Renter’s Remorse

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. That’s true, but we have had a first for us – a tenant who skipped out and then wanted to come back. A new tenant had something dramatic happen the day after signing the lease (though, like most life-drama, not as big a deal as it seemed at the time), and developed a panic of renter’s remorse. She moved her furniture back out, and had a family member inquire if she could get her deposit back, etc. We learned a long time ago to take a hard line with renter’s remorse, but this Fall we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of it. People moving in and then skipping out. Observing this as an occasional phenomenon over the years it’s apparent that a move is a little like other times of change times for – getting into and out of relationships for example. They are in flux and their thinking is not the same as it is otherwise, and on rare occasions it leads to irrational renter’s remorse, maybe more often than not when renting an apartment for the first time. While we’ve also observed that people often act as “herds” (do the same thing at the same time) even though they don’t have explicit communications with each other, such as suddenly groups of people moving in or out without any apparent external force like a factory closing or opening, we’ve never observed herd behavior on renter’s remorse before (on how people act as “herds” when they think they are deciding as individuals, read about the Madness of Crowds it’s amazing, it’s real and it affects your business).

Our policy on renter’s remorse is simple; you signed a contract. If something truly calamitous occurred (death of one of the new tenants in a married couple, for instance), then we’re not heartless. We’ll work something out. However, everything else – drama with boyfriend/girlfriend, getting hours cut at work, etc. – these don’t rise to that level. If you want out of the lease, you give us permission to market it, and you pay rent until we find another renter. That’s how common law prescribes the solution, and it seems reasonable to us. If you skip and don’t pay, we will attempt collection. That’s it – and that’s what we were doing in this case. We had posted notice just to be sure, entered and took pictures of the vacated unit, and had begun marketing it. After a couple of weeks, though, the sort-of former tenant contacted us wanting to know if she could come back, that she was truly sorry for the trouble she had caused and was getting the money together to pay the rent. After recovering from the shock, we decided to offer to consider the lease still valid if she paid up to date (waiving late fees, but not court costs on the civil collections). She took the deal and was very grateful. We certainly didn’t have to waive late fees, but were so impressed by the action and apology to make things right, some forgiveness seemed appropriate.

So, I’m curious – has this sort of thing happened to anyone else? How did you handle it, or how would you have handled it differently than us if this had happened to you?


Category: Property Management

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