a fence that had been damaged and torn down because of the former tenant (the one who cost me thousands of dollars, the same one who stole $30,000 worth of furniture, etc.). This fence was also temporary (as was the former damaged fence); nevertheless it had to be built and installed. But I paid for it so she would be assured her two dogs would not be able to get out of the yard. I am a long-time dog lover. And yes, they are so much nicer to deal with than people. Which reminds me of former U.S. president Truman's quote: "If you want a friend in Washington [D.C.], get a dog."
I typed up the rental agreement for Cathy and was about to interview a third renter (Pat C.) when I came down with the flu. Sue volunteered to help out while I was bedridden for a few days. She ended up interviewing Pat, and recommended her. I said okay. She also brought up to my bed Cathy's signed lease with amendments for me to approve and sign. I was still ill at that point, running a fever and having problems with energy.
But at last I finally had three women paying rent for a while My life would be somewhat stable. I thought.
Within a short time, Cathy and Sue developed animosity toward Pat. They badgered me to evict her as some of her habits were annoying to them. I was well aware of the principles of group dynamics, and could see what was happening. When you have a group of three, often two will "gang up" on one. This is what was occurring amongst the three women. Pat paid her rent on time, was courteous, and there was no reason to evict her just because the other two women didn't like her. I told them so, but the atmosphere just got worse. They were acting like kindergartners.
One day it culminated in Pat distributing a scathing letter* addressed to Kathy but distributed to everyone in the house. I begged her not to do it, but she did so anyway. She then spent the night with a friend. The next day - sometime around the second week of February - Kathy was gone, furniture and all. No notice and no rent paid for February. Also Sue didn't pay her rent for February. They both had been holding back paying the rent to see whether I would evict Pat. I told them I would not evict Pat.
After many confrontations with Sue, I told her she needed to find another place to live. She refused to leave and refused to pay rent. So I gave her a 30-day notice of a $200.00 rent increase. After ranting and raving and delaying, Sue finally left while I was away for the weekend. No notice and owing me two months' rent. She also stole my watch I had just received as a birthday present from Rolf. And she took a meat cleaver which had been in my family for decades - probably valued at $200.00 - and a couple of other things.
I need to file a small claims complaint against Tyler, Sue and Kathy, but because of computer problems, and other real-life problems (maintenance on the house and so forth), I haven't gotten around to it. [I'm not sure what the statute of limitations is. The court clerks refuse to tell me as they "cannot provide legal advice"!] Pat finally found another place to live. I was finally free of all the negative energy they had created.
The next tenant was a lawyer. I'll call her BK. She worked for the state's office of attorney general. She brought in two other friends over the next few months - one a young woman who needed a place until she could find an apartment, and the other a 50-year old woman who also needed a temporary place to stay while she made arrangements to separate/divorce her husband who she said was abusive. All three of them worked in the same office and were friends. So I knew I wouldn't have the same problem with the former three tenants in not getting along with each other. But there were other problems - too detailed and cumbersome to discuss here at this time.
Thinking of becoming a landlord? Be careful. Whether you do a background check or not, there is no way to know a person's real character.
* Here is exact wording of Pat's letter Cathy:
I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU AND SUE HAVE ATTEMPTED TO COERCE SAUNDRA INTO FORCING ME TO VACATE BECAUSE YOU DON'T "LIKE" ME. I UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE INTERROGATED SAUNDRA ABOUT HER PERSONAL BUSINESS AND PRIED INTO HER PERSONAL BACKGROUND WITH REGARD TO PREVIOUS TENANTS, ETC.
BOTH YOU AND SUE ARE IN COLLUSION, AND ATTEMPTING TO FINANCIALLY MANIPULATE AND INTIMIDATE SAUNDRA BY COLLECTIVELY WITHHOLDING YOUR RENT. BY THIS ACT (AND THOSE OUTLINED BELOW), YOU HAVE EFFECTIVELY BREACHED YOUR RENTAL AGREEMENT, AND IT IS NULL AND VOID, EXCEPT FOR THE MONEY YOU STILL LEGALLY OWE, ENFORCEABLE IN A COURT OF LAW.
I UNDERSTAND ALSO THAT THIS AFTERNOON YOU THREATENED SAUNDRA THAT YOU WOULD NOT PAY YOUR RENT UNLESS SHE MADE ME VACATE. YOU ATTEMPTED TO INTIMATE HER IN THE KITCHEN, AND WHEN SHE TRIED TO ESCAPE FROM YOU TO HER ROOM, THAT YOU FOLLOWED HER AND HARASSED HER EVEN MORE. SHE WAS FORCED TO LOCK HER DOOR TO STOP YOU.
ON FRIDAY NIGHT, YOU LITERALLY SHOVED ME AWAY FROM THE FRONT OF SAUNDRA'S ROOM SO YOU COULD STAND OVER HER BED AND SCREAM DOWN AT HER BECAUSE SHE WAS DOING HOUSE MAINTENANCE AND HAD TO CHANGE A LIGHT BULB OUTSIDE YOUR ROOM. YOU ACCUSED HER OF ENTERING YOUR ROOM.
I HAVE NOTICED THAT YOU HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM. IN LIGHT OF THIS, AS WELL AS YOUR PROPENSITY TO BULLY, INTIMIDATE, AND THREATEN THE LANDLORD, AND YOUR ATTEMPTS TO SHOVE ME AROUND, I HAVE MADE A DECISION.
YOU ARE HEREBY GIVEN NOTICE THAT IF YOUR THREATS, BULLYING, AND INTIMIDATION DO NOT IMMEDIATELY CEASE, I WILL FILE A POLICE REPORT WITH THE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE. THEY WILL, OF COURSE, INTERVIEW SAUNDRA TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH OF MY STATEMENTS. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR COULD FILE CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST YOU.
I SUGGEST THAT YOU PROMPTLY PAY UP ALL MONIES OWED TO SAUNDRA. ALTHOUGH I WAS CONSIDERING MOVING, I HAVE NOW CHANGED MY MIND, AND I WILL BE STAYING INDEFINITELY. (Pat)