Click here to see the story from News Channel 3: Woman finds out her rental home was a gruesome murder scene
This story is pertinent for two reasons:
- It presents an accurate statement of the law, as far as Landlord and Tenant obligations to disclose prior occurrences on the property.
- It is an opportunity for you to think about how you might handle the same situation. Would you hide behind the minimum legal requirements, or would you instead be upfront and honest with the applicant, and perhaps negotiate the price based on the previous tragedy?
Let’s fast-forward several months and consider what will probably happen with this soured Landlord-Tenant relationship.
The Tenant will probably stop paying the rent because she is so disgusted with the property. Next, the Landlord will take the Tenant to court for non-payment of rent. The Tenant will try to use the condition of the property as a defense to paying the rent, but assuming that she signed a lease saying that the unit was in good and proper condition (which she signed before actually seeing), her argument will fail with the court. The Landlord will then get a judgment that he is unlikely to collect on, and he now has to find a new Tenant anyway. This Landlord would have been wise to consult my Great Landlording Truth #4: The tenant you rush in will be the tenant you rush out.
As an attorney, I recognize that this Landlord is on the right side of the law, and I wouldn’t have any issue presenting that argument to the court; however, as a counselor at law, I would advise him to re-think his business strategy.
Instead of receiving all of this negative press, hiding from the camera (suggesting knowledge of wrongdoing), asserting that a murder where body parts were chopped off in the house is “not that bad,” and giving cameras an opportunity to show that you don’t prep your properties before moving a new Tenant in, this Landlord could have given her a $50 per month offset and everyone would have been a winner. If she had then tried to make a news story out of her apartment, he could say, “Yes, I told her about that and even gave her a rent credit for that,” and the news value of the story is zero.