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Monday, December 21, 2009

I've had it with "Renter's Rights" in Key West

I had probably the most unpleasant showing ever on Saturday. I feel the need to share it with you. I have some buyers that did their Internet search before they came to Key West. They identified properties they liked and then went by them before they called me to set up showings. It is the custom in Key West to have the listing agent present to show his or her listing. Most houses are not on lock box. So advance notice is required. If a place is occupied by a tenant, most agents require 24 hours advance notice. That is not the law in Florida, but it is the practice in Key West. I get it; I accept it; I think it is a bit arcane especially in a time when so many sellers seem desperate to sell.

My buyer identified a particular multi-unit property. They had gone by it and since I had shown it before, I drove them past it to explain the layout and "condition" before I scheduled a showing. The property was in their price range and they liked the style and location. I called the listing agent and scheduled a showing for the next day. The tenants had been notified. In fact all tenants were home at the time. One tenant let us in to see that unit. The other was in the rear doing some gardening. She lived in the other unit and the listing agent told us we could not see that unit because the Property Manager must be present whenever that unit is shown. (We were looking on a Saturday. The Property Manager can only be present on Mondays and Tuesdays.) So even though the tenant was standing perhaps six feet away from us, we could not view her unit. I had seen it before, and it really is cute. But what happened next negated any desire to reschedule a visit later in the week.

We were standing in the rear courtyard where he tenant was doing gardening. We were discussing the location and effect of an easement that a neighboring property had across the property. The tenant then interjected in a very stern voice "Would you go out to the street to talk. I am doing work here." She had a rake in her hand and pawed with it at our feet. I looked at the listing Realtor with a "What the F**k is going on?" look. My buyers looked back at me incredulous. They were looking to make a purchase of several hundred thousand dollars and are being ordered to get out of the tenant's way so she could rake. So we went to the street and talked for another five to ten minutes. The rake "lady" came out and started raking leaves on the nearby asphalt.

Some tenants in Key West act like little brats and if the listing agents let them get away with it, the tenants will do everything they can to screw up a sale. It starts by demanding (not requesting) 24 hours notice to show. I'm not talking about next day, I mean an actual 24 hour or longer notice. Nineteen hours won't work for some and many agents will not push it. There is no Florida law that requires 24 hour notice. But agents seem to think there is. Most agents are cowards in my opinion. They don't want to upset the apple cart so to speak. So they let tenants establish the framework as to how and when property may be shown. That control by the tenant then sets up the potential sale for failure in my opinion. Or at least it defers sale as long as the tenant can make showing the unit as difficult as possible.

Some tenants are just great and treat their apartment, condo, town home, or house just like their own property. Some places are a real joy to show. The "lady" gardener's place is very attractive. But my buyers would never get to see it. The unit next door is the complete opposite. I'll just say it was creepy and leave the details out.

Many places, however, are not well maintained. I have shown rentals with dog pooh on the floor, filthy kitchens with grease stains and low watt light bulbs encrusted with grease and dust, exposed wires and extension cords, and nasty bathrooms and bedrooms that give you the heebie jeebies. That is no accident.

Most buyers really do not like it when the seller is present because they feel awkward in making comments or asking questions about the property. Some tenants take it upon themselves to purposefully be present so that they can interject their comments on the property. Some tenants insist that they show the property instead of the agent. They make representations about the property that could be true or untrue. I wont' go into detail, but I wrote a previous blog about one place where this happens every time I show it. This person shows the property and is as sweet as can be, but this person does not want the place to sell. The tenant says just enough to screw the possibility of any sale.

I get it that tenants do not want to be dispossessed of the place the call home. Sellers who really want or need to sell should instruct the tenants that they must allow the units to be shown upon proper notice and not interfere in showings. And agents need to have some backbone and not let tenants pull the kind of crap the "lady" gardener did the other day. Her behavior was insulting.

I do not know what happened to civility in our society. It seems like like everybody has their "rights" and that a lot of people do not have manners. I have had it with Renters Rights. Agents and owners need to treat renters with civility but renters should not be allowed to control the showing or sale of an owner's property.


Anonymous said...

While there may be no Florida law requiring a 24 hour notice to tenants it may be in their lease. When they signed for the rental, this wording could have been inserted and signed by both parties prior to the terms of the contract. This is especially true in the current seller's market where tenants may be disrupted at any time for a showing, including after 5pm, prior to 9am or at any time including weekends and holidays. Some in the bar business or other work must sleep during the day and to be disrupted by a tour is quite annoying and potentially dangerous. Also, a parent with a sick child a home sure doesn't want a mob trouping through looking around without notice. I don't see a problem in a little notice but some landlords or property managers feel that a written notice on the door is sufficient when the tenants may not be home prior to a showing. Bad deal, especially if there is sickness, out of town guests, lovers bickering or a not so nice pet is involved. Notice is a courtesy and should be expected from both sides otherwise you may experience something you didn't want to see (and it is Key West so anything could happen).
As for the gardening tenant, she is under no responsibility to act civil to anyone but it is a nicety often forgotten nowadays. Many tenants are irate at finding a nice home only to have it sold out from under them and not knowing if they will be allowed to stay after the sale is complete. With so many short sales and foreclosures, a good rental is hard to find in Key West and some tenants get mighty possessive of what they have now and don't think of the future.

Anonymous said...

someone told me long ago not to e-mail or blog when i'm really tired or angry...when we do its just off-putting venting, whatever the merits of our opinion....

Gary Thomas said...

I'm not venting. This tenant really bothered my buyers who are professors. It spoiled their trip to find the perfect place in Key West.

I started to write about this subject a couple of months ago. It's actually saved in my file someplace.

These are really tough times for a lot of sellers. Treating tenants and prospective buyers with civility and courtesy is something we should all practice. I expect the same conduct from tenants.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your column, mostly, but consider the plight of a renter whose landlord has set an unreasonably high asking price. The tenant may be asked several times a week for months to open his home to strangers. You're not the only agent showing that house, remember. Tenants have rights too. That said, the lady didn't have to be rude. I'd have killed her with kindness and made her feel bad about it.

Anonymous said...

If the renters want to stay in the houses, then buy the dam things, then they wouldn't have to put up with constant showings. And if you can't afford to buy, then don't bitch about living in someone else's house.

Anonymous said...

The whole point of renting is the fact that you either may not be able to afford to buy or just wish to be a tenant with the ability to move at will. Don't say just buy the damn thing when often times it isn't a reality.

Having worked in customer service for years I agree - kill them with kindness. It irks nasty people to no end and it doesn't hurt to be civil either. What would Emily Post think?!


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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.