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Tenant Absconds and Sets Booby Trap

Just when I think that everything is going well, I get the news that a tenant has absconded over the weekend. What the news bearer does not know is that this tenant owes me two months rent. It is not the news I want to hear, particularly as we had an incident recently with same tenant, where the police kicked in the front upvc double glazed door, and causing damage that requires a replacement door. Added to that, because she had been a good tenant up until December when things began to fall apart, I had been working with her to get her back on track.

 

police kicked in front door of propertyIt takes me all of thirty seconds for the implications of this piece of news to run through my mind, and to reach a swift conclusion. Find her, get her to surrender the property properly, and get the property re-let asap. Easier said than done. I knew that even though neighbours had seen a van at the property and friends helping her to remove her belongings, I couldn’t just walk in and take possession. I had to do it by the book if I didn’t want the book being thrown at me. There was still some stuff left at the property, and she hadn’t called to say she’d gone nor had she handed the keys over. Infact, a couple of days after the weekend flit, when we called and left voice message, she texted back to say she hadn’t left!

 

So we tried to get her to call back and discuss her outstanding rent, and then she refuses to answer her phone, or to reply to our text messages. The estranged husband on whose account the Police had kicked in the front door wasn’t responding either.  Neighbours didn’t know where she had gone either. After a week or so of this, I dug out the Contact Details Form that she had first completed when she moved in a few years ago, and found the contact details for her mother and sister. One was still valid, the other not, and thankfully it was the mother’s that was still valid. Note to self at this point – check and ensure that all long standing tenants fill in new contact details form.

 

My approach to mother was on a “please help me out” basis. I explained who I was, apologised for bothering her, and asked for her help in finding her daughter who was renting my property, owed me two months rent, and has now disappeared with the house keys. I explained that unless and until she returned the keys to me, she was liable for the rent, and be assured I would eventually find her and get it from her. But to minimise her daughter’s obligation to me, could the mother please get her daughter to send the keys back, so I could do something about the house and get it relet.  That approach worked wonders. Good ‘ol mum …. I got the keys back within about a week  of speaking to her.

 

Tenant damage to kitchen and sets booby trapBut the joy at not having a protracted eviction process soon turned into grumpy sulk when I saw the state of the property. A house that she got in a good, newly decorated state was now a tip. Kitchen unit doors hanging off, back door bottom panel kicked in, light fittings ripped out, lounge painted deep chocolate, bedrooms painted dark blue, deep pink and deep red! Oh the horror!! And the garden, so much rubbish, we had to get a good sized skip to clear it all.

 

tenant abandons property sets booby trapThe most annoying and potentially dangerous situation we found was the booby trap that had been set.  Someone in the family or a friend  had removed part of the waste pipe underneath the kitchen sink and the bathroom upstairs. They’d also left the bath full of water.  Now what would you have done if you’d found a bath full of water? I imagine you’d have unplugged it straightaway. And had we done that, it would have been disaster as we’d have had a bathful of water pouring down the floor boards, through the ceiling downstairs, causing even more damage as the ceiling collapsed under the weight of the water.  That can only be described as an evil  intention, if ever there was one. Deliberate, vindictive action designed to cause maximum damage. As if the nightmarish colours on the walls in the rooms and the damaged front door was not enough!

 

dark blue bedroom tenant absconds sets booby trapThis potential disaster was avoided only because the mother had alerted us to the fact that when she got the keys, she went in to try to clean up, and found that when she ran the kitchen tap, water poured out onto the kitchen floor.  It turns out the kitchen sink waste pipe had been disconnected. So, when we saw the bath full of water, the first instinct was to check the pipework under the bath, and lo and behold, the waste pipe had been disconnected and was sitting a short distance away.

 

I just find it sad that a long term tenant who up until two/three short months ago had been a good tenant could then quickly turn so bad. She had a sob story about why her rent was late in December, and why she barely paid that before January’s was due. January’s was late as well, and February was due in a couple of days before she disappeared.  So much for  being sympathetic and helpful, and cutting her some slack because of  her marital problems.

 

This episode has certainly added another couple of points to my procedures. There is a deposit, lodged with the DPS which I now have to try and recover. It will cover some of the costs of replacing the door, clearing the house, and buying some paint,  but little else. Perhaps I will be able to persuade the mother to provide a forwarding address, as afterall, she was insistent that her daughter would pay me what she owed once she had settled in wherever it is she has gone.  We’ll wait and see.

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