LANDLORD DILEMMA PART TWO: WHAT I FOUND OUT

In my previous post I told you about a rental problem we were having. Here’s the synopsis: We rented a duplex unit to some roommates. One of the roommates had “some personal problems” and had to go home out of state. I told him we would excuse him. We’ve done that in the past in rare instances when people have emergencies, and he couldn’t very well be renting from us if he had to leave the state. Since the other roommates were staying, I saw no problem. I soon found out that letting this roommate off the hook was not okay with the roommates left. One, we’ll call Pete, called me several times. He said I should not have let “Rob” out of the contract without their consent. I could see his point. He and the other roommate wanted to be careful about who moved in with them and they weren’t happy with the potential replacements Rob was sending over. “Rob signed a contract,” he said. “We wouldn’t have gotten this larger unit if we’d known he was going to do this.” He felt I should call Rob and force him to pay the others. But I’d already told Rob I’d excuse him. I didn’t want to go back on my word.

Well, the situation got worse. I guess Pete and Rob continued to text or call each other and were getting angrier and angrier. In between texting each other, they called me. I felt like a judge in one of those court shows. These two weren’t happy campers. I could see Pete’s concern, but I could see Rob’s’ concern as well. Pete, he felt, could just decide never to get another roommate and expect him to keep paying. I was beginning to wonder if my husband’s part of the business—handling the repairs and accounting wouldn’t actually be easier. What was a right-brained person like me doing in this position? When I got still another phone call, on Friday, my third or fourth in a row, I felt like handing the phone to him. To my relief it was from the dentist’s office.

After I hung up I pulled out the phone book. Time for more investigating. What was the name of that attorney we’d used a couple of times? Maybe his office could give me some information.  I remembered the name (finally) and called. I told the attorney our situation and here’s the rest of the conversation:  (Not the exact wording.)

Attorney: If a contract is entered into, all those who’s signatures are on it need to “agree” to make changes.

Me:  So even though I excused Rob verbally, it really doesn’t mean anything because the others need to agree as well?

Attorney: Correct. You can’t amend a contract or even come up with a new one if all who signed the original contact aren’t in agreement. All parties would have to agree on the new roommate.

Me:  But what is the landlord’s obligation when someone moves out? Sometimes people get a divorce and only one stays. I don’t really feel we can go collect rent from the person who left.

Attorney: It would be up to the person who stays to pay the full amount for the unit. The law says that no matter how many roommates or even family members bail, those who decide to stay in the unit need to pay the full rent. (He gave it a legal term) You charge by the unit and not the person, so even if there were a dozen on the rental agreement and everyone abandoned one person who stayed, that person would be responsible for the full rent.

Me: So it wouldn’t be up to us, the landlords, but up to those who are still living in the apartment to go after the rental portion of those who left?

Attorney:  That’s right.

I called Rob and Pete and told them what I’d found out—that even though I verbally excused Rob, I didn’t really have the legal right to do that. Pete was happy; Rob wasn’t. Pete, however, wasn’t happy when I told them the second part—that he was responsible for the full rent even though one of his roommates had moved out. “Well, Rob’s going to just have to keep paying his portion,” he said.

“I’m sure he’d appreciate it if you could find a roommate soon,” I said. “I doubt he’s going to want to keep paying on a place he’s not living in.”

“I’m mostly concerned about next month,” said Pete, softening. “If he could at least pay his portion of the rent for this next month, that would give us more time to find another roommate.”

When Rob’s mother called upset, I repeated what Pete had said. “I’d just concentrate on next month for now, and then we’ll reevaluate.”

“Okay, but I’m telling him that after that, that’s it,” she said. ”

I could picture Pete’s response and suggested she maybe tone that down.

So the situation isn’t really resolved. I feel bad that these two young men who were such good friends are now enemies. If by March the others haven’t found a new roommate, I’d be tempted to lower the rent with the stipulation that Pete would let Rob off the hook. On the other hand, my husband has wanted to get the rent raised in our units for quite a while.

What would be the best way to handle this? I have the legal information, but now I’m looking for another kind of inspiration on this issue. It’s business, yes, but there are people involved.  The bigger corporation called life overrides all these smaller businesses. How would King Solomon handle this? Should we cut Rob’s rental portion in half? Ha ha ha. Actually, that maybe would not be such a bad of  an idea. It looks like we need to do a little more knee work on this one.

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LANDLORD DILEMMA: What Would You Do?

We had a set of three roommates move into one of our units at the beginning of the month, and they all signed a six-month rental agreement and lease. Well, a few days ago one of them called and said he needed to move back home (out of state) for some personal reasons. I asked if the others were staying. He said they were and that he was trying to find a replacement. I told him that as long as the others were staying and the new person moving in qualified that that was fine with us. We’re fairly lenient when people have an emergency and need to leave the area. Well, last night I had the following conversation with one of the roommates that was left.

Tenant: (In essence) Rob (name changed)  didn’t give us any notice and just moved out. We think before you gave him permission to do that you should have contacted us. We didn’t even know he was going to move. We feel like he needs to keep paying his share until the six months is up. Could you call him and tell him he’s still obligated to help us with the rent because he signed the rental agreement with us?

Me: I already told him we wouldn’t hold him to the lease. I didn’t realize that you were not aware of his situation and okay with it.

Tenant: No, we had no idea. He said he’d get a replacement, but he’s sent people over that we don’t even know and even sent someone really old, like about thirty, (I smile at this point) and we don’t like anyone he sent over. We think he needs to keep paying us. He can’t just assume we’re going to let someone move in we don’t approve of.

Me: I can see why you’re not happy that Rob left you so soon, but whoever still lives there is responsible for the rent. He has done his best to find a roommate. It would be hard for him to find a roommate you’re completely happy with.  If you are not happy with a roommate he would like as a replacement, and you  don’t want to cover the rent with just the two of you, it is up to you now to find a roommate. That roommate would need to be qualified though. And he’d need to fill out an application with us so we can check references. We don’t want to lose track of who is in the unit.

Tenant: (angry) But Rob signed the lease just like we did.

Me: These kinds of things happen with roommates and even with couples or families. Whoever stays is responsible for the rent.

Tenant: If you could just call him and find out why he moved and find out if it’s really that big of an emergency. He promised he’d pay and that’s why we got a larger unit.

Me: If you decide you can’t afford the apartment and need to move, we’ll let you out of your lease as well and consider it an emergency as well.

Tenant: But we love the place. We’re just not at all happy with how this has been handled.

Me: Well, it’s always a little sticky with roommates. I hope you are able to resolve this because we’d love to have you stay.

———-

Unless I find out differently, Rob is off the hook. Whoever is left and lives in the unit needs to pay for the rent because we rent by the unit, not by number of people. I will call our attorney and also pray about this. What do you think? What would you do?

WHAT PART OF NO DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?

I remember saying those words to my kids after I’d already told them multiple times that the answer was no. I guess they thought that if they asked again and again and then maybe one more time, the answer would change. You probably recognize the words. I think they’re on some unofficial list of things parents are supposed to say. And I knew full well they were trite and over used, and I didn’t like hearing myself say the words, but I said them anyway. My kids didn’t like them either, probably because they had a finality to them. Consequently, I was the meanest mother in the world they let me know. Disciplining can be hard on both parents and kids.

What about SELF-discipline? It’s six-thirty a.m. and I’m not sure why I woke up this early, but after messing around on my computer for a while I’ve come into the kitchen and have opened the pantry door to survey its contents, a bad habit. There, before my eyes,  is the plastic container of cashews. A few years ago when the kids were all home I didn’t have these kinds of temptations. Anything resembling a treat would disappear within seconds. Now my husband and I are the only ones who eat the goodies and treats, and we did just that during the holidays. Oh yeah, we overindulged hideously. I don’t know about him, but I felt like a bloated Hereford afterwards. Thank goodness New Year’s and its resolutions come after Christmas. Since the first of the year I’ve been trying hard to do better. In fact, I’ve been really good. But now I’m ready to cheat a little. I really want just a few of these cashews.

No, I say to myself maybe because I know that if I take a few this early I will be eating cashews all day long. Don’t do it! And miraculously I don’t. I back away from the pantry and move toward the cupboard, get a cup, open the fridge, and pour myself some milk. But two minutes later I’ve opened the pantry door and I’m staring at those cashews again. There are some cake mixes next to the container, including a box of fudge brownie mix. It could be worse, I tell myself. At least I’m not making brownies and having them for breakfast like I did once. Cashews are a lot better for me than fudge brownies! Or fudge, I add, because yes, during the holidays I even ate fudge for breakfast. Cashews aren’t that bad for you, I continue, not letting it go. It’s not like I’m going to eat them by the handful. I’m just having a few. I deserve a treat after being so good these last few days. And that’s when I hear the words. My own voice from the past bounces and echoes against the sides of my brain. You already told yourself no. WHAT PART OF NO DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?

Lots of Computer Fun this Morning

This morning I got a phone call from “Windows.” This is how I remember it. I’m not including many of the technical terms. Also, the caller had a strong accent so I didn’t catch everything.

Caller: (after introducing himself) We’ve noticed that you have a significant number of warnings and errors on your PC (?) We’d like you to allow us access your computer (PC?) so that we can correct these problems.

Me: Now what? You say you’re from Windows?

Caller: Yes. (He repeats what he just said.)

Me (suspicious): How do I know you’re from Windows?

Caller: (getting huffy) We can give you information about your computer. (He names specific identifying factors he can give me)

Me: Hmmm.

Caller: May we have access so that these problems can be resolved.

Me: (still suspicious) I need to verify that you are who you say you are. Do you have a number I could call back?

Caller: Yes. (He gives me a number)

Me: You know, this doesn’t sound right. I just had our computer cleaned and checked last week so I’m not sure why there would be problems already.

Caller quickly hangs up.

I  dial my son to get his take on this. When it comes to technology, I am the child and my children are the adults. My son says the call sounds suspicious. He finds me the number of the official Windows and suggests I call it and report what happened.

Windows technician: (who has exactly the same accent as the earlier caller) Windows does not call people to alert them to problems. That was a scam. We have no record of any such call from Windows. May we get the number this party called from so I can report it?

Me: Yes, sure. It was from Texas. (I give him the number.)

Technician: While I have you on the line, would you like me to check the state of your PC and see if there have been any breaches.

Me: Okay, but there shouldn’t be any problems. I just paid a significant amount to have my computer checked and to make sure it’s protected.

Technician: There appear to be a great number of errors and warnings. In fact, your PC has been (basically violated and someone is about to have access to everything on your computer, all your accounts, and is about to take over your life in general) You will need to change your passwords, and I suggest you let us clear up these problems immediately. (He tells me what they can offer and the significant cost.)

Me: Aaaaaagh!!!!

CONVERSATION WITH A WOMAN AT THE POST OFFICE

Last week when I took some bills and late Christmas cards to the post office, I also accidentally “mailed” some gift certificates that were in a blank envelope. When I realized a couple of days later what I’d done, I hurried to that post office to find out where things with no address or stamps end up and if there was any way I could retrieve that envelope.

As soon I got there I could tell that I wasn’t going to be able to just walk in, ask my question, and walk out. “Wow, this must be the busy time,” I said to the middle-aged woman in front of me as I joined the people waiting in a rather long line. The woman and I exchanged some additional small talk, and then I told her why I was there. “They’ll probably tell me to go to the downtown post office,” I said. “At least that’s what they told me to do once before when I had to retrieve something.” I smiled as I remembered. “A long time ago I mailed a ‘Dear John’ to somebody,” I explained. “But the very next day I felt I’d made a big mistake and asked the post office if there was any way we could intercept it before it arrived at this guy’s house.”

“So did they do that for you? Did they find the letter for you?” the woman asked.

“They actually did!”  I told her then about the older clerk who’d been so kind about what I considered a life crisis. I laughed a little then. “If I’d known I would still end up breaking up with the guy just a couple of months later, I wouldn’t have put that poor postal worker to all that trouble and I wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble myself.”

The woman didn’t laugh with me. She hesitated for a few seconds and then said quietly,”I still feel bad about a ‘Dear John’ I wrote to someone a long time ago.  He was a really good guy, and I’m pretty sure I broke his heart. It’s bothered me all these years.”

“Yes, but that’s life.” I said. “Sometimes we ended up hurting people during those dating years, but then other times it was the opposite and we were the ones who got hurt.”

“Still I could have made it easier on him,” she said. “I could have at least given him some warning. I could have been nicer about it.”

“You were young. You didn’t have the experience you have now. We all have things we’d like to go back and do differently if we could. Believe me, I do.”

“That’s true, isn’t it,” she agreed. And we talked then about how hard we are on ourselves sometimes. In just those few minutes, this woman that I’d just barely met and I were practically BF’s as we philosophized about life and tried to help each other. And even though I found out when I got to the front of the line that I would need to go to the main post office, or at least call,  I didn’t feel all that bad about it. Yes, even though I definitely had a lot of things on my list that day, I  didn’t feel waiting in that line that morning  had been a waste of time.