This post is part of the Landlord Life series. My rental is a single-family home in North Central Florida. I’ll share the mistakes I made, and the lessons I learned in each post. I personally have learned a great deal from fellow landlords and I hope to pay it forward by sharing my stories and advice.
Being a landlord is not for the faint of heart. It requires you to be sharp-minded, proactive and ready for just about anything. I’ve had my share of great tenants in my rental home but I’ve also had a few that were absolute nightmares.
This post will focus on a couple who were absolutely my worst tenants. I’ll call them Mr & Mrs. Bug-infested because that was the condition of the house, but more about that in a bit.
Mr. & Mrs. Bug-infested responded to an ad I placed for my rental home. I did a search online and found two arrests but they were from several years back. After meeting with them, I felt confident that they were the right choice. They were only my second tenant and I still had a lot to learn.
Things were okay for a while. We live right next door to the rental so we became neighbors as well. My husband got friendly with Mr. Bug-infested over the time they lived there.
Big mistake number one. This is a business, not a friendship.
For the first year, they were on a month to month agreement. I always start my tenants that way and I give them the option of a yearly lease after 12 months. Right after the 12-month mark, they asked for a yearly lease and I agreed. There had been little issues here and there, some late rent, but nothing that would make me ask them to leave. When things came up I would talk to them about it.
About six months later, things started getting weird. Mr. Bug-infested had a criminal past but had been out of trouble for a while, which is why I rented to him. Another mistake on my part. I saw signs that things weren’t right and there seemed to be a lack of respect for the neighbors on our block. Loud vehicles, street bikes, and four-wheelers started coming by more and more, later and later in the evening. Some of my neighbors even complained about it. After asking for it to stop, my temper got the best of me and I walked over there and laid into Mr. & Mrs. Bug-infested. Another huge mistake on my part. Never let it get personal. It’s business.
Related: Hostile tenants change how I do business.
Their lease was up in about six months and knew I wasn’t going to renew. About two months later they said they were leaving. It was kind of sudden which is why I thought Mr. Bug-infested was up to something shady. It was almost like they needed to leave fast.
When they moved out, they never returned the key or notified me that they had actually left so I waited 15 days, per Florida statutes to claim abandonment and take back possession of the home. I cannot stress this enough – always follow the law. If something comes back to bite you on the ass, make sure the law is on your side.
While we waited, my husband and I started cleaning up the outside because they left it a pigsty. When we could legally go inside, I was mortified. My first thought was, they let their kids live like this.
I uploaded some of the photos I took to an online album. They’re just a small sample of the 130+ photos I took that day. You can view them on Google Photos here. I also recorded my initial walkthrough. That was a smart move because in Florida we have up to four years to sue a tenant for damages.
As you can see in the photos, there was garbage, droppings and dead bugs in every room. It was disgusting and horrifying. There was old food, broken doors, holes in the walls and a horrible odor.
It took us a while to get it back to the condition it was before, but we did and it looked even better. We used the time between tenants to do some remodeling and I recorded the process. I’ll share the video in another post in this series.
Lessons learned –
Being an effective landlord has a huge learning curve. Some lessons you learn from other landlords and I certainly have learned a lot from various websites and groups. I’ll do a post about the ones I’ve found especially helpful.
Other lessons are learned the hard way. By actually dealing with people who have no respect for themselves, let alone anyone or anything else.
These are two lessons I have learned.
1. Don’t allow a friendship to form.
Be polite and courteous but there’s a line and it shouldn’t be crossed. When boundary lines are blurred, all sorts of miscommunication and assumptions are made and for a landlord, this can be dangerous territory.
2. Pre-screen, do background checks and vet tenants more thoroughly.
I always fall for the sob story. I want to see the good in people and believe that they’re coming from a truthful, genuine place. Unfortunately, this is not the case with everyone. I now do a pre-screening before showing the property. This involves a few questions to weed out unqualified tenants. I ask if they smoke, have animals, have ever been evicted and have ever been convicted of a crime. Their combined answers help me decide to move forward or not.
A lesson that I should have learned was to be consistent with my inspections. If I had it would have eliminated a lot of these headaches. But no, it took another crappy tenant to make me learn that lesson, and you’ll meet Mr. & Mrs. Grease-pit in another post.
I hope you enjoyed the first post in the Landlord Life series. In the next post, I’ll share the video of the remodeling we did.