I knew that this post would come up eventually, but I was hoping that it would not occur for some time. You might remember that I purchased an investment property a few months ago which came with a tenant. The tenant receives most of her rent subsidized for her since she has terminal cancer. Rent in the state where I own the property is cheap and she now has about 85% of her rent subsidized, so she is responsible for a relatively small amount of her rent. She is also responsible for paying her own utilities.
When I purchased the home I gave her a six month lease to see if we could deal successfully with each other. Her lease ends at the end of this month, and we were just discussing a possible renewal when I realized something…She has not paid her rent on time once within the nearly 6 months since I’ve owned the house. The portion that the state subsidized arrives 2 weeks early directly from them, but her portion has never been on time. In fact, her September payment was “lost in the mail” so it was combined with October’s rent which I received 8 days late and only after calling her.
Now, her lease calls for a $50 late fee if she is late with her rent. I’m a sucker for a sob story and because she basically got a free refrigerator for me, I have never charged her the extra $50, but I realized that I have inadvertently done two things:
- Robbed myself of $250 over the past 6 months, and
- Set a dangerous precidence with my tenant
So since the lease is up for renewal, do I turn into a hard ass? Do I begin charging her the late fee? I’m tempted to send her a separate letter from the lease renewal listing all the dates that her payments were received (and actually they were all postmarked after they were due) and spelling out that from now on, any late payments will be charged the $50 late payment fee. According to the lease agreement, non-payment of the late fee would be considered a breach of the lease agreement.
Before you go telling me that I shouldn’t do this because she has cancer, I know that she is using her health situation to manipulate me, or maybe that’s just how I feel. I’ve been fed one sad story after another and I’ve fallen for them all. One time when she was late with her rent, she told me that it was the anniversary of her mother’s recent death and she was too incapacitated to leave the house. I later found out that her mother had passed away some 8 years before, but the way that she has presented it to me was as if she had passed away the year before. She’s told me how many medications she is on to manage her cancer, but when I showed up to fix something in the house, she was still chain smoking cigarettes. This was the reason she said, that she couldn’t qualify for a lung transplant. She didn’t want to quit smoking.
All that aside, should I even take someone’s health situation into my rent collection? I have to pay for this bad boy every month, and I’m never late on my payments. In fact, if I were late on my payments, she’d be out of a home to live in. So, do I send her this notification telling her to shape up, but in a nice, polite way, or do I continue as before? I feel as if I need to enforce all of the terms of the lease in order to preserve all of my rights and not act like such a pushover. Actually, I’m feeling like a sucker. I hate feeling like an idiot.
This post was included in the Carnival of Money Stories #76 hosted by Richly Reasonable.