If you’ve been a landlord for over 10 years, like I have, you probably have your share of tenant horror stories.
As disturbing as they are, like rubbernecking to see an accident on the road, everybody likes to hear about how someone’s life is worse than theirs. Somehow, it’s relatable and makes whatever drama we’re going through seem not as bad.
The good news is that all the stories you’re about to read can be avoided if you implement some basic best practices. A good place to start is by reading all The Landlord Guides, which are free to download.
It’s worth mentioning that for every bad tenant, there are just as many bad landlords. Hopefully, since you’re reading articles on Landlordology, you’re not part of that group. The rental relationship is best nurtured with respect and fairness.
Tenants and Landlords need each other.
With that said, it doesn’t always work out. Please enjoy some of the worst stories from my experiences as a landlord.
5 Actual Worst-case Scenarios
1. Bong Store
We kept a steady stream of young restaurant servers and rock climbers at my first multifamily property. It always stayed rented, and my business partner and I thought that after a couple of years, it would be a good idea to do a cash-out refinance to free up some equity so we could buy more properties.
To do that with a bank, you must order an appraisal. My partner and I both had full-time jobs, and we couldn’t meet the appraiser over there.
My wife met the appraiser, but she had never seen the inside of the property before … and she was surprised.
One of the tenants had over 100 bongs (otherwise known as water pipes used to smoke marijuana) within the unit. Was this a fire hazard? Is something illegal going on?
As you might imagine, the appraisal didn’t come back favorably. It didn’t show much equity in the property, and therefore I was denied the refinance.
Despite the bad news, it was definitely the funniest appraisal I have ever ordered.
2. Property on the News
I, like a lot of millennials, don’t watch the news much. However, I was on Facebook one morning, and a friend had posted a link to a local news story about the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) all busting through an apartment.
This was major news in this very nice neighborhood.
I wondered what street this was on…uh oh!
You guessed it: this was one of my tenants!
We fired that property manager.
3. 480 Credit Score, Immediate Move-in
The first triplex I bought required substantial renovations. We ended up closing around mid-September. A series of construction delays held us up from renting until the week of Thanksgiving.
This is extremely bad (as I found out the hard way) because essentially nobody moves from Thanksgiving to the end of the year.
We thought this would be a home-run investment. But we were wrong. We were running out of cash. We were the owners of a triplex with no revenue coming in for the past four months. To make matters worse, we had also spent a lot of money on construction.
We did find one potential tenant the last week of December.
She said didn’t like her current landlord because of some unsafe conditions, and she wanted to move out immediately. Here is a summary of her data:
- She had no money for a deposit.
- She did have a job.
- Her credit score was a terrible 480.
- She had no references, and even her mom wouldn’t cosign on the lease.
Who would rent to this person? Me!
…even her mom wouldn’t cosign on the lease
She had enough money for the first month’s rent, so I gladly handed over the keys.
This tenant lasted six months. The problem was that she paid rent for only four of those months. Looking back, I’m kind of impressed we got that much rent from her. But we never got the deposit she promised.
4. The Crazy Cat Lady
There is a very healthy debate among landlords on whether you should let animals in your property. I mainly rent out “B” units, so I don’t mind pets. I usually ask for a nonrefundable pet deposit and a higher rent rate.
One time a woman was relocating to Chattanooga and paid a deposit and first month’s rent before seeing the place. Everything was going great for about seven months, but then we stopped hearing from her. She had stopped paying rent.
I found out that she had relocated to Atlanta and had simply abandoned everything in her unit. She told us we could have everything … including her cat.
Wait a minute. How long had her cat been in this unit?
This cat had been in the unit for months, but we found it still alive! The place, however, smelled beyond disgusting. To make matters worse, we had just paid to install carpet before she moved in.
We have now switched to hardwoods, and we don’t rent to cat owners anymore!
- The Definitive Guide To Renting To Tenants With Pets
- How to Handle Abandoned Pets at Your Rental Property
- Pet Deposits, Pet Fees and Pet Rent — What’s the Difference
5. The Suicide House
I was about to buy my first two duplexes when I was casually talking to the seller about the tenants.
He asked me if I knew how to clean blood off the walls?
Me: Um, no.
Him: Well you should. Everybody who has ever lived in this one unit has committed suicide.
Me: Um, how many people have lived here?
Him: Well, I’ve owned the property for about 10 years, so I would say at least eight people.
Me: Um, I don’t think I’m going to buy these properties after all.
That’s just really weird. Sometimes, weird situations arise, and you just have to trust your gut. Remember, A good deal during a bad time is a bad deal.
Share your Story
I know that many people have better stories than I do! Let me know in the comments below.