Let’s tell a short story.
The Tenant from Hell
Imagine a lovely little old lady in her ’70s wants to rent from you. Her application is flawless, her rental history sparkling, and she has a credit score in the 700s. You rent the top floor of a duplex to her, and for a few months, everything is perfect.
Then, suddenly, the couple renting the bottom floor calls to complain of a strange smell. Before you can get out there to investigate, the police call and tell you that your downstairs tenants are accused of stealing things from their neighbor upstairs.
When you get on-scene, you find that the lady has had the locks changed without telling you. You promptly begin the eviction process.
You call one of her previous landlords back (because naturally you called them the first time; you’re always thorough like that), and he has no idea who you are or why you’re calling him.
Being a clever person, you scan her photograph into your computer and do a reverse Google image search. What you find is a mug shot. Turns out this woman fed you a false identity, and she’s been doing this for decades.
She has five prior evictions, and every single one of them led to a long, drawn-out court case wherein she got to stay rent-free on the property for months until the case was decided.
You promptly show up at her (your) home again, only to find a cop waiting for you. She’s got a restraining order out against you, and you’re not allowed to get within 400 feet of her until after the court case is over.
That case is dragging on, however, because she’s flooding the prosecutor with motions and has presented to the judge seventeen separate police reports she has lodged against prior landlords to show that she’s had a long history of being abused.
The longer the case draws out, the more it costs you, until finally after months in court and discovering that the nasty smell was in fact chemicals used in drug manufacture, you were forced to tear down the house and sell the property — after paying to have the chemical mess cleaned up, naturally.
End result: the lady got five months free housing, and the landlord lost his shorts. Sure, she couldn’t ever rent again…except she’s already pulled this trick off five times. How long do you think it’ll be before she finds a new mark?
The Painful Realities
OK, so that was a fairly dramatic example, and it’s not likely to happen to anyone, ever.
But it’s nevertheless important to know that evicting a tenant is very much like getting a divorce — you don’t evict the same person that moved in; you essentially evict a complete (and very, very angry) stranger.
They might look the same and have the same name, but you can be guaranteed that the moment they understand that they’re getting kicked out, they’ll transform like a Decepticon into a petty, vindictive entity that you’ve never experienced the wrath of before.
The problem, as you can imagine, is that it puts landlords in a bit of a catch-22. If you decide to push the eviction forward, you can end up poking a hornet’s nest and provoke them into damaging your property or interfering with the legal process. If you decide to be less stressed about it, you might end up unintentionally leaving them with the impression that you’re not serious about getting them out.
The Right Presponse
Yeah, that’s right — presponse.
In a catch-22 situation like the one above, there’s no right way out except to stick strictly to what the law says and do what you can to keep the angry tenant from damaging your property on the way out.
But before you get in the situation, there is an obvious solution: screen your tenants deeply, consistently, and every time. Fail to screen a single prospect and you’re basically driving without insurance: depending on your luck.
Related: Tenant Screening: The Ultimate Guide
There is, unfortunately, actually a class of ‘professional bad tenants’ out there who won’t hesitate to take advantage of you — and in this case, you can’t judge a book without reading it to the last page. So get your tenant screening process set in stone, and run it to the letter Every. Single. Time.
One other quick note about how to get a tenant out faster is to copy a strategy foreclosing banks used the last several years – ‘Cash for Keys’.
It is often cheaper to pay a tenant to leave than take them to court! Before you screech your nails down a chalkboard at the thought of paying a deadbeat to leave, remember you’re supposed to be running your rental(s) like a business.
Take the emotion out of the idea and just look at the cost-benefit. Just be sure to put terms in writing to have the property broom cleaned and nothing damaged by a certain date to be eligible for the bribe to leave.
Have you ever came across a tenant like this in real life?
Be sure to leave your comments below!