March 13, 2014

I'm an Evil Landlord and You'd Probably Be An Evil Landlord Too

If you're a landlord for very long then I think it might be impossible to avoid being an evil landlord.   At least in the eyes of some tenants.   

I previously wrote my theory on Why Some People Think Landlords Are ALL Evil Slumlords.   In summary my thought was that most people run into a bad landlord so they walk away with a bad general impression.   Yet few people are landlord and don't see the other side of the story.   

But then there are also difficult and almost inevitable situations that landlords get into with tenants where we are faced with hard choices.   I thought I'd give a couple specific examples showing both sides of the landlord and tenant situation to illustrate how people lack the landlord perspective and only hear about the evil landlord story.   Both of these examples are real situations that I've ran into as a landlord.
Tenant story:   When I got out of the hospital my evil landlord had kicked me out!

Someone comes home from the hospital and finds they've been evicted from their home by their landlord.   Must be an evil landlord right?   I mean what kind of heartless person would evict a sick person? 

We've had this kind of thing happen to us.    One of our tenants fell very ill and was in the hospital for a long period.  I want to say he was there a month or two but this was a while ago and I can't really remember the specifics.   In the meantime he was already behind on rent and paid no rent while he was in the hospital.   During his illness he lost his job.   He also had pretty bad outlook and it wasn't clear if he'd be able to work in the future or how long he'd be in the hospital or if he'd even be able to care for himself.   In the meantime we had a vacant rental for 1-2 months and unpaid rent.   Eventually we declared the apartment abandoned (legally) and remove his possessions.   Oh, did I mention that rental was totally trashed? 

Landlord perspective :   We had a tenant 3 months behind on their rent who was unemployed and in the hospital.  We had no choice but to declare the unit abandoned, house their property at our expense for a month then take a loss on the rent and most of the cost of cleaning out the apartment.  

What would you do?   How long do you let someone live in your your rental for free if they are sick?     Would it matter the reason they are sick?  Should you give free rent to someone because they had a better reason for being hospitalized?    Or should you kick them out faster if they have a really bad reason?    How much free rent out of your pocket should someone get in general due to hospitalization?   And we are talking about free rent here.   If I had good reason to expect I'd get paid then we certainly would not have made the choice to remove them.    That raises another question... how do you know if you'll ever get paid?   Is someone calling you and ensuring you that the rent will be paid?  Probably not.

Tenant Story:   The evil landlord left us without heat over Christmas. 

We had a tenants heater break down over Christmas one time.    As soon as we found out it was broken we called a repair service to go out and work on it.  Of course its sometimes hard to get a furnace repair guy out to you over Christmas.   In the meantime our tenants lacked heat ... during Christmas.   It was a pretty awful timing.    This was for a property in another state so we did not have the ability to fix it ourselves, not to mention that I don't know anything really about fixing furnaces.   The tenants ended up staying with family, but if they hadn't then I think its fair that we'd have been on the hook to pay for a hotel.    If I recall right we knocked some money off their next months rent to say 'sorry', but I'm not sure on that detail since this was a while ago.

Landlords perspective:   We did everything we could but the repair guys couldn't make it till after Christmas.  It was just awful luck that the furnace broke down over Christmas.

How would you handle that differently?    Unfortunately this one was really just bad timing and we felt we had done everything we could.


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