This post is part of the Landlord Life series. My rental is a single family home in North Central Florida. I’ll share the mistakes I made, and the lessons I learned in each post. I personally have learned a great deal from fellow landlords and I hope to pay it forward by sharing my stories and advice.
My very first tenants were friends of mine. Let’s call them Mr. & Mrs. Lied To My Face. Looking back, my mistake wasn’t necessarily renting to friends but not seeing signs and taking action sooner.
If they were not my friends I wouldn’t have rented to them simply because of the number of people in their family, seven. For a 3/2, that’s pushing it. But, they were friends and needed help.
We signed a rental agreement and I charged them half of what I would normally charge. Mr. & Mrs. Lied To My Face said it was about $50 more than they could do, so I lowered it but said that after a certain amount of time I would have to raise it to the number we discussed.
All went well for a while. Our kids were friends so they went back and forth quite a bit. She and I were friends so we saw each other more than we would normally.
About six months later I started noticing her adult son hanging around more. There was also a car parked in the driveway that hadn’t been there before. My kids actually told me they thought he was living there.
After about a month, I asked Mrs. Lied To My Face and was told he was just staying there 1-2 nights a week because it was closer to his job. I reminded them that I only rented at that price to them, not others and that nobody else was allowed to live there.
I asked about the car, which wasn’t even registered and was told that Mr. Lied To My Face was fixing it for someone and was holding it until they paid him. I gave him a week to have it gone and was assured that it would be.
My gut told me I was being lied to and taken advantage of. There was a change in our friendship and she stopped coming over as much. Looking back, she didn’t want to have to answer questions about her son being there. There was also a weird incident where I asked Mr. Lied To My Face if he could do us a small favor involving bringing keys to my husband’s job. He did it, never saying it was a problem. The next day, Mrs. Lied To My Face came over and was angry that I dared ask her husband for a favor. To be honest, I almost laughed in her face. When you bend over backward for someone and help them financially it shouldn’t be a lot to ask for a small favor. Her reaction said a lot about her character.
By this point, they were living in my rental for a year and the time had come to raise the rent. I was still willing to allow them to live there because I felt sorry for the kids. They were homeless before I offered to help them and I knew their parents well enough to know they would be again. While living in my rental, paying next to nothing for rent, they spent money on tablets, laptops, video games and expensive imported food from a specialized grocery store about 40 miles away. Tell me again how you can’s pay the rent I asked for. Spend your money as you wish but don’t ask me to lower the rent so you can spend frivolously.
I updated our rental agreement, increased the rent to the amount I had wanted the previous year, still about half of what I would normally charge. I included some new terms including that I would only speak to Mr. Lied To My Face regarding anything about the rental because of how hostile she had become. Instead of making things right so their kids would have a safe place to live, they decided to leave instead.
Auf wiedersehen and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
After they moved out I found out through mutual friends they were homeless, living in a tent in someone’s yard.
1. Renting to friends is not automatically a bad thing, but you might have to be on top of things more than with strangers because some “friends” will try to take advantage of the situation.
2. Go with your gut! Your instincts are usually correct. Trust them. This wasn’t really a lesson learned because I always listen to my instincts but this was the first time as a landlord.
3. When it goes bad, sever ties quickly. Looking back I should have just told them to move instead of renewing the agreement.