I seem to be whiffing lately when it comes to the quality of my tenants. For those who don’t remember, after a scary night with my last roommate’s girlfriend, he decided to move out and I needed to get new tenants for basement mother-in-law suite.
I put the unit on the market for $850/mo + 1/2 the internet bill and got a dozen applicants. Every single one of them wanted the place, so I really had a lot of options. Although there were two single guys who would’ve been a good fit, in the end I decided to go with a young couple. They were my age, just moving out of their parent’s places, and were moving closer to work. As a fellow Millenial who is very concerned about his generation’s failure to launch, I felt like this was an opportunity to help make a difference.
What could go wrong?
First, she lost her temp job at a factory and decided against getting a new one. It took me a while to realize this because she was suddenly at the house 24/7, but things finally fell into place after I saw a letter come through in the mail for her. Rather than apply for the hundreds of job openings out there she had spent her time writing the government and applying for social security disability payments instead. A 32-year-old women. My heart just dropped like a rock when I saw that.
I got along well with her boyfriend and asked him if she was going back to work, and (according to him) she suffered from agoraphobia – fear of public spaces – and so had a hard time leaving the home. I bought this explanation at the time, but in light of later events I really question that answer. I also found out at the time that she was also a single mother, whose kids she had left with relatives back in the town where they came from. This raised tons of red flags with me, after all what kind of mother leaves her kids a hundred miles away to go with a boyfriend and doesn’t even keep a job to sustain her children?
While I felt bad for the guy because he was supporting both of them on his income alone, little did I know that this was only the beginning of the train wreck.
The other shoe dropped a few weeks later (in early August) While the couple was really quiet during the day – which is great for an introvert like me – they started drinking and getting fights at night, oftentimes at 1 or 2 in the morning. Finally the shouting escalated, with her accusing him of cheating and saying that he was “no longer welcome here” and naturally the boyfriend stormed out of the house and drove away. Holy crap, did I just lose one of my tenants??? He didn’t come back for several days after that.
A few more weeks pass by, but the situation in the house gets ever more constrained. Whenever I see them they aren’t talking to each other, and out of embarrassment they start avoiding me. I caught them arguing one night, with him on his knees in tears just begging her to hit him if that would make her feel better. Instead she just sat in a chair, smiled smugly and looked away. What a despicable woman.
They finally get into it again around midnight on the 17th of August.* They were swearing at each other at the top of their lungs and after a while they took it outside on my driveway. I quickly went down there to calm the situation down and tell them to go to bed. Talking with a neighbor later, I found out that he had overheard their argument that night and had ducked inside to avoid it – and he was sitting a few hundred feet away! This was escalating into a neighborhood issue.
Two days after that all hell broke loose. At 3am in the morning, I heard crashing and yelling come from downstairs. The fighting once again went out onto the driveway, but this time they managed to get their car and the girlfriend started honking the horn and crying for help. I grabbed my pants and bolted down there to break them up. The boyfriend was walking away from the car threatening to call 911, his glasses smashed, and the side mirror of his car knocked off. The girlfriend quickly walked away and stormed back into the house. According to him (and I did not witness the fight directly), they had been drinking and started arguing again when she grabbed a metal bat and tried to bash him over the head with it. I then consoled him as he broke down and cried over how the relationship was falling apart.
I was fed up. I’m a pretty easy-going person, but assault and attempted murder are not acceptable. I told them both that this was unacceptable and that they were gone. The boyfriend acknowledged that they had screwed up and accepted it immediately. She did too, but also said that the living quarters were unacceptable because they had a black mold problem and that I was lucky she didn’t sue. They certainly wasn’t any before they rented the place! And they had never complained about anything before! I thought she was manipulative before, now I knew she would lie to me through her teeth. The farther away she was, the happier I would be.
So now my tenants are leaving next weekend and I’ll be on the hunt for new ones. I’ll see what I can get for $900/mo all-inclusive except TV, but will be implementing a background and credit check process after this fiasco. My gut worked well with my last roommate, and failed me terribly with the new ones. I never want to go through this again, and I can’t keep having this constant turnover if I’m to actually make money doing this. This is a lesson I needed to learn.
The only thing I feel bad about is the boyfriend. He and I got along well and I’d be happy if he stuck around, but the girlfriend apparently made up with him shortly afterwards and insisted that they leave together. I’ll be free of her in a week, but he’ll be stuck with her for God knows how long. I can’t say I have the most relationship experience, but she was clearly abusing him and I advised him to end it as soon as possible. He decided otherwise, the poor fool. I learned my lesson quick, I hope he doesn’t take much longer.
*I know this because I started writing down every single fight to file some noise disturbance letters against them. I know that the eviction process can be lengthy and contentious and I wanted my ammunition. Being a direct witness to all of this was even better.