How a newlyed tenant or recent partners as tenants can be risky.

Oct 16 2012

Do you believe in ghosts and spirits?  I do for personal reasons but also because one of my rental units appears to be "haunted."  I've never brought this up to tenants past and current in that rental.  Yet three separate sets of tenants have mentioned to me of getting up at night and seeing a figure in the corner of the same room as well as hearing odd noises.  I think the house is haunted and the spook is jinxing couples because every couple I've put in it have broken up, leaving me high and dry!  It's made me consider if I should rent to couples.

Whether you have ghosts or not, putting in couples who are dating, partners, or very recently married couples presents some interesting challenges and questions you should ask yourself including if you should rent to couples.  Allowing unstable couples into your home is inviting trouble.  Usually couples pool their financial resources to pay rent, utilities, and to fund discretionary activities.  The stronger the relationship, the less likely they are to split.  If they do split, it usually involves one of the people in the relationship to vacating the residence.  Once gone, the remaining person will sooner or later fall behind and the rent will stop coming.  Suddenly you're stuck in a situation of voiding or restructuring your lease or even worse, having a deadbeat tenant camping on your property making the decision to rent to couples a bad one.

With the divorce rate so high, is it risky to put a newlywed into your home only to have them breakup and leave you high and dry?
Five years ago I put a recently married couple into one of my units which wasn't the first time I rented to married couples.  The couple had a child.  The wife worked as a dancer in a gentleman's club (and not a high-end place but a sleazy dive.)  The husband worked in a factory.  They seemed to be an "okay" couple but I did notice the husband seemed to be a hot head around the woman.  Five months into the lease, the rent stopped coming and the phone calls to them began.  The husband lost his job I found out and was nowhere to be found, having moved from the property.  The wife remained and strung me along for a week with regard to the rent and her situation (which was a lie.)  By the time I got to the property, the wife had left, leaving the home in total disarray, doors wide open, and lots of her personal property in the residence.  It turns out the husband was violently abusive towards the woman, she finally had enough and called the cops, he was kicked out, and they soon began divorce proceedings.  If only I had paid attention the signs from the husband and the fact they were still newlyweds I might have considered that in renting to them.

Another factor to consider in the leasing decision is the "maturity" of the couple.  From my observations the less mature the relationship is, the more you have to risk of a break-up and your suddenly becoming a debt collector for no reason other than the decision to rent to couples.  Younger people tend to be involved in more unstable and flighty relationships than older adults who tend to be more mature and stable about their couple status.

Younger people in soft and immature relationships is a recipe for your becoming a debt collector when the rent stops coming
I made the mistake of putting two young women into a unit who I suspected were a couple.  I didn't inquire about it.  The girls had a friend that would hang out at the home.  While doing repairs at the home, the guy told me of his new found relationship with one of the girls.  Immediately I knew trouble was on the way.  It was just over a month later the rent stopped coming.  I later learned the guy and the girl left to get a home of their own with the two young women now at extreme odds with one another.   

When dealing with couples I find those that are in long-term marriage, long-term partnerships, and maturity and respect towards one another are the best to deal with (not all decisions to rent to married people are like this)  In determining the maturity of the relationship, you can easily observe clues of how the couple interacts with one another.  Is one person in the relationship domineering over the other?  Do they bicker and argue over pettiness in front of you?  Does the relationship seem recent and not very stable?  These are some of the things you can pick up on by simple observations.  There are, however, other factors to consider.

The Fair Housing Act forbids discrimination based on a wide range of categories.  If you think you'll only rent to married couples, you need to be aware of your State's provisions since there is no specific language on the federal level.   Each state has developed provisions or extensions of the Act that landlords should be aware of.  Some, Michigan, for example forbids discrimination based on marital status of tenants.  In such states, Landlords must tread carefully and be aware of the laws on one hand but on the other you don't want to put a unstable couple in your unit and have a ghost or otherwise break them up!

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