Landlords' tales of nightmare tenants
Thieves, vandals, deadbeats and worse -- property owners and managers have seen them all. Such trials have driven some folks out of the rental business altogether.
Dead animals, smelly garbage and broken windows overrun the comments of hundreds of people who replied to an MSN Real Estate message board request for landlords to share stories of nightmare renters. In more than 500 postings on the site in the past couple of months, several themes keep coming back -- just like bounced rent checks, some landlords might say.
Let's start with a beef about what may have been beef.
"When I was a Realtor I was acting as a rental agent for an out-of-state owner. Imagine my delight to find the large piece of meat left in the freezer in an apartment left vacant with no electricity for six months. I actually tried to clean it up -- there is no cure known to man that I didn't try to get rid of that smell. Fortunately, the owner was understanding about buying a new fridge." -- Thetabobeta
Rotten food is just one course on a full menu of tribulations described by rental-property owners and managers. The postings have been edited but not checked for accuracy. (FYI: Tenants have a separate message board to gripe about landlords.)
Skipping out on rent
- "The absolute worst experience we ever had was two college students referred to us by my husband's uncle. They trashed the place, stopped paying rent after the first two months and were really, really difficult to evict because it was winter, and at that time the state had laws protecting tenants from being pitched out into the cold. The final insult, of course, was that when they did sneak away in the dark of night, they turned off the heat but not the water -- so we had frozen pipes to deal with on top of the garbage and filth." -- Cynical2
- "In the last year, I have had two tenants just pack and leave in the middle of the night." -- Sarab landlord
Stealing from the landlord
- "I had three rental properties. Worst case was a very rich guy, family lots of $, lots of $! He had utilities cut off, so he tapped into my property's electrical lines with an extension cord and ran four heaters off it for a month, until it burned through on the new hardwood floor. Then he stripped wallpaper and moldings and sold them at a wood-supply business. He tried to take fixtures but was surprised by another tenant, who called me. He skipped. Family is still very big $ and supports him, I have been told, but they won't pay any back rent or damage costs. I was out $3,700 for him -- the cost of his mountain bike, he told me once." -- noroom
- "I have a coin-operated laundry in one complex. The tenants try everything to get free laundry. Foreign change, metal objects, latex gloves with the quarter in the finger hole (thought that was creative). After they got tired of trying to get free laundry, they decided to just take the actual dryer! Just loaded it up, carried it off and threw it down a hill. I hope they enjoyed the 10 bucks they got out of it!" -- Norcal Landlord
- "We recently bought a new house that was a little out of our league, but being that it was four bedrooms, we figured we could rent out a room for some help with the mortgage, and so we did. We found a tenant who was single, didn't drink, didn't smoke and didn't do drugs. He had a cat but said it would stay in the room (I'm allergic). So we accepted him. Long story short, his cat ran around the house, scratched my dog and the furniture, and he did drink, and he did do drugs. The one thing he never did: pay his rent on time. Oh, yeah, and he was married. One day, his estranged wife came to town with a one-way ticket and moved in with no money and a drug problem. Lo and behold, while we were out working all day, she was snooping around the house . . . "collecting" things. First, the boat hitch was missing, and then my shoes. We logged on to our banking account one day and saw there was a check made out to cash, not in our handwriting (and "dollars" was spelled wrong), with the wife's account number and signature on the back. Needless to say, we evicted them immediately and discovered she had half my wardrobe, and I am still finding things missing!" -- Tahoe Tessy
Friends and family
- "I had let my cousin (at the request of my aunt) move in, and she sold my water heater, air-conditioning unit, all the fixtures in the house and all my children's furniture and living-room furniture I had let her use, my riding lawn mower and anything else she could remove. Then she left in the middle of the night. Now, two years later, she has no problem walking into any family gathering and acting like she does not understand why I do not speak with her." -- Amalga
- "I had close relatives (too close) living in my house. One moved out, and a girlfriend moved in. I haven't had any rent money in six months because she is in school, and if I make too much of a fuss they will all be mad at me. This is a no-win situation. I found out not to have dealings with family!!" -- Lizzy221
Letting pets run wild
- "I rented to a veterinarian who had her boyfriend move in. The two of them started collecting animals. I had agreed to an outside dog only, but now they had four horses, six dogs, and I couldn't count how many cats! They had fenced in the backyard and put the horses in the yard, right up to the back door, and had the basement full of animals and couldn't possibly clean up after them. Then she left this guy. He stayed, and the contract was only in her name. We couldn't get this guy out of our home." -- Wahoo1413
- "My boss has a rental that I got put in charge of, and I will never do that again! It was an older couple with their 20-something-year-old daughter, and they lived in filth. They had two dogs, one cat and a chicken that all lived in the house. I guess the animals didn't like to go outside, so by the time they finally moved out there were mountains of dog, cat and chicken poop in the house. We ended up having to go to court to get them out and then go to court again to get two months of rent and more of a deposit." -- Mandalou
Beyond normal wear and tear
- "We had druggies (highly recommended by family/friends in our church!) who glued pennies to the walls, stuffed Cheetos into the shutters, stapled small pieces of cardboard to the inside window facings, disassembled the outdoor flower bed and brought all the bricks inside the house, poured water into the floor furnace, causing it to rust out (we have a 1928 home in Tulsa, Okla., which was beautiful), used the drapery for cleaning rags, used wood staples to anchor a large, outdoor inflatable toy inside the living room and left their drug paraphernalia in the closet when they moved. We've spent thousands in cleaning and replacement costs." -- Taken in Tulsa
- "The worst case was a house where the renter had driven his four-wheeler into the carpeted living room and repaired it there. When they moved out, they left garbage, dirty diapers on the carpet, children's drawing in permanent marker on the wall, feces in a plugged toilet, spoiled food in the fridge and, oddly, all sorts of furniture and baby items." -- bulldog7
- "I am out of the rental-property business, thank goodness. The worst were the people who paid the first and last months' rent, then moved in and never paid another dime. After repeated calls and personal visits I had to pay $100 to the constable to get them out. After the constable told them to get out, they shattered the solid-core front door, poured paraffin down all the drains, rewired the electric wiring to short out the whole system (so the fireman told me), threw beer bottles and broke all the windows and screens out, and sold all furniture and appliances and some carpet ripped off the floor. What carpet they did not steal, they poured bleach on, and dumped battery acid on the tile flooring. They put knife holes in all the Sheetrock and left me with original spray paintings. The water had been cut off for months, and they were using 3-pound butter tubs for their toilet, which they left me with. Their dogs left presents inside the house, also." -- bothgone
- "Rented to a well-to-do couple with a 2-year-old, solid references (so we thought), and we paid a rental agency to monitor the property and collect the rent. These people paid on time. However, they had a kitchen fire due to the stove being so filthy, thousands of dollars in smoke and fire damage, completely melted the door off the microwave, wouldn't set up the sprinkler-system timers to water automatically, so the entire yard died, completely tore out shrubs and cracked the upstairs master-bath sink washing a bowling ball. They didn't have a diaper pail, so they just tossed the wet diapers (from second child born while in the home) in a corner on the carpet of the baby's room (gag), took every window covering and tore out the alarm system contacts on all the windows. My favorite one: They drove their car through the wall in the garage into the downstairs guest bathroom. All toilets in all three bathrooms had to be replaced because they were stained black. Never could figure that one out." -- Nutso
In a class of their own
- "(The tenant) left us with garbage and tons of clothes throughout the house, holes in the walls, carpets destroyed and a large potbellied pig left in the backyard that was very hungry and chased after me." -- Rhonda Landlord
- "We fell for a sob story from a prospective tenant, and we got burned. Her husband worked late hours, and she asked if she could take an application with her, (and) along with that could she take the key so they could come by when he got off work at midnight so she could show him the house. She loved the place; they were going to fill out the application and drop it off to us the next day along with a deposit to hold the property until the credit checks came in. We got a strange call from her a few days later, and on a hunch, my husband and I went by the house. Oh, yes, they were moved in all right; everything was unpacked hanging on the wall, and a cat running around. We had squatters. After the cops were called and the eviction process was started, they had the nerve to ask us if they could start over if they gave us the deposit then." -- it ain't always easy
- "I had rented to a mother and two boys (ages 3 and 7) who were supplied to me by the Department of Social Services. They were on a plan (two-year max) to help down-and-out single moms/dads get on their feet. I thought this was a good plan. Then the constant traffic started coming to the house apartment: 10 p.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. The smell from the apartment was horrible, and I eventually found out she was making and selling crack cocaine from my apartment." -- Pacific Heights
Is there a website where landlords can post tenants names who do not pay rent and have been or being evicted? We need a site like this to protect landlords from tenants who do not pay rent and or destroy property. Landlords who fail to make repairs and the tenant withholds rent get what they deserve. But for those of us who play by the rules should have a place to blacklist tenants who do not pay rent or destroy our property.
I was granted possession of my property by L/T Court for non payment of rent, had to give them more time to pay the rent, weekends and holidays don't count. When they did not pay the rent I then had to request for removal. Took almost a month for the Special Civil Court to get around to serve them with lock out date. They filed bankruptcy vacating the lock out and all back rent owed. They did not deposit with the court rent due after filing bankruptcy, now I have to petition the bankruptcy court (cost almost $1000.00) for permission to lock them out. If the court says yes, I then have to re file eviction all over again. And the law allows it. At this point I am going to have to file bankruptcy myself. Landlords everywhere should send their senator's a letter requesting these laws that protect tenants like this be changed.
Of course if you are asking for 3 times monthly rent for just the first month (and often also asking the renter to move early and pay prorated for another month PLUS the full month they have already paid at their current residence)... then OF COURSE you are going to run into some people whose funds are depleted. The thing is, sometimes if you had just been more reasonable and broken payments up move evenly over the year instead of asking for so much upfront... you wouldn't find yourself with an nonpaying tenant later on.
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The absolute worst renter ever is Mary Ellison, Jacksonville,, FL, phone 904-517-7186. Her and her husband rented from me and signed a lease for 1 year. Her husband moved out and Mary stayed. The lease was up after 1 year and Mary decided to stay on by herself. Under Florida law the terms of the lease remain the same. Mary left without notice over a weekend and the demanded her deposit back along with a $200 non refundable pet fee. There were also 2 additional dogs that she did not tell me about which created and additional $200 pet fee per pet. She does not realize the difference between a "fee" and a deposit. Per the lease there is a $1,000 charge for each additional pet, in this case and additional $2,000. She was also, per the lease, to have the carpets professionally cleaned and failed to do that, leaving some stains that are permanent. She also changed the locks, damaged plaster, was short on the rent one time and failed to have the house professionally treated for pests, namely fleas. The total due, per the terms of the lease is $4,432. I have an attorney and am in the process of filing a law suit against her. I appreciate finding out, through this site, where she now works. I have a copy of the detailed invoice and anyone that wants to see it can email me. I can truthfully say that Mary has been the biggest pain ever as a renter. I had to put with her constant calls complaining about how mean her husband was to her, how she is always broke, needs money to fix her Harley, someone stole her truck, etc. I had the utmost patience with her the entire time she rented from me, especially after her husband left. I should have listened to him, he said she would a real challenge to deal with and he was right. She is on Craigslist in Jacksonville begging for a place to live. Just do a Google search on her in Jacksonville and you will find she is all over the place. Check out Terrible Renters, she is a celebrity there.
Reading all of these horrible stories is awful, but none of them come close to what happened to us. We made the mistake, like a lot of you, and rented to a "friend" . After the first year she quit paying her rent and utilities, and when we tried to remove her she went to Legal Aid and claimed that we "gave" her the house and she "owned it in her heart". Her proof was "In her mind" she had no paper-work, and we provided a legal rental contract, and the receipts that she received for rental credit from the state of Mn. Despite this, Legal Aid put a "lis-pendens" on our house, and told her not to pay us. Their exact words were "We will drag this out until it financially destroys you" It did. We were not allowed on the property to inspect or repair, or sell what we legally owned. Legal aid even called a potential buyer we had for the house and told them to "Back off". She moved her children (ages 20,22 and 23 and a daughter's boyfriend 26) in, and then Legal Aid dragged us to court because her "children" would be homeless if we got her out. Each time we won in front a judge the Legal Aid attorney went ex parte to the judge and had it reversed by lying to the judge or he would make a token payment out of his personal account which would put us back to square one. After we were $14,000 behind in rent, Legal Aid told us that we had to sell it to the daughter's boyfriend on a CD for less than we owed on the place. They started destroying the place, sold off the central air, smashed in all the woodwork, moved in 9 cats who peed on the floor, broke all the window frames, poured cement down the drains, there was a water leak in the toilet and we were not allowed to repair it because it would be :"harassment" toward her, (the water leak got so bad when we got the house back, the toilet fell through the floor into the basement) filled the place full of trash, and since the plumbing no longer worked, used the closet as a bathroom to crap in. They also kicked in the furnace and replaced the cover, which we found out about later. The city would not become involved because it was in court. the house smelled so bad that neighbors would close their windows. At this point, we were receiving about 8-13 death threats a day, she broke into our own personal home, keyed our car and still Legal Aid hauled us into court. When we finally won, we were out $70,000,( $5000 just for clean out and drug testing alone). The final judge just shook his head. The house which was now back in our name was condemned finally by the city. What did we win? It took almost three years and now we are stuck renting a house in a crappy economy because we can not sell it. Even if we accept the $70,000 loss on the place for our repairs and court costs, we can not get our mortgage, so we are stuck. The Lawyer's Professional Board has been investigating the Legal Aid Attorney for all of his illegal activities, for almost three years, and I am sure it will be a "slap on the hand". A senator has personally called Legal Aid to complain, but they don't care .A woman from the State Commerce Dept told me she still had nightmares about what happened to us. And we are trying to pick up the pieces and survive which is hard. Any one else deal with Legal Aid? Don't bother, they are out to destroy the landlord at any cost. PS. The death threats are down to about four a year now. God help this country!