The struggles of finding a tenant.

Biff and I have finally sorted out our tenant situation, but not with out pain or heart ache. Here's a quick timeline of what happened:

April 5th: Biff contacts our tenants is Property A, and asks if they would like to extend their current lease, which ends on June 1st. They agree verbally

May 30th: Tenants of Property A are supposed to return a written lease to us. Instead they contact Biff and inform him that they want to move out at the end of June. I write a blog post on our situation. Biff puts up an on-line ad for the property.

June 1st: Biff places "For Rent" signs in the front yard.

June 8th: We find our prospective tenant, who we'll call Fanny.

June 11th: We receive our new and shoddy credit check report on Fanny, and the results are promising. We decide to offer a lease to her.

June 14th: Fanny decides to accept the lease. Doing so will switch her children's school systems and so she struggles a bit with the decision, but decides to accept. Biff mails her a lease and removes the "For Rent" signs.

June 19th: Fanny tells Biff that she has signed the lease and will return it later in the week. She'll move in on July 1st.

June 23rd: Biff buys the gift basket for the new tenant. Whenever we have a new tenant arrive, we leave a gift basket for them, filled with chocolates and a list of important numbers (like the local pizza delivery places). It helps starts the relationship on the right foot, and we can deduct the costs anyways.

June 26th: Fanny tells Biff that she will not be able to accept the lease for several more months, citing personal reasons (Biff suspects divorce). Luckily Biff has saved the contact info of other people who had expressed interest before he took the ads down. Problematically, Biff will be visiting my wife and I in London in just over a week, so we're on a strict deadline.

June 28th: Biff meet with two more prospective tenants. both make good impressions on him and both have good credit. We decide that whoever agrees to the terms first will get the offer.

June 29th: One of the prospective tenants, we'll call her Beth, agrees to the terms and signs a one year lease, leaving Biff with a check for the security deposit of $800. Finally everything has settled down, and we think we're in good shape.

Lessons Learned

We made several mistakes this time, but here's a list of some of the biggest ones:

  1. I was visiting my in-laws at the time the Fanny deal broke down. Biff was unable to contact me for a couple of days. He remembered I was going out of town, but didn't have contact information for me. He finally got in touch with me by CC'ing my wife on an e-mail (she checks her mail far more frequently than I do).
    In the future, before either of us travels we need to be more explicit. We need to provide contact info, and be specific about dates of travel so if we can't get in touch with each other we know if we have to make a decision for the company by ourselves.
  2. We took down the ads before we had a signed lease in hand. Never again.
  3. We didn't require Fanny to make a Good Faith Deposit. Our original plan involved asking for a deposit of $100 that you'd forfeit if you were offered the place but didn't take it. We'd be lenient on the policy (if we offered and you said no immediately we'd give it back), but it was designed specifically to avoid a Fanny situation (procrastination for a week or so, before finally declining).
In the future there are a few simple rules that we need to remember when signing tenants:
  • Without a signed lease, we don't have a tenant. Period.
  • Without a deposit, the most well-meaning tenant can back out on a whim. Deposits makes people think about their actions.
  • A lease should be signed and returned no more than 48 hours after a tenant gets it. Including 24 hours for local mail each way, that means if a lease isn't returned in 4 days, start looking for a new tenant.


One Man said...


I responded to your comment on my blog. Looks like you're quite the budding real estate mogul.

Good luck and keep blogging.

One Man. One Year. $100,000. Can he do it?

Anonymous said...

This is off topic and I know it may vary from state to state but have you ever encountered a situation where you have a bad tenant who is late or owes you rent, you're trying to evict them, and they lock themselves out. By law, you are not legally allowed to lock your tenants out but are you obligated to open their doors too? I know that most if not all landlord usually charge a fee for having to come out and unlock a tenant's door for any reason and this also adds to the fact that they already owe you rent and you're trying to evict them. So basically I want to know if you guys have been in a similar situation or know of anything like this and whether or not you can refuse to unlock the door and have them pay a locksmith to come out and unlock it for themselves or do you have to unlock it for them? I mean legally you are not changing the locks or locking them out yourself...

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