The landlord I never wanted to be

Never, ever in my wildest dreams did I ever have a desire to be a landlord. Yet it did happen. When I moved to Cleveland 3.5 years ago, my house in Maryland didn’t want to sell. Eventually I found someone who sounded like a perfect tenant. A single mom, a couple of kids, she sounded like she had a good job working for a non-profit or not-for-profit. We agreed on a price that would mean I was only losing $150/month on my house rather than much more than that. She had a desire to stay in the area, liked my house, and wanted the option to buy it eventually – something I was very happy to hear.

She was a decent tenant as much as I could tell, although I had no reference. Payment was always late, but she never missed a payment. From the beginning, payment came a week or two after it was due. Eventually she let it go a few months and then would catch up. The worst it got was when she wrote a check for 4 months at the same time. Usually it was two months. I digress. The point is she paid. She didn’t ask for anything really. She had no complaints.

My wife called her this spring to inform her that we were going to have to increase the rent. The taxes went up and we were losing even more money on it now. We also were planning to put the house back on the market to sell, so if she wanted to buy it now was the time to do it before we hired a realtor. She informed us that she was moving out of state in a month – she had gotten a new job. We asked that she give us her forwarding address so that we could mail her deposit back to her after we had a chance to look at the house.

Then, wow. I managed to get down there a couple weeks after she left. There were piles of trash by the curb. Apparently it was easier to throw away stuff and re-buy it than put it in a moving truck. But she had canceled the trash service, so it was just sitting there rotting and becoming the home for various rodents. Then I took a look at the house. Oh the horror. She repainted a lot of the interior, which was against the rental agreement, but not just that, she did a horrid job. There was wall paint on the ceiling, wall paint on the metal cabinets, and so on. The metal kitchen cabinets, which were a white were now painted brown, wall paint brown. So that you could take a finger nail and scratch the paint off. There was plastic glued over all my nice new triple pane windows, as if they were drafty? Really? Taking those down pulled paint off the window frames. The carpeted areas were awful; looking like they had never been vacuumed in the time since she rented it. The walls were poked full of pinholes with thumbtacks for who knows what reason. There were word stickers on many walls. There was wall paper put up in the master bathroom. Gah! What a wreck. Then I looked at the garage. She apparently had a dog (I agreed to let her have her cats, but not a dog) that she locked in the garage storage room and apparently neglected. The dog had put large holes in the drywall, eaten away the windowsill, torn the paint of several doors, and put big scratches in the walls that didn’t have holes in them. It also stank like an animal rescue center.

Fortunately I managed to find a wonderful person who painted, cleaned, and repaired the place to the point where no one would even suspect that any of that had happened. It wasn’t cheap, in fact it cost more than 6 months of rent. Now as to collecting damages, who knows if I will be able to do so. There was a clear breach of the rental agreement. I have everything documented and receipts. I’m tempted to take it to small claims court. I know I would win even if she did show up to defend herself so clear was the breach of agreement. Not that I expect she would ever pay for it even with a judgement, but it would at least make me feel better. Maybe. It is just so disappointing that there are people like her who will take advantage of a situation to cause someone so much harm.

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