By Tracey March
A savvy restaurant owner always keeps a table available for VIP walk-ins or, better yet, a TV, film or sports star. A celebrity shout out on Twitter or pin on Pinterest is a windfall for business. But when it comes to your rental, the famous can present as big a headache as regular folk.
Below are a few lessons landlords can learn from several tenant and landlord disputes among the somewhat rich and kind of famous.
Busey was evicted from his Malibu home in 2008 for failing to pay $50,000 in rent. He claimed he left his rental, rather than being thrown out, because his landlord failed to take care of needed repairs, including fixing air vents, eliminating mold and asbestos, and repairing broken light fixtures. While the accusations were never fully resolved, Busey filed for bankruptcy in 2012, listing debts in excess of $500,000.
Landlord Lesson: Every property manager has to deal with what’s known as “nuisance repairs.” For example, a tenant claims a light fixture or appliance is broken. A handyman is dispatched only to discover the light bulb is burned out or the appliance is unplugged. Even if you’ve been burned like this, landlords must always give tenants every opportunity to report needed repairs and respond quickly if the request is reasonable. In the case of a potential mold infestation, or conditions that threaten tenant health, get a professional inspection. Failure to take action could place you as the landlord at financial risk.
In 2011, while Fleiss was running a business called Dirty Dog Laundry in Pahrump, Nevada, her landlord claimed Fleiss hadn’t paid the rent and had also turned the rented building “into a dump.” Fleiss shifted the blame to a “friend” whom she claimed was responsible for the back rent and the condition of the property.
Landlord Lesson: Ensure tenants are aware of restrictions on subletting or transferring occupancy. As a rule of thumb, landlords should require that tenants seek permission in writing if they want to sublet or transfer their lease to another party. Tenants should also know that they are ultimately responsible for the condition of the property and the rent when they hold the lease.
Marcia Gay Harden
Harden signed a one-year lease on a huge, 4,200 square foot, Santa Monica home. A few months into the lease, however, Harden was given a 3-day notice to move out. The owners had sold the house, and the new owners wanted Harden out. Harden went to court and was given a reasonable about of time to find another home.
Landlord Lesson: Even if you don’t plan on selling, always include in a lease the ability for you or your realtor to show your property to potential buyers with the proper advanced notice. And if you do sell, inform the new owner that they’re subject to all the legal agreements you have with your tenants.
Reality star Portwood, a member of the Teen Mom cast, was evicted from her low-income housing rental in Anderson, Indiana because she lied to authorities about her finances. She claimed earnings of only $10,000 when in fact her income was nearly $280,000. Reality TV has its benefits.
Landlord Lesson: Verify income every year if your tenant is receiving a government subsidy like a Section 8 housing voucher or some kind of local tax credit or low income housing. Tenants with Section 8 benefits from the government, which pays a portion of the rent directly to the landlord on behalf of the renter, are required to report changes in income, but sometimes they do not. Portwood was not a Section 8 recipient, but there were still income restrictions that had to be met.
In 2010, former big league slugger turned reality star Canseco was evicted from his Northridge, California home after falling two months behind on his rent. Conseco allegedly left the rental house in a mess, turning the backyard into a makeshift beach by trucking in loads of sand and dumping it on the property. He also was accused of converting an indoor sauna into a closet and leaving the garage loaded with junk. Holes were also allegedly left in walls and some sub-standard electrical wiring had been added. Canseco threatened the landlord on Twitter as well.
Landlord Lesson: Always collect a security deposit — no matter how rich and famous the tenant — and conduct regular property inspections. A good screening process helps as well. Canseco had declared bankruptcy two years prior to leasing the home he would later damage. A call to his prior landlord might have been a good idea. Finally, consider damage-proofing your rental.
In 2009, Washington and his wife received a 3-day eviction notice claiming they owed $100,000 in back rent on a $20,000-a-month home. The couple claimed to have been in a dispute with their financial planner. Interesting, a couple of years prior to the rent problems, Washington lost a lead role on the primetime drama Grey’s Anatomy. The Washington’s eventually left the home.
Landlord Lesson: Initiate eviction proceedings fairly soon after tenants fail to pay. A professional, experienced property manager can help ensure that tenants receive timely notice as well as manage the eviction process if necessary.
Sometimes even the reflected glare of the celebrity spotlight can even impact a friend of a star’s relative. Michael Lohan’s now ex-girlfriend, Major, received an eviction notice to leave her Florida condo when neighbors objected to the commotion celebrity photographers were causing. Apparently, after Lohan ran into trouble with the law, the paparazzi became a constant nuisance to her condo community. Major was given a week to move. By the way, Lohan’s fame is the result of being the father of actress Lindsay Lohan.
Landlord Lesson: Tenants moving into a rental property that is subject to condo association or homeowner association rules have duties under those rules. Make compliance with those rules a condition of the lease. In addition, include language requiring the renter to comply with all county, state and federal codes, statutes, ordinances and regulations concerning the use and occupation of the property. Then, if your tenant violates any noise ordinances or otherwise harasses the neighbors, you’ll have support in the lease to terminate the tenancy.