Lessons from a Local Landlord: Security Deposits and Big Egos

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This is the first story in a series of articles I plan on writing detailing my experiences as a landlord and the lessons learned in this crazy journey so far and in the years to come. I am going to try my absolute hardest to tell the stories from an unbiased, objective point of view.

A former tenant of mine gave me notice by text message on September 6th that he was moving out at the end of the month. I informed him that he signed a lease until the end of January of the next year, and he was technically obligated to fulfill the terms of the lease, but I would do my best to find a tenant to take his place and get him off the hook, since he had been a good tenant. I immediately posted ads on craigslist and zillow and informed some local realtors that I had an opening as of October 1. I had some interest and arranged for two showings on Friday the 14th. I informed the tenant and did the showings, and everything was ok so far. Before I left on Friday, I informed him that there was going to be a showing the next day, Saturday, in the morning sometime, but I wasn’t 100% sure of the time because they were going to get back to me that afternoon to confirm. He told me to let him know when it was. This is where I dropped the ball in that I did not inform him of the exact time it was to be Saturday morning.

Saturday morning comes around and I do the showing and think everything is fine. The tenant called me that evening, very pissed off, saying I didn’t have permission to show the house since I didn’t get back to him and he wanted his security deposit back immediately. I was very shocked and told him that I was trying my best to help him out in such a hurry, I was sorry I forgot to get back to him on the exact time, and that he was the one that was screwing me over by breaking his lease. I told him to give me his forwarding address and we ended the call.

Needless to say, I was pretty pissed off. Yes, I forgot to get back to him on an exact time, but him issuing threats and demands to me when I was just trying to help him out really, really got to me. I decided when he moved out that I was going to deduct as much as possible from the SD, simply because he was a dick to me.

After he moved out, he actually left the place in great condition. There were only a few things I could find that I could technically deduct. One of the blinds is warped where I’m assuming he had a lamp and didn’t realize it messed up the blinds. He left a huge bald spot in the lawn where he made a makeshift patio with stepping stones, as you can see in the photo. He also left his dryer there which I could deduct the cost of removal. The trash can I bought for the property was also gone, which I could deduct.

Before going through with my plan, I talked with my mentor who basically set me straight. He advised that I return his entire deposit, since I had found a renter and the tenant had left the place in good condition. After hearing this, I realized his words rang true. Yeah, I was pissed off because he threatened me when I was trying to help him out, but it just wasn’t worth it.

I ended up returning the entire deposit, even handwriting a note that apologized for the miscommunication in the showing time. It was a great feeling. I was able to let go of all the negativity, hatred, and anger that would have followed me for the rest of my life. I was able to let go of my ego and take back my happiness. All things considered, it was not worth a few bucks just to get back at someone that I felt had “done me wrong” when I was doing my best to help him.

This situation helped me to control my ego and not take things so personally. It helped me get over my need to get back at people. I was able to let go, with love. I hope this story has been some insight into landlording, and I am trying my best to be the best landlord possible. Hopefully I never have a true tenant “horror story” but I realize it will just be another lesson learned in this crazy journey. And don’t worry, you’ll definitely hear about it if it happens! :p