We as landlords all hate the word “vacancy”. It means time to take a risk, time to fix up the unit, time to be a little lighter in the pocket. This feeling over my real estate career isn’t new, but the decision I recently made to solve this problem was drastically different. I needed a change so I went away from one of my core rules. I decided to rent to a sex offender.
My house was trashed with a dozen broken windows, stains on the wall, laminate flooring ripped from the floor needing to be replaced, a fan in the living room needing to be replaced. It seemed like they used the fan as an amusement park ride, and of course, the lies at court. Finally I get these people out, no more police reports, no more calls from the tenant living next door complaining about the noise they are making, but a vacancy. A vacancy needing a lot of repair.
We get to it. I’m buying materials. The maintenance guy is repairing, cleaning, painting, and working hard to get this unit ready for the next tenant. Finally that day comes. The day that is really the beginning of the journey… finding your new tenant. I get phone calls. I get no shows. I get “no, I changed my mind”, and then I get the call. The call that I have been looking for – my new tenant. The tenant who made a change.
I get the call. I answer. I answer the typical questions, but this time I get the feeling this lady is the one. She needs a place to stay. Check! She needs it fast. Check! She has a job. Check! She has some money. Check! As a matter of fact, the city will pay her rent for two months and her deposit because the apartment she is living, in all the residents must move. BINGO! She is the one.
Then she says, “I have to be honest with you. I’m a registered sex offender.” My heart dropped. I told her I never rented to someone with this offense, it’s usually a no. She said, “ Thank you for your time.” I decided to give her an opportunity to voice her side of the story in person and set up a time to meet her at the unit.
I was meeting with the maintenance guy that morning. I was going to pay him, get the finishing touches done, and talk about some other jobs that I needed him to complete. Then Jane came, the lady I had talked to earlier. I had forgotten about our appointment, lol. I figured she would no show, too. She gets out with a gentleman. I figure that he is her husband or boyfriend. She says she was here for her appointment to view the house. She walks around, likes it, and wants to move forward. Jane and Jim seemed like awesome people. They work, were very respectful, had a great sense of humor, not picky, and ready to have a place to live and wanted to rent from me.
Not only did Jane bring herself ready to go through my rental procedure, she also brought Jim who wanted to rent the unit next door which would be vacant soon. Plus they both were part of the same program from the city which paid for two months and their deposit. They both told me their situations and seemed like people who had a past, messed up or were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and wanted a chance to prove you picked the right person in choosing me. Everything was perfect besides the criminal records they had. Jane filled out the application and I decide to see where this will go.
As I drove to get Jane’s application checked I thought, “Is this a smart thing to do? Does Jane need a second chance to prove she is a good person and can be a great tenant for my home? Is she the tenant I prayed to God to send to me?”. I arrive at the office to run Jane’s rental application and before I go in I need to make a call to her current landlord. I want this to be the realest and most honest conversation I’ve ever had concerning a tenant, and it was.
Her current landlord had nothing but wonderful things to say about Jane. She told me she is a great tenant and never gave her any problems when it came to rent or any disturbances when she was living at the property. I decided to move forward and run the application. I’m thinking I could actually be renting to this lady, but this is the moment of truth. I run the application. She is a great candidate, but…. Her past haunts her again. I talk it out with the rental screening company, and even one of the supervisors. The supervisor tell me. “She needs to live somewhere. If she is your best option, go for it. If not. look elsewhere, but she didn’t lie and this is her only blemish.”
I decide to move forward. I call her caseworker that Friday and decided to look over the paperwork so I can get it to her Monday. I thought it over and over, and on Saturday told Jane the unit is hers, and she’s the new tenant.
Monday came, and I got the paperwork to Jane’s caseworker. The caseworker was awesome, calls me back several times, and is moving forward to get me paid and the file closed so Jane can move into the unit. She tell me Jane needs to move in ASAP because the hotel they are paying for, due to her residence being closed down by the city, ends Wednesday. I tell her caseworker ok, but if she moves in today, Jane will be charged prorated rent. Jane’s caseworker says ok, but just let her know because Jane will have to pay that out of her own pocket. I call Jane, and we plan on meeting the same day for signing paperwork, and she got the money for the pro-rate rent.
We meet up. Rental document gets signed, Pro-rated rent gets paid, and keys get handed to Jane. Let’s not forget Jane telling me Jim wants to rent the unit next door, and hands me his application and application fee. I tell her that the lights need to be in her name by Wednesday, At the end of the day right before 5:30pm I go by the light company and say I need the lights cut out of my name by Monday of next week. I want to give Jane enough time to move, get adjusted, etc. before I just cut the light off. As I’m talking to the gentleman at CPS, the light company in San Antonio, he tells me the lights have been turned on in your new tenants name for Wednesday, I told him her name and he said, “Sounds like you found a good one this time.”
In closing, renting to certain tenants is a risk, and you should proceed with caution. What I saw in Jane was a woman wanting to make a change, an honest woman, a tenant I could easily work with, and a long term resident. I know it’s too early to know, but I believe this will be a successful long term landlord-tenant relationship for us both. Plus, she was so thankful she brought her next door neighbor too. Sometimes it’s worth rolling the dice because people sometimes really do change.
As always thanks for reading and successful investing.