DEAR AMY: My husband and I rented our house to friends approximately two years ago, for substantially below-market rent. Shortly after they moved in, property values started going up and we hinted that we would like to sell the property when they vacated it. About six months after their lease ended, we thought they were getting ready to move out. However, they broadsided us with news that the husband had cancer. We told them not to worry about moving at that point. We feel that we have been patient and understanding with them, while they have made multiple, major demands of us. Things came to a head when the wife demanded that we rewire the entire house, after they had overloaded the circuit breaker with multiple space heaters! Fast-forward another six months and now they are not talking to us and have no plans to move out until next year at the earliest. We have taken a loss on the rent for nearly two years now — to the tune of almost $10,000! We feel that regardless of the cancer issue, we need to give them notice to move out. What do you think? Are we being unreasonable and heartless?
DEAR CATCH 22: Your tenants are paying the rent, and even though the rent is below-market value, you set the amount. You should research the laws in your state, but according to my research, they are “tenants at will,” which means that they have stayed on beyond the end of their lease, with your permission. They are basically renting month-to-month, and would have to move as long as you gave them 30-day’s notice in writing.
You have a responsibility to provide a safe home while they are renting, and they are responsible for any damage they do to your home. They can demand anything they want to demand, but you don’t have to make changes unless these are necessary repairs. If they are plugging in multiple space heaters, it sounds like your furnace may need servicing.
Because of your tenant’s health problems, the compassionate thing to do would be for you to give them plenty of notice before they are required to vacate the property — perhaps by the first of the year. This will give them time to find another place to live. Their move-out date should be your choice, not theirs.
Consult an attorney to put this notice in writing — to make sure you are fulfilling your responsibilities as a landlord so that you can treat your tenants fairly, and also reclaim your own rights and property.
DEAR AMY: Every summer I face the same (minor) dilemma. When invited to someone’s house for a vacation-type overnight, what are the basic guidelines for being a good guest?
DEAR GUEST: Good overnight guests bring something with them and present it on their arrival, such as freshly baked edibles, pretty linen dish towels, a lightly-scented candle, or something that represents your own home region, such as a local wine, cider, honey, or maple syrup.
In a recent article in the Washington Post, my friend (and great guest) Jura Koncius suggested that good guests step up and help with chores: “Don’t sit there and expect to be served like at a restaurant. Hosts appreciate your clearing plates from the table, emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash and stripping the bed when you leave. Set up the coffee for the next day.”
Koncius also suggests that being a good guest requires simply being on your best behavior while you are in someone else’s home. Keep your guest room clean and make the bed each day. Don’t comment negatively about things you don’t like or which are unfamiliar. Be kind toward your host’s pets and children. Be interested in your surroundings.
A good guest expresses gratitude along the way — thanking their hosts for meals and excursions, and reciprocating by treating their host to a meal.
And a good guest thanks the host promptly, warmly, and appropriately once she arrives back home.
DEAR AMY: I want to thank “S” for telling the story of being conned by an online scammer who was masquerading as a suitor. I also appreciated your response that the emotions she was feeling were “real,” even though she had never met the man in real life. I had a similar experience and want to add my voice of support.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Anyone who has tried online matching can see how this type of involvement could happen.