BAMBOOZLED: A Tenant’s Web of Deception
Published On: December 19, 2017 Posted by: Jeremy Peterson
We recently leased one of our properties to a family in Ogden. At the time we received their application, everything seemed normal. Their income verification checked out. They received a good reference from a previous landlord in a newer neighborhood in Harrisville. Their credit was choppy due to medical issues but was otherwise par for what we see with most tenants. With everything looking good we approved their application and moved them in.
That is when the trouble began. About a week after their move into the property we received a notice from their bank that the online payment they made had bounced. But, the system redrafted the funds and it appeared to have cleared. Then it bounced again, and redrafted, and bounced, and redrafted… This was highly unsual and appeared to be a problem with the tenant’s bank. We ended the EFT option for the tenants and told them to bring in a cashiers check. After many phone calls and missed appointments, they finally brought the deposit and rent into the office. We moved forward to November’s rent.
Disappointingly, November’s rent was late. By the 10th we posted a three day notice to pay or vacate. On the 13th, the tenant contacted me and told me they were meeting with their bishop to see if the church would help them. Apparently, the husband had just gone through some retraining at work and had an income hiccup. Meanwhile, I was told their child was in the hospital with a severe illness. Clearly, they had a stroke of bad luck. Happily, she called me that evening and told me her bishop had agreed to help them. She forwarded her bishop’s contact info to me at my request. Here is our conversation:
The week of Thanksgiving our family was on vacation. Upon returning and finding no check, I reached out to the bishop again. He responded:
On Friday the 1st, the tenant brought a third of December’s rent into the office. I told her I was having a really hard time connecting with her Bishop. After she left the office I decided to try to reach him again. But, the number was buried in my text log so I looked up the Bishop’s number online. To my surprise, the number online was not the number I had been using to communicate with the Bishop. I called the new number and left a voice mail. I also texted the old number. The Bishop called me back quickly. When I mentioned our text conversation, he didn’t know what I was talking about. I mentioned the tenants names and he knew them but hadn’t spoken with them for a long time. My heart sank as I realized I was being played.
I called the tenant who had just left my office and asked her whose number it was that she had given me. After a long pause she admitted it was her dad’s phone. I explained to her that we had just suffered a devastating betrayal of trust between us. It was unbelievable to me. I realized that we had paused the foreclosure process under false pretenses. So, I posted another 3-day notice to pay or quit on their door. This was on a Friday. Amazingly, on Monday they brought in all the rent owed and fees owed. So, it looks like we get to work with these creatively deceptive tenants for just a little longer. In the meantime, I got the last word in with the “Bishop”:
The moral of the story is that as a landlord you need to trust but verify, and then verify again. Fortunately, we are ready to take swift action in the event these tenants do not perform on their lease.
If you are looking for property management services, CONTACT ME, and let’s see what we can do to take the burden of tenants off your shoulders.