Sunday, August 14, 2016

In which my friend's tenant screams and calls 911 because my friend and I are documenting the state of the duplex that she is moving out of and I understand why my landlords never raised my rent

You guys, I am wiped out. I got to bed late last night and then I couldn't sleep because I was full of eels.

Of adrenaline.

I was helping our neighbor manage the moveout of his upstairs tenant (it was April 30 yesterday) and she - we will call her Betsy - was so, so ugly.

Background: Our neighbor is in his 50s. He has no education beyond high school and has not worked much since high school because he was diagnosed with MS back then. He lives on disability and on the income he gets from renting the upper unit of the house he inherited when his parents died. He is not financially or legally sophisticated and doesn't really have anyone in his life to help him with that sort of thing, so Primo and I do what we can. He is our friend.

This tenant moved in two years ago. Keith rented to her against my advice - she had been evicted from her previous apartment and had filed for bankruptcy, but he was desperate: the tenant before this Betsy, moved out with only one month's notice instead of the two required by the lease.

Keith did not have as much time to find a replacement, so he panicked. He also refunded the tenant's full deposit, which, by law, he had no need to do, as she had broken the terms of the lease. But the tenant and her mother screamed at Keith and he got stressed and gave it back to them on the spot as she was moving out of the place that she had left dirty.

I found out about it and told Keith that if he wanted, I would stand next to him when he had to deal with his tenant and be the bad guy.

Now we are here, with Betsy. She gave notice two months ago. I helped Keith show the duplex to the couple who will be renting it starting today. When we looked at it six weeks ago, it was filthy. Betsy has three children, including a toddler whom the teenage daughter is apparently in charge of caring for. I understand that Betsy must be exhausted from going to work and taking care of three kids with no help, but the place was a pigsty: mildew in the bathtub, dirty sink, filthy walls, stained, ripped carpet (that Keith had installed just four years ago), filthy windows, dirty stovetop.


A dirty, dirty house.

It would take hours to clean and it would be gross and what to do about the carpet?

I told Keith I would help him. I also said, "Let's do a walkthrough with Betsy when she moves out so she understands what you will be fixing and charging against her deposit."

Yesterday during the day, he tried to talk to her to set a time for a walkthrough. She refused to talk to him.

He and I agreed that fine, we would do one without her at 11:00 today, Sunday.

He called me at 9:000 last night.

"Can you come over?" he asked. "She is screaming at me, asking why the f* you have to be involved in the walkthrough."

I put on my shoes and my coat and walked over. I introduced myself to Betsy, who was fuming as she stood next to the wall.

"The purpose of this walkthrough," I explained, "is to document the condition of the duplex. It is not to make a decision about the deposit."

"Yeah well he never did a walkthrough when I moved in!" she said.

"I know," I said. "That's why we're doing one now. He is improving how he does things."

"The place was a mess when I moved in," she said.

"Did you document that?" I asked.

I had tried that argument with my landlady years ago when she told me, during our walkthrough, that I needed to clean the windows.

"They were dirty when I moved in," I replied.

She shrugged and said, "They need to be clean when you move out."

I started making notes on the moveout form Keith had found online while he took photos.

Betsy was yelling. "It was a mess when I moved in!"

I shrugged. First, I didn't believe her, because I have the photos Keith took of the duplex two years ago when the former renter was still in the property. I had posted an ad for him on craigslist and had used those photos. The place was fine. It was clean.

Keith and I looked at the bedroom. "It's a lot cleaner than it was six weeks ago," I said, "but these walls still need to be cleaned and the windows are still dirty."

"IT WAS LIKE THAT WHEN I MOVED IN!" she yelled. "I'm going to call the police!"

I shrugged. "Go ahead."

Honestly. THE POLICE?

I should have asked her, "Have you ever considered using the strategy of being nice to people to get what you want instead of being hostile? You might get better results."

I heard her talking: "My landlord is trying to screw me out of my deposit!"

I rolled my eyes and kept making notes. It was like Betsy had gone to the Ted Drunk School of Negotiation.

The good news was that the place really was a lot better. She had even cleaned the carpet, which is not something she had to do and is something that a landlord in this state cannot charge against a deposit.

She waited about ten minutes, grudgingly agreeing with me when I asked, "Would you agree that this switchplate is dirty? But that the toilet and the sink are clean?"

"I forgot to clean that," she said.

"This oven hood is dirty," I said, "and so are the drip pans."

"Yeah well you should have seen them when I moved in," she snapped.

I shrugged. "We are documenting the current state."

When the police didn't show up - I KNOW I AM SHOCKED, she stomped out.

Keith and I finished in peace. We completed the form. He signed and made copies. I thought I was going to get out of seeing Betsy again, but she returned, her truck empty.

I handed her the forms and explained the major findings.

"I'm not signing this!" she said. "I don't agree with it! You have to show me the photos!"

I shrugged again. Seriously. I am used to dealing with Ted. Even one degree removed, dealing with Ted inoculates you against idiocy.

"Suit yourself," I said. "And you of course are welcome to take your own photos. May I suggest when you move into your new place that you document the move-in state."

She threw the papers to the floor in disgust. Keith shrugged. I shrugged.

What. Ever.

I came home and did more research on tenant law in the state.

She doesn't have a leg to stand on. The burden of proof is on her.

I just read this for the first time since writing it on May 1 and realized I sure shrug a lot.


  1. One (perhaps the only) benefit of having to deal with Ted - all other tantrum throwers and bullies are child's play.

  2. Interesting info - I only rented while in college when we never expected to get the deposit back (the campus landlords were horrible to deal with but there wasn't another choie).

  3. Betsy is a piece of work. Your friend Keith is lucky to be rid of her, although it's a pain now. The longer she stayed, the worse the apartment would be.


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