Landlords

Take two rental scenarios.

Europe.

We own a tiny house in France. Tiny. Sweet but tiny. On a river in a village in the sleepy south west. We figured, because the numbers look good on paper (never, ever trust anything that looks good on paper, never) that in order to pay off our not insubstantial mortgage we should rent it out. Permanantly. So we would avoid the headache and the expense of furnishing it, the hassle of holiday deposits and broken glasses. On Paper, remember?

We found a tenant quickly. Fanny. (I am not joking). Fanny and her family hadn’t been in situ for a month when the complaints began rolling in: the electricity was a problem, the bills were too high, the house was too cold. (All this despite putting her signature to a legal document in which she confirmed the house was ticketyboo and the electricity consumption ok). I arranged artisans, conducted lengthy and expensive and mostly incomprehensible conversations with EDF.

Fanny kept fannying around. And complaining. And not paying her rent. And, worst of all, disallowing access to all the aritisans I neatly lined up to sort the problems out – electricians, plumbers, painters, carpenters. Fanny took her dissatisfaction to the authorities. They indicated the house had some real problems and gave us a month to rectify them. I tried to tell them that’s what I’d been doing all along. If they understood me, they didn’t listen. Fanny fannied about some more and wouldn’t let the builders in until the authorities insisted she must. She did. Finally. With two days to spare. Her pet ferret on the loose, along with five dogs, 3 cats and a couple of birds (‘may we bring one dog’ she’d enquired at the outset, ‘of course’ we agreed. One), bit the builder’s mate so he excused himself for a tetanus jab. The builder hurried the work and – not surprisingly – it didn’t pass muster with the authorities.

The house has been condemned, unsellable, unrentable, still mortgaged to the hilt.

And now, and this is the only good bit, mercifully empty. Fanny has fannied off to wreck some other poor unsuspecting landlord’s life whilst enjoying the rent refund I am legally bound to pay for a year.

Africa.

We live in a rented house in the outpost. A small uninspiring bungalow built by the British administration in the fifties. It belongs to a Tanzanian who purchased it from the railway authorities back in the broken old eighties for a song. When we viewed it, it was beyond decrepit, the ceiling was falling in, the electrics were shot, the plumbing was collapsing, it was – in a word – uninhabitable. What if, we suggested, we renovate the house and deduct that from the rent. The landlord smirked and rubbed his hands together gleefully. OK, he agreed. You pay, I’ll organise the fundis, ‘yours are not good’, he added.

So we did. A budget was agreed and wefunded a verandah, the repairs to the ceiling, the electrics, the plumbing, the bad paint job, we teased the little house back into some semblance of habitability. I landscaped the garden.

All done it was agreed rental was sorted for six years and that there should be no rental increase until the renovations had been paid off.

Less than three years down the line and the landlord has doubled the rent. Doubled it. Overnight. You can’t do that we said, askance, and referenced him to the legal document we had signed at the beginning of the lease. ‘I can he’ said ‘it is my house and I can do what I like”.

Have you seen the house asked my husband, the roof is falling in, the rains pours through; the ceiling is jaundiced with huge brown stains the size of a dining table and it sinks despondently and dangerously, the walls streaked with muddy tears.

Every rainy season for the last two years we have draped the house in United Nations Blue plastic to help keep it water tight. To little effect. The plastic wears thin and the wind whips it to useless ribbons.

The landlord came to inspect the damage, sucked his ugly teeth and said, ‘this problem with the roof is your fault; you put the blue plastic up there’. But we had to, we insisted, ‘hah’, he said, ‘you broke the roof whilst you were climbing on it’.

Like I said: it all looked good on paper.

And why can’t I have me as a landlord?

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15 Responses to “Landlords”

  1. guineapigmum Says:

    What a nightmare!

  2. Addy Says:

    Some people seem to sail through life having it all, whilst the decent sort amongst us end up paying for them. Commiserations.

  3. Potty Mummy Says:

    Totally get it. Totally. We had a tenant like your Fanny (ha!) in London recently. Still sets my teeth on edge whenever I think of him…

  4. nappyvalleygirl Says:

    Oh I know, it’s infuriating. We are in the same situation; renting here, and putting up with all sorts of annoyances and renting out our house in London to group after group of irresponsible tenants who do nothing but complain. Living in your own home is so much easier. Boo sucks to Fanny and to your landlord – presumably you have no legal recourse where you live? x

  5. nuttycow Says:

    Urg – landlords can be a nightmare but, there are positives to being a renter. My parents rent and it’s a good thing since the council has decided to build the Nairobi bypass next door. No hassle for them – they just have to move. Hassle monumental for the landlord.

    I love the blue shutters on your french house. If you need me to pop over and look after it, you know where I am 😉

  6. Mwa (Lost in Translation) Says:

    Ick! House trouble is SO stressful. Double house trouble I can’t even seriously contemplate.

    I hope you get it all sorted.

  7. R. Sherman Says:

    To paraphrase Shakespeare, “Neither a landlord or a tenant be . . . ” I represented a lot of both and finding the perfect match of decent landlord and decent tenant is a needle in a haystack. When one is great, the other is invariably crappy. You’d have to put a gun to my head make me buy and manage rental property and then only if I were on site with a lot of guns and mean dogs.

    I wish you well on both continents, dear.

  8. janelle Says:

    oh shit shit shitty shit man…! gad…when do you next pass through A Town…would love a catch up…? sending love and patience darling. xxx j

  9. reddirtlattes Says:

    My husband and I were just discussing whether we should by a little house somewhere and rent it out while we move around the world. I think we will rethink that.
    Happy to report, our new landlords here in Rome are wonderful. So, they are out there.
    Sabrina

  10. gotoflo Says:

    First of all, congratulation for your blog, I enjoy reading about your life at the outpost and all.
    Being German, but having lived in France for over 15 years, I would recommend to give your house to an agency to rent it out. They choose the renters carefully and organize everything, like book builders, etc.
    There exists also an assurance for not being paid rent.
    I dealt with FONCIA for these matters and was highly satisfied. Normally there is an agency of them in every town.
    Good luck

  11. tash Says:

    pole…. Trish and I are commiserating with you. But, as we said to each other, at least you can wryly laugh about it – if nothing else, there’s a chunk of good copy there! xx

  12. Ms Caroline Says:

    Read this with growing consternation as we’re in the process of getting ready to rent out our house when we leave for Seoul and – of course – will be renting when we get there….forewarned is forearmed, I suppose.
    If Karma does its thing, your Nairobi landlord will eventually end up with Fanny for a tenant. Let’s hope you’ll be around to enjoy it.

  13. Ms Caroline Says:

    Whoops, wrong country, right continent. Do I still get partial credit?

  14. Barbara Says:

    I think Tanzanian landlords are their own brand! Have heard so many bad stories (but a couple of good ones, too) about them around Arusha lately. We moved out of a house we really liked because there’d been no water for 5 months, and we were paying way too much to hire a tanker truck to fill the water tanks every 3 weeks. It started with everybody having water outages around town, but it turns out the last three months of it was because the landlord wouldn’t pay for repairs to the water system. The new house has water and looks really pretty, but the plumbing and electrical systems are pretty shaky. Right after we paid this landlord 6 months rent and I stood on the verandah with him and commented that the property was not very secure because it had only wire fence and hedges on 3 sides. He said, “Now you want a block wall!” as if it were the most unreasonable thing he’d ever heard. “You have given me so little money there is no way I can afford a block wall!” And later a neighbor told us that there had been a block wall, which fell down because of poor construction.

  15. gotoflo Says:

    Tax reform: the pied-à-terre of foreigners affected by a new tax

    hundreds of thousands of people – French or foreign, who own property in France but not domiciled fund public services through local property taxes. But they contribute only marginally to national public services (hospitals, major infrastructure, etc..). To remedy this – and to complete the financing of the reform of the ISF – the government provides a new tax base on the rental value of their homes. The scale remains to be determined.

    The number of dwellings affected by this tax is “far from trivial ” and will tend to grow over the coming years, “says Bercy. In fact, foreigners and expatriates are more likely to invest in stone in France, considered still relatively accessible. According to the Paris Chamber of Notaries, foreigners accounted for 7.7% of buyers in the capital last year. This rate rises to 26% on the Champs Elysees and around 32% of Notre Dame. In the provinces, the cities of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Chamonix, Grimaud are also coveted by the British and Russians.

    “no residents “already pay hundreds of millions in taxes, via property taxes and ISF. But the income they generate in France (property income, fees, etc..) Are subject to a withholding tax of 20% maximum, considerably more favorable than the tax schedule on income. Is it normal, also an expatriate who has 100 million euros of assets in the world is not taxed under the wealth tax because it has a foot-ground “only” 700,000 euros to Paris? Are there questions at Bercy. So many reasons that justify the creation of this new tax, said the executive. This will not affect people who left France for professional reasons expatriation. It is addressed to foreigners attracted by France … and the French have finally abandoned their homeland.

    To my information the tax would be 20% of the estimated rent from 2012 on

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