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Disclaimer: Bryan Church’s Real Estate Corner is not presented or intended to be used as investment, legal, tax, or as any other advice and should not be used as a basis for any type of decision.  Consult a professional before making any decisions.  

The Story of the "Klinger Routine"

I thought it might be interesting to devote the month of December to funny real estate stories. Truth is always stranger than fiction.

The Story of the "Klinger Routine"

A property manager rented a single-family home to a family who looked like they could possibly be good tenants. The husband had a job and his wife had Social Security Disability income for her and her two children. Their credit score wasn’t the best; however, they were willing to sign a one year lease to rent the property for $950 per month. They paid $900 as a security deposit.

For the first year of their tenancy everything went well. Then, out of nowhere, things dramatically changed for the worse. The husband was arrested for burglary and sent to prison. His criminal check did not reveal anything of this nature, so the property manager was surprised to hear about his new vocation.

The wife moved her children in with “friends” and, unknown to the property manager, started operating the single-family rental property as a bordello. A girlfriend moved into the home with her, without the property manager's approval, and started advising the wife regarding how she could exploit all the loopholes in landlord-tenant law. One of the property manager's maintenance guys made a service call and informed the property manager that the wife was now a prostitute and “really nuts.” He said he would not perform any more work at the property while she was living there.

The next door neighbor had obtained the property manger's telephone number off the For Rent sign and called to inform the property manger that there were some “weird people living in the home" and men were coming and going at all times of the day and night. When a property manager hears that a lot of people are coming and going through one of the rentals, it is usually due to drug dealing. In this case, the property manager really didn’t know what was going on in the property, but whatever it was it was probably illegal.

The property manager mailed a certified letter to the tenant, providing 60 days notice to leave. In California, if the tenant has lived in the property for one year or more, the landlord must give her a 60 day notice to vacate. Shortly thereafter, the tenant’s therapist (yes that’s right, her THERAPIST) called the property manager to ask if the tenant could stay in the property. The property manager said not only no, but “heck no.”

The crazy tenant then came into the property manager's office and again asked if she could stay in the property. The property manager once again said no. The property manager's reasoning was that she could not have a bordello being operated in one of her rental homes. This was an illegal use – end of story. . .or so she thought.

The tenant then asked the property manager to provide a letter that stated, "if she moved out of the home early (less than the 60 day period) she wouldn’t be liable for the rent due." The property manager needed to get the crazy wife out of the office as soon as possible, so the document was signed and crazy wife left the building.

The crazy tenant then called the local county building department and informed their code inspection department that there was a sewer leak on the property, and the property was in an unlivable condition. The county mailed a letter to the property manager asking for more details. If the property manager did not provide those details within a ten day period, the county would send an inspector out to inspect the property and then fine the owner up to $1,000.

The property manager mailed copies of two invoices to the county code enforcement department, showing that a new sewer lateral had recently been installed on the property, as well as a new water line at a total cost of over $3,100.

The property manager had also installed tile throughout some the home--at a cost of $1,900 to the owner, except for the three bedrooms due to the crazy wife's unwillingness to move her furniture to allow the tile to be installed in those rooms.

The property manager paid $89 per night for the tenant to stay at a hotel until the work on the sewer lateral, water line, and tile was completed. This turned out to be five nights.

A short time later, when the tenant did not pay the last month’s rent, the property manager sent her a 3 day notice to pay rent or quit (eviction notice).

The property manager called the tenant one week prior to her lease termination date to schedule a walk thru. The tenant said she wanted to do it the last day of her tenancy and expected her full security deposit returned to her. The property manager informed her that she had one month of rent due and would not receive her security deposit. The tenant said she would refer it to the courts for bad faith retention.

The property manager was concerned that the tenant's convincing crazy “Klinger Routine” might be used to misconstrue the intent of the move out agreement and cause more trouble than her security deposit was worth.

California courts tend to be very progressive and protect tenants over landlords. This is especially true in lower-socio economic neighborhoods. Sometimes a property manager should cut their losses, get the tenant out of the property as cheaply as possible, and then rent it out to a better quality tenant--thus preserving the owner's investment and renewing the income stream. That is what happened. The crazy tenant received her security deposit back and received two months free rent. What a mess.

Moral of the story: It may be a good idea to add a psychiatric evaluation to tenant screening procedures.


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