Bad Tenants

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We've been thinking of renting our current home rather than selling in this down market while we rent in some of the places we're thinking of retiring to. Unfortunately, movies like "Pacific Heights" where a bad tenant who knows all the tricks of staying in a place without paying rent, haunt us.
Yesterday I saw a 'People's Court' episode where a deadbeat had managed to stay, rent-free, in a Section 8 rental for three years by using a loophole that says a tenant can't be evicted from Section 8 housing if there are code violations. Every time he was about to get evicted, he just broke something to forestall the eviction process, eventually plugging all the sinks with rags and flooding the place.
How can you drive a bad tenant out from a rental in such situations? How do you prevent them from completely trashing the place on their way out? I know that tenants should be checked out thoroughly beforehand, but even so, people can have no record of evil behavior but still turn evil. While I'd probably NOT rent to any Section 8 tenants, I could easily see someone losing their job or some other such tragedy and so decide they wanted to live in my house rent-free for as long as they could get away with it.
I'll entertain all solutions, even extra-legal ones (as long as I can implement them without getting caught!).
-- Bobby G.
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Credit checks cost a little money but can help eliminate bad apples. Actually talking to the previous landlord is important also. They may be reluctant to say anything bad about tenants but you mignt learn something. It is better to leave the place empty for a month or two rather than just grabbing money from the first person who comes along. Beware of people who talk too much or tell you lots of stuff that has nothing to do with your problem. They are often blowing smoke as a distraction.
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wrote:

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Credit checks cost a little money but can help eliminate bad apples. Actually talking to the previous landlord is important also. They may be reluctant to say anything bad about tenants but you mignt learn something. It is better to leave the place empty for a month or two rather than just grabbing money from the first person who comes along. Beware of people who talk too much or tell you lots of stuff that has nothing to do with your problem. They are often blowing smoke as a distraction.
============================================== Good advice. Credit checks will be a must, but that just weeds out the already bad people, not the ones that are "ripening" on the vine. (-:
So true about distraction. We're thinking of finding someone competent to do their own minor maintenance in exchange for a break on the rent, although there are plenty of good reasons not to do that . . .
-- Bobby G.
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Right, the biggest reason to NOT ALLOW a tenant to do "minor maintenance" is because you are allowing that person to decide what gets maintained and how it will be repaired...
Might get stuff fixed, but you will often find that the work might not be up to your standards... Too much liability with rentals if substandard work is done and causes a problem later on to not have fully licensed and insured trades workers doing repairs so you are making sure to CYA...
~~ Evan
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On 2/1/2011 9:14 AM, Robert Green wrote:

Might help to talk to the sheriff, or whomever does evictions...may know some loopholes, history. Check the local codes for rentals. Get a good application that requires job and housing history and take a personal look at where they have lived. Gotta be careful of stuff that implies discrimination, as that can include family size or ages of kids. Lease sometimes can limit number of people who reside, as can some building codes. If you have a network of friends or church members, they might steer reliable applicants. Attorney advice? Advertised as being worthwhile, but I am a doubter :o) Just doing a google search on a name sometimes turns up news of arrests or suits.
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That's a good idea, although I wonder in this day and age if asking the sheriff any questions doesn't get you into some damn terrorist database! We are in a college town and have very strict limits on the number of unrelated family members living together as well as many other things. One very bad thing is that code violations are charged to the property and I can get stuck with some pretty hefty fees if I don't get timely notices.
I've started talking to a neighbor who's rented out her house on occasion and she's been burned repeatedly by renters who know how to use the strict rules as a club. Her advice is very much like yours - learn all the shall nots, will nots and can nots and make sure you account for them in the lease.
The ways she got burned pretty much parallel all of the tricks I've seen pulled on the various TV court (arbitration, really) shows. Today there was another one. A Section 8 renter claimed that broken windows, punched doors and dirty carpets were "like that" when she got the place. That state (NJ, IIRC) had strict time and format limits (and fines) for landlords who withheld damage deposits. Fortunately, although neither side had meaningful photos, the landlord had a Section 8 property pre-rental inspection report that found those items to be new (she had receipts for new carpeting) so the judge threw the deadbeat tenant out.
Well, forewarned is forearmed. Lots of research to do. Maybe even spend a day at the courthouse when they are hearing evictions. That could scare me straight into leaving the house vacant while we tour the retirement areas of the country. We really want to be in a natural disaster free zone, having had a lifetime's share of hurricanes, floods and most recently, tornadoes and earthquakes. At some point, rebuilding your life from scratch loses its novelty value. )-" With all these drastic changes in the weather, it's hard to say where the best places to live are anymore.
-- Bobby G.
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Don't know where you will find an area free of natural disasters...if there is one, then man-made disasters probably make up for what nature missed :o) My neighborhood in Florida was largely retirees, of course. When the old folks die off, they tend to be replaced by rather useless children...kids who live off parents tend to jump into inherited property, as opposed to kids who have their own stable life. I guessed that 80% of my neighbors had alcohol and/or drug problems. Numerous trust-fund babies. I have no problem with folks having wealth, but there is a definite group of utterly worthless people who have always lived off their parents and have never made their own way...so, a fancy address doesn't mean they haven't had multiple DUI's (lawyered-up, thanks to mommy and daddy), drug use/selling, etc. Prescription drug use was epidemic, and I believe the county had two or three hundred deaths last year from rx drug od's. I wouldn't buy property anywhere in Florida nowadays. There are still plenty of snow-birds who own condos that are rarely used or are rented short-time...condos with non-resident owners are hell-holes because managing is "not my job".
I moved back to Indiana, and there are some great buys...have looked at a couple of old homes with really great bones that need to be updated. Also lots of small, starter homes. All foreclosures or HUD owned. Just had news of another local layoff of 200 or more people from one of the larger employers, so things aren't fixed yet.
I think employment and housing ref's would be very important, and then trust you gut. I'm thinking if one advertises a rental that it must include that requirement to help avoid discrimination nonsense.
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For the reasons you fear, I had decided a few years ago against buying some rental property. From my experience, with other people's rental properties, you have two ends of the spectrum. You have low end sec 8 low lifes trashing your property, or you have high end legally savvy dirt bags living in the place rent free while you spend piles of money on lawyers trying to evict them. I think that in a lot of the more "liberal" states, the laws are designed to protect the offender and few to protect the evil, greedy landlord, so my best advice would be to find tenants via friends in the real estate business who are willing to "illegally" screen them for you.

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You raise a good point. On the daily court shows, there seems to be exactly the two ends of the spectrum you describe. There's also a third class - the honest beef about what wear and tear is worth. I've yet to see a landlord and tenant agree on that. The worst ones are those that know they can do a hell of a lot of damage that they can never be held accountable for. I want to try hard to eliminate them from the candidate pool and failing that, have some sort of way to feed 100,000 bees into the heating system by remote control and force them out! From what I see, it's pretty painful to have to pay the mortgage for a bunch of deadbeats who are destroying the property while they game the system. Leads a lot of landlords to engage in illegal self-help. There has to be some sort of legal "self-help" that works.
What if the place becomes condemned and the local government then is in the role of forcing them out? It just seems so bizarre that so many people seem to be able to get away with freeloading. Apparently a foreclosure notice of any kind seems to be a "rent no longer required" notice to some tenants, even if it was placed there in error.
-- Bobby G.
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On 2/1/2011 9:14 AM, Robert Green wrote:

Don't know about Section 8. Here, you go by the time written in the contract which can be as little as 3 days. You hand deliver and mail a Pay or Quit Notice and then you file on them. They have their day in court and that is it.
I'm a new landlord, but I have observed others. My thinking is not to serve the rock bottom of the market. Have a high enough rent to drive the bottom end away.
I'm also putting in these:
http://cgi.ebay.com/Dakota-Alert-DVR-01-IR-Motion-Detector-Video-Camera-NEW-/110586366626?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19bf760aa2
Given the opportunity deadbeats will milk the system.
How do

My property manager decked one of my tenants who was drunk and got in his face. The tenant threatened to call the police and my guy said: Call them, we will both go to jail, but I will get out. That ended that!
I find being a landlord very entertaining, if you don't, don't do it!
Jeff

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Yes, that's the point - deny them the opportunity.

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I was thinking of something remote controlled, like a kill switch for the furnace or something similar. Something that would make staying in the home, not paying rent unpalatable. Would it make sense to keep the utilities in our name and pass them through so that we could cut them off, or does cutting off a deadbeat's electricity boomerang back on the landlord?

It's not really what I would call entertainment but I guess it's at least interesting. It's not for the faint-hearted or the ill-prepared, that's for sure.
-- Bobby G.
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Umm, no... That is not how any of that works...
I also would not ever install any sort of remotely accessible video surveillance equipment in a single unit rental property as that can be considered wiretapping and trust me, you never want to be accused of that...
Also, if you cut off the heating to your tenant to try and entice them to leave, you WILL LOSE the battle in court and pay at the very least a fine... That is a code violation, a unit without heating is not habitable...
You can not remove water, power or heat from a rental unit... Those facilities are required by law for a structure to be used for human habitation as its primary non-emergency purpose...
It would NOT make sense for you to keep the utilities in your name, as you can not cut any of them off to try and entice your unwelcome tenants to leave... You can however call the cable company and internet service providers and withdraw your authorization for those companies to use the facilities provided at your property and order those services disconnected...
Anything that effects the habitability of the unit will come back on you ESPECIALLY if you willfully undertook those actions in an effort to harass a tenant -- that would be seen as retaliation or retribution...
With ideas like this you are better off cutting your losses and selling for what you can get and not worrying about what is going on at your rental far far away from where you are... Absentee landlords are often frowned upon and caught unaware of issues which effect the rentability of their property because they are not local enough to check in on it frequently...
~~ Evan
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<Umm, no... That is not how any of that works...>
Hey, we're just brainstorming here. While the prospect of a freeloading tenant destroying the house bit by bit while forestalling eviction isn't thrilling, I doubt I'll be implementing anything that can "blow back" on me. There have been a number of good suggestions that I had not thought about, so I'll concede that it's not the way any of this is "supposed" to work, but life in these United States seems to be more a question of "what can I get away with?" than it used to be. If there's something I can do to lessen the chance of being screwed without screwing myself in the process, I'll look into it. I believe it's foolish, however, to get stuck in a situation where a deadbeat not only doesn't pay the rent, but destroys my property in an effort to forestall an eviction.
<I also would not ever install any sort of remotely accessible video surveillance equipment in a single unit rental property as that can be considered wiretapping and trust me, you never want to be accused of that...>
Well, there are lots of things you never want to get caught at, and if I were to install some sort of remote property protection, I would make sure it was completely legal, and if I couldn't arrange that, then completely undetectable. Hmm, I could see where leaving a copper phone line active could have its advantages, though. Most modern alarm consoles have "listen in" capabilities and it would take a battle of expert witnesses to prove it had been hacked and used as a monitoring device by an unscrupulous tenant. Having intimate access to the property before it's rented means a great deal of ingenuity in placing illegal but useful bugs of every sort in play.
<Also, if you cut off the heating to your tenant to try and entice them to leave, you WILL LOSE the battle in court and pay at the very least a fine... That is a code violation, a unit without heating is not habitable...>
What if they have no heat because they've failed to pay the gas bill and are now running on space heaters (electric if they've still got power - kerosine if they're getting power out of the neighbor's gas tanks at night)?
<You can not remove water, power or heat from a rental unit... Those facilities are required by law for a structure to be used for human habitation as its primary non-emergency purpose...>
The power and gas companies do it all the time. Even the water company will shut off service if you don't pay. Why do they get a better deal than a landlord does, the entity with the most $ at risj from a rat tenant?
<It would NOT make sense for you to keep the utilities in your name, as you can not cut any of them off to try and entice your unwelcome tenants to leave...>
Even if they had not reimbursed me for the power? How does my insertion into the chain of payers confer fewer rights on me than on the power company? It's a bad idea, I've come to realize, because a vindictive tenant could turn on the heat full blast, open all the windows, leave the fridge door open and run hot water all day and stick me with the bill. But I really wonder what would happen if utilities were passed thru, they failed to pay me and I didn't pay the utilities - and the heat and light got cut off. Obviously it takes a while for a heatless, lightless placed to become condemned - although I wonder if a place CAN be condemned for not having power or gas?
<You can however call the cable company and internet service providers and withdraw your authorization for those companies to use the facilities provided at your property and order those services disconnected...>
Apparently that's why the deadbeats in the local Section 8 rental make the evening run to the video rental place now. Cutting fun time might move some out, but you can't cut wireless, and that segment is growing.
<Anything that effects the habitability of the unit will come back on you ESPECIALLY if you willfully undertook those actions in an effort to harass a tenant -- that would be seen as retaliation or retribution..>
I would work very hard so that anything I did do wouldn't be seen at all. At least not seen as being connected to me. It's a fine line to tread. I think it was Carleton Sheets that suggested the best way to fet them out is to buy them out. Figure out how much they COULD cost you and offer them a percentage to be gone, gone, gone by X date.
<With ideas like this you are better off cutting your losses and selling for what you can get and not worrying about what is going on at your rental far far away from where you are... Absentee landlords are often frowned upon and caught unaware of issues which effect the rentability of their property because they are not local enough to check in on it frequently...>
That might be what ends up happening. We might choose to just rent out the basement, as our neighbors who travel a bit have done, and limit our exposure (and provide us a place to stay if we come back for any reason). I guess a little more investigation into the subject is in order. In the meantime, some riot or natural disaster will probably scratch another potential retirement location off our ever-shrinking list.
Thanks for your input, Evan.
-- Bobby G.
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The difference there is called consent... The persons paying for alarm monitoring service which allows an agent of the central monitoring station to speak to them through the installed alarm equipment grants consent for that to occur in the monitoring agreement -- said agreement doesn't allow for the landlord or any one else to tap into said equipment to listen to or intercept the authorized and consented to communications or using the installed facilities to perform any sort of snooping as the consent for the monitoring station to use that communication channel is only granted during an alarm event per the agreement... Discovery of the any of the taps would be sufficient prima facie evidence that you tapped into the system, no expert witnesses needed... Just the testimony from the alarm installer that such devices were not installed when the system was commissioned and the tenant stating that you are the only other entity with unrestricted access to the premises... Civil court is by persuasiveness of the evidence and inferring an explanation which would favor your side of the case, not by proving anything beyond a reasonable doubt, just by providing more evidence than the other side which is determined reliable by the jury (or judge if a bench trial)...

In that case if they are also in non-payment mode on your rent, the fact that they failed to pay their own gas bill is demonstrative of a pattern of conduct of non-payment of bills... That would be a check mark in your win column as far as evidence goes...

Because the power company and the water company are not in the business of renting properties... They just distribute their service to the community until a customer is in delinquency...
You can not collect rent on a unit which is no longer provided with such utilities because of some action you took...

It is because you as the landlord are taking on the burden of supplying the utility service and then creating a bill for your tenant each month for that out of pocket cost... You can not knowingly lease a residential unit which does not have access to those utilities, so the moment YOU have those utilities disconnected because your tenant fails to reimburse you for them, YOU are no longer entitled to rent because you no longer have a legally rentable unit due to an action you willfully took...
If the tenant is a deadbeat and fails to pay the utility bills in their own name and those services get disconnected by the utility, then that is independent evidence from a disinterested 3rd party to the rental contract dispute at issue in the eviction proceedings and definitely evidence of a pattern of conduct of non-payment of their financial commitments...
~~ Evan
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wrote:
<stuff snipped>

I believe that it's the preponderance of evidence, as in "more likely than not" whereas criminal court requires guilt to be established beyond reasonable doubt. In any event, it's moot. We've decided renting is not worth the hassle in our jurisdiction because the deck is stacked against landlords in a number of ways. We're going to arrange for a house-sitter instead. Thanks for all your input. Most enlightening.
-- Bobby G.
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wrote:

With hot sauce!
This thread has convinced me that renting houses is for a certain type of person whom I don't resemble in the least. I don't cope with "agita" very well, particularly from deadbeats trying to play me.
-- Bobby G.
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How about if utilities are in landlord's name and the lease specifies that utilities are responsibility of the landlord?
Oops, the furnace had a transformer burn out about a week into January, and the replacement one has a "lead time" of 2 weeks or a month.
Preferably, the lease specifies that the tenant is not allowed to perform modifications and repairs to items regulated by building or housing-unit-rental codes. (my words).
Furthermore, I have seen leases requiring that tenant must not use a heat source other than landlord-provided heating system for home heating.
My experience in delivery jobs suggests to me that problem tenants disproportionately tend to have a problem with indoor temperature lower than 70's F.
--
- Don Klipstein ( snipped-for-privacy@misty.com)

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wrote:

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off,
It seems half the hard work of becoming a landlord is finding an air-tight lease that covers every contingency without being so long and onerous that no one would sign it. Fortunately, modern youngun's are used to signing thirty page legalese-infested contracts without reading them, so maybe I'll slide by. (-:

That sounds like an excellent clause considering the sources of ignition my Dad used to find when he was doing forensic engineering work. We literate types don't realize that people without even a HS education don't know about a lot of the things we take for granted. Every year we have several fatal house fires and CO poisonings from just those "other" heat sources you note should be banned by contract. The problem, as I see it, is how does a remote (or even local) landlord know that the tenant has stopped paying his gas bill and is running kerosene heaters or even trash fires in a oil drum?

A very interesting observation.
-- Bobby G.
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Or shut off the gas and call the gas company and tell them you smelled gas. They won't turn it back on until they thoroughly check the premises, and at that time, you have access as owner, and will probably have to sign off on the work order. Most public service employees are required to report any presence of drugs, illegal firearms, child abuse, child neglect, mostly anything out of the ordinary that you can have them arrested for, and you, as property owner would have probable cause to report such observances during said inspection for the source of the gas leak.
Steve
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On 2/2/2011 11:25 PM, Steve B wrote:

Me and my buddy GB repair AC units for this nice lady who owns a few rental houses. When she has a tenant who is chronically late or fails to pay rent, she pulls and takes the AC unit disconnect plug from the box with her. It's funny how the heating and cooling quit working when an HVAC package unit loses power when the insert is out of the safety disconnect. :-)
TDD
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