This article was written by Rachelle: a real estate guru who works as a property manager and helps investors find rental properties in Toronto and surrounding areas. She has recently started a very interesting blog called Landlord Rescue. You can subscribe to the RSS feed here.
I asked Rachelle to write a “tenant from hell” story and she came through in spades. Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed it and perhaps I can entice her to write more.
I’ve been a property manager for more years than I like to count. I like the real estate business and I know there’s money to be made. There’s a whole lot of talk about how investors can make a fortune in real estate. People will sell you books and tapes and courses about how to get really rich in real estate and how easy it is.
Here’s the inside scoop from a person who actually deals with the dark side of real estate investing – tenants, the evictions and damages. I’m the lady who deals with the fallout from the “experts” and saves the landlord’s ass when they can’t deal with it one more second. I feel really bad for landlords who have been lied to, cheated and taken advantage of by everyone from investing networks, real estate agents and finally, their horrible tenant.
So here’s a story…
The Stripper with Dirty Feet
Once upon a time, I was a baby property manager. I was hired by a company to manage and fill vacancies for an investment portfolio of about 50 triplexes and fourplexes with the stated purpose of renting them out and then selling them. The couple who owned all these houses were in the process of divorcing and splitting up assets, which I can assure you, lead to an interesting, but tense office environment.
The previous property manager was kept on for a month to “help” me and “train” me. His actions lead to educational situations; however, I never did get to meet him. I received the inevitable “bucket o’ keys” and a rent roll with some names and addresses and went on my way to make money for the owner.
Unsuspecting and naïve, I excitedly went to examine my brand new assignment. I had to take stock and inspect every apartment that was vacant. My mission was to rent those empty apartments pronto! I was full of vim and vigor and ready to prove myself.
It was a dark and stormy night as I checked my rent roll, grabbed my bucket o’ keys and headed down to Sorauren Avenue. The rent roll said EVICTED and I wanted to check the apartment and see what was required. So I get to the house, find the door to the basement apartment and start trying keys from the bucket to open the door. I was working on my 20th key or so when the door opened!
My feeble fumblings had not opened the door, a tenant had! Oh goody, my very first tenant.
I introduced myself “Hi, you scared the hell out of me. This piece of paper here says EVICTED, so I came to look at the apartment to see what it was like. I’m your new property manager.” He replies “ I’m not sure what you’re talking about, we’ve never been evicted! I’m really glad you’re here since the last guy was doing a horrible job and I have some things you just have to see”.
He leads the way to the bathroom and shows me the problem. “Look” he says “when I flush the toilet it goes into the bath” He illustrates a few times and I can indeed see for myself that every time he flushed the toilet the level of the bath rose. By then the smell is threatening to overwhelm me. My virgin nostrils are begging for mercy. There’s about six inches of stuff in the bath, it’s lumpy and vile; it’s definitely not water.
We head back into the kitchen. I’m not sure what’s happened to my sinuses, but it clearly isn’t fatal yet. We sit and talk for a while about how horrible the situation is and how negligent my predecessor had been. At one point, a bleary eyed girl wanders in. She had just woken up at the crack of sundown. We all talk about how I’m going to fix the problem for a while, then the girl says she has to get ready for work. I ask her where she’s working and she tells me she works at the strip joint up the street. She says she’s putting herself through college. I nod understandingly.
I get ready to go. I have clearly assessed the problem. I’m starting to take my leave and promising some prompt decisive action. I see the girl with a handful of clothes as she heads into the bathroom. I’m still standing there when I hear the unmistakable sound of the shower starting. The impact of what I’m hearing fails to register right away. I finalize my goodbyes and take leave of that place.
As I’m heading home, several conflicting thought processes are warring for dominance. Clearly I’ve missed something. There’s no way someone would ever… Then I’m thinking about the libidinous gazers at the strip club “Something smells bad” they’ll think. I shudder, thinking about someone stepping into a bath soup so noxious and revolting. I start gagging and resolve to think only positive thoughts from now on.
The Next Day – The Office
I resolutely enter the office. I ask them what the heck kind of shop they’re running around here. My boss digs up a file on the apartment I had visited. Turns out they owe 8 months back rent and THEY HAVE NEVER REPORTED ANY PLUMBING PROBLEMS. The sheriff was there the month before and locked them out.
My level of dumbfoundedness, exceeds any stupefication I’ve previously ever been comfortable with. I’m way out of my league. Now, I have to figure out what to do. I drive back to the rental apartment and find that there is indeed a broken window.
I talk to the guy at the apartment and tell him that he is evicted, he’s lying and I have the rental file and the sheriff’s notice to prove it. I’m getting mean already and it’s only my second day on the job. I’m angry because I got taken for a ride. I tell him I’m coming back with the cops. I call the cops, full of righteous anger. They’ve got murders to solve, they tell me. I call my contractor, he agrees to come, brings another lock and some plywood for the windows. In the meantime the man and the woman are taking whatever they can carry in a few dilapidated suitcases.
The contractor covers all the windows and changes the lock on the door. We go inside and take stock of the property. Now I’m 5 feet tall, I could jump around down there, but the contractor had to walk with his neck crooked because there was no clearance for him to stand upright down there. It’s truly decrepit and it’s full of garbage bags that are full of trash. There are needles all over the floor in the bedroom. The bathroom beckons ominously, I refuse to take the bait and enter. I have to call the plumber for that one.
I look with satisfaction at my rent roll. It says EVICTED and now it’s true. I dream happily about the day it will say RENTED. Little do I know that my transformation has begun, I am no longer the callow college graduate. Some of the shiny newness has already worn off my ambition to be the best property manager I can be. Later that night I wonder where the stripper with dirty feet is living now. Did she find a place or is she out in the cold?
That’s what it’s like to be in the trenches, to deal with people so damaged and desperate, they can’t pay their rent. It’s horrible and it will change you. You will learn about thing you never wanted to know and meet people you never wanted to meet.
That’s the reality of what you will eventually have to deal with as a landlord. It’s a numbers game and one day your number will come up.
Do you have any “tenants from hell” stories? Tell us in the comments.