Landlord’s Nightmare? Tenants From Hell! It can happen to any of us and when it does you can hear all the naysayers: “I told you so”! They may not own rentals but they know somebody who knows somebody who did! As a new landlord you worry about such things and dread the time it may happen to you. And as a potential landlord it may keep you from “jumping in”.
If you read my monthly income reports, you know I love my rental income. But being a landlord is NOT passive income and it does come with on-going headaches.
And then once in a while you may get the TENANTS FROM HELL! I did!
Related post: To Be A Landlord Or Not To Be?
Back in October 2015, I rented one of my townhouses to a single mom with two teenagers. She was working full-time. Her credit check, current landlord’s reference and employer all checked out.
Fast forward to February 2017, less than a year and a half later, she moved out with one month rent owing and $5,700 in damages. And I was ecstatic! Why?
Because they were the tenants from hell and I had found no way to legally evict them! It is really hard to get rid of bad tenants. They usually know the rules better than the Board itself and they know how far they can go. You file a form thinking you are on your way to freedom but they rectify the situation just in time and then it starts all over again!
Maybe if I had been tougher it would have stopped earlier but who knows what else they would have done to my property!
So What Went Wrong?
I knew I was in trouble the day after she moved in. We had scheduled to meet in the morning so I could drop off a curtain rod I had not installed on time. I showed up at the scheduled time and a very rough looking man (I know you should never judge a book by its cover but this guy was really tough/rough-looking) answered the door, like if he was living there (I smell trouble), told me my tenant was still in bed and took the rod! How rude!
It Just Went Downhill From There
ALWAYS Late On Rent.
She was sick, her kids were sick, her mother had cancer, her grandmother needed her help, she lost her job…the excuses were endless. Rent was always late, it started with a few days and ended with a few months but she would make partial payments at regular interval!
You can file the N4 – Notice to End a Tenancy Early for Non-payment of Rent and I did! But as long as she paid any partial amount within the notice period, I had to start all over again. Unfortunately, without it, there is no pressure for them to pay.
More Tenants Than Listed In the Lease
The lease included herself and her two kids. But EVERY time I went to the house, other people were always there, the same ones. Apparently just visiting! (Do I have “sucker” written across my forehead I wondered?)
I got a call from social services asking me to confirm the address for someone I had never heard of. I called my tenant who informed me she was subletting a room! And there was nothing I could do, even if my lease specifically said not to. She did it a few more times and never informed me!
Access To The House
Anytime I wanted to go check on the house, she would always find excuses to delay the visit. I knew it was not a good sign. All I had to do was to give her 24 hour notice before entering the premises but, once again, you want to be careful, you don’t know what some people are capable of doing.
Never Returned My Calls
Whenever there was an issue and I would try to call her, she wouldn’t pick up the phone or answer her texts or emails. I don’t know if you ever had this happen to you but it is FRUSTRATING! She could go on for days, even weeks!
Sometimes I Was “Scared” To Go Into My Own House!
My tenant and her “friends” were not friendly people (rough and tough!), even the handy man working for the condominium corporation warned me not to go into the house alone! I didn’t want to feel bullied so I kept going for my inspections! And every time I made an inspection report and followed up. (I was wasting my time). It was VERY stressful.
They smoked all kind of things in the house (the smell gave it away!). My lease specifically forbids smoking but you can’t evict them if they do. It makes no sense.
A Large Dog I Suspected Was Relieving Himself In The House!
She brought in a LARGE dog after a few months. The house smelled like urine every time I went there. Her lease stated “no additional animals” (I had allowed her two cats but the place is rather small for a large dog) but, in Ontario, you can’t evict your tenants if they have pets even if their lease forbids it. And you can’t ask for any kind of damage deposit! First and last month only.
Each visit there were new holes in the walls, damaged doors. She would “fix” the ones I would list on the inspection report, but new ones appeared the following inspection. She used some disability her son had to justify some of the damages. And unfortunately, as soon as any kind of disability is brought up, you could be facing discrimination claims from your tenant under the human right code if you try to do anything!
They would leave their trash all over the backyard and common areas. She would clean up when I complained and tell me the neighbours were doing it!
Complaints From The Neighbours
The neighbours would complaint consistently about noise, garbage thrown in their backyard, cigarette butts and beer cans all over the common areas. You can keep telling your tenants to clean up their act. It’s their words against the neighbours and still not enough to evict them unless you have very specific claims and proof.
I was told by the condominium corporation, there had been several “visits” from the cops at my townhouse! Great, what was I supposed to do? “Here is your eviction notice, apparently the cops were at your house so you should move out!” It’s not the kind of tenants I wanted but what was I supposed to do.
Keep in mind, if you work a full-time job and have to deal with rental issues, things get overwhelming much quicker than if you had all the time in the world!
Could I have Avoided This Nightmare?
Well sometimes you can do everything right and end up with deadbeat tenants anyway, it is a risk you have to be willing to take. Just like sometimes you can do everything right in selecting a stock but unforeseen events occur and the dividend gets slashed or the stock plummets.
But I did learn a few lessons:
#1 – Call the last TWO landlords
The one thing I didn’t do before but I ALWAYS do now: Call, at least, the TWO previous landlords. I only called the one she was currently renting from, but obviously he wanted her out so gave me a good reference!
#2 – Meeting Tenants At Their Current House.
I should have met her at her previous house to see how clean or not it was, even briefly. Now, I come up with reasons to meet potential tenants at their house, like dropping off a document.
#3 – Be Patient!
Losing a few months of rent is worth it if you don’t find the RIGHT tenants. I probably rushed without realizing it because I wanted the house rented ASAP. It would have cost me less to wait another couple of months.
#4 – In Person Follow-Up
I should have followed up in person more often and brought someone along with me. Ideally someone much bigger than I am!. Going alone was a stupid move and not safe!
When she told me she was moving out, I was in the process of filing the form N12 – Notice to End your Tenancy Because the Landlord, a Purchaser or a Family Member Requires the Rental Unit to get her out, by pretending that my daughter needed the house. Under the Landlord act, it was my only viable solution. I was DESPERATE. I didn’t expect my daughter to physically move in but I was willing to have the house empty for a while just to get rid of them!
What Type of Damages Did I Have To Deal With When They Left?
Lots of holes in the walls in the entire house, bags and bags of garbage were left behind including 4 tires and a backyard FULL of junk, dog poop and actual garbage (When the snow melts it is disgusting!). I had to replace most closet doors, two regular doors, locks that were broken, removed the carpet and the padding (soaked in dog urine) on the main floor and replaced it with laminate flooring. Had to get the upstairs’ carpet professionally steam cleaned twice. I also had to purchase new screens (gone missing) but managed to get the condo corp to replace one of the damaged windows. The backyard was trashed so had to fix the lawn and the patio area. In addition to regular paint maintenance between tenants! They also trashed the mailbox, took the curtain rods, the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, damaged the floor vents and several knobs.
Plus one month she owed and two additional months of lost rent while the work was being done.
I threatened to sue her but she has no money and I worried about what her and her friends could do to me or my property so I dropped it.
The entire ordeal was emotionally draining! And since then dealing with all my other tenants has not been the same.
Don’t forget the emotional impact on dealing with tenants if you plan to be a small time landlord like me, I think it is the toughest part.
Property Manager Option
Consider hiring a property manager if you want to get into rentals but don’t want the headaches. I think they charge between 5 and 8% of rental income, but they deal directly with your tenants, good or bad.
It is my plan B, before giving up on rental properties.
Stick To The Plan
I didn’t get where I am today by giving up as soon as things get tough. My original plan was to keep the condos until I turn 55 (at least). So unless I start losing money or some drastic changes happen in my life, I will do my best to stick to my plan.
If you were looking for another excuse never to jump into the rental property business, this may be your post! But, even after this bad experience, I am still in it and believe it is one of the best way to increase my net worth. I just wish I started in my 20’s. And hey, it could have been worse!!!
Related post: What I Wish I knew In My Early 20’s
How about you? Any landlord’s horror story to share? Have you considered rental properties but heard too many horror stories? If you have rentals, do you manage your properties or do you have a property manager? What % do they charge and what services are included?
If you are or plan to become a landlord in Ontario , here is a link to the Landlord and Tenant Board , it includes all the forms you may need.
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- Check my Monthly Money reports to get an update on my rental income and find out what I have to deal with as a landlord.