Stella is a full-time professional landlord and property developer with seventeen years' experience. She is based in the UK
Terrible Tenants, Nightmare Neighbours
Seeing The Funny Side Always Helps
When they appeared on my doorstep one day, Marybelle and Charley told me they were born-again Christians. Give me the heathen any day of the week! These two were to become the bane of my life. They were an unlikely couple; he was stick-thin and she was morbidly obese - it was like Laurel and Hardy all over again.
Being Too Charitable or Long-Suffering Is Never Advisable When Letting Rental Properties
I’m too accepting and non-judgemental of the way people are. The fact that they were homeless, stank of cat pee and looked scruffy should have set the alarm bells ringing as soon as they’d rung my doorbell, but no, I felt sorry for them and offered them a place to live.
Maybe it was around Christmas; I can’t quite remember. I had thoughts of Mary and Joseph and 'no room at the inn' and all that, but I’ve cursed myself ever since for being so charitable. These two very near bankrupted me. I don’t think they intended to be a pain - perhaps they didn’t even realise what an encumbrance they were but now they're gone I can at least see the funny side.
Okay, admittedly the rental property I offered them needed a bit of work doing but I'd bought it cheaply. The couple wanted a roof over their heads and I told them I could fix things up a bit once they'd moved in. It could be a mutually beneficial arrangement - or so I thought.
Their rent was paid to me directly from the housing authority so that was never a problem but over the next few years, their occupation of the property would cause it to deteriorate even further.
Marybelle was prone to depression so would spend a great deal of time in bed but she wasn’t a bad person and neither was her husband - they were just kind of hopeless.
Charley was a bit of a bodger and there's nothing worse than a bodger who thinks he’s an expert. Interior doors curiously went missing at the same time as home-made wooden rabbit hutches appeared in the garden.
Charley also had a terrible habit of collecting junk from auctions, car boot sales or anything that other people didn't want. Marybelle would despair at him at times. I did sympathise with her in some ways.
I'd gyp at the stench of cat urine whenever I entered the house but the couple were perpetually oblivious to it. The floor space would grow smaller each time I called and I'd notice the walls closing in as they became lined with more and more useless junk. One wall was stacked high with videos from floor to ceiling. Not to mention the spare bedroom full of TV sets.
‘People give things to me and I can’t say no,’ Charley would tell me nonchalantly. I soon realised this extreme example of 'hoardomania,' to coin a new word, was getting out of hand.
‘Then learn to say no, Charley,’ I'd tell him. ‘They're only giving it to you because it saves them the bother of taking it to the tip!’
And the tip was not that far away - if only Charley could drive.
‘What’s happening with all these TV’s, then?’ I'd ask.
‘Err... I’m mending them.’
Workmen couldn't get access due to the junk and the whole place soon became a total renovation project. A leak went unnoticed and the kitchen ceiling came crashing down.
The tenants once phoned me because they thought there was a gas leak so I arranged for the Corgi gas man to go around and investigate. 'No gas leak, luv,' he sighed in despair down the phone. ‘It’s just the ammonia from the cat litter trays!’
I went to great panes to get the windows replaced (pun intended!) but no self-respecting UPVC guy was prepared to even measure up because the house smelled so bad.
Things went from bad to worse. My troublesome tenants fell out with just about everyone in the neighbourhood and the police became involved. I tried to help my tenants resolve their disputes but they just weren’t liked at all, so that didn’t work.
I’m fairly tolerant and long-suffering and if people want to live in a mess then fine. You can’t tell them how to live but the last straw for me as a landlord came when the council rang me to say an assortment of sofas had begun to accumulate in the front garden - and to add insult to injury they said I'd be liable to prosecution if the offending items weren’t removed by a certain date.
Needless to say, the date came and went, the sofas were still there and rats were now beginning to take up residence inside them. Now the Environmental Health Department and irate neighbours were constantly ringing me too.
I offered to take things to the tip for the couple. Several trailer loads, including a pile of defunct television sets, were loaded up only to be turned away at the tip gates, 'We can only accept four at a time,' the refuse operative refused.
My husband was now at the end of his tether and not only with our tenants. ‘How could you have let those mindless morons into the house in the first place!?’ He bawled at me.
‘Oh, I guess it’s all my fault for being such a bad judge of character,’ I replied, getting a slight dig in there at my bad choice of husband too.
Just as I was preparing to evict them, Marybelle and Charley decided they wanted to leave because they felt they were being persecuted by the neighbours.
To give them their due they went on to say I was the best landlord they'd ever had, followed by an unnerving question:
‘Do you have another house vacant that we can move to?'
Several weeks later they loaded up a white van full of TV’s and hopped in themselves leaving me to clean up their mess. As they rounded the corner, I jumped for pure joy in the middle of the road for getting my house back.
After their departure, it took weeks to clean the property before it could be totally re-furbished. It was so bad, even the lady from the council wouldn't go in to take pictures so I could claim council tax exemption. I spent a fortune clearing the place and renovating it. And then what did I discover shortly before moving some new tenants in? Marybelle and Charley had left me a legacy in the loft and yes, you’ve probably guessed what it was – another load of television sets!
How Many People Were On the Tenancy Agreement?!
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© 2015 Stella Kaye