I’ve talked in previous posts about my undertaking of a further-away, remote management Airbnb home. I also mentioned the fact that we (my girlfriend/business partner and I) “inherited” long-term renters from the previous owners. Luckily, those tenants were on a month-to-month lease which we allowed them to extend a couple months until they found a new place to live. Well, move-out day was this past weekend and it certainly wasn’t as smooth of a transition as we had hoped. In this post we will discuss purchase agreements, lease agreements, and how a couple of ceiling fans caused more stress than they were worth.
When we got the word that the tenants, two college students, had found new living arrangements and would be out by the first of the month, we were giddy with excitement. We filled our Amazon carts and loaded up my truck with almost everything we’d need to get the house listing ready in a matter of weeks. A day before we were scheduled to head out for the 6 hour drive, though, I got a text from one of the guys.
“My mother was the tenant before us and she is going to come in and take out the ceiling fans she installed.” – This was the basic premise of the text message that left me utterly confused.
Of course, I had no reason to believe the two ceiling fans in the home were not staying with home. I scoured emails and purchase agreement pages to try to find something mentioning these fans but there was nothing. I told the tenant to talk to the previous owner (the mother’s landlord) about the issue because, as far as I was concerned, the fans were a fixture of the house and are part of the sale unless explicitly stated in the agreement.
…Needless to say we got down to the house to find two sets of wires dangling from the ceilings, remnants from a quick grab-and-go uninstallation of the fans, which also served as the main source of light in the living room and the upstairs bedroom.
Our first thought, of course, was about withholding from the security deposit we would be handing the tenant the next day. We kept a total of $300, including the $200 “cash for keys” bonus money we used to incentivize a smooth move-out. So, in reality, we only punished the renter $100 for allowing his mother to take out the ceiling fans and leave wires dangling from the ceiling.
We used that $300 to buy two new fans and we thought our hardships were over. We neglected to realize that it would take us 6 hours (in the dark) trying to install one of them, plus one startling electric shock for my girlfriend, PLUS $500 to hire a contractor to come fix our mess and install the second fan. We certainly felt like we got shafted in this situation. But that’s not how the renter and his mother felt.
What came next was a barrage of calls and texts demanding we pay back the money that we “owed” the young man. The fans belonged to them and they had a right to take them out, so they believed.
Stuck in the Middle
Our first instinct was to remind them that their issue was not with us… it was with the seller of the home (her landlord) because he failed to mention those fans not being a part of the sale of the house. Unless noted specifically in the purchase agreement, all fixtures go with the house during a sale!
I did receive one phone call from the seller amidst all of the tension with the tenant. He basically told me “Yeah haha, those fans are theirs. Good luck”. No apology, no offer to make it right with the renter. Poor business all around on his part.
We could tell the woman was not going to back down in her quest to get back the money for her son. With one final blow, my girlfriend (who I let do all the tough conversations because she’s way more firm than I am) sent a picture of the purchase agreement to the woman, which included no mention of the ceiling fans. We never heard back from her or her son (or her lawyer, which she promised to send on us). I think she got the hint that she would lose this battle if it were to escalate any further.
The inherited renter situation is definitely one I would like to avoid, in general. From not having a reason to professionally clean the house to arguments over fixtures and security deposits, it seems to be better to have a fresh start at closing day. From now on in my short-term rental career I will only be taking on houses in which I gain exclusive access at the time of closing. We learned it the hard way, but we sure learned it!