Landlord: A Lifelong Dream- NOT!
Being a landlord was not one of my childhood dreams. I never sought out to be a landlord. After having to move for my husband's job, and not being able to sell our home, I became a landlord out of necessity. It's one of those things that if someone had told me that I would be a landlord in the future, I wouldn't have believed them.
Thankfully, I do have common sense and made sure to have an official rental agreement with a move-in inspection that the tenant and I both signed. With that said, no matter how many things you do right as a business person, you are not guaranteed anything, especially when it comes to depending on mankind and their faults.
The first tenant was an acquaintance of mine. I've heard horror stories about renting to friends, especially when there was no signed lease agreement. In this case, they were the ideal renters. They paid on time each month. They called me or emailed me if they had a question, but it wasn't a daily or weekly thing.
However, my second and last tenant would make me wish that I'd sent gifts to my first renters when they lived there. My second renters were needy from the beginning. Knowing what I now know, if they are needy from the beginning, I would not rent to them. It will only get worse once they are in the property.
My second renters were dishonest from the beginning. They lied on the rental application about their eviction history (I found out much later). Once they were in the property, they almost immediately found something wrong where there was nothing wrong.
They said there was an electrical problem and the certified electrician found nothing wrong except for a wireless socket in the garage that needed to be replaced and a fan switch in the bedroom. Of course, they were claiming that the faulty socket was causing an electrical hazard and was causing their laptop, IPhone, and lamp to malfunction and were worried about a fire hazard. The whole idea that a wireless light socket is not related to the other electrical devices in the house seemed to be too common sense for them to wrap their heads around.
I'm not going to go into all of the complaints, but there were a couple in the 7 short months that they lived there. You'd think that with such high expectations, they would pay rent on time. But, that is not the case. In fact, there was only one month where they paid in full and on time.
When I could've evicted them at Thanksgiving and Christmas, I didn't. I showed them some grace and gave them the benefit of the doubt. Should I have? Hindsight is a terrible thing. Even knowing what the end-result was, I probably would still have made the same choice. I guess it's due to trying to see the good in people and seeing the glass as being half-full.
In the spring, they contacted us to say that the toilets were making a funny noise when they flush and asked me if there was a maintenance schedule for the septic. We had a septic company go out to check on things and they were astonished at what they saw. They had to pump out so much "stuff" that it cost us a small fortune. After contacting the water company, it turns out that they were using 17,000 gallons of water, which is almost 3 times as much as what the septic system is capable of handling. Essentially, their over-usage of water is what caused the septic system to fail.
Despite the fact that they caused this expensive repair, they refused to pay rent and sent me threatening and abusive emails blaming me. I started the eviction process immediately, and less than two months later they were evicted.
The judge ordered them to pay us for the two months they owed, but they have not paid. We could attempt to garnish wages, but that costs more money to file at the court for a garnishment. We're in the hole thousands of dollars because of these tenants. The whole time, they acted like we were rolling in the dough, and yet we're struggling to make ends meet just like them.
Of course, they had a history of evictions (I found this out much later). I can't imagine going from place to place until being evicted. It is beyond me how someone can live like that and feel good about it. The worst part is that their kids will most likely make the same choices that they've seen their parents make.
Although it was a bad situation and incredibly stressful to go through, I have to remind myself that it could have been worse. It can always be worse! They didn't trash the house or do any damages to be malicious. The house was filthy, to say the least. Both showers were obviously never cleaned the whole time they lived there. Talk about nasty and very sad to see what was once your home looking so disgusting. It was so disgusting that I didn't even want to touch anything or be in there at all. It made me sick to my stomach.
Interestingly, with my first tenants, I thought that I'd fallen into a great situation with renting our old house. I learned that being a landlord can be a great job if you have great tenants. With bad tenants, it could very well be one of the worst jobs ever. I definitely think it is much harder to be a landlord for your own home than for a property that you purchase as an investment property.
After the housing/mortgage crisis and all the foreclosures, there are many people that have become landlords out of necessity. The old terminology of slumlords is not the case with a lot of these landlords. They are just normal people trying to make ends meet.
If it hadn't been for my faith, this whole process would have been complete torture. It wasn't a walk in the park, but I cannot even imagine how difficult it would've been if I didn't have a peace from within. I'm so thankful that Christ is a part of my life and that He was walking with me and carrying me through a difficult time!
Below is a list of things that I learned from my experience. I hope that it will be helpful to others that find themselves in the same situation.
Note: The photos above are actual photos of the property after they moved out. I wish the photos could display the level of filth that I witnessed. It looked much worse that what you see in the photos!
Landlord Lessons 101
I learned many things about being a landlord. Following is a list.
- Find qualified tenants- Make sure to check the eviction history of the tenant. You can call the courthouse in the counties they previously lived to find out if they've been evicted before (I didn't know this until it was too late). You can also do searches online for background checks with eviction history.
- Rental agreement- Make sure to have a rental agreement. It is imperative. What you put in the agreement is legally binding (may depend on your state). Put everything you can think of in your lease.
- Move-in Inspection- Make sure to do a walk-thru with the tenants, including the whole property (dwelling, yard, storage areas, etc.) and note anything that you see. You might even video the inspection for extra insurance.
- List of Charges for Damages- Make sure to include in the lease a list of charges for any damages to the property. You can find samples online as a guide. Also be sure to include a stipulation in the lease about the security deposit being used to pay for any damages, late fees, late rent, etc.
- Repairs- Consider putting a section in the lease pertaining who is responsible for repairs and the cost of any repairs, especially if the repair is due to negligence on the tenant's part.
- Professionalism- Make sure to be professional in all communications with the tenant. I'm glad that I was. I thought carefully before sending an email about what I said and how I said it.