I became a live-in landlord in April of 2013. It is a day that I will always remember and I will forever kick myself for not trusting my gut.
I moved into my 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house in late January and, after a few weeks of getting everything all put together, I was finally ready to begin searching for my first tenant/roommate in March. I posted a listing on craigslist and roommates.com, and a short time later had weeded down the replies to the person I thought was best for the room. She was a few years older than me but was really fun and energetic. I thought we’d get along great. And at first, we did.
This was my first experience with craigslist and I didn’t feel comfortable having her to the house right away, so we decided to meet for dinner. Warning sign #1: we were supposed to meet at 6 PM and she didn’t show up until 6:30. 30 minutes late is not a good first impression. If you do that on an interview, you’re not going to get the job. This should not have been any different. Warning sign #2: She was very fun and energetic, but a little too much so. As in, something wasn’t quite right. Later I found out this was due to drugs. I’m so naïve that I didn’t recognize the obvious signs.
I ignored the warning signs (mistake #1) and my gut feeling that maybe something with her wasn’t quite right, and in she moved.
Mistake #2: I did NO due diligence on her. No application, background check, credit check, income verification. This was extremely foolish of me and I paid the price.
Mistake #3: No lease. Once again, what was I thinking! Letting someone move into my house on a verbal agreement. Completely stupid. Please never make this mistake.
So now the fun story of how everything blew up –
She moved in and everything was good and well. We hung out, became friends, ate dinner together. Everything was great. Well, almost. Let’s not forget about the constant late payments, the always having a story behind the late payments, having to get the money from mom & dad to pay rent. And I felt like the bad guy making her pay me, even though she knew coming in that I wasn’t running a charity house. Besides the late payments, everything else was fine. Then I went for a couple days vacation and she was alone at the house. When I came back, she was no where to be found and my expensive items were gone. She left behind some of her stuff but took most of her belongings. I never saw her again.
When clearing her personal belongings out of the room I came across a paper for rehab. Apparently she had gotten out of rehab right before moving in with me. A few months later I googled her name and she was arrested for heroin use.
I lost approximately $1,000 in items, but when I think about how bad it could have been I feel very grateful that it wasn’t worse.
#1: Always thoroughly vet applicants before allowing tenants to move in
#2: Always have a signed lease before allowing tenants to move in
#3: Have thorough house rules that have been signed and agreed to by both parties before allowing tenant to move in so there are minimal questions that pop up throughout their tenancy
#4: Trust your gut! If someone seems a little off, they probably are.