September 7, 2013 • By Dennis Beaver
The general practice of law provides a window into human nature — to what makes us tick and why intelligent, well-intentioned people do the things which predictably will get them in trouble.
Where families are concerned, the why is often obscured — hidden because the client is either in denial or unaware of how their behavior and response to pressure and manipulation is largely responsible for the mess they are in.
Parents who say yes instead of no to their irresponsible, manipulative adult children are asking for years of grief, financial loss and possibly divorce. Add grandchildren and the door to theft and extortion is wide open, “Don’t give me what I want and you can’t see our kids anymore.”
It was that threat which led Helena, Mont. readers Susie and her husband Lewis to allow their meth-addicted daughter, alcoholic son-in-law and their three children to move into the rental home, which had been an important source of income for the retired couple.
No rent, daughter arrested, CPS takes the kids and the house is trashed
“Mr. Beaver, during the six months they lived in the house, not one rent payment was made and our son-in-law told everyone that he had no intention of paying a thing! But they were employed and could have. Instead, their money went for drugs.
“During this time, our daughter was arrested for being under the influence and after inspecting the home — which had no food for the kids and was filthy — CPS gave us the children. We now have temporary custody and should have full custody soon.
“They were served with an eviction notice and had one week to remove their personal possessions, but left a ton of stuff and vehicles on the property. This cute little house looks worse than the city dump. There are holes in the walls and filth everywhere — it is just trashed! What should we do with all this stuff?
“What did we do wrong?” our reader asked.
The answer would be found in the past.
A Montana lawyer gives his opinion
You and the Law discussed the facts of this case with Missoula, Mont. attorney Ted Hess-Homeier, who specializes in evictions.
“I have seen far too many of these situations across the years, classic cases of an emotional decision to rent to a son or daughter out of the fear of being cut off from grandchildren.
“Dig a little deeper, and you will typically find decades of enabling behavior, mom or dad bailing the kid out of trouble, paying off a credit card bill, car payments, you name it; the common denominator are parents never letting their spoiled kid face the consequences of their behavior,” he observes.
Indeed, he was absolutely correct, as we found out during a lengthy conversation with our reader. We asked Susie to think back to when her daughter began to make visits with the grandchildren only possible if money was “loaned.”
“It began when she was about 18. We have spent so much money on rent, clothing for her and her kids, drug rehab, constantly! She can’t ever keep a job.”
“And this has threatened your marriage, right?” we asked. “Yes,” she replied, and then began to cry.
Risky to ever rent to family
“A successful landlord must have the respect of tenants and likewise must show them respect. You do this through actions which earn their respect,” Hess-Homeier stressed.
“For example, if rent is finally due on the 5th, then on the morning of the 6th have a three-day notice delivered. This will almost always get a slow-pay or crooked tenant’s attention — and respect — saving time if you need to evict. That prompt action communicates ‘I expect you to do what you’ve promised. Don’t play games.’
“But respect is reciprocal — it goes both ways. You should not have to nag them for the rent, and they should not have to nag you to fix the toilet,” he points out.
“But when you rent to family, all bets are off,” the Montana attorney cautions.
“No matter what you say or how other tenants might be a bit intimidated, they know you and will bank on you’re not wanting to look like an unsympathetic, greedy jerk to other relatives.
“Renting to family — especially your children — invites trouble,” warns the Montana attorney.
Susan and her husband have two problems, one legal, the other emotional. And so we asked if their health insurance will cover counseling.
And, as far as finding a Montana lawyer, we suggested that she speak with Ted, and before calling, to spend a few minutes on his website, www.montanaevictions.com.
It is down to earth, practical and helpful — all the same qualities that we found when speaking with him.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.