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Building a Granny Flat: Lesson 6 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 February 2007

All about being a landlord.

Lesson 6 – Landlording

The title "Landlord" conjures up visions of vast estates, rolling hills and well mannered peasants knuckling their foreheads as you pass by. The reality is occasionally a little different.

We made every mistake you could with the first tenants we had in our first granny flat. Archie and Marie* (*names have not been changed in case you they want to rent from you) were the first respondents after a week without a single phone call responding to our classified advert in a local knock-and-drop newspaper. (Mistake number 1 - generally a waste of time advertising in the local knock and drop papers, Mistake number 2 accepting the first potential tenants that arrive).

Archie was just starting a new job not far from where we lived and would be able to save money by walking to work (Mistake number 3 - tenant just starting a new job - on probation - what happens if he doesn't perform?)

Fearing that I wouldn't find another tenant I immediately agreed to them taking the place and had a lawyer friend email me a copy of a lease agreement (Mistake number 4 - I thought there would be no other takers after only one day) (Mistake number 5 - agreeing to have them as tenants on the spot without checking references or discussing it with my wife) Mistake number 6 I used a standard commercial property lease and just deleted the bits I didn't understand or thought irrelevant)

They moved in the next day with their 3 year old child. (Mistake number 7 - I had not specified that no children were allowed and some time later it became a real problem when their brat attacked my angelic little ones).

They were tired after a hard day moving in so as hospitable landlords we invited them for a braai in our shared back yard. (Mistake number 8 - we became friends with our tenants, mistake number 9 we had shared leisure space).

After a few months Archie's mom got divorced and moved in with them, bringing her dog and her chain-smoking nicotine addiction (Mistake number 10,11 and 12 - I had not specified the maximum number of people living in the flat, no pets and no smokers)

Well crowd a young couple, their hyperactive kid, degenerate mother-in-law and her pet pooch into a one bedroom granny flat and you have all the makings of a soap opera - and so it was. Within a month there were shouting and screaming fights every second night it was someone different sleeping on the couch. We knew all of this as our bedroom was within easy hearing distance.

Shortly after this Archie got fired and Marie decided to look for work.

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We were anxious to help and as she had no telephone in the flat (pre cell phone days) we allowed her to give our number to prospective employers (Mistake number 13 - it's not their phone). The was in my home office and rang frequently - I was demoted from boss of my own business to switchboard operator as I would jump up and dash off to call Marie because some ex boyfriend, cousin, husband or potential employer wanted to speak to her.

Fortunately they moved out a few months later and we were able to use their deposit to pay for some of the costs of having the cigarette burns on the brand new carpet repaired and the place repainted to get rid of the night club smell. (Mistake 14 - I didn't have them do an inspection prior to moving in).

In the last lesson I’ll let you into one more mistake that landlords make when they have a great tenant.

Author: Pete Bowen


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