Thursday, September 7, 2017

Compassion for lying tenants? What? Are you stoo-pid?

Sure does. When it's a landlord giving the benefit of the doubt to a tenant, the landlord's life goes to hell. Save compassion for animal rescue and the like, not for business. ANY business.

Compassion: Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others

Synonyms include pity, sympathy, fellow feeling, empathy, understanding, care, concern, mercifulness, leniency, charity, and a few more, none of which are highly active concepts. 

Sign all landlords in the UK need to have on their backs, in case there are any tenants who need instructions.

And therein lies a tale

One can feel charitable toward someone else without putting one's own head on the block, awaiting the guillotine to fall.

When we moved to France, we decided to rent out our house when it didn't sell in a timely manner, and then, we thought, if we didn't like France, we could return when the lease was up.

As it happens, we don't like France, having found it to be far different from what we thought it was before we moved. But that's another story and has more to do with us than with the French, who are great. (It's a lifestyle issue.)

When we had our UK house for sale, a lady tried to buy it for a ridiculous price, but  finally came up with a barely acceptable offer, which we accepted. Then, after we had the house off the market for weeks and weeks awaiting conveyance to her, she confessed that she couldn't get a mortgage. 

When we listed the house for rent, she applied. With her partner. Together, they could afford it; alone, she can't.

He split, stopped paying his half of the rent, and our agent has had to chase him. So, we issued a legal notice that her lease would not be renewed and she needed to leave the day it was up.

She has refused to do so. We are now faced with a lengthy (between three and six months) process through the UK courts to get her out. We can recover our expenses and any rent owed if we can find her, take her to court again, and garnish her wages. 

What has this got to do with compassion? 

I mistakenly thought it was a verb, not a noun. So I cited compassion as my reason for renting to her--despite her erratic behaviour when buying--because she has two cats and it is hard to find a landlord who will rent to people with two cats. We had had a cat, now deceased, ourselves and the house and garden were all set up for cats.

Now she has said she won't move out because she can't find a temporary lodging--she has asserted she is buying a house but we have seen no proof, and then there's her track record on that--because who would rent to her with two cats and a son.

A SON? Both she and her partner said on the application--and signed said application--that they had no children. NO CHILDREN. Neither minor nor adult. And now she won't move out because of her son, who really cannot be a minor if her age was accurately reported on a skip-tracing site I visited and he really was a teenager six years ago when she referred to him online as her "grumpy teenager"  might make it hard for her to rent something for the interim. 

Compassion is an attitude, not an instruction to give skanks unfettered access to things one has struggled for and loves such a one's house, to one's bank account, to one's peace of mind. To anything.  

Compassion is possibly the single most useless emotional state that can show up in a business deal. No, wait. It is less than useless; it is toxic.

Twice foolish

I hate to admit, this is not the first time my compassion has got the better of me. Years ago when I was buying rental buildings as a business--not my own home--I accepted one building fully tenanted as opposed to delivered empty, as many rental properties are delivered in the US where I then lived. When assessing the building, I assumed the first-floor tenant, who had her kids' drawings on the fridge and was a single mom, was fine. I wanted to help her and not make her move before closing because she was a single mom.

At closing, the seller told me she was famous. How so? Her ex-boyfriend, a brutal criminal whose photo had graced the cover of Time magazine, had shot her, ruining her elbow. He had killed her boss. She was a social worker, which is how she had met him. During her tenancy, she called me on a chilly Saturday in November saying there was no heat. How could that be? I had had 650 gallons of furnace fuel delivered earlier that week. I went to the apartment to meet the Health Department inspector to whom she had complained. He was about to fine me, when I whipped out my receipt for the fuel and told him only two two people had keys to the basement door: she and I. She had one because her kids' bikes were stored there. It probably came in handy when she sold off the fuel. 

I did not get fined. I also told her to buy a space heater because I wasn't having an emergency delivery charge for a weekend and more fuel would be supplied on Monday, and she could give me the key and store the bikes in the foyer. 

A few weeks later, she called the cops, having accused my husband of writing rude things on her in yellow paint outside the house. Again, I drove to the place to meet the cops. By the time I got there, he had already weaseled it out of her two skanky offspring that they had taken the paint a few weeks earlier--from the basement--and decided to use it that way in retaliation for being cold for a weekend. Please recall, their MOTHER had made them cold for a weekend by stealing and selling the furnace fuel.

I should have insisted on an investigation and had her arrested for the first incident. Or certainly the second. But I just evicted her instead, a much, much easier process in New York than in the UK.

By that time, my compassion was worn out, though, and I didn't feel anything but relief when she was gone. Shortly, I sold the building to the young man who rented that flat after her. I had had enough.

No more Mr. Nice Guy 

Now? I've had more than enough. I've had a feast. And today, I read a UK landlord blog which advised "when dealing with tenants it is best to act on the basis that they will not keep their word."

Well, that makes it easy. We were considering having our solicitor ascertain if there was any truth to her claims to be wanting just a little more time as she is buying a house. Wait...hadn't we heard that before?

Compassion. Useless when doing business. I believe that when a liar or con artist (see stories above) gets a whiff of empathy or sympathy off you, just open your checkbook and start writing. Reach into your pocket and take out a tissue. Open the liquor cabinet and pour out a stiff drink, because you're going to need it.

Fortunately, we brought back with us to France a large bottle of Hendricks gin from our recent trip to Open Season on Landlords Land, the UK.

Copyright 2017, Laura Harrison McBride

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