Published date 07.09.2023
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Andres has a 4 year experience as a landlord.

If he had opted for a traditional deposit, it would have helped to mitigate €14 000 of debt and property damage loss only by €400.

Landlord Andres* had rented his apartment to several nice tenants until he finally stumbled across one problematic lady. The tale that unfolded over a period of more than half of a year resulted in rental damages exceeding 14 000 euros.

Each landlord enters into a rental agreement in the hopes of a conflict-free rental relationship. Sometimes, one thing leads to another, and you may be faced with complicated issues you wouldn’t have wanted to hear about.
Last spring, Rendin carried out a questionnaire among landlords which indicated that 50% of landlords have had some kind of problems with their tenants. The main problems were rent arrears and property damage.

This raises questions for many: How to protect yourself as a landlord? How to solve serious rental issues?

Landlord Andres’s case contained many aspects that are part of solving a complex case with a problematic tenant:

  • Debt

  • Property damage

  • Refusal to vacate the rental premises

  • Disturbing neighbours

In the following case study, we tackle the issues one by one to see how the case unfolded and how it was finally resolved.

One landlord’s lesson may help another

“I completely understand why many landlords don’t want to share their stories with problematic tenants. After a case like this, you just want to forget about it,” says Andres who became a landlord in 2018 when he and his wife bought a new home and kept the previous one as a rental space. “At the same time, published stories may help other landlords.”

Andres acknowledges that a case with considerable rental damage becomes especially complicated on an emotional level when the landlord has lived in the rental space. “It has been a home, not just a rental investment.”

It didn’t take long for rental dept to occur

“When the tenant of this case study moved into my apartment, I was also moving. This time, into a different city altogether,” Andres starts telling his story. “My experience says that renting out a space is certainly easier when you live in the same city. It is difficult to organise showings during the tenant-seeking period as you must plan all the appointments to the same day. And during the rental period, it is difficult to attend to different (everyday) problems swiftly,” he says as a side comment.

Andres’s new tenant was a young woman who had run into difficulties due to an older man she was in a relationship with. As the relationship ended, the woman moved out to live on her own. “This new chapter of her life didn’t last long as the man returned to her life. We concluded an annex to the agreement and added her partner as the co-tenant.” The landlord learnt about this background information later during the case.

A peaceful rental relationship was unfortunately short-lived. The rental agreement was concluded in February (2021) and first problems with paying rent appeared already in April. The tenant partially compensated for the debt, but the landlord opted for extraordinary termination of the rental agreement by 1 July.

  • Read more at Rendin’s Help Centre: the exact steps to take when a tenant owes rent

The tenant refused to leave the rental apartment

For Andres, termination of the rental agreement didn’t unfortunately bring a satisfying conclusion to the unfolding saga. The tenant refused to move out. “She found all kinds of excuses for why she cannot do it or ignored me when I tried to make contact with her,” says Andres.

He adds that he later learnt that the tenant was also hospitalised for a period, which further delayed the chances of her moving out.

According to the landlord, the story became increasingly strange when he agreed to meet the tenant in the rental apartment. “I went there to achieve a compromise between both parties, because my main goal was to retrieve the living space as soon as possible and only then tackle the financial issues. While I was there, I saw that the apartment had turned into a sort of warehouse – it was flooded with stuff.”

The tenant claimed that she would be willing to leave, but it will take a lot of time to pack, and she has nowhere to put her stuff. In conclusion, the problems accumulated and instead of finding solutions, they were delayed. “The tenant couldn’t pull herself together to move out,” says the landlord.

My main goal was to retrieve the living space as soon as possible and only then tackle the financial issues. – landlord Andres

Disruptive behaviour towards other residents

Among other problems, the tenant and her partner caused concern for neighbours. The neighbours complained about smoking on the windows and syringes left to dangerously lying around in the general hallway. The area’s police patrol was also frequently called to the location.

“The residents of the buildings were sometimes cross with me as the owner of the rental apartment. But anyone who has read the Law of Obligations Act knows that you cannot evict people overnight,” says Andres and adds that official eviction must follow a certain procedure.

“The law strongly protects the rights of tenants. For example, there is no rental committee in Tartu where my rental apartment is located (Estonia only has one in Tallinn) that would solve rental problems faster that a court”, knows Andres. “Legislation should include an expedited procedure for such cases,” he thinks.

An unexpected abandoning of the apartment lead to the discovery of a ruined living space

Eight months from the conclusion of a rental agreement and four months after the official termination of the agreement, Andres learnt from an acquaintance living in the building that the tenant(s) had abandoned the apartment, leaving the front door wide open.

“I naturally ceased the opportunity right away, included a representative of the building’s management company and retrieved the apartment,” the landlord shares. “I ended up not needing a bailiff, although I had already turned to court to evict the tenants from the living space with an execution document.”

“The interior finishing and a considerable part of the furniture, including the kitchen, had suffered from damages. The radiators were broken in the kitchen as well as the bedroom with water trickling out – presumably for a very long period. In the end, the floors had been damaged to such an extent that they couldn’t be restored,” Andres described. “I think I would have managed to alleviate or even avoid such a situation, had I retrieved the apartment sooner.”

The tenant’s shady version of what happened

The tenant as well as the co-tenant claimed that they allowed a third party to live in the apartment and that third party was said to be responsible for the property damages and disturbing the neighbours. 

“We cannot be 100% certain of what exactly happened and who was to blame as the tenants lacked any evidence base. As was said before, the contracting party, i.e., the women herself and her partner as the co-tenant were held responsible. This is all the information I had,” says the landlord.

The conclusion: a pile of debt and a legal action

Andres is a very well-informed landlord who is aware of the legal requirements due to his background in law. He took a hands-on approach in this case, meaning that he was very actively involved in some of the activities. He agreed the important steps with Rendin’s experts and kept in touch to avoid any blind spots in the information exchange.

Three aspects of the case:

  1. The landlord’s action with the court applying for the eviction of the tenant and a debt-claim against her.

  2. The landlord’s home insurance claim related to the water leak from the radiators and the resulting damage to the floors.

  3. The landlord’s claim for damages to Rendin. After evaluating the evidence base and determining the extent of damages, the legal team took over the case. This means that the landlord’s financial damage was covered and communication with the tenant was transposed.

Rendin’s first goal is always to achieve a compromise with the tenant. In this case, the woman was aided in moving out and temporarily storing her items in a rented warehouse space. The former tenant did not wish to use the opportunity to cover her remaining debt on the basis of a flexible payment plan, which is why she was presented with a recourse claim.

In this case, the following qualified for Rendin’s protection cover:

  • Three months’ debt for rent and utilities

  • Interior repair works, including walls and floors

  • Replacement of kitchen furniture

  • Replacement of furniture, including the bed, sofa, dining table and chairs

Andres’ case as an example: protection by Rendin vs deposit

Rendin

Deposit

Unpaid rent and utility costs
(3 months) compensation

€1.300

€400

Property damage compensation

€8.700

€0

In addition to Rendin, the home insurance covered property damage for about another 1500 euros. A by default court decision additionally ordered the tenant to pay the landlord 2500 euros (plus legal costs), which have not been paid to this date.

I knew that as a Rendin user, I could trust some of the concern and responsibility into the hands of experts. – landlord Andres

Andres says that he is happy he didn’t have to handle the mess on his own. “I knew that as a Rendin user, I could trust some of the concern and responsibility into the hands of experts. I also knew that by choosing a rental agreement prepared by Rendin, I could count on the company, should issues arise in connection with the agreement.” 

“As this case included several different episodes, I can say in hindsight that I should have perhaps taken more initiative and attempted to resolve the issues sooner. I was hoping to reach an agreement with the tenant outside court – this wasted valuable time,” he ponders.

“I did have to reimburse for some of the damages from my own pocket, but most of it was compensated for by Rendin,” says Andres to conclude the interview.

The case was closed for landlord Andres by the end of November 2021 when thorough repair works were completed in the apartment. Rendin closed the case in May 2022.


Andres’s rental recommendations for landlords:

1. Complement Rendin’s background check with additional research

In addition to Rendin’s payment default check, the landlord should also do some background search regarding the tenant before concluding a rental agreement. Google, the punishment register etc. will serve as useful information sources.

2. Consider the ownership of the service agreements related to a rental home 

While the rental payment system does generally not raise any questions (the amount and payment date are recorded in the rental agreement alongside bank details), the payment of additional expenses and other services can be organised in different ways. The landlord as well as the tenant can be the owners of service agreements.

“For example, in case of the power service, the tenant may have preferences in terms of the package type, but the landlord can keep the agreement on his/her name. Having an overview of the power consumption is a big plus in this case. If it is too high or too low, then this indicates that something has happened (a failure, an accident, etc.),” Andres shares his experience.

Utility costs (including heating) are normally forwarded by the apartment association or the provider of the maintenance service. Andres says that he prefers to pay the utility bill and then ask for a bank transfer from the tenant. “This solution ensures that the invoices are paid on time and there is no risk of the heating being turned off, which may cause damages to the apartment and property due to mould or exploding pipes, for example.”

3. Avoid malicious behaviour

The landlord’s benevolent attitude towards the tenant is an important basis of a rental relationship. Andres highlights that this applies even when problems occur. “First, this may lead to better resolution of some issues. Secondly, when the problems have become very serious with legal experts and/or the court involved in their resolution, then it can be proven that you as the landlord have been open, understanding and cooperative in different issues.”

The landlord should make sure that the tenant is aware of the details of the rental agreement they are signing. “Go through the agreement together. Starting from the rights and obligations of both parties and finishing with practical issues such as the organisation of payments, conditions for terminating the agreement and upkeeping expectations,” he explains.

4. Take the protection of Rendin and home insurance seriously

“Before concluding a rental agreement, it is good to figure out under which circumstances you as the landlord is supported by Rendin and when by home insurance,” recommends Andres. “If you fail to do the background work, you may fall victim of inattentiveness when a problem occurs, it is concluded that the damages could have been avoider and neither of the service providers will compensate for specific damages. In this way, the landlord manages his/her own as well as the tenant’s expectations,” he says.

5. When problems occur, focus on the retrieval of the premises

“Should a landlord encounter a problem tenant, I recommend focusing on the rental space instead of the rental debt. Otherwise, the debt will keep growing because the tenant still occupies the apartment,” the landlord knows.

“A problematic tenant can be evicted with an execution document from the court. When submitting an action to the court, you should first apply for eviction and only then for the reimbursement of debt. Determining the facts in case of financial matters takes more time, causing the filing of a claim to become more complex, time-consuming and expensive.”


*name altered

Header image: Canva

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