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Defending the Homeowner

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As an advocate for the Truckee/Tahoe community, I have always believed in fighting for the locals. Over the past couple of years, I have put on free housing seminars specifically targeted to first-time home buyers, in an effort to encourage home ownership throughout our community. In addition to this, I’ve assisted with managing the Truckee/Tahoe People Facebook page, so I have seen first hand how dire the need for housing truly is.

I’ve attended presentations put on by the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, all centered around the cultivation of fresh ideas and perspectives, in hopes of finding a solution to this growing problem.

When my husband and I decided to purchase our first home and temporarily rent it out, our hearts told us to practice what we preach. Prior to the long term tenants move-in, we put the home on Airbnb for a couple weeks, had four rentals, and felt very pleased with the overall process.

Ultimately, we were happy and excited to share our new home with a couple young men (around 18 to 20-years-old) and their newly rescued dog. They were working at a local ski resort and in desperate need of housing.

The tenants had experienced a cocktail of different housing arrangements: couch surfing, renting hotels every other night, and of course, sleeping in the car. After hearing their stories, my husband and I knew we had to let them stay.

The young men did not have much of a credit score, and because of this, they were having a hard time securing a place. Look, we all know what it’s like — you turn 18 and the world expects you to function as a full fledged adult, when in reality, you didn’t learn how to acquire and manage credit or how to file your taxes (but you did learn the square root of 196), so you’re left feeling helpless. So again, my husband and I decided to turn a blind eye to the lack of financial credibility of our new tenants.

Between the two final Airbnb bookings, we had a week long gap and agreed to let our tenants stay in the house, so long as they were willing to pay the cleaning fee, vacate before the weekend renters arrived, and keep the house in livable condition. Friday arrived and our cleaners headed over to the property to prep for the final guests. Upon arrival, the cleaners found the oven left on, dirty dishes piled not only in both of the sinks, but along the entire surrounding countertops, and garbage strewn across the home. On top of the mess, the dog had eaten our welcome mat, as well as bitten our fireplace repair man.

Of the three Airbnb guests and the numerous rental property check-outs I have seen through my career, I had never seen a property left in such poor condition. My thoughts were immediate: if they left the house this way when they knew we’d be coming back in, how would our house look when they moved out in May?

We had the tough conversation with the tenants and explained our concerns: the way they choose to live (dishes stacked and filthy bathrooms) is ultimately their own decision, but the oven being left on and the dog biting a vendor were unacceptable. We agreed to a fresh start once the renters checked out and the tenants vowed to hold true on their promises on this second chance.

The following Sunday rolled around, the final short-term renters checked out, and was time for the tenants to officially move into their new home! Keep in mind, the tenants had over 14 days notice to prepare for their move-in and ensure funds were ready. We were requiring first months rent, along with a security deposit (no additional fee for their dog) upon move-in.

Much to our dismay, the tenants explained they had not yet collected all required move-in funds and would need to pay on Tuesday. Monday was a holiday and the banks were closed. The tenants did not have anywhere else to stay; my husband and I were in a very uncomfortable position, as we did not feel comfortable leaving them on the street until Tuesday. We agreed to accept the move-in funds on Tuesday and made it clear we were not happy and would not tolerate such behavior.

Tuesday came and I asked when I could go by the house to collect the funds (mind you, we still had not received one dollar from these tenants after a collective 8 plus days at our home). They then explained the funds could not be fully withdrawn from the ATM and they would need to pay the following day, which was three consecutive nights after they initially moved in. Only after threatening to cancel the lease did we eventually receive the entire move-in fee on Thursday.

In the days following, I asked myself countless questions about what we could have done differently. Were we naive to try and be the change we wish to see in the world? Should we have paid more attention to the red flags? Probably, but ultimately, we stand by our decision to help the community in any we can. At times, adopting that mindset can be challenging, and more times than not, it may require us giving more than what we are receiving. For now, we’re okay with that.

What I’d like this story to show is that there is more than one side to the housing crisis. Our experience — our first experience with local tenants — was less than ideal. And while I know that not all longterm renters can be categorized like these young men, I want this to be a call to action for local renters: treat the home you’re renting the same way you would want yours to be treated.

~ Amie Quirarte is a real estate agent with Tahoe Luxury Properties licensed in both California and Nevada. She lives in Tahoe Vista with her husband and two rescue dogs.

 
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August 9, 2018