Free Talk Live Arrives in NH!

Keene Odyssey

Did you know the NH government is directly encouraging people to be irresponsible, shiftless losers? There’s apparently a law here in NH that prevents landlords from collecting last month’s rent upon entering into a lease with a tenant. The NH government is essentially telling people that they can’t make up their own minds and write their own leases to the satisfaction of both parties. This law does not “protect” tenants; it encourages them to screw over landlords. Here’s my story.

When I purchased a duplex here in Keene and inherited the prior owner’s lease, I knew there was going to be a problem. One, there was no last month’s rent collected. I at first thought the old landlords were sloppy; now I know it’s the government’s doing. Two, the tenants with the nearest lease expiration were college students. Some college students haven’t lived outside of their parents’ home and have not really had an opportunity to experience the “real world”. Hence they have little to no understanding of responsibility, contracts, and honor.

I purchased the home in May, and the tenants’ lease was coming up for renewal at the end of August. After closing, I sent written notice to the tenants that they were to move out at the end of the lease. This amounted to 90 days notice! That’s plenty of time to find a new place and move out. I consider that pretty reasonable, but they apparently took it personally.

There is much more to this story:

Both June and July passed and both months they were late with the rent. As August arrived, they claimed they couldn’t pay their last month’s rent. Surprise, surprise! They threatened to coerce me into signing up for City of Keene welfare, which I refused considering it’s not my responsibility to jump through government hoops to get the rent *the tenants* are obligated to pay me. They then decided they’d just consider the security deposit as last month’s rent. This was still another violation of the lease. One tenant tells me they’ll be out on time and will leave the house in good shape. I have no reason to believe him.

My friends who had been taking care of my Keene property while I was still in Florida call Labor Day weekend to tell me there’s junk in the house, and that it appears someone is still sleeping there. My girlfriend, co-host, and I decide not to let the situation get us down and we embark on a 26 hour, 1500+ mile journey up the east coast to arrive in Keene on Labor Day. At around noon, we pull up to my Keene duplex hoping to throw down an air mattress and crash for a while before unloading the truck. We went inside.

There was no room to throw down any size air mattress! The house was trashed. It could have been a lot worse, but at the time it was pretty overwhelming. Fetid, dirty dishes in the kitchen, trash and belongings all over the place, flying insects, a mud room full of months of trash, and I’ll spare you the rest.

The at-this-point former tenants arrive. One, we’ll call him Mr. Amazing, claims he’s going to clean the house and makes a beeline for his drum set in the basement. He’s now trespassing on my property, but we give him his first break, choose not to call the cops, and try not to escalate an already heated situation. Considering we can’t afford to wait around for them to “clean” the house at their leisure, we secure the property once they are gone and begin cleaning up the mess so we can finally sleep.

As we begin to clean up, what had been a nightmare arrival in Keene begins to morph into a very revealing look into the lives of the former tenants, especially Mr. Amazing. The first marijuana growroom we found was in the upstairs closet. The second was in the basement. The plants and lights were gone, but all of the other evidence was there: dried marijuana leaves, harvested stems, plant pots, insect killer, plant food, hooks, white reflective boards, and notes. Yes, notes. Notes that clearly indicated that not only was he growing pot, but also selling it.

The strangest thing was a note we found in the freezer. Well, it was strange until we read it. It was another business note, but this one about “tabs”. Considering that the note was in the freezer, “tabs” likely means LSD. It appears Mr. Amazing was selling a variety of interesting things! (But couldn’t pay the last month’s rent?)

The next time I saw him, I let him know we knew what he’d been doing, and also pointed out that we were not taking the evidence to the Keene PD. While he looked visibly relieved, when we broached the topic of the last month’s rent he continued to have a “the world owes me something” attitude and left telling us that if there’s one thing he’s learned from all of this it’s that people from Florida are assholes! As though being born on a particular plot of land determines anything about one’s personality.

I’d like to point out that I’m not bothered in the least by the grow rooms, sale of, or usage of pot and LSD. In fact, Mr. Amazing in his astounding display of sloth and ignorance unknowingly burned a bridge of a potential ally. I’m someone who considers the government’s War on Drugs a scourge upon America, and I want to end it. I’ll have more on deregulating drugs in another column. What I am bothered by is the fact that these guys stiffed me on the rent and left me a trashed house.

I’m also bothered by their breach of contract, and the fact that by preventing landlords from charging last month’s rent in advance, NH’s government encourages tenants like them to be irresponsible and develop an entitlement mentality.

I hope Mr. Amazing and his friend make good, because they are about out of any karma they might have acquired in their short “adult” life. Either way, they should chalk this all up as a learning experience. I hope as they mature they realize that they got very lucky they encountered us instead of someone stupid, violent, and likely to call the cops. Things could have been much worse for the former tenants, but because we’re good people, we let it slide.

Oh, and it wasn’t just us. My realtor tells me that when she was looking at the house for me while I was still in Florida, that the guys attempted to prevent her from getting into the grow closet upstairs. She went in anyway and discovered the grow operation while the plants were still there! Like us, she also did not call the Keene PD. It’s clear from our otherwise enjoyable experience here thus far, that there are plenty of good people in Keene, and I’m glad to be here with you.

FTL_Ian

posted by ianbernard
  • Timothy West

    drugs can also encourage people to be irresponsible shiftless losers. As long as they are illegal, it tends to reward that direction. Problems associated with drugs often can’t be solved as long as they are illegal – but your attempt to totally divorce the drugs from their behaivior rings hollow to me. In your case, it was probably a combination of youth, the tenant law, and the drugs.

    Don’t run away from the fact that some drug users are simply lying worthless pieces of shit, and that drugs are the reason they got that way. Confront it head on, and tell the truth – which is that while drugs are illegal, the problems with the activity can’t be solved. Acknowledge that drug use is not without problems, but those problems are only worsened tenfold by the drug war.

    your post is so circular in attempting to divorce the drugs from how they treated you, it’s glaring. It was a factor IMO.

  • Graham

    When I rented houses and apts (in MD),I never once had any landlord ask for last month’s rent. Never had a problem paying it either- since the last month is like any other month. Some of the nicer apts I lived in even had NO security deposit or $99-200. The last and nicest place had No deposit(maybe built-in), 1st mo. free, and $500 Off the 2nd mo. All these places, without last month rent paid a year in advance, manage to stay in business and expand. These are professional operations. Maybe this is just what the market bears here. I don’t know that not charging last months rent (I doubt most renters have equiv. of 4 months upfront, if they do they might struggle to pay Other months in between 1st and last)really encourages anyone to be a loser.

    Obviously you take a risk purchasing a property with current tenants. Like you said, you knew there was going to be a problem but still chose to buy. You also could choose to take legal action.

    I thought NH was the best state.

  • Sandra Kallander

    It’s a good thing you documented it here. If the police ever bring a drug sniffing dog into your house, you could be in trouble.

    I would have taken pictures and made sure there were plenty of witnesses.

  • Julian

    I guess you will have to check out drug dealers a little closer before renting to them. You may have to remind them not to drill or cut holes in the walls for crack dealing and to keep a nice, orderly drug house.

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Looks like you have a dilemma when being pro-drug or drug neutral. What a double standard you exhibited here by even considering notifying the cops when you oppose the war on drugs.

    How are you going to square your Utopian belief system with real world events? This should be a lesson to all idealists that believe the world would just be fine if we could all get along as most of you knuckleheads believe.

    As you get older, you will arm yourself for bear and refuse to trust your fellow man or believe he is inherently good. The opposite is true. We live in a world of “screw him before he screws me” and I believe you have learned a life lesson. It took me 60 years to get there. Only in the past 5 years have I learned.

  • Devious David

    There lies a difference betwixt best and perfect.

  • anonymous

    Ian, what a mess this turned out to be for you! If I were you, I would’ve used the evidence of drug dealing to your advantage in this situation, especially when the state isn’t on your side in this case.

    You could’ve told your tenants 1) You knew what was taking place in the house, 2) You knew, due to their business that they had plenty of money to pay the last month’s rent, and 3) If they didn’t meet their obligation by 10-20-30 days or whatever, you’d have no problem showing the house to the authorities. I think you would’ve had your money by now!

  • ianbernard

    Tim, some people are lying pieces of shit, and some of them do drugs, Whoop de do.

    Other drug users, (the ones I know) are upstanding individuals.

  • ianbernard

    Graham, it is the best state, though that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems.

  • ianbernard

    Sandra,

    I did take photos: http://bbs.freetalklive.com/index.php?topic=8630.0

    And there were multiple witnesses. :)

  • ianbernard

    Julian,

    I did not rent to them. If you’d read carefully, you’d have noticed I bought a house an inherited tenants.

    Also, I have no double standard. I NEVER considered calling the cops, we just told the tenants that to scare them a bit.

    You are even more jaded than I, Julian. I feel sorry for you.

  • ianbernard

    Anonymous,

    I did tell them we knew what they were doing, but there would have been no point in threatening them and possibly escalating the situation. That could have resulted in vandalism or worse.

    Instead, I took possession of everything he left in the house when we secured it. I’m now holding it as collateral in order to get the rent. I’ll probably only be able to get his half, as the other renter did not leave any stuff in the house for me to hold. I have a PS2, some snow jackets and boots, etc…

    Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Keith

    Ian, you cannot hold his stuff for rent. It sounds like a bribe or something and I learned about it on judge judy :)

    Also, I have never heard of anyone being charged last month’s rent except in jest. I have looked at 1/2 dozen places in my area and none of them charge last months rent. Even if it was legal to do so in NH, you might have to change $100 less a month or something just to be competitive with such a demanding rental policy.

    If someone does not pay the money they owe, sue them. I also learned that from judge judy.\\

    Welcome to NH!

    Tim, people that drink or smoke are not shity because they use drugs. As you said, some people are shity and I don’t see any relation to that and drug use, overall.

  • Timothy West

    Drugs are often a factor, and many times not a factor. In Ian’s case, from his description of events, I think they were.

    Every situation is different.

  • http://voteoverstreet.org Kris Overstreet

    The one time I rented an apartment, I was charged -three- months’ rent in advance plus a security deposit. If it hadn’t been for two roommates, I wouldn’t have been able to manage it. (As it was, one roommate was perpetually late paying his share of the rent and eventually got us evicted… oh well.)

    However, I really don’t see what having an extra month’s rent would have done in this case. The home would still be trashed, there would still be drug evidence everywhere just waiting for a cop to declare forfeiture of property, and the tenant would still be an asshole. It’s not that significant an obstacle to getting into a lease.

  • ianbernard

    Keith, the stuff is MINE now. He was supposed to be out on 8/31. I arrived on 9/4 and the house was full of crap. I own whatever they left.

    What good would suing a loser do? Would the time and effort be worth recovering a month’s rent? Besides, I like to settle conflicts outside govt.

    He left all kinds of papers here, and I found out who his father is. I may just decide to have a chat with him if I don’t recover my rent.

  • ianbernard

    Kris,

    It may not have been trashed if they wanted their sec dep back. Since they knew they could get away with not paying last month’s rent they fucked me on that AND trashed the place, as they KNEW that even if they cleaned I wouldn’t give back the sec dep.

    The security deposit would have been another card in my hand…

  • http://www.somewhat-hypothesis.com colson

    Ian, you probably know better than I about NH real estate but my understanding is that if he were to claim that you are holding his property, after the date that he left the premise, that it can be considered partial recovery of debts owed. My guess is that if you were to file a suit after talking to his father, you would probably win on default judgement. Yeah, you may never recover your money but then you can still report it to the credit bureaus or rental history bureaus.

    That would be almost just as damaging as it would be sustained over 7 years on his personal info….

  • getreal

    Fact: they used state law to screw you over and knew they were screwing you over. The state is coercion as we know and s they know. They used this coercion to escape paying what was owed and to ruin the house. You have the right to use coercion in retaliation. You did not initiate it. I think you are warranted to tell them them pay up and that you are now considering turning over the evidence to the police. I would say: “If you want to use state law to fuck me over then I think it justified to use your own morality in my defense.”

  • GreginOz

    Gotta (gasp) agree with Julian on his thoughts. Also, being libo certainly doesn’t mean one is some kind of pussy. Au contraire, fuck with me and remember “La Venganza es una plate mejorada servida fria”. As aside, in my state, in Oz, a tenant has to put up a Rental Bond equal to one month’s rent PLUS the first two weeks, before moving in. This only after the real estate does refos on you. You don’t get bond back ’til they inspect. If they inspect & want to charge more because you’ve trashed the place, n u do a runna…you won’t get another rental in the State. That’s business!

  • Leroy

    Ian, I have to hand it to you for NOT using the fact that they were growing cannabis and selling acid against them. The fact that you completely seperated their immoral actions (trashing your house and not paying rent) completely from the NON-immoral activity of growing cannabis and selling acid shows that you have a lot of integrity. I have a lot of respect for you and in my mind it shows you are a very ethical person.

    On another note (now that I’m ranting), I am bothered by the idea of people saying that people who smoke pot are “using drugs”. Is someone who drinks a beer “using drugs”? Is someone who takes an asprin when they have a headache “using drugs”? Technically, the answer is yes to all, but only the former is considered by our hypocritical society to be affirmative. Cannabis is a herb that contains a drug just as St. John’s Wort is a herb that contains a drug. Saying that pot smokers are drug users is just a way to discriminate and marginalize them.

  • Timothy West

    no, it’s being technically accurate, as you stated. While Ian is free to make his own assessment, so are we all. My gut feeling is that the drug usage by the tenants contributed to Ian getting screwed.

    There’s nothing un-libertarian about pointing out that drug usage can come with it’s own set of problems depending on the user and their good or bad relationship with the drug. The Drug War makes these problems worse by criminalizing the relationship instead of treating it a a public health issue.

    Libertarians dont need to soft pedal this truth, they need to confront it and admit that drug use and drug abuse are not one and the same, and drug use does not have the same effect as drug abuse. We should be for legal drug use, where adults can inbibe freely, as long as their conduct does not slip into abuse and real criminal actions and
    present a danger to others, like driving a car or other such things.

    maybe reading this will help clarify my POV on the issue.

    http://www.mcwilliams.com/books/books/aint/105.htm

  • Timothy West

    And this:

    The goal of legalizing drugs is to bring them under effective legal control. If it were legal to produce and distribute drugs, legitimate businessmen would enter the business. There would be less need for violence and corruption since the industry would have access to the courts. And, instead of absorbing tax dollars as targets of expensive enforcement efforts, the drug sellers might begin to pay taxes. So, legalization might well solve the organized crime aspects of the drug trafficking problem.

    On average, drug use under legalization might not be as destructive to users and to society as under the current prohibition, because drugs would be less expensive, purer, and more conveniently available.

    I am for this. That does not mean that I also have to accept shitty behaivior from people that use drugs or refuse to consider the possibility that drug use/abuse has downsides and legalization wont make it perfect, just better.

  • Peter

    After reading the post, I suspected, but after reading your comments, Ian, it appears as though you don’t really have the stomach to be a landlord. You’d think that someone dodging the last month’s rent and leaving the place a mess was the most terrible thing that could have happened. While I understand that it hurts, it comes with the territory. In addition, if you choose to “settle conflicts outside government”, you’ll be chasing more than just this tenant for the rest of your life.

  • ianbernard

    Peter,

    You clearly didn’t read the article too thoroughly. Allow me to highlight a relevant portion:

    “It could have been worse.”

    Thanks for your opinion. I think I’ll continue being a landlord, just not from 1500 miles away.

  • ianbernard

    Leroy,

    Thanks for the positive comments, glad you enjoyed the story.

  • paulie cannoli

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Looks like you have a dilemma when being pro-drug or drug neutral. What a double standard you exhibited here by even considering notifying the cops when you oppose the war on drugs.

    However, Julian says he also against the drug war.

  • paulie cannoli

    The one time I rented an apartment, I was charged -three- months’ rent in advance plus a security deposit.

    As aside, in my state, in Oz, a tenant has to put up a Rental Bond equal to one month’s rent PLUS the first two weeks, before moving in.

    Thanks for reminding me some of the main reasons I prefer motels, hostels, camping and the couch trip to apartment renting.

  • paulie cannoli

    The next time I saw him, I let him know we knew what he’d been doing, and also pointed out that we were not taking the evidence to the Keene PD.

    Given that you’ve posted pictures, your full name and town on the web, isn’t that liable to wind up in their hands anyway? After all, they know where you live.

  • ianbernard

    I suppose, if they wanted to do a little detective work, they could. But that would mean doing work. ;)

    Besides, I’ve never named the tenant, and there were two on-lease, but several others staying here as well.

  • Julian (Van Dyke)

    Paulie Cannoli

    You are correct. I do oppose the “war on drugs” and would not have turned them in. However, I would have kindly invited both of them back to the house using lies and deception and implemented some “street justice” on them. No cops, no hassle, no fuss, just good old intimidation, and if necessary, brutal force where needed to extract justice and what is mine and my family’s.

    Remember property rights that you are preaching all the time or are you not true to yourself?

    Stephen Van Dyke

    Remember how I handled deadbeat scumbags when you were young? I was my own best debt collector. End of story.

    A few of my biker friends would handle that situation very smoothly. Again, screw with me and I will triple screw you back or worse. That is how to prevent and punish the “cheaters”. It also keeps many people out of prison if street justice were the order of the day when necessary.

    Now that is the true libertarian way.

  • paulie

    Remember property rights that you are preaching all the time or are you not true to yourself?

    And this is contradicted by what I said how exactly?

    Julian’son-sequiturs are occassionally entertaining, but mostly sad.

  • paulie

    I suppose, if they wanted to do a little detective work, they could. But that would mean doing work. ;)

    True, most cops are lazy.

  • ItsmeItsme

    Karma all ways comes back to bite you in the ass…….You reap what you sow dickboy.

  • http://freestateproject.org Seth

    arr, Cap’n Ian… such is life on the Barbary Coast!

    Keelhaul the youngun, and make him walk the plank!

  • sugarloaf

    Ian, you are a really good person.

    Sounds like these guys you rented to are idiots, but if they are dumb enough to leave all that crap in your house they will surely be in more trouble soon.

  • Mike R

    This reminds me of something I went through with a renter earlier this year. My tenant was 8 days late on rent, and after several phone calls, messages, and a visit, I found out he was working on finding a new place. I cornered him in to giving me written notice on the 10th, although he planned to be out between the 15th and 18th (5-8 days, instead of 30).

    This basically meant he was going to be there past the middle of the month, not pay that rent, and I would have to extract his unpaid rent from the security deposit. Per the contract, I was owed rent through the 10th of April, plus had the security deposit to secure the condition of the property.

    We agreed to try and work things out amicably. I kept the whole security deposit, and got stiffed another ~$450 that we negtiated he would pay (which was a generous deal for him). The place was a mess. Walls were dirt and needed some patching. Doors needed replacing. The yards needed much work.

    (cont’d)

  • Mike R

    (cont’d)

    In the end, I was happy to be rid of the tenant. It was a perfect opportunity to fix up the place and raise rent a bit. It was scary because my thin operating margin and bank account.

    I did learn the following lessons:

    1) Visit your property once a month, or have someone you trust do it. You don’t necessarily have to enter the house, but your presence should be felt.

    2) Don’t let late rent go, even a few days. Call your tenant if rent is a day late. If you offer a grace period, charge backdated penalties (per day) if it is exceeded. No exceptions.

    3) If you don’t have a check or cash in hand, don’t believe any promises to pay. It could simply be stalling, and it won’t be any easier to come up with next months rent.

    4) Charge a different amount on the sec. deposit from what you charge rent.

    5) Get a credit or background check.

    6) *** Learn your state rent laws *** In CA, you can owe your ex tenant $ if you don’t follow protocol.

    Good luck.

  • http://mythofhonor.blogspot.com/ JamesH

    Another option is to report the unpaid money to a credit agency. If he wants to rent from someone else and they try and run a credit check on him…. “Sorry pal, it says you stiffed the last place that you rented from”

    (Also run a credit/criminal record check on your next tenant, if you have one (I know the guy came with the property and you inherited him).

  • Shep

    Heck, Ian’s a big time radio celebrity and blogger. I say he donate the property to charity. He’d get rid of the headaches and receive a big tax write-off, and God knows a rich guy like him could use it.

  • ianbernard

    Rich? Pay taxes?