This guide was last updated 8 November 2022
Everyone’s got a story about a nightmare landlord – the landlord who refused to return a deposit or didn’t fix something they should have.
You can see how tenants would feel more like victims when the landlord/tenant relationship breaks down since they’re the ones paying the rent. But there are also some very hairy situations that can make a landlord’s life difficult at the hands of terrible tenants! For those of you currently renting out a property, or considering a buy-to-let property investment, read on for some real nightmare stories from landlords. But we’re not sharing these to scare you, rather, to teach you how to avoid these terrible situations, or at least to make sure they are as inexpensive and stress-free as possible!
“Tenants lived upstairs for 3 months, didn’t pay the third month’s rent, called in (as me) to cut off my utilities, reported me to Children’s Division for child abuse… moved out leaving 18 bags of garbage & reported me to the fire department for the garbage hazard.” – nachoqueen
Sometimes things get out of hand and – assuming a stern/polite (delete as appropriate) warning about them breaching the conditions of tenancy doesn’t work – then you might not have any choice but to evict them. If this is what you decide (and if you are within your legal right), it’s best to do it as soon as possible to minimise the damage to the property. One long-struggling landlord – whose tenant poured concrete down their drain – even suggests that you pay a little money towards their move in exchange for letting you supervise them leaving the property.
“One time a woman… 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. 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.” – Jimmy Moncrief
That poor cat. Sadly, tenants treating their pets with disregard isn’t uncommon. The Daily Mail reported on a tenant who, despite the ‘no pets’ clause in her tenancy contract, was arrested for inhumane treatment of roughly 50 cats, four sick dogs, and a squirrel. Sadly, the RSPCA even had to put some of the pets down. The property, expectedly, was worse for wear when they left, leaving the landlord with damages far beyond that of the security deposit.
Make your rules on pet ownership in the house clear, or perhaps even include a no pets clause in the contract. Most pet owners are very responsible, but it’s worth making clear to any prospective tenants the limit you’re willing to accept. You might also want to check in every so often to make sure that the tenants are actually capable of looking after pets, and that the animals aren’t being neglected.
“An older couple decided to quit paying their rent, but they had pretty good excuses so I didn’t evict them until after three months of not paying. Finally went down to the court house [sic] to file an unlawful detainer on them. [In court,] the female, who was usually dressed nicely with fake nails and an expensive weave, showed up looking like an old hag. The guy was using a walker (eye roll – [he] didn’t need one). They claimed I was a slum lord and never fixed anything, but I had receipts from every repair including a new AC unit.” – MClovechild
The lesson here has, conveniently, been included in the story: keep evidence of all the work you’ve been doing on the house for your tenants. This isn’t just for your taxes, but for circumstances like the above example. It’s also worth checking the house and taking pictures to log the condition of the furniture and utilities before the tenant moves in, just in case. Don’t be afraid to investigate your tenants’ references too; many landlords have ended up needing to carry out repairs and to do some serious cleaning when they were duped by tenants that ‘seemed like nice people’. In the example above, the tenants told the landlord they worked for Coca-Cola, but it turned out they were selling cocaine out of the property!
Of course, what all these problems have in common is the availability of a safety net that can be a lifesaver in times of woe. Protecting your home with contents insurance is a must for landlords. Sometimes the damage done to the property is extremely difficult to fix; imagine the work that must have been needed to rectify the situation where a tenant poured concrete down a plughole. It involved taking out entire sections of the property and was an expensive process. Essentially, when you become a landlord you have two choices: a) get insurance to be prepared, or b) save some money on insurance but be ready to sell the property at a reduced rate if you can’t afford to pay for repairs. There are different types of home insurance available for homeowners and landlords. Make sure you have the right kind to protect yourself.
Reading this article might have given you the impression that there is too much risk involved in entrusting your property to tenants, but you needn’t fear. These stories are merely extreme examples to highlight the importance of thoroughly vetting tenants and being prepared for the worst. As a landlord, it’s always best to be prepared in order to make the best out of a bad situation. But here’s to your next tenants being the ideal occupants!
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