While we were away on our five-year adventure living abroad, we did not sell our house in Virginia. We had bought the house two years prior to our overseas excursion and we wanted to come back to it upon our return.
So, we rented it out.
My one piece of advice when renting out your house to strangers is to hire a property management group. This group will take all the responsibility for handling those late-night calls when the HVAC system give sup the ghost or when the dishwasher decided that NOW is the time to spring that leak on the kitchen floor. This group can also handle any tenants who have difficulty understanding what the difference between a rent payment is “on time” and one that is “90 days delinquent”.
All told, we had four groups of tenants that signed leases with my lovely wife and myself to occupy our home while we enjoyed Peru and Thailand.
These are their stories.
Tenant Couple Number One (TCNO) never actually made it into our home.
Since we were leaving in July, we started the ball rolling early with our property management group and this group found us TCNO in March. Leases were signed and everyone was good to go.
Then, in May, the husband of TCNO lost his job and they would not be able to move out to Virginia.
We allowed them to break the lease without a penalty and the hunt was back on.
Our property management group found ous Tenant Couple Number Two (TCNT) who signed a year-long lease in June and did move into our house once we had vacated the premises.
TCNT lasted for all of four months in our home when the wife of this couple was offered a most amazing job somewhere else in the country. So, they broke the lease (this time we asked for the “break-the-lease” penalty) and they moved all of their items out of our house.
However, a “funny” thing happened after TCNT departed and our property management group did an inspection of our home. Usually, this inspection ticks off all the scuffed floors and marked-up walls that have been racked up by the previous tenants, but this inspection found something else.
There were items missing from our home.
Before TCNT came to live in our house, we had a treadmill in our basement and a second refrigerator in the garage. Both items were now no longer in our house.
As we came to discover, there was nothing nefarious about these missing items. The movers had accidentally wrapped up those items thinking they belonged to TCNT. When alerted to this innocent misappropriation of personal belongings, TCNT, us, and the property management group decided that the best course of action would be simply to deduct the value of the missing items from their security deposit.
And the hunt continued. In the space of less than a year, we had gone through two tenants and now our home sat empty (and idle since it was not generating any revenue for us).
Our property management group cast their net and found us Tenant #3 (T#3).
Looking back, we should have thrown this fish back.
There will not be much detail here about T#3’s two-year stay with us, but it was unpleasant. Not wall-damaging, neighbor-complaining, police-need-to-be-involved unpleasant, but more in the vein of odious, stress-inducing, why-me unpleasant.
In the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, one of the pirates says that The Pirate Code is not so much a set of rules, but guidelines. T#3 saw his lease with us in the same way.
When we were made aware, on multiple occasions, that T#3 had broken the parameters of our lease, we contacted our property management group to give T#3 a stern talking-to and to have T#3 rectify the situation.
I would like to take a moment here and attached an addendum to my above one piece of advice about hiring a property management group. I highly advice hiring a capable property management group.
We had hired a property management precisely for this purpose – to handle issues brought up by tenants and to handle tenants with issues. T#3 fell into the latter group and our group turned into a wishy-washy, spineless pool of jelly that seemed to always see T#3’s side of things.
So we fired our property management group and booted T#3 out when his lease was up.
We found an all-new (and capable) property management group and they found us Tenant Couple Number Four (TCNF).
Now, I have no stories to share with you about TCNF that highlight anything quirky, shady, funny, or frustrating about them, because they were fantastic tenants. We had no quarrels with them, they stuck to the lease, and they paid their rent on time.
However, if they were writing this blog post, they would have stories about their idiot landlords.
Less than two months into their stay – in the summer – our air conditioning broke. While the property management group was doing their best coordinating with TCNF, the HVAC repair company we had a contract with, and us, our hapless tenants were sweltering in the DC summer heat. The repairs took longer than it should, but these quirks happen.
Until it happened again.
A month before their lease was up – again, in summer – the other part of our HVAC system quit its day (and night) job and needed to be replaced. Due to a series of events outside the scope of this story, the length of repairs was far, far longer than it should have been. TCNF actually moved out of our house earlier than planned to escape the heat of our home.
Those were their stories.
P.S. If you really want to know specifics of how T#3 broke our lease, those are stories for another day, but you’re buying the first round.