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white man, blond hair, red tshirt, with hand on forehead looking frustrated - Giving your pain in the ass tenants the heave-ho - why I prefer a fixed-term lease

Giving your pain in the ass tenants the heave-ho – why I prefer a fixed-term lease

Giving your pain-in-the-ass tenants the heave-ho is much easier with a fixed-term lease in Alberta. With a fixed-term lease, if you notify your tenants that you are not renewing their lease –  that’s it. They must leave at noon on the last day of the tenancy. So long.

Although…after you send the notification, it can get interesting. In my 18 years of landlording, I’ve had three fixed-term tenancies that I have not renewed, three very different experiences, and one outcome.

  1. Easy peasy relocation company

A relocation company contacted me because one of their corporate clients had an employee relocating to my city. The family had pet birds. Most rentals wouldn’t accept birds. I agreed to accept the tenant on the condition the birds stayed in the cage.  I assumed most sane people would keep their birds in the cage.

The relocation company was a dream. They asked me how much the whole package, rent, utilities, cable, internet cost and told me to round it off, and they paid, without any questions, every month, usually on the 15th. Whenever there was an issue, such as the tenant leaving on vacation and the property needing snow removal, they took care of it. If there was an issue with the tenant that cost me money – they reimbursed me immediately.

The tenants, on the other hand, seemed to think I was a cash machine. Whenever they asked for anything – if I said yes, they’d treat it as an opening to a bottomless pit of resources. Adding insult to injury, they were never happy with anything. Thank you were two words that were not in their vocabulary.

The icing on the cake was when the pain-in-the-ass tenants left for a two-month vacation and let the birds roam free. My property manager sent me pictures of the carnage. I was livid. I sent the relocation company the images, and they agreed to pay for the cleaning and to notify the tenants that the birds had to stay in the cage. The problem was the tenants were overseas, and if the birds didn’t fly back into the cage on their own, I had to find someone to return the birds to their cage without harming them. There were all kinds of regulations around the fair treatment of animals. It took a huge amount of time to get it sorted out in their absence, and throughout the process, I was tempted to invite a hungry cat in and leave the windows open.

When it came time for renewal, the relocation company contacted me.  The company paid rent for a year but if the tenants wanted to stay after their 12 months expired, they would have to sign a new lease and work with me directly. The thought of another year or so with these pain-in-the-ass tenants was about as appealing as a vacation in the black hole of Calcutta.

I said no. The relocation company relayed the message to them, and they left quietly.

It was the easiest and happiest of endings.

2. Property management company from hell and PITA tenant

I hired a local property manager (pm) on the recommendation of a friend.  Within six weeks they found a couple who rented the house. Before tenants move in, I let the pm know there was a leak in the basement but when I had sent tradespeople in to locate the source, they hadn’t found one. I asked the pm to watch out for it. Sure enough, during the spring, the pm texted me a picture sent from the tenants showing black mould growing on two walls of the leaking basement room.

When I asked the tenants to connect directly with tradespeople to set up appointments, they refused. They wanted the pm company to set up the appointments. The pm company ended up doing the same thing I did – and gave them direct contact with the tradespeople.  The tenants refused to call them or let them in. It was an impossibly frustrating situation because I couldn’t fix the problem they wanted to be resolved.

At that point the relationship between the pm and me was contentious and I honestly didn’t know if they were telling me the truth about the situation.

Since the tenants’ lease was due in a month, I asked the pm company to notify them I would not be renewing and asked them to confirm they had notified the tenants. The pm company agreed.

Long story longer – on the last day of the month, the pm company texted me saying they refused to tell the tenants to leave. I fired the pm company. The pm company then told the tenants that they had to leave at noon with literally no warning.  The tenants freaked out and called me, demanding a full refund of the security deposit immediately. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise with all the swearing, so I hung up and called my lawyer.

My lawyer dealt with the pm company (who refused to stop representing me despite me firing them) and sent an email to the pain-in-the-ass tenants letting them know they had to leave and offered them a few days to move out. We let them know they had to complete a move-out inspection to receive their security deposit. 

The following day, the tenants texted that they left and scheduled a move-out inspection. Luckily, they didn’t ruin anything, and I returned 100% of their security deposit even though the house needed lots of repairs and major cleaning.

But the best part was I never heard from them again.

The pm company was a different story –  after I filed a complaint with RECA, they went out of their way to get back at me, which included reporting my downstairs suite to the municipality.

3. Tenant, pet dosey do

I rented the upstairs suite to two buddies. I figured it was a safe bet since they had known each other since kindergarten and had lived together several times throughout their friendship. Their references and credit rating were solid, and they were polite and respectful.

Three months into their tenancy, I got word another person had moved into the suite. When I asked, buddy  #1 had up and moved out and buddy #2 had let a work friend move in as a replacement.  I let buddy #2 know they couldn’t move in tenants without my knowledge or consent. The new occupant agreed to complete the screening and was listed as an “other occupant” on the lease.

It turned out buddy #2 and the other occupant didn’t feel the need to check the lease when adding pets or friends into the suite, or when reconfiguring the garage.  They had many ongoing issues that violated the lease agreement which unfortunately changed their status to pain-in-the-ass tenants. They also didn’t get along with the downstairs tenants, and there was constant feuding.

Six weeks before the end of their fixed-term lease I notified them I would not be renewing.

The original tenant texted me only once, asking why I did not renew. I replied with a generic answer and focused on what they could do to get their security deposit refunded in full. I was surprised they wanted to stay.

The “other” occupant set about the task of creaking bogus “laws” to threaten me with so that they could get their pet deposit refunded. They didn’t seem to think the non-refundable pet lease should be enforced even though they signed the agreement. When I said no, there were more threats and more demands, a different set of digital bullying every day including reporting my illegal suite to the municipality.  

But…my former pm had beat them to it. Although I wanted to legalize the suite, I couldn’t afford the 20K it would cost to retrofit it, so I had completed the necessary work to get a basement development permit and had an inspection scheduled.

In retrospect, I could have refunded the pet deposit to the pain-in-the-ass tenant and dispensed with all the drama, but because they had done so many things to violate the lease and had repeatedly acted petty and childish to the downstairs tenants, I didn’t feel particularly magnanimous. The constant threats and demands did nothing to curry favour.

Years ago, when I had some of my first landlording dilemmas, I phoned a friend and fellow landlord for advice. He listened, asked me what I wanted to do, and ended the conversation by saying, “you’ll have some drama, but it will end.”

Although this situation is not yet over, maybe with more drama yet to come, I know it will end.

It always does.

How have your experiences been with ending tenancies? I’d be interested in hearing about it [email protected]

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