Tenant wants us to pay moving truck and babysitter fees

92 Replies

Bear with me. These things are always a bit complicated. Our rental is a triplex in California. We had a new tenant move into the middle unit about a month ago. Tenants on either side have lived there for 7+ years. Tenant on one side, we'll call her "Smokey" has been causing issues. When Smokey moved in we had low quality applicants to choose from. We knew she was a smoker and agreed she could smoke outside the unit. We put no smoking clauses in her lease in several places. At some point along the way we knew she had started smoking inside, but the damage was done and she was paying her rent on time so we ignored it. She also got a small dog sometime over the years. We had long time renters in all 3 units who didn't call us for anything so we didn't immediately become aware of contract breaches. 

About a week after the new tenant moved in I had to go over there for something. When I was in the unit I smelled cigarette smoke. I contacted the new tenant and told her she signed a lease that it was a no smoking unit and she needed to abide by that.  She told me she actually wanted to talk to me about that. That she didn't want to make waves in her new place, but that it was actually the the other tenant "Smokey" causing the odor and that she was worried about her kids breathing it in.  

So we sent Smokey a letter reminding her of her lease agreement to not smoke inside the unit and also let her know that we were adopting a no smoking policy for the whole property which would take effect in 30 days (which we could do per CA laws).  Well Smokey flipped her lid and started a verbal attack on the tenant, yelling profanities at her through the walls, out her window, etc and at one point yelled the threat "if you F with me I'll F with you!". And continued to smoke heavily in the unit. Sidenote, we arent sure what has changed in her behaviors because we didn't smell the smoke in the other unit for years, but now we were smelling it heavily. We also knew she was a bit kooky, but more of an annoying talk-your-ear-off kooky. We had never experienced any hostlity or issues like that.

When the new tenant called us about the hostile environment we went over to the property immediately. The cigarette smell was nauseating. Smokey was being loud, but no longer yeling obscentities. Still my husband went over and spoke with her. She was intoxicated and denied everything. 

Our new tenant told us she didn't think she could stay there anymore. Between the smoke and fearing what the crazy lady might do. We told her we understood, and when she asked about her lease we told her we would let her out of it. 

We followed up with Smokey (who is on a month to month lease) with a 60 day lease termination (CA law we have to give 60 days if they have lived there longer than a year). We told her she had 60 days, then followed up with a 3 Day Quit notice which told her she had to quit smoking in the unit and get rid of the dog within 3 days. There is more to this part of the story, but my main questions right now have to do with the new tenant who moved out.

I just met her to do the walk-through and she told me that she wants us to pay for the cost of her moving van, babysitter she had to hire when she moved, moving boxes, and I am not even sure what else at this point. I was completely blown away at her demands. We had no control over the situation and did everything in our power legally and ethically to mend the situation. I don't even know if we had to let her out of her lease or not but felt it was the right thing to do. 

Can she come after us for her moving fees? I'm afraid she is also going to try to get us to pay her storage fees and who knows what else.  I think she may try to say she didn't stay there a bunch of nights because of the smoke and yelling that took place before our knowledge of the issues. To the best of your knowledge, what (if anything) are we obligated to pay for? 

Also, she was pretty much out of the unit yesterday but left a headboard in the patio that she said a friend is coming to get later today. When I am prorating her rent do I count her still being there today since she left a big item? I know I sound petty, but at this point I am not willing to give her any freebies after her demands.

Sometimes I really hate being a landlord...

Updated almost 3 years ago

I want to clarify that the new tenant moved into the unit next door to Smokey, and the issue was being able to smell Smokey’s secondhand smoke in the new tenants unit. Not sure how/why it started permeating the nextdoor unit when we never had that issue in the past.

I agree with the above. You've already done all that you are required to do and you've let her out of her lease. She can ask for everything she wants but it does not mean you must give it to her. I would recommend that you stand firm and professional, but friendly about your decision, and if she continues, minimize and/or stop your communication with her unless it's necessary to see her to finish up processing her out of the apartment.

I'm glad you are getting rid of this other tenant. Be very choosy about who you let live in your units...especially multi-family... because one bad apple makes all the good ones leave.

Also, I PMed you about your last name privacy concern.

I’d remind her how flexible you’re being about not only allowing her to terminate the lease early, but waiving all fees and such that normally are applied when someone moves out early. You could have just as easily given Smokey the 60-day notice and left it at that - but you’re being as empathetic as possible to this tenant. I can’t imagine she would have any standing if she brought this to court. It sounds like you dare doing everything right.
@Amy T. Being a landlord can be frustrating but you allowed this to happen by not enforcing your lease . You basically ran this like a hobby instead of being professional and as a result the tenant walked all over you . I don’t say these things to be mean but you gotta stop being timid and not enforcing the lease or putting out notices to comply if you know something is being violated . Now you lost income , you lost tenants and it all could have been avoided .
Originally posted by @Dennis M. :
@Amy Taylor

Being a landlord can be frustrating but you allowed this to happen by not enforcing your lease . You basically ran this like a hobby instead of being professional and as a result the tenant walked all over you . I don’t say these things to be mean but you gotta stop being timid and not enforcing the lease or putting out notices to comply if you know something is being violated . Now you lost income , you lost tenants and it all could have been avoided .

Pretty sure I was looking for advice, not a lecture. I’m quite aware of the shoulda coulda woulda’s involved here

@Amy T. As a general rule of thumb anyone who Smokes will eventually do it indoors. No matter what you say or do. That’s my experience anyways. Tell the other tenant you keep the deposit and they can move out if they want. If you’re nice you let them go without having to keep paying. Also I recommend getting a property manager.
Originally posted by @Amy T. :

Yikes! How do I change it so my first and last name dont know up with my posts! 😬

 In your account settings, under the 'privacy' tab, in the 'privacy settings', there is the option to hide your last name.

@Caleb Heimsoth I guess I’m starting to feel defensive. Do you remember 2011? It was a real estate nightmare, and we had the bottom of the barrel for tenant selection. Sometimes you do what you gotta do to pay the mortgage. And sometimes there is a mess to clean up later because of that. I have already told the new tenant who moved out that we were releasing her from her lease without being penalized. She was only there 30 days and caused no damage. I don’t know how I would justify keeping a $2500 deposit, and if I did try to play it like that I am sure I would end up in small claims court. I am trying to deal with this is an ethical yet cost effective manner. As for hiring a property manager we have owned and managed this property for 14 years now and done ok. For the most part my husband was handling it all and he is way too much of a softy. I am starting to deal with it more and we have some wrinkles to iron out. The property will be our retirement but there isn’t enough cash flow yet to justify a property manager. Plus, I think I have it in me to do it. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes but I’m asking people for advice who have more experience than I do. I think that’s a good first step.
Originally posted by @Amy T. :
@Caleb Heimsoth

I guess I’m starting to feel defensive. Do you remember 2011? It was a real estate nightmare, and we had the bottom of the barrel for tenant selection. Sometimes you do what you gotta do to pay the mortgage. And sometimes there is a mess to clean up later because of that.

I have already told the new tenant who moved out that we were releasing her from her lease without being penalized. She was only there 30 days and caused no damage. I don’t know how I would justify keeping a $2500 deposit, and if I did try to play it like that I am sure I would end up in small claims court. I am trying to deal with this is an ethical yet cost effective manner. As for hiring a property manager we have owned and managed this property for 14 years now and done ok. For the most part my husband was handling it all and he is way too much of a softy. I am starting to deal with it more and we have some wrinkles to iron out. The property will be our retirement but there isn’t enough cash flow yet to justify a property manager. Plus, I think I have it in me to do it. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes but I’m asking people for advice who have more experience than I do. I think that’s a good first step.

2011 was bad but it was different for everyone.  I’m not from CA so idk what your area is or was like.

You keep the deposit as lost rent.  You have a contract, she violated it.  Unless you put it in writing or something that you’d return it.  

You can do whatever you want but this is what I’d do  

Amy, the lecture IS the advice. Hard pill to swallow. Sounds like you didn't get the kind of response you wanted. I think it best you seek property management to assist you from now on. In your case it will be money well spent.

@Stacey Paulin

I was not seeking a lecture on what I should have done differently in the past. I was seeking advice on what to do now, given the current circumstances. Is that not what this forum is for? Your approach isn’t very welcoming to newbies. You’re basically saying “you’re incapable, hire it out” based on very limited information. 

I’m very happy with the advice I received from the first few people who replied. They heard my question and answered it. So thank you to them!

@Caleb I did not make any promises in writing regarding the deposit, but I did verbally say that we would let her out of the lease without being penalized, so I will need to think about that.

Sorry Caleb, my other response was supposed to be @Dennis M. I’m having a hard time using the app on my phone to respond. 

No issues with your advice. I appreciate it (although am going to try to proceed without a PM 😉)

Amy I only said those things so you wouldn’t have this happen again .losing money sucks , it’s very frustrating! I didn’t mean to lecture you but Why even have a lease if you don’t enforce it ? I mean  landlording is a tough business so you gotta be firm and now look at your situation and to think It was likely 100% preventable . The people’s republic of California has the strictest landlord tenant laws in the country . I would consult with a local RE lawyer about the security deposit being withheld. Obviously don’t pay the woman for moving expenses .

@Amy T. Welcome! Maybe the tenant didn't have the money for the Van, boxes etc. I would have just paid her but said firmly "nothing more" before handing over money and getting a signed statement. This was your fault and not the tenants. I would have a cap of say a few hundred dollars but put yourself in the tenants shoes. Maybe that tenant is hurt financially and had to move (which you apparently agreed) because of your tenant causing an uninhabitable situation. Just my two cents. Not a landlord. Good luck and keep us posted.

LMAO. No

You can tell her your happy to do that but would need to cover the terms of the  original lease. Paying for any months she is not in the unit...this should stop her dead.

More importantly, get a property manager that can handle these situations in a firm manner that will cost you less money in the long run. 

      

Love how whether you think I should pay her (like Dylan) or whether you think I owe her nothing (the majority), or whether you think I should keep her security deposit (like Caleb), everyone has one opinion in common...it’s ALL MY FAULT and I NEED A PROPERTY MANAGER.  

Here’s the thing. Smokey has been there 7 years. Wish we didn’t let a smoker in, yes. But she has been smoking in the unit for quite some time and the smoke has never spread into the adjoining units. We renovated the middle unit a year ago and there were no smoke issues. I spent 2 days there cleaning and showing the unit just a month ago and couldn’t smell smoke. Something has changed to where the smoke is coming in. I have some theories but haven't figured it out yet for sure.

Smokey has NEVER been hostile or had issues with past renters. I believe she had some vices combined with some fairly recent troubling personal issues that has caused her to go off the deep end.  

So was Smokey a model renter? No. But the issues that caused the new renter to leave are new.  

As far as allowing the new tenant out of her lease, she had 2 small kids. I believe it was the right thing to do given the second hand smoke.  I felt like allowing her out of her lease with no strings attached was the right move and was shocked when she wanted more from us. We did everything in our power to deal with the issues that came up (including trying to seal possible entrance points of the smoke). In the end she was worried about Smokey’s behavior, and said that even if we were successful in getting her out quickly (which would take care of the smoke) she was afraid of retaliation.  I don’t think there is a real threat of danger, but you never know. Smokey is behaving unpredictably right now.

As we all know, hindsight is 20/20. Thanks to those who answered my question. To the rest of you, I thought this was a landlord forum and a good place to ask questions. If everyone is just going to chime in “it’s your own damn fault, hire a property manager next time” I can do without the “advice”. I had a very specific question and lots of you decided to take the opportunity to make it about something else. 😐

@Account Closed it was 7 years ago. It was just the rental climate at the time.  A month ago when the middle unit became vacant we had the highest quality applicants we have ever had. Apple employees, WorkDay employees, Lawrence Livermore Lab employees, dual income couples, etc. Honestly they were too high end for my property, which is probably what you would consider a B property. I figured the really top notch ones would be moving out in a year and on to buying their own places. I chose someone i thought would be there a little longer. But I’m sure that was the wrong decision and I should hire a property manager!

If you do not like Boo Boo bear you should have smelled nicotine, and stained fingers when you interviewed the tenant. There are more damaging issues you have not dealt with. Animal urination through the subfloor. Motor cycles in the living room with oil dripping on the new floor, unreported fire in the kitchen, plumbing rupture and wall water damage. It used to be Mary Jane growing with irrigation ditch in living room and high electricity in SFBA that get landlord excited thinking the insurance will cover the damage. Ha!

I suggest you delegate that role back to your husband. Don't mess with being a landlord.

@Sam Shueh we knew she smoked. I was clear about that in earlier posts. I’ve also explained why we ended up with her. Furthermore it was my husband making the call back then. Now I am handling it as we both know I am better at reading people and am not as soft as him. 

BUT THANKS FOR ONE MORE PERSON TELLING ME I CANT HANDLE IT 🙄

@Amy T. I believe you did what was best. A dispute over her deposit for early termination of the lease would just end in small claims court. Maybe it’s time to look for a new tenant and let smokey go so the other tenants won’t have a hard time with her smoking and with her anger outbursts. You don’t need to hire a property manager, that would not be the solution in this case.