One professor's nightmare renting her house through the sharing economy

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Dude… I have read some horror stories from landlords. I don’t think I would ever get in to that game. People are fucking horrible. I don’t get it. This guy in the article tried to do the squatters thing, which is insane. But I have people spend $10k renovating a POS house into something halfway nice with nice floors and fixtures, and have it literally DESTROYED by tenants. I guess this is why anytime I deal with my apt company they seem terse. They can’t afford to put up with BS because BS ends up very bad for them.


Throw in a 20 something ingenue and this story has all the makings of a middling late-period Woody Allen movie.


Worse, the professor had turned her bedroom in to a laboratory, and Gilligan burned the house down trying to operate the coconut radio.


There was a good movie called “Pacific Heights” with Matthew Modine and Michael Keaton that covered the horrors associated with bad renters.


So now you’re telling me “fuck you I got mine” isn’t the underlying basis of the “gig” economy? Hmmm. That’ll be three dollars, thanks.


My mom actually rented her house out once. It went exactly as you described, but what wasn’t broken was stolen.

My sister and I help her with her business decisions nowadays.


The interesting thing about this squatter’s story is he seems to be telegraphing his intentions on scoring a free house very clearly – I mean, the remodeling begins even before the squatter’s rights time frame does.


Really shouldn’t she be a teenager?


The mistake this professor made was buying the SabbaticalHomes line that somehow a fellow academic will be a more trustworthy tenant than someone from airbnb – a foolish assumption to make for anyone who’s been involved in departmental politics in academia.

They’re not all as crazy and devious as this aspiring serial squatter, but a little more vetting by the site and more references by previous landlords (another point of failure in this case) are always in order.

That goes for all landlords, gig or longterm: you have to be very careful about choosing tenants and realistic about how they’ll treat your property.


Sabbatical rentals are a little different from normal rentals; you typically leave all your stuff in the house - not just landlord-grade fixtures - and often charge less than market rates. The reason you do it is because your own sabbatical usually involves a huge financial hit, even if you have some outside support to make up for the loss of salary.

We’ve rented our house 4 times while on sabbatical, with 2 good, 1 bad, and one really bad experience (not as bad as this one!), and will not do it again. It should be safe, since you typically choose from a narrow pool of renters who have confirmed good jobs and often mutual acquaintances, and a fixed time when you can be pretty sure they will vacate. However, even within that narrow pool there is wide variation in mental stability and coping ability, and few people treat others’ stuff as well as they treat their own.


Shamelessness dovetails with the grifter. Why even give a shit about projecting legitimacy?


Well that would be more in line with early Woody Allen. I think the last time his on-screen love interest was an actual high school student was in 1979’s Manhattan.



I think mainly to buy time. Isn’t that the key element in squatting?

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Horrifying movie!


Does not have a ratings system?

I’m having a hard time not victim-blaming here. Anyone who has ever rented an apartment knows the drill… there are reference checks, and credit checks, and deposits, the whole bit. If you’re renting to someone and /not/ doing those things (and don’t know the person, and they don’t have an online reputation) then… what do you think all those things you do when you rent are for?

If the answer is “Oh, this person is wealthy/white/has a college degree so I don’t need to bother with calling references” then you’re falling into the trap of your own prejudice.


It isn’t going to help. This isn’t like airbnbn, the standard for sabbatical is once every 7 years, you don’t build up a record with such sporadic use. It was also likely this renter’s first time using this website; I’ve never advertised there, and usually used university-connected services as both tenant and landlord.

As I point out above, sabbatical rentals are - or have traditionally been - more like a housesitting gig than normal renting, so the checks are usually less extensive. It is a system that had worked pretty well for a long long time.


–Kind of like the people who prey upon those of the same church/ethinic community.


Well most of the squatters rights stuff is based on the idea that you’re occupying and improving a building/land that would otherwise be vacant or abandoned. And that’s sort of the definition of squatting . The legal stuff we’re familiar with now came in with owners later coming back and seeking to regain control of the property and profit off the work done by residents. Like rather famously happened on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Once you’re occupying some one else’s home that they already maintain, use, and intend to return to. You’ve already pretty much missed the key element in squatting.


“Reputation” is the refuge of scoundrel Libertarians who think that regulations should all be sidestepped.

It works as well as this.

Being a crusty doesn’t give one a moral high horse.