Below is a letter that I penned to International superstar Mo’nique, upon hearing of her recent real estate related lawsuit:
I’ve always been a fan of your work, from your comedic turn in Soul Plane to your tour de force, award-winning performance in Precious. So, I was chagrined to read that you were suing your Atlanta landlord. While I never intended for my first blog post of 2012 to read like an advice column to a celebrity of your stature, I felt that I could offer some valuable advice to others who might find themselves in a similar situation. A few helpful thoughts to avoid conflicts like this in the future:
1. All real estate contracts- leases included- should spell out everything in writing. According to your claim, you had a verbal agreement with your landlords that allowed you to renege on your rental contract within the first 60 days. It’s frustrating how things turn out once the first check is cashed and your boxes are unpacked. Everyone seems to remember the verbal agreement a little differently. It’s an easy conflict to avoid- always put everything in writing, no exceptions. Period.
2. Whether you’re buying or renting a home, always conduct a pre-move-in inspection. Had you walked through the home prior to moving in, you most likely would have smelled the pervasive urine smell, or at least the poop stench. At that point, you could have asked your landlord to address the smell, or just opted to not move in. By moving in and living in the home for some time and then “discovering” the scent, you opened yourself up to both a sticky and stinky situation. A pre-move-in inspection really protects both parties, leaving little doubt as to what condition the home was in prior to the lease start.
3. Never rent a home that Jamal Crawford once lived in. Just kidding. I absolutely love the former Hawks star, and have no idea who lived in your home previously. I found it hard, however, after reading about your lawsuit, not to think of Crawford’s recent Atlanta real estate lawsuit. His landlord claimed his dogs caused $28,000 in damages, including carpets that stunk of dog urine and toilets clogged with dog food.
4. Make sure that renting is the right decision. Mo’nique, your finances are none of my business. But $22,000 a month for a 24 month lease is a ton of money in Atlanta. That’s nearly $530,000 for a two year rental. For $530,000, you could have purchased a pretty nice place outright. It may not have been as posh as the rental – I’m assuming that the property in question was fit for a Russian oligarch - but would have cut the landlord out of the picture.
5. If renting is the right decision, make sure that you’re getting good value. I don’t know where you were renting, but I do have some access to market data via the First Multiple Listing Service (FMLS). According to FMLS, there were only 13 rentals over $10,000 in Atlanta over the course of 2011. When Queen Latifah was in town shooting earlier this year, she rented out Jane Fonda’s absolutely pimptastic penthouse. It listed for $10,000, but according to FMLS it was negotiated down to $8,000 per month. No idea if there was any room to negotiate on your property, but prior to signing a lease you may want to double check the comps, just to make sure that you’re getting good value.
6. The next time you’re in town, bring me on board your team to serve as your Realtor. I want the best for my clients, and dealing with a lawsuit over a stinky, potentially mold infested rental house is the opposite of that. Next time you’re in town shooting, I’ll find you a fantastic rental home. I’ll negotiate good value for your money. I’ve worked with Hollywood-folk, as well as professional athletes, and I understand the special needs that a high profile client expects. I’ll insist that the lease includes anything and everything. We’ll do the most thorough pre-move-in inspection known to man. You will thank me in your next Oscar acceptance speech and I will start a blog called MisforMonique.com.
Associate Broker and Realtor
Keller Williams Intown