Sunday, October 7, 2007

Never rent to "friends"

Everyone knows you shouldn't do things like buy a car or rent a room from a friend, because it taxes the friendship and can easily end up breaking it altogether.

I rented my back room to someone - not a friend perse, but someone I'd known for over a decade. After a while my guest house tenant moved out, and that guy took over her lease, moving from my back room to my guest house. Let me start by explaining a little bit about this guy. Once you hear this you'll wonder why on earth I rented to him in the first place...

This guy is 48 years old. He used to be some kind of stockbroker in Chicago, and he had his own telecommunication company (I'm not sure exactly how that worked, but I think he basically sold long distance, sort of door-to-door). Now all he does is troll thrift stores buying furniture that's either antique or designed by some famous architect, maybe fixes it up a little bit, and then sells it at auction for a thousand percent profit. Of course, there's a lag time between when he buys it and when it sells. All the money he has at any given time is in stocks.

This guy moved out recently. Well, he's moving out now. I guess it depends on how you look at it. According to him he was out of the guest house before September 1st. He made a special point to be out before the 1st, so I wouldn't ask him for September rent. I wasn't sure he was gone though, because I hadn't seen him or talked to him. After 2 weeks went by, I posted to a listserve where I knew friends of his would see it, asking where he might be because he still had my keys, and his crap was still in my storage. I don't know anyone who would count keeping keys and leaving a roomful of furniture "being moved out."

Over the tenure of his living here, this guy was fairly tolerable as a tenant, so long as I let him do whatever the hell he wanted to. Whenever I asked him to abide by any kind of rule - like don't unscrew the light bulbs in the courtyard, or don't park in my space and then complain if I park in yours, or don't move my bike block out of the courtyard - he would throw a fit like I was imposing on him or something and then storm away.

Here's a list of all he questionable things he did that no normal landlord would have stood for...

- Refusing to sign a lease or rental agreement in the first place (this should have been clue #1)
- Ask if he could pay rent next week, because he was waiting for his stock to go back up. After a while (and me complaining about it a few times) he quit doing this.
- Unscrewed exterior light bulbs despite constant requests for him to not do that
- Parking in my parking space, but pulling forward to block the driveway so I wouldn't park in it.
- Dragging things out of the courtyard despite being asked not to, including a bike block and a grill.
- In lieu of rent, he left me a note asking if I remembered the "unsolicited" money he'd given me when he moved in (security deposit). I tried to work with him, and said I'd accept that for rent under the condition that he repay the security deposit, and to make it easier for him I said he could do so over the next 2 months. He made no effort to bay back 1 penny of the deposit.
- He broke the refrigerator and then asked me to replace it. He also constantly complained that the stove, though it worked, was old and crappy. I told him a number of times that he could replace it and I'd pay for it. When he broke the fridge I gave him some money to replace both the fridge and the stove, and if the money I had given him wasn't enough he could pay the rest (since he'd broken the fridge). Not only did he not replace the stove, but he spent less then all of the money I gave him on the fridge and left me a note saying "let's call the rest a delivery fee."
- He demanded that I put a lock on the basement so his things would be safe. So I did. The first thing he did when I gave him the key was to lose it and ask for my other key.

Well, the good news is that the guy found some other sucker to allow him to move in, and for less money. He told me he'd move out by the end of August. As I mentioned, he was out of the guest house by the 1st of September, but he's still got furniture and stuff in my storage, and a basement full of who knows what.

I had Jennifer come to clean the guest house before putting it up for rent again, and she said it was filthy and in horrible shape - much worse then when the last tenant was in there (and the last tenant had a dog!) When I finally did talk to the tenant guy on the phone, I mentioned that I wanted him to pay for some of the cleaning (since I no longer had a security deposit to leverage), he started yelling at me that it wasn't his fault, or it didn't need cleaning, or the carpet was crappy so of course he trashed it. He also said that I raised his rent a few months before, and that the extra money from that should cover it. He said if I were lucky he'd give me $25 as a token...

Wednesday he said he'd come by and give me back the keys, but he never showed up. I left him a message the other day about it and called him again today and finally reached him. he had the audacity to tell me that I could make a copy of the one I still had, and that he could destroy those keys or return them when he gets around to it. He said the only reason I'd need the keys back would be so that he couldn't get in when the next tenant is in there, but I could trust him not to do that.

When I asked him when he was planning on getting the rest of his stuff out of here, he basically told me that since I have space to hold onto it, he was in no hurry. Because I have the capacity to work around him, I should just do that - let him store his stuff here as long as he needs, or until he has spare time to come get it.

He finally admitted that it's not wrong for me to ask for money in exchange for his using my house as storage. He said he could have his stuff out of here by the end of this month, and when I asked him how much he planned to pay me for this 2 months of storage, he sad $25.

He called me later, said he'd start getting his stuff out of here this week, and that he should be done by the end of next weekend, and that he'd give me $25 for storage, and thanked me for letting him store his stuff at my house - as if I'd agreed that all of this was OK.

I'm afraid I have no choice but to accept that paltry $25, which is even less than the "delivery fee" he kept when I replaced the fridge he broke. I can't very well ask for more, partially because he'd just start complaining or yelling about something and then walk away without listening, and partly because I'm not sure he has it. I don't know how this man has made it to 48 years old without learning to behave like a normal person.

For a long time I wished this guy would grow up. Now that he's leaving, I'm happy to say I no longer care if he grows up. I feel sorry for the poor sap who's taking him in now.

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