5 Unbelievable Worst-case Scenario Rental Stories

Written on May 13, 2016 by , updated on May 1, 2018

Worst-case scenarioIf 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

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

Drug Bust

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

Bad Credit

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.

Related: The Landlord’s Guide to Tenant Screening

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!


5. The Suicide House

cleaning walls

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?

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.

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18 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Dave Miller

    My worst story was getting a call from the police, politely asking for my help with a sting operation at one of my townhome units…. apparently those nice young boys I rented to were selling A LOT of drugs from the unit! Or course I complied, and then I spent a lot of time apologizing to the neighbors after all the arrests. (On a side note, I got to keep the security deposit to help fix the smashed in front door!) :)

  • Lucas Hall

    Oh man! What ever happened to the cat???

  • Brian Goulstone

    Working self storage management for +12 years, I have seen A LOT. The most shocking is when you discover tenants using their self storage units for … let’s say “other” uses. I was amazed when I found someone sleeping in a storage unit. Now, this isn’t that uncommon, but this particular unit was only 4′ x 4′ !!! I thought sleeping accommodations that tight existed only in space-strapped Tokyo!

    • Jimmy Moncrief

      Brian – that’s crazy I didn’t think about self-storage – I have seen some pretty crazy stories on the news about what goes on in some self-storage places!!!!!

  • Jason Tubbs

    Well I’m first time land lord I hopefully do my closing on my first property at the end of the month, well any ways I have a left over tennant in their wright now and she has till the end of the week and she ows quite a bit of rent wright now like 2125 what should I do if shes not out by the end of the weekend ?

  • Jon A. Marchant

    When I was new to the property management business, about 30 years ago, I took over a property from another manager who was retiring. She told me that the tenants had been in place about three years, always paid the rent and never asked for any repairs because they were in construction. I drove out to look at the place, out in the woods about 1/2 hour from the nearest “town” (one restaurant, one bar and one store). The tenants had apparently moved out, along with the carpet, the windows, the sinks and toilets, the cabinets and countertops and even the copper plumbing. I guess when they said they were in construction they meant they were constructing a new house using the rental property instead of the building supply store.

    • Maggie

      But they were still paying the rent???

      • Jon A. Marchant

        I guess they weren’t done, there was a pile of materials in the driveway that they hadn’t picked up. Maybe they were going to start on the siding and framing next.

  • Baxter

    1800Junk comes out and fills 3(!) trucks full of her stuff. Apartment smells strongly enough to sense the odor in a neighboring unit. I’m having to seal the concrete floors to get rid of pet urine smell. Had to trash all appliances.

    Oh yeah. exterminator was grossed out by how bad the bugs were. I filled up a shop vac with dead roaches after we hauled her stuff off. She was also stealing power from the local utility.

    She is studying to be a CNA and currently works in the restaurant business.

  • Candace Shoener

    Here’s a bonus tenant…I have one now that moved her boyfriend in about a week after she moved in, lied about it for 3 months (I don’t allow move ins). Her rent is never on time, she has yet to pay her rent for Oct. Her excuse is that she has to get a loan from a finance company to pay her rent! Her rent is only $500 a month. Neither she or her boyfriend work, she has a 12 year old and a newborn that’s only about 2 weeks old. What a fantastic role model she is…teaching her daughter it’s okay to lie, not pay your bills and not work for anything. I’m filing the eviction as soon as the magistrate opens on Monday. This is why you don’t rent to friends of friends right here!


    NEVER rent to SMOKERS or other tobacco-drug addicts. You will then have a MUCH better class of tenants!

    • Angel

      Well now hold on. I’m a smoker and I use to be a renter..I’m now an owner
      Tobacco doesn’t make a person less respectful. I’ve smoked for years and the last house we rented was smoke free so I smoked outside it wasn’t hard. Actually all the places I’ve loved were smoke free and I smoked outside and my butts didn’t go to the ground…so I’m not sure what your issues were but not all smokers are low class
      That’s like saying all landlords are unreasonable assholes who are lazy and never fix anything ever

  • Lila Van Horn

    My renter said he would live in my little house until he died. Though the yard was full, I thought I would have to redo totally when he moved out so I may as well collect rent until then. Wrong. Two months to clean & clear they yard. Thermostat on 45 so pipes froze regularly but he was liable for repairs from freezing, so he just lived with it. Result: a new floor (standing water) in utility room. every faucet ruined, washer hook-up totally gone, toilet tank to bowl & tank to wall with silicone caulk & a sponge! Holes drilled from inside to outside for an extension cord. Still finding surprises. Lesson: check on condition even when renter refuses entry

  • LM Kenerd

    Currently in a triplex in which a the neighbor I share the concrete foundation with is manipulating the floor with sound. Apparently sub woofers using low frequencies from prerecorded tracks can induce certain effects into the floor. He has something so powerful over on his side it feels like the floor is full of energy, ie sound. I can barely hear it on my side but boy can I feel it. It’s literally so much infra sound the water going down the toilet or sink sound like fx special effects. If they get a feel for what part of the house, only three rooms, I’m in they can play something that makes it sound like electricity going through the floor and the room starts slightly gyrating any weight that rests on top of it. It’s intentional torture

  • Tamara Wilhite

    We did due diligence with tenants, running background checks and referrals.
    A polite middle-aged couple moved into a four bedroom rental house. Our mistake was allowing the brother of the husband to move in later due to a sob story without thorough checks.
    The brother had surgery and was unable to pay bills for weeks. Then he refused to pay. He started to get into violent confrontations with the husband and wife over this. My husband received calls from neighbors about the cops being at the rental, repeatedly.
    We sent a written notice for the brother to vacate the property. The brother moved out. The couple later moved out due to inability to pay the rent, before it was necessary to evict for nonpayment.
    Lesson: Move-ins get vetted to.

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