“I’ll pray for you, Mike.” That was the weird closing line, from an odd email that followed a very odd experience.
Mike had been meticulously developing his short term rental property for years. It all started with an idea to convert an unused workshop into a way to make some extra income during the year. The workshop wasn’t exactly unused. It was filled with junk acquired over the years.
Unproductive workshop is probably a better term.
The Short Term Rental Dream
Mike had the workshop converted into a small vacation rental. One bedroom. One bath. A decent kitchen. A pullout couch that would let an additional two people squeeze in for a cozy night.
The place was comfortable. He designed the bathroom after one of his favorite hotels he’d stay in while away on work trips. Mike was sure people would love the built-in hairdryer even though he’d never blow-dried his hair.
Mike listed his place online. He priced it below the other rentals nearby to get people booking. “They won’t be able to complain about the price if I charge less than that guy down the street” he told his wife, Sara.
Guests started to come and go. Mike was sure to meet and converse with every guest that stayed. He began to pile up five-star reviews. With all the reviews, more guests booked the rental. Mike started to get return visitors.
Soon enough even the local authorities showed up. They wanted their cut so Mike registered his “hotel” with the county. He got his business license and started to collect additional taxes.
Mike put lots of effort into creating a great experience for his guests. He had a list of recommendations for places to eat and visit while people were in town.
He even put little labels all around the house to help guide his guests. “Controls heat in this room only” on the thermostat. “Paper products” on the cabinet door where people could find extra toilet paper. “Please keep fabric & paper from direct contact with baseboard heater” as a fire-prevention warning.
Safety was a big concern for Mike. After a woman cut her finger with one of the steak knives, Mike immediately put a first aid kit in the bathroom. When he noticed ice build up on one of the walkways, he covered the whole path with those big, rubber non-slip pads like they use in kitchen restaurants. Mike even bought a snow blower to more easily and effectively clear out any snow that might be a hazard to guests.
Mike loved his little vacation rental business and the guests loved Mike and his little vacation rental. The profits covered the mortgage payment for his own house and then some.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
Then one day something happened that made Mike love his rental property and the guests just a little bit less.
Mike was pretty laid back about how he ran the property. He trusted the guests that would come visit. Mike didn’t require deposits. People could pay by check after they arrived.
Over Thanksgiving a couple arrived for a week-long visit. They had driven 1,400 miles to come visit their daughter who lived nearby. Mike greeted the couple after their arrival, like usual, and took a check for the rental.
After checking the couple out at the end of their visit and seeing them on their way, Mike took a peek inside the little house. To his surprise, the place was absolutely trashed. Garbage overflowed out of the can onto the floor and counters. It reminded him of the garbage cans at the park after the 4th of July. Overflowing from a sudden influx of visitors. There were even beer cans underneath the bed.
“Why couldn’t they just toss the trash bag in the bin?” He asked Sara. “It’s just across the driveway! I would have done it if they asked.”
Fortunately there was no damage to the house. Just a big mess for the house keeper to clean up. Mike made sure to give an extra tip for the service this time.
The messy couple had asked to return for a visit over Christmas. Mike emailed them and said “no way.”
The next day, Mike got another surprise. The bank messaged to tell him the messy couple’s check had bounced. Mike called the couple’s bank to ask if the check bounced or if the couple had stopped payment. He thought maybe they cancelled it after being refused a second visit. The teller replied “Oohhhhh that’s not good. It’s definitely for insufficient funds.”
Mike messaged the couple to tell them about the check. He asked for them to make it right and send a credit card number or online payment.
Get Your Checkbook
The reply caught Mike off-guard. After a long list of excuses for why the check bounced, the couple refused to send payment. In fact, the woman said her husband had slipped on the “non-slip” pads as they departed. She claimed he broke four ribs and had been in the hospital for days.
“That’s not possible!” Mike said to Sara. “I saw them leave. Nobody fell down.”
The woman wrote that she had retained a lawyer who would be filing suit. “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer soon” she wrote.
The final line of the message read “I’ll pray for you, Mike.”
Colin Ley is an asset protection attorney and the creator of the PREP Trust®. He is also the co-founder of LayRoots along with his wife, Shreya Ley. As partners in life and business, the Leys are passionate about helping others plan for the unexpected so they can worry less and live more carefree.