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Renters Need To Protect Themselves! Rent Smart And Avoid The Financial Devastation!

Of course, as anyone knows, owning your own home is the financially sound choice of living arrangements. But we all need to start somewhere and many young folks have no choice, but to rent before they can buy. The key is to rent smart, buy renter's insurance, and know your rights as a tenant. Also know what your landlord is like, before you rent from them.

After three rentals in 8 years, I have to say, my family and I have been through the Isles of Fire and back. We are very well acquainted with our state’s laws regarding landlord tenant. But do landlords have to abide by the law?

Our first experience was frightening at best. With a drunken, on-grounds manager of the townhouses that we were living in, we fell victims to her horrifically slurred curse words and verbally violent attacks. To this day, we do not understand exactly why, but know that we ended that tenancy quite rapidly.

Fortunately, we located a nice large farm parcel with an older, fairly run down home and moved there, leaving behind a clean and tidy townhouse. Of course, we didn’t take action to receive our deposit back as we did actually break the lease, but I truly believe that any court of law would have backed us up 100% with the defaming comments and drunken condition of this manager. But regardless, it was less stress at the time to simply wash our hands of it.

Well, the farm was wonderful for a month or two. The owner/landlord was from Alaska, so he had put his three daughters in charge of managing the home, while he and his wife were out of town. I might add, these daughters grew up in this home, so they had emotional ties.

Upon moving in, we were fed stories of the previous renter’s wrong doings. This went on, on a regular basis. Quite honestly, I’m not interested in someone else’s dirty laundry, but since the oldest daughter was a Police Officer, I guess that was our renting plight for the year. Our tenancy lasted exactly 1 year and we were scrambling to move out. After being victim to accusations of growing drugs, (this is what the previous tenant was supposedly doing as well) unlawful entry to our home and snooping in our storage buildings, we were more than happy to leave! The owner’s daughters showed up a week prior to our last day and took full possession of the home, throwing away our last items and kicking us out. Luckily, we were mostly moved out and had cleaned most of the home. We were then billed for damages caused by their lack of maintenance. The billing stated, “We won’t take action on this amount at this time”. Sounds a bit like a confession to me. Unfortunately, we had bigger fish frying at the time and didn’t have the strength or time to take them to task for the damaged merchandise or belongings that the backed up septic and leaking floor caused, due to their negligence. So, we let them get away with it, once again.

Looking back on these things, it has become quite costly, but our next experience makes those earlier ones look like child’s play, in comparison. It was a 7 year tenancy, on a 25 acre farm, with a two story 3800 SF home. It began quite nicely. We were chosen out of 4 couples, after we were asked if we were Christian. I look back on this question and wonder if the only reason we were asked that is that Christian’s usually “Turn the other cheek”.

Our landlord was a small man in stature, mild mannered yet a bit different. Of course, we all have our quirks, so we went ahead and rented the home. He kept to himself and we never heard from him until about two years into the rental period. He had actually entered our home, with a stranger as well, while we were out of town. He then left a message on our recorder indicating this. We were mortified!

From that point, we found that the roof was leaking, bypassing the upper floor and leaking through on the first floor. We immediately let our landlord know. He asked questions about it and we answered truthfully. The leak wasn’t obvious, unless the rain fell in a certain direction. So, he ignored it, for four years!

After an electrical fire, caused by a short from the leak that was continuously leaking down the wall, he decided to repair it. The only reason that the fire didn’t spread is because the leak extinguished it. The inner wall and support beam had been collapsing. The entire South facing wall was lined with black mold and the lower floor was “squishy” from water.

Well, this story ends with me being a victim of a broken leg, due to the roofer’s negligence AND our landlord failing to give us notice that they were coming, 27 illegal entries into our home, moving our items, destroying our property and locking us out of our home. Our landlord then billed us for throwing away more than $175,000 worth of our belongings, heirlooms and legal documents.

After doing a bit of footwork on the internet, we find out that our landlord is a felon and has stolen money from insurance companies for years. He pled guilty to felony mail fraud and was fined $22,000 in total. Needless to say, we will not be turning the other cheek on this issue. He has now turned us over to collection for a fictitious bill, in the amount of $10,000 for all of his illegal actions, knowing we are currently in litigation over the thousands of dollars of lost belongings and emotional duress.

I do so hope that others will learn from our hardship in the landlord/tenant scope of things. Not all landlords are bad. We simply found three in a row that were drunk, crazy or simply dishonest. You can protect yourself, but you need to be educated in order to do so. We should have been making a paper trail from the beginning, with his first illegal entry into our home.

Renters need to know their rights, responsibilities and how to protect themselves from slum lords. Learn about your State’s landlord/tenant laws. You can find your rights here: http://realestate.findlaw.com/tenant/. If you do have problems and need to contact your landlord, for repairs or adjustments of any kind, make sure you do so, in writing. Save copies of all communication and file them away, just in case. If you are being called and harassed, don’t answer the phone, let them leave a message on your answering machine. Then record the messages if possible, with a time and date stamp, using a small hand held recorder. When he leaves his message, he knows he’s being recorded and the messages are admissible in court. I’m not suggesting that you file suit over any little thing, but when your rights are walked on, by someone who refuses to abide by the law, you need to be protected.

We found that when we stopped answering our landlord’s voluminous calls, his mild manners became vicious and abusive, showing anyone who hears them, just what kind of person he truly is.

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