*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
I grew up in a three-family home owned by my parents. We lived on the first floor, and my parents rented out the top two floors to strangers.
Renting out an apartment in your own home to tenants is a tough job because you never know what you are going to get. Tenants have their own ideas about what makes up appropriate behavior, especially when it comes to decorating or remodeling.
It doesn't matter whether you notify your tenants up front in writing that you don't want them painting your walls or driving huge nails into the woodwork; they have minds of their own and do what they want.
They always agree to the terms of the lease; they just don't follow the terms of the lease. It never ends well.
My parents rented the second-floor apartment directly above our heads to a nice older couple who didn't look like they would be any trouble. As it turned out, this couple slept all day and argued all night. If they weren't hollering and screaming at each other, they were running the vacuum cleaner into the walls and furniture at midnight. That wasn't the worst of it.
When the couple moved into the apartment, my mother told them they could hang pictures on the walls wherever there was already a picture hanger. If they needed additional hooks to hang anything on the wall, my father could do it for them. My father was a bit of a handyman and knew exactly where the studs in the walls were so he could hang things safely without damaging the drywall.
The couple nodded their heads in agreement and said that would be very helpful. They promised to let my parents know if they needed any more hooks or hangers on the walls to hang their photographs or other decorations.
Less than twenty-four hours later, while my father was at work and my mother was at the grocery store, this nice but noisy old couple pounded large rusty nails into the hallway and staircase leading from the main front door to the second-floor landing.
On every rusted nail, they hung flowerpots filled with dusty artificial flowers. Chunks of broken plaster and plaster dust littered the stairs.
My mother told me she had never seen that many artificial flowers outside an arts and crafts store.
"It looked like there was a garden growing out of the wall," my mother told me. "You wouldn't believe how many plastic flowers they hung or how many holes they made in my poor walls. I was furious. To them, it was just a bunch of decorations. For us, it was hundreds of dollars worth of damage, and we hadn't even charged them a security deposit."
My mother decided not to argue with the tenants about the damage they had done to the walls. "The damage was already done, as they say. It wasn't worth fighting," she told me.
Two weeks later, the couple moved out of the house while my parents weren't home. They took everything with them, including the artificial flowers and the rusty nails they had used to hang them everywhere.
The only thing they left behind was the fractured plaster walls, which needed copious repairs before my parents could rent out the second-floor apartment again.