R. Kelly may be running from his problems, but they’re trying to catch up—particularly on the real estate front.
Remember those two houses Kelly was renting in Duluth, GA, where in 2017 he was accused of running a sex cult? And how, in December, those homes were trashed in a burglary by R. Kelly’s “friend” Alfonso Walker, who eventually turned himself in? Kelly was evicted from these properties in February, although he’d already abandoned them.
Well, the story has gone from bad to worse: The owner of these two homes is now suing the singer for $203,400 in damages, largely resulting from Walker’s alleged rampage.
That’s a whole lotta damages—so just how bad off were these properties, anyway?
Why R. Kelly can’t just leave these house problems behind
Let’s start with the larger 23-room mansion on Old Homestead Trail, where Kelly was supposed to pay $11,542.45 per month in rent. According to the lawsuit by SB Property Management Global, this 9,000-square-foot estate suffered “extensive damage” to electrical work, flooring, windows, and more in the kitchen, living room, bathrooms, gym, cigar room, and theater.
Worse yet, many items that should have been in the home were just missing—including the stove, bedroom furniture, and … 22 light fixtures, according to the lawsuit.
“You have to try really hard to create $200,000 worth of damage in two years,” says Los Angeles land developer Tyler Drew. “This sort of damage is blatant, and oftentimes malicious in nature. Typical burglars don’t do this. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a burglar who’s stolen 22 light fixtures; they usually concern themselves with higher-value objects.”
Meanwhile, Kelly’s more modest four-bedroom, $3,000-a-month home on Saint Devon Crossing was packed with trash, the lawsuit claims.
Is R. Kelly responsible for damage done during a burglary?
Of course, the most painfully obvious lesson here is that you can’t leave rental properties in poor shape without expecting it to come back and bite you. It’s not that easy to move on, even—or perhaps especially—if you’re famous.
“Celebrity does not always get you out of a bad situation: These are the reasons landlords don’t like to rent to them, and demand such high deposits,” points out Texas real estate agent Sheryl English. And even once these properties are fixed up to their former glory, “with such controversy looming over the former tenant, who would want to lease it again or purchase it?”
Granted, these homes were allegedly ransacked not by Kelly himself during some late-night party, but by Walker. So is Kelly even responsible? Most real estate experts say yes.
“Renters need to make sure they have good insurance in place that covers them in the case of theft or damage that they did not cause,” says Florida real estate agent Cara Ameer. “Insurance is not something that renters tend to pay too close attention to, but they should ensure their policy is comprehensive enough to protect them in situations like this.”
Commenting on Kelly’s apparent lack of sufficient insurance coverage, she adds, “Unfortunately, what R. Kelly did in this case was pure negligence.”
There’s also a lesson in here for people who rent out property to others.
“Interviews and background checks matter,” says Drew. And money alone doesn’t mean a tenant will always pay up.
“The absolute best renter I’ve had and still have is a single mother of two living on Section 8 assistance,” says Drew. “For 10 years, I’ve never once heard a peep from her, and she keeps an immaculate house. My absolute worst tenants were two college girls with co-signing parents who managed to do more damage to the house than it was worth. I had to take both them and their parents to court for damages and nonpayment of rent.”
The lesson here: “The best renters aren’t always the richest and, in fact, sometimes they are the worst,” Drew concludes. “I have more than a few stories from L.A.-based property managers who’ve dealt with nightmare rich and famous tenants.”
Granted, in Kelly’s case, “by the looks of his financial circumstances, the landlord may be standing in a long line of creditors to get paid,” says English. “Unfortunately, anytime you have renters, that’s the risk you take—and renters like this make it bad for everyone else.”