Tales From Rental Hell: Stories of Bad Tenants and How to Avoid Them

Bad Tenants

More people are renting their homes now than at any other point in history. This means that as a landlord, you’re not going to have any trouble finding tenants, however, you could always end up with bad tenants. If you’re not prepared to deal with bad tenants, you could lose money and end up with damaged property.

Here are four horror stories and what to do about them.

1. You Rented To One Person, But Someone Else Lives There

One of the most irritating situations to deal with when you’re a landlord is to have a tenant who breaks the rules. Most every standard lease requires renters to work out the details of a subleasing situation with you. If they don’t, they’re in clear violation of the terms of the rental agreement. However, in most cases, it is hard to prove a tenant is subletting if they are doing it from time to time and you are unable to visit the rental property frequently.

That’s one of the reasons that tenants break this law so often. It’s difficult for a landlord to prove that someone is subletting their place, so tenants will rent their place out and even make a profit.

With the rise of short-term rental sites like Airbnb, many tenants are even violating local statutes. However, tracking them down is like playing a game of whack-a-mole.

In some cases, your tenants could be turning your rental house or apartment into a hotel and making a huge profit. If you’re collecting rent of $1,000 per month and your tenant is managing to get $2,000 a month, they’re making money off of your investment. Not to mention potentially making your neighbors upset with ‘travelers’ coming in and out of the rental.

Some tips if this is happening to you.

  1. Contact the tenant and let them know they are breaking their lease agreement and can be evicted if this does not stop immediately.
  2. Call the local housing authority if they don’t comply.
  3. If your county and HOA allow for subletting, and you want to make some profit from subletting, you can use tools like Pillow or ApartmentJet to help manage this for you.

2. You Stopped Getting Rent or They Disappeared

It might seem like a sad joke, but it’s totally possible for your tenant to up and disappear one day. Even if you’ve vetted and interviewed multiple tenants, ran background checks, and protected yourself in every way, you could end up not getting paid.

Life happens and every once in a while we all need to uproot ourselves to get a new perspective on life or get away from our problems. Not everyone needs to do this the same way, but making a drastic shift is important to our personal growth. However, you don’t want to be the landlord who that person is renting from when they leave it all behind.

You might not realize at first when your tenant has left town. You might think they’re on vacation. They might even answer your calls and tell you they’ll be back.

You can’t just send notices to someone who has left town. They’ll never get those letters.

When someone disappears, you could be tasked with cleaning and emptying their place out.

Tips to limit the possibility or impact of a renter leaving unannounced:

  1. Run background and credit checks – Always.
  2. Have a strong lease agreement for your state.
  3. Do reference checks of past landlords
  4. Make sure you collect a security deposit.
  5. Collect rent automatically on the 1st of the month with ACH or similar pay rent software.
  6. Visit the property regularly for checkups either as a landlord or property manager.

3. It Turned Into an Illegal Business

No matter where you’re renting, your tenants might turn your property into a site for their criminal activity.

Whether it’s gambling, drugs, or even just commercial activity in a space not zoned for it, you need to find ways to deal with it. You could have your property seized by the authorities if you don’t shut down the operation. Even operating an illegal ice cream shop in your residential building might be against the law.

You might not want to have your home marked by being a place where illegal activity is taking place. If it feels safe, you can send a letter to your tenants letting them know that they must cease activity immediately. If it doesn’t you may want to call the police.

Tips to help with not having illegal activities occur within your rental:

  1. In places that allow for recreational marijuana, you can add a marijuana addendum to your rental agreement to stop renters from growing or smoking weed in your home.
  2. The lease agreement should clearly state no unlawful or illegal activities can be done on or within the property. This is cause for immediate eviction.

4. Tenants That Leave Pets Behind

Believe it or not, there are some nightmare tenants that have left cats and dogs behind. These tenants skip town never to be heard from again. While it’s an awful thing to do, it can turn out to be a good thing for the animal.

Some of the kindest and most loving pets ever rescued have come from situations like this. You should always bring the animal to a local animal shelter so they can find a loving home. This also documents the entire process so local authorities can be notified.

Bad Tenants Are A Headache

Bad tenants are terrible for business but a vast majority of the time, nothing this crazy actually happens. With a strong screening process, credit checks, and an ample deposit, you can be protected from any unforeseen problems. Most people just want a clean, secure, and functioning place to live, so provide that and you’ll have happy tenants.