We just got back from upstate NY, where we own a house that we're
putting up for sale. We lived there '90-93, bought the house at the
peak of housing prices (unbeknownst to us!) and could not afford to
take the loss when it came time to move (Navy-transferred). so, we've
been renting it out (at a loss) for 6 years, hoping the real estate
market would improve enough for us to break even. It hasn't, but
we've had enough of being long-distance landlords, and are biting the
bullet. We've had 2 sets of tenants, and the first family took pretty
good care of the house, no major mishaps, and got their whole security
deposit back. The second family, well, that's a whole 'nother story.
DH knew the guy from the Navy (stationed together in Va) and says he
was very responsible, nice guy, etc. They had 3 kids at the time, no
pets, and in exchange for an extremely generous discount on their
rent, were eager to do all the little handyman type jobs on the house,
so we wouldn't have to pay someone. (we're talking $200-300 less than
what we could rent it out for) My house (our first!) had beautiful
stained woodwork all through it, windows, doors, baseboards. Gorgeous
walnut cabinets in the kitchen. Entire house professionally painted
before the second family moved in 3 yrs ago. Fortunately, I took
The entire time they lived there, it was one complaint after another.
First, because the utility bills were too high for them (she kept the
thermostats on 75 degrees and the front door open in Jan). Then,
constant little problems like having to replace the valve in the
toilet tank (you know, the $3 part and 5 min of your time). The
dishwasher broke right after they moved in, so we replaced it. They
broke the attic stairs, we replaced those. Lightning supposedly hit
the house and damaged both garage door openers; I replaced one. On
and on. We were quite happy that their lease was coming to an end,
and refused to renew it, when the guy's orders were changed to delay
their leaving by a few months.
So, we go up there last week to see the house and do any needed work
to get it ready to sell. Tenant is very eager to be there for the
walk-through, says the only problem is the kitchen floor (which was
showing some wear before they moved in, and we'd planned to replace
anyway). We walk into the house (family has moved out Mar 20, we get
there April 3, he's had 2 weeks to clean up, etc.) What a disaster!
I cannot even imagine living in a house like that, much less doing the
kind of damage they did and took for granted. Every single wall had
been written on with crayon, pencil, magic marker, etc. All the
cabinets had large gouges out of them and were just plain ***,
inside and out. Windowsills all had deep scratches in them, and even
teeth marks in both the kids' bedrooms. (BTW, since they moved in,
they had another kid, and have a 5th on the way, and she says she's
not done, because God and the Navy will take care of them.) Baseboard
molding broken in several places, corners of walls completely bare of
drywall. All the flower beds completely torn up, in spite of me
putting edgings around them all 2 yrs ago. Entire yard covered in
leaves (these fell back in the fall, remember?) Oil spilled in the
garage, not a little leak from a car, but poured over shelves in the
corner. Banister pulled out of the wall on the stairs. Towel rack
in the bathroom pulled out of the wall. cobwebs everywhere, windows
probably hadn't been washed since they moved in.
Master bedroom carpet has about 12 inch red nail polish on it. Tenant
had asked to paint the MBR since he didn't like our color (pale peach)
and agreed to paint it back to a neutral color when he left. Since
his choice had been candy pink, we had insisted on the "return to
neutral". He painted right over the outlets, switch plate, etc.
Spattered paint on the door, baseboard, windowframes and carpet.
One toilet tank lid broken by 1/3. Large holes spackled in at least 5
walls. NONE of the nail holes from pictures had been spackled (more
about that later) dirt all over all the walls.
We were stunned, to say the least. He fully expected to be getting
his deposit back. He kept saying, "this is normal wear and tear with
4 kids". Dh's response was "No way. Four kids is not normal (*no
offense to anyone with lots of kids- we wish we could have more! but
it's not the usual nowadays). We have 6 pets, which is also not
normal, so we've made sure when we rented that we took extra care that
they didn't cause problems" Guy had no idea how the toilet broke, or
how the teeth marks got in the windowsills. He defended the cabinets
by saying, "these are old cabinets. we didn't cause any of this." My
answer to that was "they sure are old. They're 20 years old, and 3
yrs ago they still looked almost brand new. I have the pictures to
prove it. How come you could do in 3 yrs what 17 years of other
owners (with kids, too) didn't?" Oh, the brand new dishwasher now
looks to be about 10 yrs old, as a neighbor guessed. Scratched,
dented, *** dirty.
Well, after getting rid of the tenant, DH and I rolled up our
shirtsleeves, accepted a good bit of sympathy from the neighbors (who
had all kinds of stories about them), and got to work. We only had 4
days, 'cuz it takes 2 days to drive up and 2 days to drive back, and
DH flies out tomorrow for deployment in Puerto Rico. This was our
vacation, done on DS's spring break.
I started spackling all the nail holes. The first room I did, our
family room, had been used by "mom" as her home school room. I
stopped counting after 129 holes in that room. Actually, it's
probably all the posters that kept the walls from getting dirty...no,
that's right, they were still *** somehow. guess they couldn't
afford paper, so they wrote on the walls! Then tried to wash it, and
it all ran down the wall.
In 4 days, working all day long, DH and I painted the entire house
ourselves, with me doing all the trim work and him using the Wagner
PaintMate (a must for painting!). I also cleaned the cabinets, which
alone made a big difference, but also repaired the gouges with wood
putty, sanded them down with steel wool, restained, and oiled the
finish. They look beautiful again, too bad they're not for me! I
removed, washed and replaced every single outlet/switch plate in the
house. I washed every window. I sanded down all the window sills and
restained them. We replaced a good bit of the baseboard, cleaned off
all the paint spatters the tenant had made. Oh, and I spent a good
part of one day just removing scotch tape and double sided tape from
walls. Wonderful! We also sanded down and repainted the garage doors
and the front door, and opened and cleaned the inground pool. Also
cleaned out the pool house of junk that was left behind.
When we left, it looked pretty good again. A new kitchen floor will
go in next week, and I have someone to do the yard (wanted to do it
myself, but there just wasn't time). Now, hopefully it will sell
quickly (no profit here, still a huge loss, but better than an ongoing
drain, both financially and emotionally). One positive thing, since
the tenant is in the Navy, it won't be hard to collect any further
money from them for damages, once we get all the bills sorted out.
The security deposit doesn't even begin to cover it.
And, I guess life is a little fair after all. We found out they moved
into an apartment. They're paying almost the same they were paying to
us, and they have a 2 bedroom apt (with 5 kids). The tenant kept
saying he'd saved us all kinds of money over the years by fixing
things in this "dump" as he called it. Other than the toilet valve,
everything else he tried to fix, he actually made worse, and we ended
up with some pretty hefty plumber and electrician bills. Like when he
waited 30 days to call me about the kitchen sink leaking, and then
mentioned, oh, btw, the entire floor of your cabinet is rotting from
the water damage. I tried to fix the leak but I can't. " Ever hear
of a bucket??
Oh, I'm sorry this is so long. I just had to vent somewhere. I just
can't believe people can be so disrespectful of others' property, and
then have the nerve to think they're getting their deposit back. And
the stories I heard from the neighbors. I feel sorry for the kids;
they roamed the neighborhood unsupervised as soon as they could walk
(all are under age 6) Fortunately, it's very safe there, and the
neighbors watched out for them.
Sorry for the rant!