The 5 Towns Jewish Times

Real Estate: The Tale Of The Trickster Tenant

By Anessa Cohen

By Anessa Cohen

I sometimes share stories that are hard to believe. Some of these true stories are indeed stranger than fiction. Here’s one for the books.

Once upon a time, there was a lovely, sweet homeowner who had a beautiful finished basement. Some of her children had already left the nest and she thought, “Why not rent out my beautiful basement and collect a few extra dollars, which can always come in handy?”

She knew that there were always plenty of people who needed a relatively inexpensive and clean place to live in a great location with a wonderful landlord. It would be a win-win situation for all.

Because there was no kitchen in her basement, anyone renting it would have to be willing to manage with just a microwave and a toaster oven, but she figured that with the price she was asking and the fact that it included a bedroom, living room, and full bath, someone needing to economize but wanting something updated and in good condition would consider this a good option. Since she preferred a tenant from the frum community, her phone calls seeking a nice tenant were restricted to the places she felt would get her the type of tenant that she was hoping for.

She soon got a call from an older woman who said she was a legal secretary who had been ill, and she would be taking temporary assignments from temp agencies until such time as she would find permanent employment. When she heard about the basement apartment from one of the organizations she had contacted, she realized that this would be a wonderful interim inexpensive rental until she would be working permanently again. Our sweet homeowner quickly rented the downstairs unit to this woman, thinking how great it would be to have a mature woman as a tenant, which would mean a nice, quiet, and secure arrangement for them both.”

The new tenant handed our sweet homeowner one month’s rent and one month’s security and moved merrily into her new space.

Everything went very well for the first month. The new tenant kept the apartment in good condition, and the sweet homeowner was thinking how nice and easy an arrangement this turned out to be. But the next month, when our sweet homeowner went to collect the rent, she started to realize that things were not as simple as she had assumed. Her tenant told her that she would not have the rent available for her for another two weeks. Our lovely homeowner was a little concerned, but when she got the money two weeks later, she figured it was a fluke and next month would be better.

The next month rolled around, and this time when she asked for the rent, the tenant asked her why she was bothering her for rent right now when she had just gotten money from her two weeks before. Didn’t the landlord understand how difficult it was to go collecting money from all her sources to pay her rent? Now she had only a little money left over, and she needed it to have her hair done since she had a date that evening.

Needless to say, our sweet landlord was now in a state of apoplexy. What had she done? Who was this strange woman who had seemed so nice but was now suddenly behaving off the wall?

Our sweet landlord asked her, “What about your temp jobs?”

“Temp jobs?” said the tenant. “Do you know how far away those temp agencies are? How do you expect me to get to them if I have no car?”

“But I thought you already had things going and were just waiting for a permanent job,” explained the landlord.

“Oh, I turned those things down,” the tenant answered. “Can you imagine that they wanted me — a legal secretary — to work for $10 an hour? I would rather stay home.”

“But how are you going to live and pay your rent?” wondered the landlord.

“Rent?” scoffed the tenant. “You want me to pay rent for this basement with no kitchen? Who would give you rent for this disgusting apartment? And you should want to help me until I find a job; it’s not a big deal.”

The landlord told her she would have to leave since she could not deal with this situation and it was completely different from what the tenant had told her prior to moving in. The tenant then told her, “You’ll have to take me to court, which could take months and by then, who knows? Maybe I will find a job.”

Needless to say, our sweet landlord now had a situation on her hands — one that necessitated calling her lawyer and having him take over. Those few extra dollars she thought would come in handy had now turned into losses which would continue accumulating until the lawyer could get this tenant into court and have her evicted.

The moral of this story is that when you decide you are going to rent out space in your house — whether a basement (which, incidentally, is not legally rentable) or an apartment in a two-family or multi-family dwelling — take the time to seriously investigate potential tenants. Get a credit report, check out their employment, and even talk to the previous landlord if possible. Spare yourself a nightmarish situation such as the one our sweet landlord fell into.

Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and a licensed N.Y.S. loan officer (FM Home Loans) with over 20 years of experience offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services as well as mortgage services. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa@AVCrealty.com.