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The 3 Weirdest Questions My (Prospective) Tenants Have Ever Asked

by Paula Pant on May 28, 2014 · 23 comments

  
Tenant Questions

I’m prepared to answer normal questions.

When I conduct showings of my rental units for prospective tenants, I’m ready to answer questions such as, “What’s the average cost of utilities? How close by is the nearest grocery store or park? How is the crime rate in this area?”

Related: 7 Questions You Should Ask Prospective Tenants … Or Else

What I’m not prepared for, however, are the completely out-there oddball questions that several prospective tenants have asked.

(And guess what? I’m sure my stories pale in comparison to some of the weird stuff that the rest of the BiggerPockets community has heard.)

So here — just for your fun and amusement — is a list of the weirdest questions my tenants have asked. Have you heard anything more strange? Share your story in the comments.

#1. Can I set up a chicken coop in the backyard?

I’m not freaking joking. Somebody asked this.

Now, if this was a house in a rural area, I might understand. In fact, if we had a yard, I could understand.

But this was a multi-unit building in the urban core of Atlanta. It occupies the same one-mile radius as a bunch of 30-story skyscrapers. Our “backyard” consists of parking spots.

My response was: “Uh, I don’t think the city would permit that.”Although in my head, of course, I was thinking: “I can just imagine how much the other tenants in the building would complain about the smell of chicken feces.”

#2. Instead of paying rent, can I pay you in massage?

Fortunately, this guy had previously told me he was a licensed massage therapist. Otherwise I would have been incredibly creeped out.

My response? “Um, I don’t think there’s any way to enforce that.”

“If you don’t pay the rent, I can take you to court. But if you don’t give me a massage, what am I going to do? Go to a judge and say, ‘hey, this guy owes me a back rub?’”

Related: Building a Good Landlord/Tenant Relationship

#3. I’m a Contractor. How about I fix up your place in lieu of paying rent?

This isn’t really a weird comment, it’s more of just an off-base one.

I would never, ever enter into that kind of an arrangement with a tenant. Managing a contractor whom you’re paying cash is complicated enough. The two of you need to define a scope of work, decide whether or not the work is performed up to standard, agree on a set of materials …

Adding an additional layer of landlord/tenant relationship complicates matters to the point where, well, it’s just not worth it.

Keep your relationships clean. Let tenants be tenants, let contractors be contractors, and don’t mix the two.

What unexpected questions have you heard?

Sound off in the comments!

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Trevor May 28, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Or, “can I work off the deposit?” Or, “what do you check,” in the back ground check. What does that tell you? They are hiding something right? The way I remember it. CCR credit, criminal, rental history. Never cared for the group though.

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Trevor May 28, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Or tell them, “how about going down to the county and ask them you can give them a one time massage to pay my property tax and see how they like that one?

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Amy May 28, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Applicant: “I have 2 pet rats in cages, is that ok?”
Me (ever the benevolent landlady): “As long as they aren’t a breeding pair, live in a cage, and once they die they aren’t replaced.”
Applicant later that day: “Do you have anything that’s more pet-friendly? I’m going to want more rats as I plan to volunteer for the rat rescue society.”

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stephen May 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm

So far I have never been Asked about chickens – but I have had two different tenants simply assume it was OK to keep chickens at the houses I rented them. Both houses were right in the middle of a nice development – not even slightly rural. Each was Astonished that I was not going to allow it.

One said to me: But we only eat the eggs! (I guess she though my concern was over killing the chickens )

stephen
————

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James May 28, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Was the chicken question asked over the phone, before they saw the place to understand that there wasn’t a yard? If it was, that wasn’t such an odd question- many cities allow you to keep a few hens- Kansas City, MO is an example of a large urban city that you can have a few hens in your yard if you follow the rules.

Many cities are passing ordinances to allow chickens. If kept properly (as with any animal) they really aren’t a problem.

@stephen- When they were debating an ordinance to allow chickens in Springfield, MO, one of the concerns was with people butchering chickens in their backyard- so that is likely exactly what your prospect thought.

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Ben Howard May 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Agreed. In Somerville, MA, permits are offered for up to 6 chickens, up to two beehives, and certified deleaded vegetable gardens. As a landlord, I’m actually looking into building a chicken coop as I’m personally into the urban ag movement having grown up on a rural farm. I already have a vegetable garden, though it’s for personal use, so it doesn’t require permitting. I’m all for people learning about where their food comes from and how to care for food producing animals. Pets on the other hand, that’s a bizarre request. I don’t really get the unproductive quadruped obsession.

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stephen May 28, 2014 at 3:05 pm

I have no objection to Me keeping chickens if I wanted to – but I have a large property which is not so much in a back-to-back property development.

But too: it depends on what you want them for. To eat I would raise rabbits. But chickens are easier as they will eat anything and keep smiling – rabbits are easy to upset with diet. On the other hand; rabbits don’t lay eggs.

A long time ago I inherited a tenant, a police officer, along with some condos I bought. He was a great guy, they kept the place spotless, and they had a pig that lived there with them just like a big dog. The pig’s name was Roger. The guy had to carry the pig up and down the stairs (his was a second floor unit) – and he had to be close to 200 lbs I would guess – to be ‘walked’. After about a year of zero trouble from the tenants one day I was over there and the pig was wasn’t. Later I asked the guy and he said:

Oh we ate him. We haven’t gotten another one yet.

I had just assumed Roger was a pet – but I guess not.

stephen
————

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Alex Craig May 28, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I had a tenant ask me if they could out an alpaca in the backyard. She told me she inherited them from a bad investment.

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Steve Babiak May 28, 2014 at 8:24 pm
Eric May 28, 2014 at 9:34 pm

A tenant asked me if he could get a fish tank. I thought why not. Maybe a 20 gallon tank, up to 55 gallons or so is what I was thinking. Nope, 200 gallon, salt water. It was 3′ deep plenty large enough to swim in.

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James May 28, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Haha! I would love to have that! While it could cause some serious damage if it leaked, or if it was on a floor that couldn’t support the weight, if the tenant was reasonably intelligent, and they invested that much money into a setup, they would probably take proper precautions- at least I hope they did!

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Galya May 29, 2014 at 9:37 am

Check the site BackYard Chickens, it’s a huge movement right now (more than million subsctibers). People get hens in very urban areas now and the cities are ok with that (many of them at least). They do need to approve, but usually it’s not a big problem and free. having backyard chickens in an apartment complex would be a bit of a problem since all tenants need to agree, but I guess the other tenants could be bribed with eggs.

And chicken don’t smell if their cages are cleaned. I do expect to get such a request from my tenants in a few years. So, I guess, check with your city if chickens are permitted and if yes, get ready for this question from your tenants.

Actually, none of these questions seem unexpected to me. When I was in a position of renting, one landlord actually approached me and asked to clean the hallway in the apartment complex I lived in and he gave me a discount on my rent. Later I moved to another aparntment and offered the same the the new landlord and he agreed. Everyone was happy with such an arangement.

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Mica Daza May 29, 2014 at 10:55 am

I’m wondering on the massage thing. I wouldn’t accept his offer also but I wonder if his massage service can actually cope for the rent? Probably you’ll have to get a massage several times in just a month? lol

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jcombel May 29, 2014 at 11:47 am

the first one, chickens, you’re just unfortunately on the other side of an urban housing trend; being on the wrong side of a trend in a business in which your customers are emotional, is a bad place to be.

sure, if there’s no grass behind the unit that’s one thing and the customer just needs to be informed; that’s certainly not cause for a spot on a “3 Weirdest Questions” clickbait list.

possibly a spot on “3 Most Shortsighted Investor Comments” list?

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Galya May 29, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Grass isn’t a requirement to have backyard chicken. Many people have sand in their runs and find it much easily manageable than grass. Over time with chickens digging and pecking, there will be no grass, only dirt that gets muddy after rains. Another plus of raising chickens in a highly urban area- there are no predators and the coops don’t need to be that predator proof as in a rural area.

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JeremyL May 30, 2014 at 6:53 am

Wow, jcombel, I’m guessing you are an urban chicken enthusiast, or perhaps even an urban chicken yourself given how upset you seem over this post! Emotional customers? Sounds like a good self description you wrote. Our also sounds like the description of a bad tenant to have. Not because of the chickens- because of the attitude.

I’d be curious to know how you handle exeriences like this as a landlord. The reason I ask is that you come off a lot more like a self-righteous loudmouth tenant than a real estate professional.

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jcombel May 30, 2014 at 8:30 am

I learned about it myself from prospective tenants. They asked, and I didn’t know the answer. Instead of a knee-jerk “no,” I researched it, asked questions. Found a local club in our city dedicated to the concept, and found that some of my cousins in the next city over were doing it themselves. Found that there were not really any reasons to disallow it; my only concerns were quasi-ethical/practical ones.

I don’t allow dogs to be kept chained up or locked in a cage in my yards, and I wouldn’t allow it for other animals, either. Partially for the treatment of the animals, partially because I didn’t want ruts in my yards where they normally tread. The chickens sleep in their coop at night, and wander the yard during the day. I said no roosters, tenants said they didn’t want any of those to begin with.

The tenants are sixteen months on now, with no noise, no smell, on-time rent. They’ve gifted me about three dozen eggs, and some to the other tenant couple as well.

To answer your sideways insults, I don’t have any chickens myself (my dog is too aggressive with small animals), I’m a dynamite pro, and yes I am both self-righteous and a loudmouth. Side-effects of being informed.

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Gerry May 30, 2014 at 1:36 am

One time when I went to collect the rent
“Is that a rabbit?”
“Yes it is”
“Remember the NO Pets rule?”
“It’s okay he’s litter trained”
“Make sure it’s gone by the weekend”
“okay”
Next month I went to collect the rent the rabbit was still there.
“The rabbit is supposed to be gone”
” But the kids are really attached to it”
“It still has to go”
“Okay. We just thought it would be okay because he’s litter trained” “oh and I’m $50 short on the rent but I’ll get that to you next payday”
“When’s payday?”
“I’m not sure, my hubby just got laid off.”
Within view of the door were 2 cases of beer and a bottle of whiskey which would of covered the $50 they were short. This went on for a few more months and I sold the property with tenants in place…

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Trevor May 30, 2014 at 8:14 am

Eric, didn’t think of that. Water beds don’t seem to be the norm these days, I don’t allow them. Now I’m thinking fish tanks too.

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Garrison Householder May 30, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Urban farming/homesteading is actually becoming increasingly popular these days. I wonder if you could market to your more “granola” tenants by allowing chicken coops or a rabbit hutch or rain barrels or whatever.

Btw, chickens only smell if their coop isn’t clean and well-maintained. By themselves they don’t smell any more than any other pet might.

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Deanna June 1, 2014 at 12:36 am

Hens seldom maul the neighbors kids, don’t claw the doors, bite the mail man, howl at the moon, chew on the walls, tear up the linoleum, or pee on the floor.

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Shaun June 1, 2014 at 11:12 am

I find it odd that just because the the was a massage therapist you didn’t find that creepy.

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stephen June 1, 2014 at 2:16 pm

I don’t have any objection to getting ten or fifteen massages every month. And it doesn’t seem creepy to me at all for the guy or girl to offer. My only objection is to the idea of trading for rent as I am in the cash flow business – and the trade produces no cash for me. Other than that – it seems like a great idea.

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