One of my tenants moved out. He gave notice in June and had paid rent through the end of July. I told him that if I rented the place before the end of the month I would refund him whatever partial month rent the new tenant paid. I did and sent him a check. He replied by email asking about the interest on his last month’s rent.
I’ve been a landlord of over thirty years and get legal guidance from a reputable source. I’ve never paid interest on last months rent, only on security deposits. When I explained this to the former tenant he sent me an email laced with legalese, quoting state law line and verse and the threat of filing a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. It took me some time for the sting to subside from my neighbor of four years. We always had good relations and he’d been to my house socially. Did he think I was trying to stiff him $160?
I slept on the matter to cool my head and found out the next day that the law had changed. I was responsible to pay interest on last month’s rent paid in advance. I sent a check to my departed tenant, glad that he was gone. Then I figured what I owed my other two tenants in last month’s rent interest, sent them an email explaining the new requirement, and quantifying how much they could deduct from their next rent check.
One couple got a $180 credit. They sent me a thank you email with an exclamation point for their unexpected gain.
I owed my longest-term tenant over $600. He sent me a reduced rent check and an unexpected note. “I know that the law stipulates this, but it really feels like a great gift. How about if you provided me the name of a favorite charity of yours and I will donate an amount to it? I’ll also donate an amount to my favorite charity – just as an act of appreciation.”
The note made me realize that, although we many not be able to control the events of our lives, we have the power to control how we respond to them. I felt sorry for my departed tenant, who cast a shadow over years of good feeling by being confrontational. Yet so glad for my remaining tenant, who chose to view his right as a gift he could share with others.