I have just about the best news I could report right now: My tenants finally moved out!  All of them!  The last two moved out late Sunday night, and I was so happy I wanted to do snow angels on the floor.  I didn’t, because their units were absolutely filthy and smelly and the floors were sticky, so I’m pretty sure if I tried, I would have come up off the floor with a big bald spot on the back of my head.  Seriously, one of the units smelled like vomit, and my poor boyfriend had to cover his nose and mouth with one hand while he held a flashlight so I could change the locks in the dark.  The other unit wasn’t quite as bad, but we did see a cockroach run away from us as we walked toward the kitchen.

Did I mention the building is getting tented for termites?  Thank God.  That’ll get rid of the cockroaches, and Lord only knows what other critters that have been peacefully cohabitating with the former tenants.

Anyway, let me tell you how we got to this point.  In the last post, we talked about the (legal) options for getting rid of tenants who don’t want to leave, namely eviction or negotiation.  I was hoping that by offering my tenants a financial incentive to leave after 30 days, combined with a rent raise that would take effect after 30 days, combined with a 60-day notice to quit, they would all scramble to try to get out of there as soon as possible.  Obviously I misjudged them, because nobody left on or before the date they were required to.  Every single one of them overstayed their move-out notices.

Plan Ahead, and Take Charge of Your Finances

I still can’t quite figure out why none of them took advantage of the incentives to leave early, or at least on time.  It seemed to me, based on the progress the tenants were reporting, that none of them started looking until the last minute.  That was obviously a very dumb move on their part.  Not only did it potentially cost them money because they missed their opportunity to take my payout for leaving early, but it put them at risk of eviction, and narrowed down their choices of replacement housing.  You’d think, if they were planning ahead, they would have started aggressively looking for replacement housing on day 1, so they wouldn’t be forced to take whatever was left, or worse, be homeless at the end of the period.

One major difference that I’ve observed between poor people and more wealthy people is that the poor people generally do not plan ahead.  They don’t take charge of their own financial situations; instead, they just accept where they are and let it happen to them.  I’m not saying that poor people don’t have legitimate challenges to face each month.  They do.  What I am saying, though, is that the difference between people who get ahead and those who don’t, is that the ones who get ahead never look at their current circumstances and give up.  They find a way to save, to push forward, to gain positive financial momentum, instead of figuring out how to blow all of their money and just barely make it to the next paycheck.

Case in point: these last two tenants knew, 60 days in advance, that they would need to move.  Instead of busting their butts from day 1 to try to find a replacement place, they waited until the last couple of weeks, even though they both had large families and would need 3-bedroom units—which are harder to find—and they both needed garages for their work equipment and they have pets.  No way were they going to find a place within a couple of weeks.

They also didn’t have any security deposit at all from their current units, so they were going to need to scrimp and save to get something together for a replacement place.  But they didn’t take my offer of cash to move early.  They voluntarily stayed and paid the higher rent amount for the second month, having to pay an extra $130 for that month.  They weren’t happy about the increase, but they came up with the money, and still drank beer every week, bought a crap-ton of candy and junk food for their kids, and bought probably $40 of paper birthday celebration crap.  I know this because I swept all of that trash up from underneath the stairs every week for that last month.

The Final Negotiation

Anyway, all that aside, what happened is that it got to be the end of the month, and the tenants still hadn’t found replacement places to live.  Damn.  The tenant in Apt. C was at least talking to me regularly about it, and he seemed to understand that at some point they were just going to have to leave, even if they didn’t have a place lined up yet.  The tenants in Apt. A (“Andrea and Aaron”) were sort of talking to me regularly, but they still seemed to be under the impression that they weren’t going to leave unless they had another apartment lined up.  That wasn’t going to work for me.

I went to the apartments on the 30th.  I had to meet the flooring contractor, the painting contractor, and possible garage door contractor, and receive the delivery of a new stove for one unit.  While I was there, I needed to talk to the last two tenants to negotiate a fixed move-out date so I could try to plan.  I was already behind schedule, and time was running out to schedule workers for my massive to-do list for repairs.

I talked to the tenant in C, and he said that he could be totally out by the following Saturday.  He said he may need the garage for just a couple extra days after that, but he could be out of the unit.  That would be fine.  I could start the contractors the following Monday, and it wouldn’t set me too far behind schedule.  I offered him $400 if he could guarantee me that he would be out by that Saturday the 7th.  He committed to it, and I felt confident that he was going to stick to our agreement.  If he didn’t, I would have to wait until the 9th (Monday) to start an eviction, which I really didn’t want to do because that would set me back another week before the long eviction process even started.  But he seemed serious, and if he would voluntarily leave on the 7th for $400, that would be faster and cheaper than an eviction.

I tried to talk to Aaron and Andrea in Apt. A, but they weren’t home.  I texted Andrea, but got no response.  Frustrating.  With all of the contractors roaming around the property, I still had plenty to do, so I wasn’t worried about it just yet.  Fortunately, I was there for long enough that Andrea and Aaron showed up.  They had apparently been out on a landscaping job that day.

I started to talk to them about move-out dates.  As soon as I started speaking to Andrea, Aaron quickly jumped in, claiming that his wife didn’t speak English well enough to talk to me.  Honestly.  This is the guy who pretended that he was the one who spoke no English when I came to collect the rent, and said that I would need to talk to his wife.  Now he was trying to flip it around.  I said “you know, we’re all just talking here, and we seemed to do okay last time, so let’s just see if we can figure this out.”

This time, Aaron was far calmer than he was the last time.  He must have learned that being a bully wasn’t going to work with me, and I think he realized that if he was going to be included in the conversation, he had to act like a reasonable person.  It was a huge attitude shift on his part.

Aaron and Andrea were frustrated because they hadn’t found a place to live yet.  I said that I understood their frustration, but I needed them to commit to a move-out date anyway because I needed to get started on the work.  I said I could pay them a little money, say $200, to make it easier for them to go.  Aaron said it wasn’t about the money; if they didn’t have a place to go, they couldn’t leave.

I said that I understood, but they’ve had two months to look for a place so far, and I can’t just wait around with the other three units being vacant until they decide they’ve found a place that they like.  I’m losing a lot of money every day while units sit vacant.  I said that they needed to pick a concrete move-out date, or I was just going to have to file for an eviction to get them out.  I said they didn’t want that, and I didn’t want to have to pay the court costs to do it, but if that’s what was necessary, I would do it.  I would prefer that we find a way to work it out, though.  Aaron protested a bit, but I held firm.  I didn’t have a choice.  I said that neither of us were happy with the situation, but I couldn’t just keep waiting until they hopefully found a place.  If they picked a date and stuck with it, I could hold off on filing for an eviction, and I could pay them $200 to try to make it easier for them to move.

Finally, Aaron conceded.  He said that they could be out by that Friday.  I told him to go ahead and take until the end of the day Saturday, since I knew I wasn’t going to have contractors working until Monday.  They appreciated that.  Now I just had to hope like hell that they met their end of the bargain, and didn’t just unnecessarily delay my evicting filing by a week.

On Friday, the day before the scheduled move-out day, I texted both sets of tenants to make sure they would be ready to go on Saturday.  Apt. C said he would be ready, but Andrea said that they were really hoping they could have until Monday, because she was waiting to hear back on an apartment.  I said I couldn’t wait until Monday, but I could give her until Sunday, and she could store some things in the garage until Monday night if she needed to.  She thanked me, and confirmed that she would be out Sunday.  I told Apt. C that I would just come Sunday instead, so he got an extra day to move.

The Tenants Finally Moved Out!

On Sunday, I texted Andrea again and asked what time she might be ready.  Before she had said Sunday at 3 pm, but as the time got closer, she said 5 pm might be a better estimate.  We showed up at 5 pm, and ended up killing time by swapping out more light switches while we waited.  It turned out to be around 9 pm by the time they were totally out.  But I was so happy that both tenants finally moved out!  I changed the locks on both units, and then the boyfriend and I went to get a very late dinner.

It stinks that I had to pay $600 out of pocket to get them to leave, but that’s not a bad price to pay to avoid having to pursue evictions against them, and wait for that lengthy process to conclude before I could get major work done.  Thank God they both stuck to our deal.

Next step: assessing the damage, juggling the contractors and getting everything scheduled as efficiently as possible to get these units back on line ASAP.