This is an encore publication from my "Landlord-tenant Hell" series in 2010.
Are you paying your rent to the right person? That is a question that tenants should not need to wonder about, but sometimes they ought to. A friend of mine paid her rent for seven months to the wrong person. The wrong person was her landlord. The right person was a bank official.
Here’s what happened: She had been renting the house for a few years. She loved it. She made friends in the neighborhood. She was looking forward to being there a long time. One day, an official from a local lender knocked on the door to ask for her rent. She said she’d already paid it to the landlord.
The bank official said she owed it to the lender. The landlord was in foreclosure. The good side of this is that the knock on the door was the lender and not a constable with a “notice to quit.” She isn’t being evicted. The lender bought the house back and it will be for sale.
My friend owns a small business. She doesn’t have tons of savings, but will be making an attempt to buy this house. I made some calls and put her in communication with a local attorney.
This may have a happier ending than the last time I wrote about a foreclosing landlord.
Today’s topic is: How do you, as a prospective tenant, interview your landlord?
Is the landlord financially stable?
How do you know if the landlord is collecting your rent and not paying his/her mortgage? For a couple of months, it is hard to know. (As a prospective tenant, it doesn’t make sense to buy a list of recent “Notices to Default.”) But, once trouble is at his/her doorstep, you can find public records that blaze the trail. Look the landlord up in Massachusetts Registry of Deeds. You want to search for any changes in the financing of the property over the past few years. As a non-lawyer, you can still read these documents and get the gist of it. If your landlord is refinancing and taking a bigger mortgage, that can be a trouble sign. Look for sudden increase in selling off of other rental property; your new rental could be next.
Is the landlord keeping up the property?
No matter how shiny and clean an apartment looks, check out the basement. That’s where evil lurks in lots of houses and apartment buildings. Check out how much junk there is in relation to the storage area. Check out your boiler or furnace. See if your electric panel is modern. Check for wetness. Has the floor been swept this millennium?
That’s my advice for today. What else do you think tenants should look out for?
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