Tenant Roulette

My husband and I rent out our basement suite as a separate unit.  Between Kijiji and good ol’ word-of-mouth, we’ve never had much trouble keeping the place occupied.  However, sharing the slightest amount of living space with another person – even just a back yard – can be quite the gamble.  If you’re going to roll the dice, you better be ready for the possible outcomes.

The Close Friend or Relative:  The biggest of all the gambles in my opinion, and a grey area we’ve never been ballsy enough to test.  The possible benefits include a nice, responsible, respectful, promptly paying tenant.  The possible downfalls include a gradual blurring of the lines of personal space until you wake up one morning and stumble into the kitchen to find them drinking your coffee out of your favourite mug and having just finished off the milk.  They’re less of a tenant and more like a houseguest who never leaves.

The Friend-of-a-Friend / Acquaintance:  The safest of all bets, because you have some sort of mutual connection to ensure that the person is not a raving lunatic or serial killer, but you’re not at the kind of heightened social relationship that can lead to abuse of boundaries.  Safe indeed… unless combined with any of the following categories.

The Recluse:  Seems like the safest of all bets, right?  Rent to a total hermit and they’ll be quiet and keep to themselves.  A little Xbox noise pollution in the early morning is easy to cope with.  Not so fast!  You still need to ensure this person leaves the crypt often enough to take out the garbage, and perhaps purchase cleaning supplies.  Trust us.  Make sure you do regular quality assurance checks so you can just replace an old space heater rather than allowing them to forego all human interaction and improvise simply by cranking the oven and opening the door.

The Slob:  Often in combination with The Recluse, I suppose because few people are open to hosting guests in a pig sty, but there are always exceptions and you definitely cannot make assumptions based on physical appearance.  These people will cost you – literally, when it comes to cleaning up mystery carpet stains, older food than you can imagine out of the fridge and freezer, and cat litter out of the cupboards.  A Magic Eraser’s worst nightmare.

The Obsessive Compulsive:  We’ve never had one, but I can imagine it would be like renting to myself.  Rent would always be early and the place would be kept in great shape, but you best be on your toes as a landlord, because the perfectionist will notice when even the slightest obligation or quality lacks (23 hours and 27 minutes notice for the furnace guy to enter the suite?  Unacceptable.).  And I would point out all the spelling and grammatical errors in the lease document.

The Multiplier:  It starts out as renting to one guy.  Then that guy’s former-ex-but-now-current girlfriend moves in.  They get a cat.  Then a Chihuahua.  Then the girlfriend’s sister becomes a “long term guest”.  The girlfriend’s sister has a newborn.  Before you know it, our 900 square foot suite looks more like a haven for human traffickers.

The First Time Renter:  They can actually be a decent bet if you get someone excited about exercising his or her new found free will by keeping odd hours and never being home.  On the other hand, they can exercise their free will in a wide variety of noisy and disruptive ways, too.  The consistent downfall is the regular check-up calls received from the poor, worried, overbearing mother and her empty nest: “So how is my little so-and-so doing?  Does he seem to be keeping out of trouble?  Oh, he didn’t tell me he moved?!”

The Drama Queen (or those who date them):  Screaming lovers’ quarrels in the back yard at 6:00 am?  No thank you.

The Host/Hostess:  Very nice, personable people who should probably just have their own place, so they can host and entertain to their heart’s delight.  These people are often very courteous and considerate, and therefore feel guilty if their guests are even slightly disruptive.  Then they check with you and apologize profusely, transferring the guilt on to you, as the intolerable gremlin landlords.

The Animal Lover:  Don’t get me wrong, I love animals, but they need proper space, exercise, and attention.  Cats and dogs can seem to multiply almost asexually it happens so fast.  Beware before your suite turns into (and starts to smell like) the next Noah’s Ark.  Reasonable non-refundable pet deposits are learned from experience.  Our place will always be pet friendly, but “well-behaved” and “quiet” are definitely relative terms when it comes to pets.

The People Person:  Best only if you, the landlord, is also a people person, so you are content to be trapped into an endless conversation whenever crossing paths.  Taking out the garbage?  Look forward to hearing a complete and detailed account of their weekend.  A minor inconvenience, not to be confused with…

Your Future B.F.F.:  Whether they’re new in town or just plain lonely, this person is needy and suffocating and just wants to hang out, relentlessly attempting to abolish the distinction between landlord and tenant so you can play Ouija together.  “I made too much for dinner, care to join me?  I just got a new blu-ray player, we should watch SATC2.”  The answer is always “no”.

The Major Life Revelation:  Some major change in the person’s life has caused them to seek housing from you, whether it is a relationship change, leaving a long-term residence, or moving to a new city.  Whatever it is, this person will be going through a period of self-discovery, necessitating that the person who signed the lease is not the same person who will be living in the suite in six months.  Sometimes changes can be for the better, but often those people are buying property.  Instead we get to witness rebounds, party phases, and addictions to daytime TV.

The Do It Yourselfer:  They want to add a coat of paint and maybe do a couple minor upgrades that not only you will appreciate, but all future tenants will too… or so they say.  It may seem overly cautious, but close supervision of these types is recommended, because a damage deposit can’t undo everything.  And yes, duct tape will rip off the paint when used to hang mirrors. 

The Lone Wolf:  Reveling in their new found oneness and on a path to self-discovery, this person takes pride in how independent and self-sufficient they truly are.  Touting themselves as a low-maintenance, easy going renter, this person loves to problem solve and live the single life.  They are finally making it on their own – in your face their mom/ex/whomever!  Or so they think.  Their home fix-it remedies escalate minor issues to the point that you’re motivated to double check the lease for the signature of Tim Taylor (Home Improvement reference… anyone… no?).  Their dedication to self-reliance often means they choose to ignore that which they cannot repair, leaving many surprises upon move out, including burnt out lights, blown breakers, chipped paint, and appliances in need of repair or replacing.

The Unsavory Character:  Think they might be testing the waters for a new grow-op locale?  They probably are.  Evict immediately or ensure you get a cut of the profits.

The Codependent:  The.  Worst.  Often disguised as responsible, self-sufficient adults, these are folks either on their own for the first time ever or in a very long time.  They are personable and interview well and can dupe you into a quick lease signing before you know it.  And then the questions, e-mails, and concerns begin, literally from the day of move-in if not before.  “Why does my television only get thirteen channels?  If my toilet clogs, can I call you?  It’s cold.  I don’t like these light bulbs.  I broke my deadbolt.  The dryer made a funny noise.  The fridge was too warm, but I turned it down and it got colder, but you should probably take a look at it.  This space heater doesn’t work.  I saw a spider.”  It.  Never.  Stops.

… Of course, one day you could be so lucky as to find the end of the tenant rainbow:

The Constant Traveler:  Jackpot!  Responsible, organized, and never home = quiet and very little wear and tear on the property.  Just make sure they’re not handing out spare keys like candy in order to allow significant others and in-laws to “crash” when they’re not there.

About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

2 Responses to Tenant Roulette

  1. Rob says:

    Remind me to write a counterpart to this article – subject being landlords. My roommates and I wrote a song for ours called “Peter you effing slumlord”.

  2. Pingback: 35 Kinds of Restaurant Patrons | Back Alley Soapbox

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