investment property

Dealing with My Tenant from Hell

I became a landlord (landlady?) on April 7, 2010 when I purchased an investment property with a tenant in it.  The property was purchased from a friend and he assured me that she was a wonderful tenant.  Better yet, her rent was always on time.  Since my tenant has terminal cancer, a government funded program paid for 75% or her rent which was sent directly to the property owner.  The tenant was responsible for the balance as well as all utilities.

I would basically be responsible for upkeep and maintenance, changing the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and, of course, the taxes on the property.  Based on my investment, if nothing major broke, and I had a 90% occupancy rate with no rent increases or major tax increases, I would break even in a little over three years with no mortgage on the property.  It seemed like a perfect opportunity for me, until the tenant decided that paying her balance of the rent any time before the middle of the month was too bothersome for her.

I won’t get into that because I have spoken about it a few times and you can read the related articles below, but last month I sent her a notice to vacate for non-payment of rent, and this month I firmly took the reigns with her.  Her rent is due on the first of the month, but she has until the 5th of the month to pay with no penalties.  Her rent is not considered paid until I have the full balance of the rent.  December 5 passed without her rent, so I promptly mailed her a rent demand letter on December 6.  I heard nothing from her but the overdue balance popped up into my bank account (minus the late fee) on the 10th of the month.  I called her that day letting her know that I would need to visit to change the batteries on the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on the 11th.  My lease outlines a 24 hour notice before I will enter the property.

Knowing that she has a humongous dog, I asked that the dog be crated if she would not be at home.  She never answered my calls or returned my voicemail because she has been avoiding me.  When I arrived at the home on December 11 she was not there and the dog was loose on the inside.   I decided to not tangle with a 100+ pound pit bull mix and instead did an external inspection.   I know that some of you have thought that I was exaggerating, but this time I have proof!  To say that the outside was filthy was an understatement.  My brother was my copilot and brought along his trusty camera phone.  I give you the exhibits below and note, the images overlap slightly and there was more not caught in the photos.  Click to enlarge.

dog POOP!more dog POOP!

There was garbage in the back yard dating from Halloween based on the pumpkins that were tossed around the garbage cans.  There was at least a week worth of dog poop on the deck.  I didn’t step on the deck in case I stepped into one if the dog’s packages.  I was livid.

I thought that my tenant would avoid me, but I was prepared to wait for her the entire day.  Instead of sitting there like a pair of undercover detectives, my brother and I took care of some other things that we had to handle, ate, went shopping and circled back to her, wait, it’s MY home close to 7pm.  She was home!  Not only was she home, but the front door was open and I could see her sitting on the couch, drinking wine and smoking a cigarette.  Please forgive me if I have no additional sympathy left for her when she complains that she is sick.

I knocked on her door and she was quite startled to see me there.  I know that she had expected me to be back in New York since it’s a four hour drive away.  I have a lead foot and anger to guide me so I usually make it in three with no breaks.  She came to the door swearing that she had meant to call me back and forgotten all about it.  Meanwhile, Cujo was barking its head off and the crazy woman opened the door.  I have a dog and I appreciate other people having pets.  I also don’t categorize all pit bulls as being vicious, so I won’t allow any comments of that nature.  This beast was less of a pet and more like teeth and muscles with bits of fur.  I placed myself behind the door while the dog ran for my brother.  Sorry, but it was every man for himself at that point.  I yelled to her that she needed to put the dog away or lock the dog outside while we were inside.  My brother finally got into the house with neither one of them being bitten.  I’m pretty sure my brother would have beaten or bitten the dog if it had bitten him.  Great, we were in the house!

Immediately she launched into, “I meant to call you” and “I’ve been so busy” and “I’ve been sick” and “My house is never this messy” all of which I ignored.  While my brother went about changing the batteries on the smoke detectors (it needed to be done anyway) I attempted to speak to her.  She never made eye contact and basically flitted between two rooms the entire time.   I told her that I had been there earlier and the dog poop in the back yard had to be cleaned up immediately because I would pass any violations or summons received directly to her for payment.  This is when the “I’ve been sick” was reinserted.  I also told her that if she does not at least call me to let me know that her rent would be late, then I would have to send her a notice and begin proceedings.  I also told her that if she did not answer my phone call or message (I only ever call once or leave one message) then I would assume that she did not intend to pay her rent.   According to her, she never wants to move so she would try to be on time.

Walking through the house I noticed a fresh HOLE in the linoleum on the kitchen floor.  There was a crack in a window and of course the house was generally messy.  I can’t tell someone how to live, but I did point out the broken window.  She assured me that someone would be by on Wednesday to fix the window.  That reminds me that I’ll have to check in with her about that.  She wrote me a check for January’s rent which I will deposit on the third of January.  Let’s hope that it doesn’t bounce.

On the long, lead foot drive back to New York, my brother and I bounced the entire situation off each other.  This is what we have decided:

  1. This is pretty easy, but I will not renew her rent.  I am not going to tell her this far ahead of time but I will give her at least one month’s notice.  This is because it is incredibly difficult to find someone to move in during the middle of winter.  Her lease expires at the end of April which is an easier time of the year to find movers.
  2. Since the program has increased the amount of rent covered to 80%, I’m at least guaranteed that much of her rent.  I can continue to deduct the balance from her security deposit and add it back to the deposit when she pays.
  3. I will tell the program that she is not keeping up her end of the agreement by paying her rent as agreed.

This entire experience has been interesting to say in the least, but this process has shown me that I need to think less about the tenant’s sob story and more about my investment.  I hate to look at this as just a business dealing, because that is not the person that I am, but I am being forced to do just that.   The fact is, had I purchased this house with a mortgage and counted on that rent to pay for the home I would be screwed.  Thankfully, I did not.

This post inspired me to write, Finance 101: How to Avoid Bad Tenants.

You might also be interested in:
Taking The Plunge
Time to Be The Hardnosed Landlord?
My Tenant’s Rent Is Late…Again
My Tenant Paid The Rent

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60 Comments

    • Yes, she knows that I can’t just pop in, but I’ve learned as many shortcuts as possible and know where the highway police hide, so I get there in a little over 3 hours. I roll at least 80 MPH at some points.

    • @Fabulous: “Reading this makes me realize I really don’t want to be a (landlord).” My thoughts exactly.

      How people can live like slobs is also beyond me.

      This is also another reason why subsidies are not good in general — people who get them tend to have less reason to take any responsibility simply because they have less of a skin in the game to begin with.

      I’m sure April can’t get here soon enough for you.

      All the best,

      Len
      Len Penzo dot Com

  1. I don’t know how you’ve been dealing with this tenant from four hours away! I think you’ve done all you can do and have a good plan. I’m sure you’ve mentioned it, but in a case like this, landlords should document ALL of your interactions (late payments, pictures of damage, etc.). Good luck.

  2. That’s got to be extremely difficult to deal with. I hate for people to use their illness as an excuse. Once, fine. Twice, maybe. Excessively? Come on! Good luck dealing with her the next couple of months.

  3. It’s great that you’re secured the 80%! I can only imagine what you would be going through if you didn’t have that. I am glad you won’t be dealing with her for much longer. People like her are a deterrent for me to get into income properties. Good luck to you and I hope you have better luck with tenants in the future!

  4. More tenant stories, love it!
    I can’t believe you are dealing with her 4 hours away! I didn’t know that- what an ordeal.

    I can’t wait to share with you stories about tenants, too :)

    Sounds like you have a good plan.

    Sorry to hear you had to deal with her pit pull mix- I cracked up laughing when you said it wasn’t a pet, but it looked more something with solely fangs, fur, and muscle.

      • Where I live, things are pretty biased in favour of the tenant. Rent is only allowed to go up by 0.5% to 1% a year or so, and what if the tenant smokes pot? Does other things you don’t like? It’ll take you at least 3 months to evict them, and actually for things like that, you probably won’t be able to evict them so long as they pay their rent, especially if they have kids or are on welfare!

  5. Holy Crap! Tenant from hell. We’re lucky we have a good steady tenant. We also hire a management company because there is no way I can handle these tenants from hell!
    The management company would evict this lady in a heart beat.

    • Management fees versus what I am taking in right now doesn’t make good financial sense. That is even if I am missing her 20% balance. Now, once I get rid of her I’ll have to pour some money into cleaning it up and repairing the floors before renting it to another person for a higher amount of course.

    • God forgive me, but I am quite honestly am beginning to wonder just how sick she is. As I said, when I knocked on her door she was puffing a cig and drinking a BIG glass of wine. I’m guessing that someone with lung cancer that is sick and on medication should not be engaged in either activity. In fact, I know that you shouldn’t. I have a dear friend in a hospice center with lung cancer now.

  6. This horror story just proved to me that I never ever want to be a landlord (or lady). This is a nightmare beyond anything. How someone can live like she does?! I looked at the pictures and could not believe what I was seeing. OMG! Can you just get rid off her and forget it as a really bad dream? My friend was renting out a house to a guy who kept snakes in his bathroom! I thought that was bad!

    • Think that was bad? You should have seen the sun room and her bed room. Did I also mention that her son has an altar in his closet? It’s all black candles and daggers. He’s a goth kid. Fun times.

  7. I did this for a while after my mom moved to town with me. Her rentals were 2 hours away but 3 units. But the worst was a girl who used to be on welfare her whole life but then got a job. I thought she was a real success story and was happy to have found her. A few months after she moved in, she lost her job and stopped paying. Her kids literally pulled 3 doors off the hinges (we lived in this apartment for almost 30 years and the doors never fell off their hinges.). She was gross, never ever cleaned. I had to pay for plumbers multiple times. Then she was dumb enough to tell me about how she went to NYC to destress or had to go to her daughter’s dance recital. What? You’re going on vacation and doing extracirricular activities but not paying the rent? I had another couple move out, turn off the utilities with a fridge full of food only to find it rotten a week later. SO GROSS. Oh the trash and filth people leave when they move is so gross.

    • sorry that it was bad enough for you to get rid of the house. I want to hold on to this one for a long time to generate income. Since I break even in another 2.5 years it”s hard for me to let it go early.

  8. This is why I will most likely only invest in RE via REITS, or at the most, rent my condo unit out. Looking after tenants is a big hassle, and while the money can be decent, it’s not necessarily that good (if you’re getting a 5% overall return but have to drive for hours and spend a lot of time… is it worth it?)

    • I did have money in REITs until the whole global financial crisis thing. Quite honestly, in another 2.5 years I break even, own the house free and clear and it has the potential to be a decent money maker for me to the tune of an extra $5,500 a year net for a long time. I’m 32 so having some income producing property from my mid-30′s through the end of my life or until I sell it is welcomed. My brother and the same friend that sold me this house also own multiple properties in this area, so even if I can’t make it there one of them is there at least monthly. It’s just this tenant really. I inherited her and felt bad about her health condition so I was a pushover at first I think.

  9. OMG! I don’t have my own house yet, let alone be a landlord. But stories like these make me want never to be a landlord ever. I will stick with REITs as Kevin I think.

    You could deduct all the cleaning/fixing up cost from the deposit I suppose, but it might be so high than the actual deposit. Sorry you had to go through this! Hopefully this will all be over in another 4 months and the next tenant will be great.

  10. Gosh.. that really sucks. Does the rent check of 80% go directly to you from the government?

    If so, losing the 20% is the worst case scenario for income, but of course you have to deal with a mistreated property right?

    Sam

    • The 80% does go directly to me. I’m going to be very aggressive in collecting the 20% and retrieving funds for any damaged property. The house had been completely renovated before she moved in and I have those photos.

  11. This is just awful. You’re doing the right thing by not renewing the rent. Get her out of there and get a tenant who actually appreciates that you hold up your end of the bargain as a landlord.

    My landlords (I still rent) are pretty good and fix things if they pop up, but usually it takes quite a bit of nudging. It’s rare to find a landlord who takes initiative like you do, and there are definitely people out there who will appreciate it.

    If you’re too sick to properly take care of a dog and clean up after it, give the dog to someone who will take care of it.

    • We get along great and always have, but when there are what seems like 10 rows of teeth coming at you packed in a solid block of muscle you get out of the way.

  12. Are you even certain she has cancer? I don’t know which program you and I fund that subsidizes people’s rent just by virtue of their medical conditions, but is there any reason to believe she’d be any more honest with the relevant government agency than she is with you?

    I have a property manager who earns 10% of the rent she collects, and when I say she earns it, I mean it. I know your story makes people say they’d never want to be landlords, but it doesn’t have to be that bad. A property manager lets you keep things nice and impersonal, and frees up a lot of time. She gets to be the bad cop while you get to relax.
    I have other landlord friends with the opposite problem – tenants who want to be their pal, and then you feel guilty for holding them to the terms of the lease. (When a tenant’s kids call you “Aunt Sandy”, it’s over.)
    And if your tenant really does have cancer, I hope it’s painful and protracted.

    • Okay, I don’t want to seem heartless, but in the past few months I’ve questioned her health claims. When I spoke to her case manager a about 6 months ago there was some, how do I say, hesitation with the case manager in the severity of her health issues as she presents then, but mine is not to question. I plan on raising the rent before new tenants (she’s really getting a bargain price) and then I can afford to pay a mgmt company. Just think, 4 more months left to go and I’m free!

      • I really enjoy your blog, but I think you may not have the personality for self-managing properties. Definitely get a property manager as soon as you can. Besides, the amount of time you spend could most likely be spent earning more than you’re saving by not.

        It’s just too much hassle. I do feel bad for people like her though and the dog. I’m sure he’s just a Cujo because it’s unlikely he gets any exercise. Well that’s pretty obvious since a 100 pound dog craps on the deck. You might call animal control because that is a lot of poop and there are laws about that kind of thing. They also might just scare her into taking better care of her dog and therefore your property.

        • I don’t think that I have the personality for it either. I’m too much of a softie. It’s not in me to be unkind even when someone deserves it.

          The dog I know is probably just frustrated because she doesn’t walk it. A dog that size needs LOTS of exercise and this is a good town for it since there are loads of woods and trails and stuff, but the poor thing is cooped up in the house all day. But when there is a 100+ pound dog coming at you, you don’t care about its motivation.

      • I’ve certainly never wished pain and suffering on her! I do say that I am beginning to doubt her stories. I never wish pain and suffering on anyone because it can come back to haunt you.

      • Then I guess I’m horrible. At least I pay my bills on time and put the dog feces where it belongs.

        If simply wishing pain and suffering on someone makes it come true, that makes me the most powerful person in the universe. Now please excuse me: I have to turn some lead into gold and make objects levitate.

        • LOL. Greg, share that chemical composition when you get a chance. This entire situation actually inspired me to begin a new site that I’m working on. It’s going to be…wait for it…http://www.mytenantfromhell.com. I’m hoping to build an entire community of sharing tenant stories. It’s coming.

  13. You’re ruining my plans to make easy income renting out a house! (Just kidding, I knew it wouldn’t be easy.)

    Do you think renting would be better if you aimed at people like, well… me? With a decent salary, but just starting out, and not looking to buy yet? But then, so many kids my age don’t understand how to manage their money anyway… but I imagine they’d be easier to scare with eviction notices.

    Also, I wonder if having a housekeeper be part of the terms of the lease would be a good thing? (Like if you charged them extra rent and you hired the cleaner to come in every couple weeks.) Or if it would just make them sloppier…

  14. My goodness that sounds like a pain in the neck. I have sympathy for you, for dealing with this. Probably not what you expected:)

    I had a coworker once who told me how his tenants ran the gamut from good to awful…and that the awful, while only a handful, really stuck with you. His recommendation to me, if I were to ever be a landlord, was to do everything possible to prevent a bad tenant, and to be as strict with them as possible – no exceptions. He said that you had to view it as a business, because it’s your investment and nobody cares about your hard earned money like you do. He’s probably right.

    He told me a couple of pretty brutal stories, with even worse tenants than yours. Made me think twice about this!

    • It just means that you have to really be prepared and patient. I’m doing a whole series and a guest post on delaing with bad tenants. :) At least I get some good blog content from all of this.

  15. Rental property is the only thing still stable in this country. Hang in there! It would be better if you were closer, maybe you could hire someone to check on her on a regular basis. She would be aware that someone is watching and close by. For those of you who shy away from rental property, it is a great income booster. But, you do have to have a strong personality,people skills, and the knowledge of tenets rights.Like any job there will always be the (fill in the blank) from hell.

  16. I see my other half already commented about hiring a property manager so I’ll just add that everyone thinking they can’t afford a manager should revisit the idea. The real estate industry has taken a beaten and a lot more agents are now in the property management business. It’s a price war out there-take advantage of it (and get a long-term contract) while you can.

    Does your tenant’s government program (is it Section 8 or something else?) contain a requirement for the recipient to pay their rent on time to maintain their benefits? Silly question I know but, we can hope right?

    BTW, we’re dealing with similar with one of our commercial tenants http://controlyourcash.com/2010/12/23/silence-it%E2%80%99s-just-good-business/ so we share your pain.

    Despite the headaches, I’m more bullish then ever on rental real estate. Just Google “why buy a house when you can rent?” or “rent instead of buy” and feast your eyes on all the people happy to pay your mortgage for you.

    Good luck!

    • Hi Betty,

      I saw that article and wish I could comment! I do think that hiring a property manager is a good idea. In fact, I found one that I like. I just don’t need to hire him. She’s not getting Section 8, but she IS required to keep up her end. I added a post entitled How to Avoid Bad Tenants. I still think that real estate is a grat investment vehicle. Were it not for my debt and taxes I would have purchased another investment home already. In fact, my brother purchased a 3 unit building that he is now fixing up.

  17. In my mind you have to have a decent amount of knowledge of two things before you can even consider rental property: 1) The Law; and 2) Upkeep on a house, and as this story shows even then it may not be worth it if you can’t find a decent tenant.

  18. I worked in law enforcement for years. At one point one of my duties was to handle evictions. My suggestions: 1.) No pets. None. I once went to an eviction where chickens were nesting in the laundry room. I love chickens by the way, but this was a bit too much. 2.) Be consistent. Sounds like you are – good job! 3.)Document, document, document. As you have proven – pictures are worth a thousand words.
    When you rent in the future consider doing a criminal background, reference, and credit check – collect the monies that it will cost for you to do these when the potential tenant(s) submit their rental application. It is perfectly fine to do this as a landlord, as long as you treat every potential tenant the same. That avoids allegations of discrimination. Good luck!

    • Thanks Eileen. I am ALL OVER THAT. Everything is documented. I have a whole file full of notices to her. Next tenant? No pets, no smoking, no extra people. You don’t pay I get rid of you within the shortest time period allowed. I am interviewing management companies so that I can be hands off.

  19. This may have been mentioned before, but can’t you collect post-dated cheques from your tenant?

    I’ve rented a number of apartments/condos, and I have always been asked to submit post-dated monthly rent cheques a year at a time. It’s easier for everyone, and I just had to make sure I had sufficient funds in my bank.

    Good luck with your tenant from hell for the remainder of her lease!

  20. I have never, ever…not ONCE..in all the time I’ve been a landlord and spoken with other friends with rentals…have heard one landlord/lady ever be actually HONEST about what has happened between themselves and the tenants.

    What happens is, many people go into this business with a subconscious to be the ‘lord’ part of the deal. They have almost a mid-evil attitude towards tenants as if they are peasants on the lords land. This is not helpful and it will seep into the relationship to the point it blinds YOU from what YOU are doing wrong.

    If you would not live in your own rental, if you would not pay the rent for such a place, then you are a bad landlord. Take the tenant out of the equation before you start blaming them.

    Why would a lady with cancer ‘suddenly’ have a gaping hole in the floor of the house?
    The deck itself looks solid except for some dog poo. I’ve seen worse. If she wasn’t cleaning it up at all, believe me, it would look A LOT worse. So, I think you’re being unfair about that.
    If you are accepting any part of her payment, and using it, prior to the balance being paid, then technically you are accepting that as rent. Stop whining and work out something with her. The woman has CANCER. It’s not an excuse, it’s an influence and it’s a reason. And you went into the purchase of this property knowing it.

    You are trying to blame the tenant for your frustrations, which is another problem landlords make. Happens all the time.

    I’m telling you right now, if you don’t take the tenant out of your Blame Equation BEFORE you have done everything possible to make that habitation healthy, viable, and in 100% working order…you’re not going to last in this business. You won’t. I’ve seen this happen for 30 years. Folks like you get into this thinking that you can be cheap, miserly, bossy, sneaky, wiley, pushy, demanding etc etc BEFORE you have actually put 100% to establish an excellent relationship with your tenant.

    Tenants very often will destroy a property and treat the landlord like crap because the landlord started it first. If your tenant, at any point, feels justified in thinking you are taking their money and not delivering the full worth of their rent ( it’s WHY they pay rent – it’s NOT to make sure YOU have some addtional income in your life ) EVERY SINGLE MONTH, then you are going to risk undermining the trust and respect needed in a relationship such as landlord-tenant.

    My own experience proves out that the more available I am, the more I put in place BEFORE the tenant has to demand it, the more I make sure all their windows work and their plumbling works and their roofs don’t leak and the external aspects of the house look nice and all emergencies are tended to straight away – the better tenants I have. The less demanding they are. And, if they have a troubling month financially, the LESS likely they are to try to hide from me.

    Think about it: if your tenant felt any sense of trust and respect with you, she would come directly to you with her rent problems. Instead, SHE is avoiding YOU.

    I’m telling you…if you don’t get your head wrapped around the truth of this, you might as well sell that property right now or every single tenant you have – except for the ones that let you get away without providing the FULL value of a months rent – is going to add ten grey hairs to your head because you will NEVER see your own fault in the relationship. You will always be cleaning up a disaster after a disaster after a disaster.

    Wether you have a tenant or not, you have assumed an obligation to keep that property up. The neighborhood could report you if you don’t. The point is, occupied or not, YOU have a duty to keep that place NICE, not just ‘liveable’, which too many wannabe landlords translate as ‘surviveable’.

    Don’t be unethical and treat the tenant BETTER than you yourself would expect.

    • Stuart,

      Thanks for your opinion, but you need to go back to the beginning and read the entire story before assuming that I wouldn’t live in the house or that I am not making improvements to the home or that I am unethical.

      I bought the home WITH the tenant in it. I didn’t interview and accept her. She was already there. I didn’t have an opportunity to “start it first” by “treating her like crap.” In fact, when I purchased the home I went, met her, asked her if she would like to stay or move, offered her a month of FREE rent if she wanted to move, etc. She told me how much she loved living there and that she wanted to stay. I never ONCE bothered the lady. In fact, I made immediate improvements to the home that the previous landlord did not, including sealing air leaks, upgrading the lighting fixtures, arranging monthly pest control (which she didn’t want), etc. Perhaps YOU need to know the ENTIRE story before assuming that I am EVIL and that the house is just “LIVEABLE’. The hole in the floor was caused by her 100+ pound dog digging at the floor and her grandchildren ripping at it. She said so herself. I had seen the house before she moved in when my friend fixed the home up because it was not even “LIVEABLE” when he purchased it. I have never accepted partial rent. When I received the rent from the program it always sat unopened until her portion was received because it was paid until received in full. Those were the terms of her contract. If she couldn’t pay rent she shouldn’t have live there.

      Now, you need to read more of this story to find out how much she went on to destroy the home. Her “cancer” was never confirmed. In fact, her case worker at the program that paid her rent said the same to me. She had a pattern of lying but that there was nothing that she could do about it. She was junkie plain and simple. In fact, I believe the program that paid her rent did so because she was in outpatient treatment as METH ADDICT. They could not disclose it to me since it was a hospital program but after digging for the past few months, I realized that this was why she was probably having her rent paid.

      So, before you pass judgement, know the facts. Not all landlords are EVIL. You should come back in another 2 weeks and see the new photos of the home after renovation. The neighbors keep saying to me, “remember, it’s a rental” but it’s MY home and I treat it as such, because I never know when I will have to live there. Oh, and unethical me actually paid her to get the hell out of my house. Some tenants are professionals and do things on purpose.

    • Judging from your opening line, it appears that you must be the only honest landlord in the history of renting. Kudos to you, good sir.

      Cancer, whether actual or fictional, is not a reason for failure to pay rent. You need to fire your real estate attorney.

      Also, this is the biggest lie ever uttered:

      “And, if they have a troubling month financially, the LESS likely they are to try to hide from me.”

      Huh? I challenge anyone to read that aloud and tell me where it makes sense.

      The fact that you spelled medieval as “mid-evil” just makes it all the more entertaining. Do carry on.

  21. Sorry to be so long-winded, but I have over twenty properties and most I do tend myself. I worked out relationships with other residential vendors early on in case I need to hire them. It has worked out very well when I do have to get a property tended to if I cannot and they tend to give me a financial break because I not only use their services, but also recommend those who do well.

    I have had to evict, in all my time, only two tenants. My turnover rate, in other words, is extremely low.

    If you get to the point you are looking at evicting a tenant, you can consider the entire arrangement not just a massive failure, but a financial one. The money involved in an eviction, and the great inconvenience to yourself, is something you should go above and beyond the call of duty to avoid. DON’T listen to anyone who tells you,”Oh just evict them!”. It’s not the end of the problem, it’s the start and you’ll have to recover from that decision for months. Even if you get a new tenant in right away, it’s a loss.

    Try to have a ‘lessons learned’ journal with you. Try to see things from the tenants point of view as often as you can. This means being painfully honest with yourself sometimes. If you get ‘rid’ of a tenant and don’t learn anything from it except that you become suspicious and bitter towards new ones, it will become a cycle.

    Also, be very, very aware of ALL the legal issues involved. Not just the ones that you consider to be in your favor or supportive of your position. That’s a big mistkae too. Every state has laws to protect tenants from neglect of all kinds. If they choose, they can call in the Health Dept, they can hire their own inspector ( who will note every fault in the structure and if it falls into ‘neglect’ on your part, you’ll have more frustrations than you can currently imagine ), and you can be sued for everything from emotional distress to financial losses the tenant suffers as a result of having to suddenly move.

    Don’t count on disgruntled tenants just going away. And a sheriff or police officer is only there for the day of eviction. They are NOT bound to be there when you have to load their belongings up and store them for a certain amount of time at YOUR expense. Be aware in some states you can’t just throw their stuff out after you evict them, and if you do they can take YOU to court. Even the eviction process protects both parties, so be careful.

    I think disallowing pets and smokers is a big mistake too. You can work something out such as no dogs over a certain weight or size, that way you don’t cut out so much of your market potential. As for your smokers, most of that will go to the walls and ceiling. Work something out with them such that if they are willing to paint the place themselves once a year, you will knock off a portion of their rent or return x amount of money on top of the return of their deposit.

    Remember, too, that the deposit issue is a place where new landlords make big mistakes. They may try to, if the tenant moves, niggle out every dime of it they can on cleanup inspection. I knew one landlord who tried to subtract $50 for a small scratch on the refigarator. The tenants uncle was an attorney, and the landlord paid six times the deposit back and attracted all sorts of nuisance attention to himself for trying to pull that Deposit cover wear and tear. You can’t deduct for normal wear and tear and you must return the deposit if the tenant has cleaned the place up when they leave. Some tenants don’t even care about the deposit being returned to them, so don’t be too pedantic about that.

    Also, in some states post-dated check collections are ILLEGAL as hell. You really need to consider investing in a one time consultation with an attorney who specialized in investment properties laws, because the state may have laws and then your county itself may have additional laws.

    This is not an easy business but many landlords make it harder on THEMSELVES, sometimes without realizing it. It’s like some people who idealize horse ownership. It sounds like a good idea. So they go buy a horse and for a while, it’s fun. But the realities of it begin to wear them down over time and the horse suffers for the entire arrangement. The average time at any ‘home’ for a horse is ONE YEAR.

    So too, new landlords idealize the ‘potentials’ of investment properties. But you are dealing with human beings and they don’t come with an on/off state or switch. They are buying a service FROM you. They do not work for you, you work for THEM. I think that’s the part newbies have a really tough time with because they say,”Well I own the property.” Yes, but you do not own the people and the minute you accept payment for a service, they become your ‘boss’, so to speak. They have a RIGHT to expect full service for every dollar they give you. If you paid a mechanic to fix your brakes, you’d expect your brakes not just to be fixed, but to be fixed right. Wouldn’t you?

    Because I see my tenants as my customers, I deliver a service that’s better than just getting by. Being cheap in the bigger picture will only cause you to suffer one financial loss after the next. Many landlords will spend twenty dollars to save a dime. They can’t see past the end of their own nose.

    If you collect, for example, $600 x 3 months, that’s $1800 right? OK, if you have NOT DELIVERED that much worth of good landlord duties, then the tenant has EVERY RIGHT to be angry and frustrated. And you may be driving them to ‘spiteful contempt’. That’s a whole ‘nother situation and just boils down to more money spent that you could’ve kept in your bank.

    Two of the folks I know with ongoing high turnover rates with tenants are each facing thousands and thousands of dollars worth of repairs. They are too stupid and too proud to see where they failed in the process. Which means they’ll never correct it. In essence, they’ve brought it on themselves. But it’s easy to say,”Damn renters.” rather than correct the problem that, usually, starts with their own bad attitudes and behaviors.

    Good luck and don’t make the typical mistakes.

    • Hi Stuart,

      While I respect your opinion, you’re making quite a bit of broad assumptions about the scope of my knowledge, my dealings with her and this particular tenant. I am well aware of the laws in my state and followed them not to the letter, but over and above. My dealing with her were always above reproach. You assume by the title of this blog that I was cheap with the home and with her. You are wrong. I am choosing to not rent to smokers or people with pets due to the damage she caused to the home including the walls and brand new (when she moved in) carpets that had to be removed. Again, it’s my home and I am choosing to disallow smokers and pets. Once again, you are making assumptions without knowing the entire story. Some people – rare, but it happens – are professionals at renting, not paying, destroying homes and them leaving. Do a Google search for the Rampaging Renter. Just so you’re aware, my wonderful tenant stole appliances when she moved again. But again, you are making a lot of assumptions without the facts.

  22. Just an FYI: You *can* take partial rent in some states and it doesn’t impact your ability to evict the tenant. You should check with an attorney and read your lease to determine if you’re able to accept partial rent payments.

    As for Stuart, my guess is that he specializes in tenant litigation in California :-)

  23. Stuart,
    Your post would have to be the biggest BS i have heard in regards to this topic.
    Not just what you say in how things should be run but about yourself as well.
    Take it from someone who has more experience than you.
    Your motivation in writing such drivel is because you yourself are most likely a bad tenant who would like to be treated like a King but in return you want it all for free.
    From what you have written i can tell you have absolutely no experience in what it takes to be a landlord.
    If you had 20 plus properties you would know but you haven’t so you are ignorant.
    I’ve had plenty of experience worse than Sandy’s and i can tell you that there are a lot of tenants who will rip off the landlord in some way or another.
    Some will leave with all rent paid,place in order and nothing stolen.
    But there is a huge percentage of tenants who fall in many different categories starting from not-bad to bad to worse.
    Some just rip you off with rent.
    Some steal your property and rip you off with rent.
    Some steal your property,rip you off with rent and trash your home.
    Then there are the tenants from hell,what can i say but when you go to see your home you dont recognize it.
    And Yes i’ve heard all the stories as well….
    Dog chewed up the rent money,i left it under the door or the letter box,i deposited it into your account,mother is in hospital had to pay bills,had to go overseas to see my dying mother,then again had to go overseas to see my dying mother,What she’s still not dead?,Have a bad back cannot work and on disability payments but i can f%#k my wife and sh@t out 3 more little lying bast@#ds in the World while living free in your home and getting support from the Government.And Yes the old Classic i’m terminally ill with cancer,Oh you poor thing don’t worry you can live free for the next 10 or so years while i go run around working 2 jobs that i #%$^%ing hate to put a roof over your head.The list goes on blah blah blah i’ve heard it all just excuses yet if the landlord went to the bank with such drivel would they consider it?And how about going to a shop and asking for a Hamburger because you were dying of hunger with one of those excuses!Oh you poor thing just wait i’ll sweat my ass off over this hot stove to make you 2 burgers so you dont die of hunger!
    Yes that’s how these tenants from hell see the World,they think everything the landlord has just fell from the sky!
    Ahhh its good to be a landlord you get to live a life of stress,scratching for every penny,working your ass off for the tenant to put a roof over their head while they go on overseas trips have the latest gadgets and drive nice cars.
    And still no matter how good or generous the landlord is for these types of characters you can never be good enough,believe me i’ve tried!
    I’ve scratched to survive,worked my ass off in jobs i hated,never had time to go on trips and no not all landlords are on 6 or 7 figure salaries some have scratched and scratched to put a roof over other peoples head yet the landlord according to them is the bad guy.
    Done it all!Driven long distances only to play hide and seek like Sandy then playing the waiting game till midnight oh how fun it was!
    All in all at the end of life who really has lived?

    One last word i have the utmost respect for honest people and honest tenants and i would go out of my way to help them in anyway possible so no disrespect to tenants as i was a tenant at one stage as well.

    • Ray,

      I had to read and rescue you from the spam folder. Some people believe anything that a tenant tells you. I got rid of this tenant at a cost of over $5,000. Her “terminal” cancer is nowhere to be seen. She’s still around and puffing along on cigarettes although now, she is someone else’s problem. She did inspire me to create mytenantfromhell.com though. So, there is something positive in this story. I get to help others share their experiences with tenants like her, so that we all learn from our experiences.

      I’m happy that I was able to get rid of her and the cost was a loss in one year’s rental profits. Was it worth it? Absolutely! No more hide-and-seek. My new tenant pays on time and never calls with stories. The management company literally does nothing but go to the mailbox and get the check and send me the balance after their fees.

      It’s okay, though. I learned that I’m too nice to deal with problem tenants.

  24. Hi Sandy,

    Gosh, what a terrible tenant! So far, I’m happy to say I have not come across a bad tenant yet. Being that I own several rentals I’m sure I’m bound to have one sooner or later. Hopefully the steps I take to screen bad ones help reduce the risk of running into one of these bad tenants! I see you had no choice since they came with the property. Glad you got rid of them :)

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