Bad Tenants

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<I owned and rented a 2 apartment home in the GTA. The basement tenants complained of water dripping from the ceiling in the livingroom area. This was a constant issue for him - not a one off. Upon investigation the east indian family renting upstairs had a tarp on the floor, 2 swimming pools filled which contained rice patties. As well in one of the bedrooms there was what I can only consider to be a commercial deep fryer - no vent / ceiling driipping with grease. This rental agreement indicated 3 people (wife, husband and kid). In one bedroom there was a 3 three teir x 2 of hammocks. Soon after that I got out of the rental business.>
Is that Greater Toronto or Greater Tehran (two names suggested by Google!)? Wait, I see CA in your email addy so it must be Toronto.
Seriously, though, when I first moved here there were 17 people in a similar house across the road. My house had been inhabited by a family with 11 kids (and ONE bathroom). We have strict limits on the number of occupants in the local housing because it's a college town. The landlord across the way said the toilet bowl kept coming loose from the floor because the tenants, from a third world country, would stand on the rim and squat when they used the toilet. Different cultural norms, I guess.
When I was in college, I worked for the defunct Washington Star as a police reporter. I'd follow cops around with my scanner and camera. I got to see plenty of very low end living situations. I've seen bathtubs used as toilets, zoos with animal feces everywhere, needles, pools of vomit, dead animals, shrines of all sorts, collections of anything you can think of, refrigerators full of dead animals, newspapers stacked to the ceiling. One hoarder that was on the news recently required 7 trucks to carry away the possessions she had acquired over 20 years in one small house.
Yes, renting your house is not for the faint of heart and it seems obvious now that inspections, whether monthly or more, are a necessary "smart move" to prevent the place from turning into a slice of Southeast Asia or worse.
Thanks for your input!
-- Bobby G.
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Yes, but they should be shooting themselves in the foot if the utility company itself shut off the gas and power. Then the house might be condemnable and the authorities would be responsible for getting them out. That's something I'll need to find out from the local authorities. What happens if the tenants "go dark?" (or dork, for that matter!)

I suppose that's true. It's a job that might call for being more of a hardass than I can be. I was once a renter and temporarily in some bad financial straits. I tend to be too sympathetic to sob stories.

Yes, it certainly might be good to start with a management company for the first year to see what the potential problems are and to learn the rental ropes.
-- Bobby G.
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On 2/2/2011 4:11 PM, Robert Green wrote:

Good luck with that. Put it in your lease that they have to maintain utilities.
Generally tenants that are short on money will put you off and try to pay the utilities instead. If they don't have money for utilities they will be hard to get out as they are out of options. Some excel at house jumping.

You don't have to be a hard ass. But the longer you let something slide, the more trouble you will have. Don't get played. I've seen this happen over and over. That doesn't mean you won't have trouble, just don't make it easy or unavoidable.

Get the best people in you can. Do that by making a nice place to live.
Jeff

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wrote:

Yep, that seems to be the way to go for a number of reasons.

I suspect that would put me at risk for paying for all the mink stoles, flat screen TVs and bling the tenant would claim were stolen as a result of my doorectomy. Now if I cleverly planted a solenoid that would cause the door frame to fall free by remote control revealing carefully faked termite damage I could claim they had to leave while the house was being bombed. Nah - too much trouble. (-:
-- Bobby G.
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Robert:
Here is a question that you will probably not be able to answer:
What jurisdiction was that case you saw on People's Court from?
Different laws apply in different states -- People's Court takes cases from ALL over the place...
Now to address your specific concerns within the law:
Nothing REQUIRES you to accept Section 8 housing vouchers, if it concerns you so much don't accept that as a form of rental payment and then the situation you saw on that TV show won't apply to you...
You should have your home thoroughly inspected by the local AHJ for any violations prior to ever even inviting potential tenants over to view the place...
Address any deficiencies listed on the inspector's report... Then have a re-inspection done where you are given a clean bill of health which you would keep on file in the event of any future disputes... (it isn't a bad idea to have the rental unit reinspected by the AHJ between every new tenancy...)
Then you will document EVERYTHING about the house by taking pictures with a camera that uses film... Make sure that the camera prints the date in the exposure... These pictures will be used if there is a dispute between you and your first tenant about the condition of things at a later date... (You will need to do this before every new tenancy and be sure to keep the pictures and negatives in case you need to use them later on in a dispute...)
Periodic inspections during the tenancy will alert you to damages being done by the tenant which can either be addressed at once if a code compliance issue, or you could confront the tenant at the end of one lease year about the damages... At any rate, never extend a lease from one year to the next without bringing in an independent inspection firm to go through a house you are renting and getting a report from them on the condition of the home... Effect any repairs that are necessities -- again have it reinspected so that you have a piece of paper created by a 3rd party which states your home is in good condition...
Now damages done to your property by people who checked out through your background and credit check process can be addressed by having a thoroughly and well thought out lease contract which is reviewed by a licensed lawyer in your state prior to ever putting a tenant's name on it... Then it is a very good idea to have the lease signed in the presence of a notary public rather than having "witnesses" sign... A notary records the identification information in their log book of every person whose signature they officiate -- that is a non-interested 3rd party record which could be subpoenaed in the event of a later dispute...
The terms of your lease should describe the premises being rented, the amenities offered, the responsibilities of the tenants and any rules they must follow (this should include complying with the minimum cleanliness standards that your local health department requires as well as not storing extra disabled cars on your property, etc...) and the process which must be followed by the tenant to report some sort of malfunction or failure of some aspect of the rental unit which would impact its habitability...
You must learn and follow the eviction procedures for your jurisdiction... Having the lawyer who consults on the legality and specific verbiage of your lease contract can instruct you on that process... It begins with an official demand letter which is served upon your tenant by a constable who will certify that it was delivered and return a sworn statement to that effect stating that the tenant is x-number of days delinquent in payment of rent... It is important to initiate this action no later than 15 days after non-payment of rent and to keep sending new notices for every month the tenant is in non-payment since after you have your tenant served with a "notice to quit" (the precursor to an eviction process) it can take three to six months depending on how busy your local housing courts are to file an eviction proceeding against your tenant and obtain a judgment against them which can be enforced by the constable/sheriff who can physically remove the tenant and the tenant's possessions from your property after the court grants an eviction...
All of this sort of stuff costs money, but you need to protect yourself and your property... Cases in civil court are won or lost by evidence (documentation) and the better your evidence (from disinterested 3rd parties) the more persuasive it can be... DO NOT EVER RELY on your word against the tenants -- that hardly ever works out in totality for one side or the other...
If you feel you do not possess the skills to be a landlord, find a property management company who will act in your place on this issue and grant them a power of attorney to act on your behalf (especially if you are going to be moving far enough away so that you can not report to the property in a period of a few hours to approve expensive emergency repairs and then inspect them as they are being completed or just after they were completed) as many things must be done and that 3rd party (property manager) needs to be able to enter into contracts and order services on your behalf in order to properly operate your rental unit...
It all boils down to CYA and knowing what your legal responsibilities are as a landlord under the law in your area... If you are not sure as to either of those things don't rent any property until you have learned what you need to do... Otherwise it will bite you on your ass later on HARD and you could be out a lot of money or end up with a useless damaged rental unit which requires very expensive repairs in order to be in a rentable condition...
~~ Evan
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wrote:

Robert:
<Here is a question that you will probably not be able to answer:
What jurisdiction was that case you saw on People's Court from?>
Actually, they always mention the location because, as you note, the laws concerning rentals vary wildly from state to state and city to city. This, IIRC, was in NJ.
<Different laws apply in different states -- People's Court takes cases from ALL over the place...>
Agreed.
<Now to address your specific concerns within the law: Nothing REQUIRES you to accept Section 8 housing vouchers, if it concerns you so much don't accept that as a form of rental payment and then the situation you saw on that TV show won't apply to you...>
Are you sure about that? I thought you could get charged with housing discrimination if you refuse a Section 8 rental.
<You should have your home thoroughly inspected by the local AHJ for any violations prior to ever even inviting potential tenants over to view the place...>
An excellent idea. This last case was decided in favor of the landlord BECAUSE the Section 8 law requires a pre-rental inspection by their inspectors. Those records indicated the windows were not broken and the rug was brand new and contradicted the lying tenant's assertions otherwise. An independent 3rd party inspection carried great weight with the judge. I assume it does with most judges/arbitrators.
<Address any deficiencies listed on the inspector's report... Then have a re-inspection done where you are given a clean bill of health which you would keep on file in the event of any future disputes... (it isn't a bad idea to have the rental unit reinspected by the AHJ between every new tenancy...)>
I've always relied on pictures and video to prove the condition of things I rented or borrowed. It seems like your method is a much greater guarantee of "acceptance" by a judge in landlord/tenant court. Good idea!
<Then you will document EVERYTHING about the house by taking pictures with a camera that uses film... Make sure that the camera prints the date in the exposure... These pictures will be used if there is a dispute between you and your first tenant about the condition of things at a later date... (You will need to do this before every new tenancy and be sure to keep the pictures and negatives in case you need to use them later on in a dispute...)>
I've always done this - with expensive rental tools, when I rented a POD storage unit (now outlawed by the local government!), etc. Cuts down on the "he said/she said" sort of disputes. On the People's Court case that started this ball rolling, the tenant had a few worthless pictures, but it was clear she had also adjusted the date between shots, documenting things that couldn't have happened on those dates. The judge managed to catch it, though. I wonder how many other judges would have.
<Periodic inspections during the tenancy will alert you to damages being done by the tenant which can either be addressed at once if a code compliance issue, or you could confront the tenant at the end of one lease year about the damages... At any rate, never extend a lease from one year to the next without bringing in an independent inspection firm to go through a house you are renting and getting a report from them on the condition of the home... Effect any repairs that are necessities -- again have it reinspected so that you have a piece of paper created by a 3rd party which states your home is in good condition...>
I think that's excellent advice, Evan. Thanks.
<Now damages done to your property by people who checked out through your background and credit check process can be addressed by having a thoroughly and well thought out lease contract which is reviewed by a licensed lawyer in your state prior to ever putting a tenant's name on it... Then it is a very good idea to have the lease signed in the presence of a notary public rather than having "witnesses" sign... A notary records the identification information in their log book of every person whose signature they officiate -- that is a non-interested 3rd party record which could be subpoenaed in the event of a later dispute...>
It's amazing the number of low-lifes who claim "I never signed that!" Another good idea.
<The terms of your lease should describe the premises being rented, the amenities offered, the responsibilities of the tenants and any rules they must follow (this should include complying with the minimum cleanliness standards that your local health department requires as well as not storing extra disabled cars on your property, etc...) and the process which must be followed by the tenant to report some sort of malfunction or failure of some aspect of the rental unit which would impact its habitability...>
Yes, finding the best lease might take a while. It's also why I might be tempted to go with a management company for the first year.
<You must learn and follow the eviction procedures for your jurisdiction... Having the lawyer who consults on the legality and specific verbiage of your lease contract can instruct you on that process... It begins with an official demand letter which is served upon your tenant by a constable who will certify that it was delivered and return a sworn statement to that effect stating that the tenant is x-number of days delinquent in payment of rent... It is important to initiate this action no later than 15 days after non-payment of rent and to keep sending new notices for every month the tenant is in non-payment since after you have your tenant served with a "notice to quit" (the precursor to an eviction process) it can take three to six months depending on how busy your local housing courts are to file an eviction proceeding against your tenant and obtain a judgment against them which can be enforced by the constable/sheriff who can physically remove the tenant and the tenant's possessions from your property after the court grants an eviction...>
Gack. The six months part I definitely DO NOT LIKE. I'll have to check in with the local housing folks to see how long it takes to get an average eviction and if they have any words of wisdom for me about protecting my rights.
<All of this sort of stuff costs money, but you need to protect yourself and your property... Cases in civil court are won or lost by evidence (documentation) and the better your evidence (from disinterested 3rd parties) the more persuasive it can be... DO NOT EVER RELY on your word against the tenants -- that hardly ever works out in totality for one side or the other...>
I did computer support for a big DC law firm for 10 years and my dad did forensic investigation work, If there's anything I know, it's how to make a civil case. Everything you've suggested is right on the mark!
<If you feel you do not possess the skills to be a landlord, find a property management company who will act in your place on this issue and grant them a power of attorney to act on your behalf (especially if you are going to be moving far enough away so that you can not report to the property in a period of a few hours to approve expensive emergency repairs and then inspect them as they are being completed or just after they were completed) as many things must be done and that 3rd party (property manager) needs to be able to enter into contracts and order services on your behalf in order to properly operate your rental unit...>
I have a very good and knowledgeable neighbor I can depend on for doing some of that. Fortunately, with electronic cameras and the net, you can get a detailed report from half a world away within minutes. There's certainly a lot to think about before becoming a landlord.
<It all boils down to CYA and knowing what your legal responsibilities are as a landlord under the law in your area... If you are not sure as to either of those things don't rent any property until you have learned what you need to do... Otherwise it will bite you on your ass later on HARD and you could be out a lot of money or end up with a useless damaged rental unit which requires very expensive repairs in order to be in a rentable condition...>
Something I profoundly wish to avoid!
Thanks for all your input on this subject. It has been very educational.
-- Bobby G.
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wrote:

Yes, that's an interesting way to do things. But I worry that the incentive to not destroy the property would disappear if the tenants discover you're selling it to someone else. From what little I know of such situations, "rent to buy" tenants always believe they've built up equity, even if they haven't been able to bring their FICO score up enough to qualify for a mortgage or save enough to cover down payments and closing costs.
-- Bobby G.
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There's not really a hell of a lot you can do, and it depends on the locality, so you may be better or worse.
If a person even has one piece of mail addressed to them at an address, they have proof of legal tenancy even if they are not on the lease. It then becomes a legal matter, and that process is lengthy and costly. I own vacation rentals, and the laws are a little better, but not too much. What I did with one was to pull the AC breaker, claiming it was inoperative and that I didn't have the money to pay to have it fixed, and they left without trashing the place. We get $1,000 deposit, so have a little leverage. A house has to be habitable, and that is the responsibility of the owner, but who knows how long repairs take. It is purely a civil matter, so the police won't do anything. And if they take you to court because there isn't any water or heat, you can counter that they aren't paying rent so you have the money to fix it. And if they aren't paying rent, what are you going to lose? If the house is nice, in a nice neighborhood, or close to business or conventions or other attractions, you may want to consider it as a vacation rental. You get a month's mortgage or more for a week's stay. Contact me if you need further information.
Steve
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Florida...great for college kids to gang up and drink for a week. It was violation of local code, but was not enforced. Great way to piss off the neighbors.
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So, were they there on business, or for a convention?
Duh.
Steve
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We're in a college town, one that's made the national news several times because of the drunken riots kids through after winning a big game. The landlord next to us got desperate and rented to kids who ended up having a kegger and lighting a huge bonfire under a dried out tree that caught on fire requiring 4 firetrucks and 6 police cars to respond at 2AM. That's what I would like to avoid!
-- Bobby G.
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Our agreement is iron clad legally. If there is any illegal activity, we can tell them to leave. Consult an attorney in your area, and try to have it classified under the innkeeper statutes. One of the things that qualifies it as an inn is that regular maid service is provided.
We also ask how many guests will be sleeping overnight, and adjust the price for the additional cleanup and laundry. If we go over and there is an obvious party going on, we put the brakes on it, or just keep it within reason. We have had guests that have thrown parties for all sorts of things with a lot of people there. You just have to use your discretion, and it is easy to see the difference between 30 people there for a reunion and 30 people there drinking and puking all over the place. You can easily read people. And you can easily count how many people are staying overnight. And if there's a question, you just throw the breaker and go in and see. Remember, though, they have to ask you in.
If it is important enough to call the police or fire department, we need to talk about things.
HTH, but check things in YOUR area. Then tapdance within the lines.
Steve
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On 2/2/2011 3:51 PM, Robert Green wrote:

LMAO. that HAS to be Lawrence Kansas. Drunk capitol of the world.
--
Steve Barker
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Yes, in watching these cases play out on TV, it's clear that once a tenancy has been established, even tenuously, all sorts of "protections" for the tenant come into play.

Yes, I would assume the thought of losing $1,000 makes even the most determined house trasher stop and think whether it's worth it. The AC breaker idea is an interesting one, and since it's outside the house, I wouldn't have to enter to deactivate it. I'll keep that in mind.

It's in Maryland, just outside of DC, so there's potential for vacation rentals as it's close to the Metrorail. Unfortunately, from what I've been able to tell from the County website, they are oriented toward tenant, not landlord, protection. It may turn out that the political climate is just so unfavorable to landlords that we'll either get a house sitter or leave it empty as we travel.
-- Bobby G.
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On 2/2/2011 4:48 PM, Robert Green wrote:

policies may not cover on an 'empty' (ie, longer than a 2 week vacation) house.
--
aem sends...

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On Tue, 1 Feb 2011 09:14:55 -0500, "Robert Green"

In liberal cities/states like San Francisco, NYC, Chicago you can't prevent them from trashing the place and living rent free. The answer is as simple as that. Unless you have a lot of rental units so that your "good" units can carry the "bad" ones for a couple of years, you take a bad hit. I've seen it several times.
Bottom line: stay were you are until you can sell the house.
--
Work is the curse of the drinking class.

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wrote Re Bad Tenants:

Sadly, both my wife and I are leaning toward that decision because we live in an area where the tenant gets the benefit of all doubts in court.
-- Bobby G.
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On 2/1/2011 9:14 AM, Robert Green wrote:

Sure, and you can turn on the evening entertainment and news program and see houses burned to the ground.

I would say you are overthinking this. Millions of folks rent properties without issues. Use common sense and rent to folks you can check out.

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That can buy you a boatload of new problems with the feds.
Steve
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