x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Full of regrets thanks to careless tenants

Richard Pretorius thought he had the ideal renters for his property back home in Winchester, Virginia. Then the pipes burst.


I lie awake at night thinking of heat pumps.

One company wants US$16,000 (Dh58,769) to install them in the house I own in the foreclosure-dented city of Winchester, Virginia.

I had, on paper, the ideal renters. She was an estate agent. He was a contractor. They had once been neighbours. They had made a deal with me on fixing up the house and giving it a modern kitchen in exchange for minimal rent.

He thought he was clever and rigged up a system to avoid paying to heat the house with oil, as was intended.

When replacements moved in and turned on the furnace in the autumn of 2011, they heard an explosion. The pipes had burst during the past year because the tenants failed to shut down the system correctly when they left.

Their carelessness and money-saving greed were especially galling because they knew what havoc had been done to the house by the tenants before them - college students who set the basement on fire, broke out window frames, destroyed piping in the kitchen, threw the rubbish in the back yard and garage and, worst of all, turned a beautiful secretary desk and other furniture into firewood.

I discovered the latter, along with a broken tap gushing water all over the kitchen and beer cans and cigarette butts by the dozen, on an Easter weekend visit to check on the home.

I had the students evicted, but the quirks of the Virginia legal system allowed them to stay in the house for up to 30 more days, and, you guessed it, destroy more stuff.

The students were in the house only because my first renters - a schoolteacher and an IT professional - pulled a con job. Their rent and deposit cheques to me bounced. They were obviously trying to get a roof over their heads as long as they could before being found out.

The house's market value has dropped by about 35 per cent since I moved to Abu Dhabi in 2008. But selling would free me from one of life's most potentially harrowing titles - landlord.

I don't want that one in front of my name again.