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Landlord’s Nightmare? Tenants From Hell!

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?

The Tenants

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?)

Subletting

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.

Smoking

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.

Damages/Trash

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.

Cops’ “Visits”

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!

Drastic Measures

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.

Tenants from hell fixed!
Ready to be rented again!

Total: $5,700!

Plus one month she owed and two additional months of lost rent while the work was being done.

Tenants from hell fixed!

 

 

 

 

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.

Wrapping Up

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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42 thoughts on “Landlord’s Nightmare? Tenants From Hell!

    1. I agree but it’s good to diversify:) My return on investment is much higher with my rentals than my stocks. So far the headache is worth it but as I get older, I am not as patient. Cheers.

  1. it appears a lease agreement isn’t worth the paper it is printed on in ontario. if i were a landlord i would be in jail right now from dealing with tenants like that. dirtballs like that depend on you not wanting to further deal with me when they skate. i’m glad for you they’re gone.

    1. Good point Freddy. Lots of small landlords don’t know all the rules and their tenants are not quite as savvy so they get away with a lot more:) Ignorance is blessed!

  2. What a nightmare! My parents and sibling have similar stories, as they’ve sold old properties in rent-to-own type situations which typically means you end up a landlord. In one, the buyer/renter had let their kids put thousands of stickers on the walls and my poor, dear stepmom had to scrape them all off before they could paint and relist it. My husband and I hope to buy rental properties someday, but know it can be quite a headache if you don’t find the right renters. I think you have the right idea about calling several landlords as the one who’s not currently in the process of eviction will probably be more honest! And doing a drive by to check out their current place if it’s a house or dropping something off before the lease is signed would be wise as well. Thanks for another great post and for always keeping it real!

    1. Thank you for the kind words:)
      Yes finding the right tenants is definitely key. I avoided a bad one last year by wanting to call the last 3 landlords! The potential tenant told me it wasn’t possible because one of them had died and the other one moved overseas! That was a major red flag, I ended the meeting. He was really upset with me and at that point I could tell I avoided major problems.
      Buying rentals as a team (you and your husband) should make it much easier, I deal with all of it alone and it’s not always easy or fun.

  3. I can sympathize. My first tenant was perfect. Second was pretty good. Third was from Hell. Forth is OK. It is tough to get them out, and such a great feeling when they are gone.

  4. Oh wow, that’s a tenant any property owner does not want to deal with. I remember my parents renting out our first home and had a couple that was always having problems with the home and suspected that they created the issues. They also were late in their rent payments and when they moved out, they left the house in a huge mess. My mom tried to call them to see why they did that but got no response. I don’t know why I’m really not into being a property owner but hearing stories like that kind of discourages to getting into it. If I do, I probably will get a property manager.

    1. Hi Kris, I have had lots of good tenants too:) It’s the 80/20 rule, 20 % of them take 80% of your time…or your stress!
      It has been a good way to increase my net worth so I would still recommend it and there is nothing wrong with a property manager.
      I, too, tried to talk to my tenant after she moved, but it’s like talking to aliens!

  5. This reminds me of Kat’s Tenant from Hell story.

    This sounds awful. I don’t think I could deal with that! That’s so rude the guy just took your rod. And that she subletted even when the lease agreement specifically said no subletting.

    My MIL is having some problems with her rental property now DESPITE having a property manager.

    1. Hi GYM, I guess having a property manager does not fix everything, but at least you wouldn’t get the calls in the middle of the night or have to do the inspections yourself.

  6. That is a lot of damage, trouble and stress! I’m glad they ended up leaving on their own as evicting them would have been scary.

    We had a similar situation with our very first tenants, however not as extreme or expensive. We learned a lot through that and like you pushed through and continued with the rental. Since then we had great tenants, we are a lot more careful when selecting and fully agree with “Losing a few months of rent is worth it if you don’t find the RIGHT tenants. “.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. We do learn a lot from past experience. So far, my new tenants (in two units) have been good. I was a lot pickier when screening the tenants. I also put more money into the unit so I could attract better tenants. Glad to know it has worked out for you too:)

  7. Sorry to hear about your experience, Caroline! At least it sounds like you learned a lot from the experience. I have a friend that is a new landlord and I shared this with him because I think your tips will help. I will probably never be a landlord because I would prefer not to deal with the stress. On the tenant side, I am very fortunate to have an amazing landlord. I try to be as problem free as possible because I’m grateful for the place to stay. I always send rent without being asked and we seem to have a good relationship. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You totally should get into the rental business! You are at the right age, I wish I started way earlier:)
      You could get a duplex or triplex and have your tenants pay for your mortgage. Imagine the money you could save if you didn’t have to pay rent!
      Lol, this is the speech I give my kids but they are not interested whatsoever!
      You should get your friend to check my post: To be a landlord or not to be? It has a lot of good info. Cheers

  8. That is truly aweful. I am sorry to you went through this but I’m Glad you are through it also. We all learn from painful experiences the most. I learnt to be extremely careful with my rental properties (I have five at present) and have recently written down what I typically base my tenant screening and selection on – https://financial-gladiator.com/2018/08/22/how-to-select-the-best-tenant-for-your-rental-property/. Even though I only started two years ago, my family has had their own rental properties for decades. To answer your questions I do manage everything myself, mostly remotely via trusted handymen as I am almost 100% international traveling – it’s probably no more than 30min a month. So for me this is as passive as it gets; I would spend a lot more time watching indices if I was in the stock market I reckon (have done that before!). I don’t raise rents unless a tenant moves out, so many times my tenants stay for a second year and longer. Most of the time my tenants get a better offer from me below market price just so I can ensure they move into my place and don’t choose another. I have my parents in this same city so they could help but I haven’t taken them up on the offer since there was no real need so far. I think the biggest difference I do compared to other landlords is choose tenants very slowly and select tenants who can afford buying the place tomorrow if they wanted to. There are plenty of hard working, honest people out there that for one or the other reason do not want to own a place (I used to be like that myself).

    1. Hi Financial Gladiator, I will make sure to check your link. There is always something to learn and the screening is critical:)
      If you check my monthly reports, I report the amount of time I spend on my rentals and it is usually low but it can easily climb up if something happens, like my frozen pipe at Christmas.
      Finding a good handyman is hard sometimes, I try to have a few ready. Sounds like you have things well organized if you can manage five properties from overseas. I would probably have a property manager at that point.
      Thanks for sharing:)

  9. Oh gosh, I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve been really lucky with tenants. They paid rent on time and rarely call me. I manage our properties myself. We’re looking to consolidate, though. Life is getting too busy and we don’t want to be a landlord anymore.
    Alternatively, I’ll get a property manager. I hope you found a better tenant now.

    1. Hi Joe, I did find much better tenants. Actually sometimes I worry because I don’t often hear from them! A little paranoid I guess:)
      I am following your journey on this to see if you end up selling or getting a property manager. Cheers

  10. Omg that is so fu*ked up of people to do that. They knew exactly what they were doing. Ugh so horrible that the laws are so silly. You are sooooooo brave to deal with that. My rental experience was a little less crazy but homeownership isn’t for me nor landlordin’. Makes my anxiety shoot up like crazy. How’s the new tenant screening coming?

    At least they didn’t stay for a decade. Would have wrecked the place and then still have no money for the lawsuit. Horrible!! Sorry to hear Caroline!

    1. It is totally messed up! I don’t know how people can have so little respect for others.
      As you put it, at least they didn’t stay for a decade! Thank God:) So I consider myself lucky.
      I was thinking of maybe trying Airbnb, you need to publish a few new posts on your experience with it.

  11. Hi Caroline, yeah, it’s tough being a landlord. Some tenants could really cause a lot of damage to the house. I can’t understand their mentality. A friend of mine used to be a landlord, and I saw the challenges he was facing regularly. It looks you handled very well. It requires quite a lot of patience. Hopefully your current tenants are much better.

  12. Yikes!! This is one reason I’m a little apprehensive about eventually becoming a landlord. I want to eventually rent out the house we are in now but it can be tough.

    1. Hi Mary, just do your homework and take your time when screening the tenants. There are a lot of good people renting out there, you should need to find them:) Thanks for dropping by.

  13. I had average experiences with Property Managers in Australia before as a tenant then – I don’t think they inspected my rental home once in a decade living there, even though that was meant to be part of the job insuring the owner (and what he paid for). They just don’t care as much as an owner does even if something needs to be fixed, it’s not always the cheapest or best way that can be chosen. For that reason I make sure to make remote management work and to network with my Contractors, Builders, friendly agents, Developers regularly when I’m in town. Amongst them I can find help in case of a maintenance issue straight away plus. I save 10-20% of my net actual return not employing a Property Agent. More importantly I save another 30% by living low cost in nice places around the world a few months at a time.

    I did see your month reports and love the pay by hour line you use to summaries the month 😉 if you have a bad tenant it can erode you return in no time, so good screening habits are essential.

    Looking forward to your future posts! All the best!

  14. That sounds like the worst possible tenants ever. Mucho respect for keeping yourself safe & sane during this ordeal. It amazes me how much protection form the law these people have…

    1. Who said I stayed sane?? Just ask my kids!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Mr. Robot, I hope you didn’t feel like you had to (re: your post!) but much appreciated either way.

  15. Wow. That’s incredible. I’m sorry you had to go through that nightmare. It is always interesting how the laws are so in favor of the tenant. I understand landlords have abused the system in the past, thus, the rules need to be created. But this was not one of those scenarios. The system was clearly being gamed. Luckily, the tenant is out and you can move on to the next one!

    Bert

    1. Hi Bert, at least I was lucky and they moved out! Not every landlord is that lucky and some of them have to deal with a lot more damages. Thanks for stopping by:)

  16. wow Caroline

    sounds like they ran you through the gauntlet.
    Crazy how some “losers” are actually so smart and know the system inside and out but choose not to apply their skills to live a better life.

    Also insane how the tenant act leaves nothing to be done in situtations like this.

    I want to eventually get a rental so i appreciate the tips, sorry it happened to you.

    Hope the updated unit brings in a higher rent for you and a better tenant.

    cheers

  17. Yikes! Sounds like a rough experience. When we get into rental properties we’ll likely get a property manager to avoid these situations. I know there are more good tenants than bad but it’s probably worth paying that 8% for peace of mind.

    1. Hi Financial Pilgrimage:) My only concern is that they still need to keep you in the loop if something goes wrong, except they charge you for it! I will need to read up on it, I have heard mixed reviews:) Cheers and thanks for stopping by.

    2. Hi Financial Pilgrimage:) Thanks for stopping by.
      Some days I think it is probably worth it, others not so much. Once I can’t handle any of it anymore, it will be time to hire a GOOD property manager!

    1. Hi Money Beagle. They do have a lot of rights but , as a small time landlord, I am also too nice sometimes! If you tackle issues right away with the right forms, you can get things done much faster. Still a long process!

  18. How about owning a few small studios and rent them out? Do you thinks that would be cost effective? Studios or lofts are inexpensive, but can bring a nice cashflow. They are also easy to fix and repaint since it’s only a one room place.

  19. I can totally relate. Although mine was a 4 unit property and I probably had at least 1 apt vacant and 2 tenants delinquent at all times. I was a naive knucklehead at the time and would totally use the strategies you suggested to vet applicants…if I ever get the nerve to invest in a rental property again.

    Hopefully, it’s smooth sailing for you going forward.

    My Landlord horror story was also featured on Rockstar Finance. I like how the curators highlight the negative side from time to time. If interested. https://www.thefiway.com/dark-side-rental-properties-landlord-story/

    1. Wow congrats on your feature on Rockstar Finance! I only got a noteworthy:)
      I always expect something will happen with one of my units at any given time but hopefully no issues because of poor tenant screening! Cheers

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