Monday, December 12, 2005

Something Is Rotten in the State of Denmark

You have all met my favorite tenant, Guildenstern, from a previous post, haven’t you? Well, he’s baaaack. Oh, yes, he’s back and he’s bigger and badder than ever. Right now, I honestly can’t tell if he’s trying to bilk us out of the remaining two month’s rent he’ll wind up owing us (he and Rosencranz are set to break the lease on February 1), or if he truly intends to pay what he owes us. I’d be curious to hear what everyone thinks.

Like Stanley Kawolski, Guildenstern has a “lawyer friend.” This lawyer friend has advised him not to pay any more rent to us directly, but rather put the money into an escrow account. Then, after he’s moved out and it’s been confirmed that we haven’t harassed him during the final two months of his tenancy, he would then release the money to us. So, to recap, he doesn’t pay us anything, we allow him to move out, and then we wait for the check to come.


I argued with him, of course. I told him that he had my personal guarantee that no one would ever try screw him, that my goal was for us to peacefully coexist until he moved out. I told him what his friend proposed made little sense to me. How was I to interpret it? He couldn’t trust us, yet we had to trust him to pay two month’s rent after he vacated the apartment? In the end he wavered and told me he was inclined to write me out the check, but first wanted to talk with his friend. We ended our discussion by shaking hands. However, the next day, Guildenstern told me he had to follow his lawyer’s advice and gave me the guy’s phone number for me to call, so he, the lawyer, could explain this unique situation to me. Oy!

Here’s the main problem: Guildenstern thinks my wife is out to get him. He can no longer enjoy living in his apartment, one that he is, admittedly, paying a handsome rent for. He feels like he’s walking on eggshells all the time. And, truth to be told, my wife really does despise him. Those vibes he feels are real. When she decides to hate someone, she goes all the way. In her eyes, Guildenstern is the very devil himself. Everything he says is either an outright lie or some mischievous half-truth calculated to take advantage of our honesty and our habit of fair dealing. He has no scruples whatsoever. His ultimate aim is to bring ruin down upon us.

If you want my take on him, here it is: Guildenstern, as he appears to me this 12th day of December, 2005, is not a bad guy. He’s a salesman, and like some salesman I know, he can sling it a little bit, but no more than a lot of people. I think he was used to living in places where the landlord wasn’t continually on the premises. I perfectly understood his side of the little flap we had about the parking spaces in the driveway. I could see how my wife’s reaction to his brother’s outburst could be interpreted as exaggerated and offensive. Quite honestly, I personally didn’t care if his brother’s mail was sent to the house or not. All I cared about was if he and his roommate respected the property, kept the noise down, and paid their rent on time, and by and large they did. I’m really sorry things have come to this.

Last night we met with our lawyer — a “lawyer friend,” in fact — and she has never heard of this funky little escrow arrangement. I told her the whole story in detail and my wife, to her credit, let me tell my reasonably objective version of the events with few interruptions. I also gave our friend a copy of the lease and a copy of two of the three bad checks Guildenstern has written us. Her immediate reaction was that this was some ruse of Guildenstern’s to get out of paying the last two month’s rent. She advised me to give Guildenstern her business card with instructions for him to ask his lawyer to call her and explain to her the escrow arrangement. She also told me to inform Guildenstern that, as things stand now, if we don’t receive this month’s rent, the matter will be taken to small claims court.

And that’s where we are. Lovely.


Blogger Chloe said...

Wouldn't it be easier to give you a postdated check? It might bounce like the other three, but it would at least show a little faith in you and your wife.

12:30 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Ah, but that's the problem: it might bounce. His checks are not reliable. I was expecting him to (or hoping he would) pay his rent toward the first of the month per the lease just to see if the checks would clear before he hightailed it out of there.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Mrs.T said...

EW, that is a YUCKY situation. I never want to be a landlord again.. I mean, like NEVER!

PS. I fixed the photo, that way it's not photoshopped with the white guy in it anymore.

1:08 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Oh, Mrs. T! I checked it out and I'm still laughing!

Not at your husband though! I pity the foo’ who would laugh at your husband.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

As I read this, I am proud of you for not saying, "...Another fine mess you've gotten us into..."

Maybe your lawyer can beat up their lawyer?
"The Bodacious Barrister Brawl in Boston"

1:55 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

“Maybe your lawyer can beat up their lawyer?
‘The Bodacious Barrister Brawl in Boston’”

How about the Embarassing Bare-Assed Bare-Knuckled Brawling Barristers of Beantown?

3:09 PM  
Blogger Farrago said...

Mr. Schprock!

Desist from contact with your lawyer post-haste and send your predicament in to Judge Judy! I wanna see Guildenstern try to slide one past that sharp old biddy, and I wanna see if Rosencranz has the balls to have an "episode" on national TV.

(no offense to anyone whose real condition causes one to have real episodes. I just ain't buyin' Schprock's tenants any more)

6:47 PM  
Blogger boo said...

i read it all & i got scared i dunno why. i hope it doesn't turn out to be too dangerous, with the dooby brothers. its all very {pacific heights} isn't it? i hope u get your $, get them out of your house & get on with your life. good riddance to bad rubbish.

1:33 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"Desist from contact with your lawyer post-haste and send your predicament in to Judge Judy!"

What I want to know is, what happened to Judge Wapner? Is he still around? he was da man.

"i hope u get your $, get them out of your house & get on with your life. good riddance to bad rubbish."

Our lawyer warned us about "holdover tenants," people who simply stop paying their rent and refuse to move out. You can't harass them, change the locks, turn off the heat, oust them, etc. Thankfully, only one of our tenants is in conflict with us. The other guy faithfully pays his half of the rent on the first of the month and is a pleasure to have as a tenant. I even told him he could stay on if he could find someone to take Guildenstern's place at a reduced rent.

5:04 AM  
Anonymous Dreadmouse said...

Ugly, and you have my profound sympathy. It's worse in that I can't help feeling everybody in the situation has some valid points and complaints. Those dang shades of gray again, they keep wrecking my desire for a pure black-hat and white-hat world.

My wife has sometimes tried to tempt me into buying a larger house and renting out a portion of it to pay for the whole shebang; situations like this one make me happy that I haven't succumbed yet.

Good luck, at any rate. I hope things work out well for you. At least Guildenstern seems to be willing to leave, which should reduce the tension.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

People who have to run to lawyers to deal with easy issues are highly suspect in my book. If you're breaking the lease, you pay the remainding months, if that's agreed upon.

7:38 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"It's worse in that I can't help feeling everybody in the situation has some valid points and complaints. Those dang shades of gray again, they keep wrecking my desire for a pure black-hat and white-hat world."

That really is the truth, Dreadmouse. I really see Guildenstern's side, but I disagree with this latest strategy of his. And, of course, I understand all of my wife's points. I'm like Rodney King; "Can't we all just get along?"

"If you're breaking the lease, you pay the remaining months, if that's agreed upon."

Oh, Kathleen, that is way, WAY too simple. We can't have that.

7:48 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

I hate to break it to you, but that escrow trick is total crap. He can use it to say after the fact that he had some grievance, and hold the money. You can still take him to small claims court afterwards, but it's a hassle. In our area, if you can't trust a check from a renter, you are within your rights to request cash. It might not be that way everywhere, though. Hope you get things worked out. Or you can find an affordable legbreaker.

9:08 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Yeah, our lawyer thinks it's total crap too. I'm trying awfully hard to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Legbreaker, huh? Hmmmm… Are they listed in the yellow pages?

9:25 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

My wife is very, very similar to yours. When somebody gets on her bad side, then everything that person does is interpreted in the worst possible way, and I am constantly trying to stanch the flow of negativity once it starts. On the occasion that she is right, my credibility is seriously damaged and I find myself giving in sometimes when I shouldn't. A great many problems result from approaching people as the enemy first, guilty before proven innocent. Unfortunately, I see your situation as one that could have been avoided if you would have been left to deal with it alone. To her credit, she let you do the talking to the lawyer. I don't know what you can do now, because the tenant at this point is speaking to a slimy-grease-ball lawyer that sees you as the greedy-bastard landlord, who gets everything he deserves. Otherwise you would be able to work it out, as Guildenstern does indeed sound like a honest man--but now the devil is perched on his shoulder. The situation is beyond repair, so at this point I would follow any advice your lawyer has to extract the money from your tenants while you still have them under your roof.

10:05 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Your words are gold, Scott. You put everything perfectly. I think your advice makes a hell of a lot of sense.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Dreadmouse said...

"Can't we all just get along?"

Yep, that's often my plaintive mantra.

It sounds to me as if Guildenstern, with a little help from his lawyer, has convinced himself that you the landlord "owe" him a break for leaving without kicking up more fuss. Which is bogus if he's still sleeping there, but I've noticed that some businessfolk equate money with, well, everything. I hope I'm wrong, mind you, but my guess is that he will indeed skip out on you, taking his money as "payment" for the grief.

Now's the time when you have to compare money with aggravation i.e. how much aggravation is it worth to get that two months rent? Life is short, and wait times in court can be very, very long.

10:36 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Dreadmouse, in my mind, I am slowly making peace with the possibility of losing out on some money. Let's just hope things work out better with the next tenants.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Spirit Of Owl said...

Yeah, cutting losses is sometimes the best path, but it always stings at least a little.

Mind you, part of me does agree with Henry, you should stage a fight. Filmed. Or, maybe you could get yourselves on Judge Judy, or really go for it and call Springer up...!

Just, you know, a suggestion.

7:42 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"Mind you, part of me does agree with Henry, you should stage a fight."

Trial by combat has its charm, doesn't it? Maybe I can coax Rowdy Roddy Piper out of retirement and he can be our champion.

8:46 AM  
Blogger magnetbabe said...

"When she decides to hate someone, she goes all the way."

I think I would really like her.

8:24 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

You know, I think every woman who reads this blog would like my wife. When she's in a good mood, no one can be more charming and pleasant to be with. She can be the life of the party. But when she's in a bad mood . . . look out!

9:44 AM  
Anonymous LL said...

My two cents...

If you can't trust his checks, make him pay in cash or money orders. Money orders are quite simply warehouse receipts, and he has to buy them with cash, so they're just as good. (If I were a slumlord like you, I would actually make that a term of the lease. That way you don't have to be a collection agent too.)

If he insists on the escrow, still make him pay in cash or money orders, but make the escrow account with your friend the attorney rather than his. Then the two of them can enter into a contract to collect for two months and disburse it to you at the end, with him paying the escrow fees. If he refuses, you can just figure that he's trying to bilk you out of the rent. After that, you'll at least have one variable out of the way, and the only remaining question will be how much, not what if...

8:39 PM  

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