The sense of entitlement is enough to turn this former socialist-leaning liberal into a Rush Limbaugh right wing conservative.
*Disclaimer #1* We have several apartments/half-doubles/single family units that we rent out, and most of our tenants are great. They pay their rent on time and in full. Or if they’re going to be late they call us and give us the date when they’ll have the rent, and they actually have it for us on that date. They don’t cause problems with their neighbors. They don’t sneak in unauthorized pets or housemates. If something needs maintenance, they call us and tell us about it – they don’t save it for a month when they’re short on cash and looking for an excuse not to pay. When they move away – to buy a house, take a job in another city, or just move to a bigger/nicer/cheaper place, they give proper notice. They let us show the apartment to the potential next tenant, and leave it clean enough to show. They move out and leave the place clean and undamaged. And we’re sad to see them go.
*Disclaimer #2* The stories I am about to tell are not meant to discourage you, the real estate investor/entrepreneur, from being involved in rentals. They are merely to give you a heads up of what actually goes on when you do so. Rentals are not “passive income” – at least not in Northeast PA! And from what I hear not anywhere else. Sure, you can hire a property manager and let them deal with the headaches. But we tried that. Twice. And we still had headaches, because we were never really un-involved.
Case study: The Slip & Fall Lawsuit Tenant.
This is a new one for us. Our former property manager forwarded it to me in an e-mail today. She received a letter from a local law firm (ironically, one that we also use!) representing a former tenant who moved out at the end of May. When she moved, she saved us the trouble of kicking her out. She was chronically late with her rent, and it was always our fault. She would hoard maintenance issues by not reporting them and use them against us when rent was due. She refused to pay late fees. She snuck three little dogs into the apartment to join the one we knew about. She was the poster tenant for “give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile.” We gave her so many chances over her three year tenancy!
This tenant is claiming she sustained serious injuries in a fall down a common staircase on May 5th. The lawyer (or parlegal/typist/intern) requests that we forward the letter to our “risk management department” or to any insurance company that would provide coverage for her injuries. The letter is dated August 18th. This ex-tenant didn’t appear all that injured in June when my husband caught her in front of our building talking trash about us to a prospective tenant who was there for a showing. I know in landlord school they tell you you’re supposed to just let your insurance company write the check and get on with your life but I’m calling bullshit on this one. We’re going to let our insurance company know there is a 100% chance of fraud going on here, and they can act accordingly. I hope she looks good in orange.
Not sure what our law firm is going to do when they find out there is a conflict, but I guess we’ll find out Monday. If they take both sides of the lawsuit, they can’t lose!
Case Study: Suckling The Government Teat
There’s a tenant who’s been living in one of our units for a year now, her rent paid by HDC, a HUD program that is not the same thing as Section 8. The program paid most of her rent, leaving her responsible for just $42. When we resumed self-management in May of this year, we were shocked by the number of neighbor complaints we were getting about her. Garbage left on the tree line that was not in the special blue bags Wilkes-Barre requires for pick-up, so it would sit there and rot. Excessive noise. A dog barking incessantly. Wait, a dog? I checked her lease. There were no declared pets! And our lease states that any undeclared dog found on the premises – the pet fee of $50/month becomes retroactive to the date of move-in. And was she nasty when confronted! How dare we! We will never get our rent, and she can never be kicked off the program! Go ahead and take her to court, she said.
Well, we will. And unfortunately, she won’t be kicked off this HUD program. They will simply pay her rent to another landlord willing to take her on. The program case worker is going to try to talk sense into her. But we will be filing our eviction on September 2nd if she doesn’t turn over her portion of the rent AND the $550 in pet fees she owes for sneaking in the dog. Any landlord who does a background check will see this eviction on her record. I hope HDC has a high rise project they can move her into. Not sure she’ll be able to keep the dog there, though. But then again, she’s not one for following rules.
Case-study #3 – The Bitter End Eviction. This has happened three times this summer. We evict a tenant for non-payment of rent, and they don’t move out. We win the judgement. Ten days go by. They still don’t move. We file the papers for the constable to come and lock them out, which is another $100 and change. Ten days go by. They still do not get out. The constable has to come and tell them it’s time to go. Are they doing it out of spite? Is it because they have nowhere else to go? Or are they just frozen in deep denial? When they finally leave there is $900 worth of junk hauling left behind. Plus extensive cleaning, repainting, repairing damage. These tenants do to apartments what The Who did to hotel rooms!
A Call For Landlords’ Rights
There needs to be change here. Especially in Luzerne County. Landlords are sharing pictures with each other on social media – that's where I got the photos above. This is happening to all of us!
Now that Wilkes-Barre’s One Strike Law has been struck down, maybe we can actually get some laws written in favor of landlords? I’m starting to think that Ginger Snapped may have a new political cause.
And finally… My Landlord’s Manifesto. Bad tenants are never going to break me. They are never going to stop my burning desire to provide the type of financial life my family deserves. They aren’t going to stop me from building my empire, which includes rentals along with other streams of income. Throw an obstacle in my way and I will find a way around it, above it or through it. My husband and I have learned so much in the past eight years that we could teach a class, and Steve is actually thinking about doing that! Every experience, good or bad, we have learned from. We are getting smarter, quicker, tougher, craftier. It’s like one of those video games where you shoot the creature and it just absorbs the laser fire and grows bigger and stronger, smashing obstacles in relentless pursuit.
Be The Monster.