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Police visit; moral dilemma

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How far should you go with a “good deed”?

My wife and I bought our first home together at Anglesea. Whilst most people at that age choose to spend their mortgage dollars on a house to be their primary residence, we chose to keep renting in Melbourne and use the bank’s money to buy a holiday house! From a tax point-of-view it’s an investment property, but we’ve always seen the investment primarily being one of lifestyle. Funnily enough it’s proven to be both a sound financial decision and a sound life choice.

Summer Daze, our house at Anglesea

We’ve had the Anglesea house for over 10 years now and during that time it has always been available for holiday rentals. The house is listed for rent here!

Last week I took a call from a charitable organisation who needed some short-term accommodation for a 13 year old boy. They asked if they could rent our house. They couldn’t tell us too much information about “their client”, but at all times he would be accompanied by two supervising adults. My wife and I were nervous, but they gave an written undertaking as to any damage and they paid the full rate. We rented them the house for 12 days.

Yesterday I received a phone call from the Anglesea police. They’d been called out to our house at Anglesea and phoned to let me know. They told me that there was no cause for alarm.

When the initial call came through I was unable to answer it – no the police don’t do outbound calls from 000, I didn’t recognise the number – so the 30 minute period between listening to the voice message and being able to return the call was pretty nerve-wracking. But when I spoke to the Officer he told me that no-one had been hurt and as far as he could tell there was not any damage to the house. None-the-less he thought that I should probably check the house over the weekend.

I then called the charity and they explained that “the 13 year old had a golf club and wouldn’t give it to the supervising adults, so they called the police”.

OK, so reading between the lines, the kid has some issues and was threatening the supervisors.

Great.

A moral dilemma

I’m the first to admit that I’ve been fortunate in life: my parents were supportive; I’ve had good education and good life experiences; I’m happily married with beautiful healthy children; and together with my wife I’ve been able to build up some assets that mean we have a pretty good, albeit kids-work-hectic life.

The flip side of me having a fortunate life is that I like to “do my bit” for those who are less fortunate. Generally I’ve done this via monetary donations, but occasionally I’ve done things that can leverage my skills and/or network: I organised a Tsunami fund-raiser; I’ve done the Whitelion Bailout; I briefly helped an organisation I met through Goodcompany, for example.

I saw renting our Anglesea house to this charity, albeit at a commercial rate, as another example of “doing my bit”.

Which would all be fine, except that we are now faced with the real possibility that “doing our bit” might end up costing us – potential damage, potential costs, potential effort. Even if there’s no damage I am still worried. And when these guests move out of the house next week I am going to have to embark on the 4 hour roundtrip from Melbourne to Anglesea to inspect the property.

Would I do the same again?

I would genuinely like to help this charity. I have no doubt that they are trying hard to assist this kid and others like him. Most likely it is hard, intense work in trying circumstances. And most likely they would struggle to find short-term rental accommodation for these kids and their supervisors. Having helped out Whitelion, I know how hard it can be for these organisations to support these types of kids.

I could include this charity on the list of charities that my wife and I support with financial donations. But I could probably magnify the value of our support by renting them the house.

But I’d know that each time they were using the house I’d be worried – about the house, about our neighbours and about the potential effort that might flow from the rental.

It’s a middle-class dilemma: I’m truly unsure about how far we should go with this good deed.

Discussion

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