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INVESTORS’ CORNER: That’s Not Funny!

Did you ever notice that some of the very funniest things we have as memories and to tell stories about were not the least bit funny at the time the event(s) occurred?
I had a rental property in Michigan where the tenant was getting assistance to pay for her housing from the City (I believe it was a program to reduce homelessness).  Unlike Section 8, the City, in their infinite wisdom, decided it was better to send the housing assistance money directly to my tenant and have her pay me, rather than pay me directly.  You can probably see where this is going . . .
That worked well for, I don’t know . . . maybe 5-6 months.  Then the money stopped coming (I lived in NC at this point).  I called the tenant, and when I finally got a hold of her, received quite a surprise.
She had moved to California with her boyfriend, so saw no need to continue paying me rent.  Many of my fellow Landlords may have experienced something similar, but here’s where the story branches down a road far less traveled.
I sent the Sheriff out to serve papers on my empty house, so I could get back uncontested legal possession in case my tenant returned later.  The Sheriff called me and said my tenant was nowhere to be found (or served), but there were certainly people living in the house.  He even gave me a cell phone number for them.
I called and spoke to a very nice lady, who informed me that my tenant had rented her the house!  Nope, nothing in writing, but she swore she had been paying her faithfully every month.  She had no intentions of leaving.  The police declined to assist me in removing her, saying that I had to take her to court to accomplish that.
So, my attorney began the process of getting her out of the house.  However, before he could finish, my tenant decided that things were not working out with her boyfriend in California, and that she wanted to move back into the house (I imagine she used her rent money for travelling expenses).
To solve the problem of “her” house being now occupied, my original tenant called the police and told them that people were living in “her” house and denied that there was ever a verbal agreement to lease the property, or that she had ever given them permission to so much as have a Sleepover.  I got a call from the police, and because my tenant could show the written lease between she and I, and nothing could be produced to document the “sub-lease” tenants, the police decided that in this case they would remove the occupants.
So, my original tenant moved back in.  Alas, it seemed that she had gotten used to having the rent money to spend on other things, because she never sent any to me from that point forward.  I knew that she was still getting the money because I remained in contact with her case worker at the City.
So, I evicted her.  However, the story does have a happy (and forgive my boldness if I might say, funny, ending):
Because I had built a good relationship with her caseworker, she let me garnish her benefits from the City for the full amount owed to me.  They would only give me $25 and some change per month, but I got that check every month for years.  I was a little sad when the checks finally stopped coming.
Lou Gimbutis is director of education at the Metrolina Real Estate Investors Association, which provides education, mentoring, and networking for real estate investing in the Charlotte region.  He can be contacted at [email protected].org.  For more information, visit

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