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The story of a non-paying renter

Out of the seven different roommates, I had only one roommate so far who had difficulties paying the rent.  I’ll refer to this roommate as Kathy, which of course is not her real name.

Kathy moved in late summer of 2009 after finding my post on a roommate subscription site.  After meeting me in person and looking at my spare room, she seemed like a good fit.  She was quiet and looking for a place closer to work because she worked a lot of hours.

She was living in my town house for two months before her first rent check bounced. When I went to deposit that month’s rent check, it came back as “NSF” — short for non sufficient funds.  I asked her about this and she said “its happened once before it must be a mistake by the bank and I’ll get you cash tomorrow.”  So I gave her the benefit of the doubt and believed her story.  A few days later, she did pay that month’s rent with cash.  So she did make that month’s rent, but my creditbility with her dipped because of her bounced check.

The next month, she was not around as much because she was working late and I usually go to bed early.  When I did finally meet up with her, she handed me over a check and it bounced again.  I was pissed off as would anybody else in my situation.  Two bounced checks in a row was totally unacceptable.

Her behavior during this month was odd; she was not around for several days straight.  I don’t know where she was staying; I guess she must have been staying with a friend during the nights and coming back to my townhouse during the day when I was at work thus completely avoiding me.  What ever she was doing, I wanted the rent money and her stuff moved out, but she not around and was not returning my phone calls.

How did I tactfully get payment for the bounced rent check and get her to move out?  Before my roommates move in, I ask for an emergency contact person because I met all my roommates online and I want to have a person to call for emergencies. In’ Kathy’s case, her emergency contact was her mother.  I met Kathy’s mother once or twice when Kathy was first moving in.   Her mother seemed like a level headed person and I had nothing to loose if I called her and told her about my situation of Kathy not paying her rent and her avoiding me.  When I called Kathy’s mother and explained the situation, she was totally on my side and ensured me that I would receive the missed rent payment in full.  At the end of the month, Kathy came by in a U-haul to move her stuff out and had check from her mother for the full amount of the missed rent.  I was weary of accepting a check, but since it was from her mother, it seemed more reliable than a check from Kathy.  The check from Kathy’s mother cleared and was relieved to finally collect that month’s rent and most importanly have Kathy move out to make room for another roommate.

This was the first and only time I had to deal with a situation where a roommate couldn’t make a rent payment.  I initially asked for an emergency contact just in case if my roommate would become ill, I could contact an immediate family member.  Now after my first non-paying renter incident, I can use the emergency contact as a last resort to collecting missed rent. I would highly recommend to anyone who is thinking about renting out a room to ask for an emergency contact, especially if you met your roommate online.

To summarize the benefits of having your roommate provide an emergency contact:

  1. Medical Issues – if a roommate is really ill or hurt and has to be taken to a hospital, I can contact their emergency point of contact.
  2. Alternative Point of Contact – to get a hold of your roommate incase they are away on vacation or away for a long time.  This may pertain to someone who rents to people in the military who may be deployed or out to sea for several weeks at a time.
  3. Method of receiving – As I stated from my one and only non paying rent, I used it as a method of receiving my missed rent payment and getting the person to move out.

I never had to call an emergency contact for medical issues.  I hope that trend continues.  In addition, I never really used an emergency contact as a reference point to contact my roommate who is out to sea or deployed in another country.  I would love to hear your thoughts about my story or my advice in asking for an emergency contact from your roommate.

Creative Commons License photo credit: rick


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