12 Things I HATE About Landlording

by | BiggerPockets.com

I was cruising around the BiggerPockets Forums today and I stumbled upon a thread started by Karen M. titled “Tell Me What You Hate About Landlording.”

I thought it was a fascinating discussion – to see what some people consider the worst or best parts about Landlording. After all, we landlords tend to get into this “real estate investing is awesome!” mentality (bloggers, like me, are most guilty of that!) and love to talk about the good stuff… and often times the hard stuff gets ignored because no one likes a complainer.
Well… I’m going to do some complaining!

It’s my hope that this post can serve dual purposes:

a.) Help others get a realistic vision of what landlording may look like and
b.) Hopefully generate some incredible discussion in the comments.

Let me preface this article with this:  I already know about 20 people are going to put a comment below that says “this is why I use property management.” I agree – many of these problems (not all, but some of them) would not affect me if I had a property management. However, any honest real estate investor who uses property management could easily come up with a list of their own of 12 things they hate about investing in real estate. Arguing property management vs. self management is a topic for another day. The fact is: I am a landlord.

Finally, if you are reading this, I would LOVE if you do me a favor and comment at the bottom of this post, offering me (and everyone else reading) some advice to help overcome some of these issues.  Also, let me know what you hate the most about Landlording. I look forward to seeing what you have to say!

Without further suspense, I give you: 10 things that I absolutely HATE about landlording.

1.) Never Truly Taking a Break

Although I set specific office hours, don’t answer the phone in the evenings or weekends, hire others to do most of the labor… I still never get a true break. Even if I get a physical break, my mind never stops working on the landlording business. I still carry the stress and the knowledge that things might be going wrong right now. Last January I took a cruise through the Caribbean. No cell phone, no computer, nothing.  However, I still thought of, planned, schemed, read, and discussed real estate investing on the trip.

Sometimes… it would be nice to simply ignore it all.

2.) Being Lied To

“I mailed the check last week!”
“I don’t have a dog – you must have just seen my nephew in the window.”
“I called twice this week and no one answered, so I just let the roof leak destroy the property.”

Ugh. I hate lying tenants… but I can’t seem to escape it. Even when I’ve caught them in their lie… they continue to lie to try and cover up the previous lie. It’s a never-ending battle!

3.) Dealing with Contractors

This is just the worst. Trying to find reputable contractors that don’t demand my first-born child is … tough. However, even more than just the money, it’s the dependability. Even the expensive contractors fail to show up when they are suppose to, fail to bill the correct amount, fail to answer their phone when there is truly an emergency. Sometimes I feel like I go through contractors more often than I change my socks.

4.) Water Leaks

I’ve had four major water leaks in the past six months, each causing several thousand dollars worth of repairs. The fact is, water is a battle that every real estate investor will face with any property they buy, but it’s especially bad for landlords with older properties. Whether it’s a roof leak or a plumbing leak, water is the enemy. For those of you battling the same thing, be sure to check out Darren Sager’s great article, “The 4 Things to Check When Water-Proofing Your Potential Investment Property.”

5.) Watching Slow Motion Train Wrecks

As a landlord, I get a pretty good idea of how someone is living, how they act, and what their past looks like (from my in-depth tenant screening process.) Sometimes it’s tough to watch and not be able to do anything about it. I think of it as a “slow motion train wreck.” I can see drugs tearing their life apart, selfishness tearing their kids apart, uncleanliness tearing their health apart. All I can do is kick them out… I can’t really get involved in their personal lives. I want to sit them down and make them read every one of these books. I want to teach them how to clean, how to raise their kids, how to respect their neighbors. But I can’t – I’m just the landlord, not their Dad. All I can do is watch the slow motion train wreck and try to avoid getting hit.

6.) Insurance

Oh… the bane of my existence. I would estimate my wife and I spend 20 hours a month on insurance alone. There is always a policy being canceled, changed, renewed, increased, or added for no real apparent reason. Recently we’ve doubled the fun by all the changing laws and policies regarding flood insurance. Properties that have been free of the need for flood insurance suddenly now need it. Other policies are requiring us to obtain an “elevation certificate” – for $600 – just to keep the current flood insurance we already have.  My wife spends more time talking with our insurance agent than her own mother these days… and it’s not getting any better.

7.) Being the Bad Guy

Sometimes I just get tired of being “the bad guy” in every situation. For example, on Sunday we had a small water leak (yep, again) in a top floor unit from a drip in a water supply line in the attic. We sent a contractor over immediately to fix it. The tenant called today, livid, to chew us out for the leak. To them, it’s as if I climbed into their attic and cut the water line just to be a jerk.

Seriously, people.

8.) Paperwork

The more properties you accumulate, the more paperwork it takes to manage and control them. From closing documents, insurance documents, mortgage documents, tenant files, leases, applications, and taxes – the paperwork can really pile up. Even the most organized landlords out there still have to deal with mountains of paperwork and office work just to own those properties. For example, one of the cities I own rental property in now requires I fill out a new business license for every property in that town, every year. Yes, it’s only 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there… but it adds up.

9.) Babysitting

I often times think of landlording as babysitting. When you let a tenant do whatever they want, they will quickly become their own worst enemy and destroy the property, turning it into the town dump.  As a result, we have to consistently monitor the tenants to make sure they are “behaving.” For example, in the past week, we’ve had to send letters or call tenants about:

  • Throwing garbage over their apartment decks
  • Piling trash bags on their apartment decks
  • Parking on the lawn rather than in the parking lot
  • Not throwing garbage in the woods because the dumpster is too far away
  • And a lot more that I’m not even aware of because my wife is amazing at trying to shelter me from it all!

Sometimes I just want them to treat the property the way I treat my own house. However, I know that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

10.) Refinances

Trying to refinance rental properties is a pain. I’m working through two right now … and it seems every day there is a new form that they need me to fill out, a new document they need me to fetch for them, a new law that they need to work around.  I understand the need for the laws and the rules and the rigidity… but sometimes it just drives me crazy.

11.) The Aftermath of an Eviction

To be honest, I don’t actually mind evictions that much. We screen tenants well so it’s not a big concern (click here to check out my screening process) and when we have had to do an eviction, it’s usually pretty quick and painless once my lawyer takes over. However… it’s the aftermath that I hate. The junk they leave behind, the filth on the floors, walls, ceilings… everywhere.

12.) CapEx

Finally, let’s talk about CapEx. CapEx, or a capital expenditure, is a non-regular expense that needs to be replaced only once in a while, such as replacing the roof, replacing the furnace, replacing the driveway or parking lot, replacing all the windows, etc. Let’s be honest… our properties are falling apart every minute of every day.   Every year the plumbing gets older, the roof shingles get a little thinner, the asphalt a little more cracked. This stuff may seem like it’s not a big deal, but the fact is: there is ALWAYS something new to fix and replace on a property. There is no “done.”  This is why it’s so important to budget for CapEx when analyzing a rental property, and why we make it an important part of the BiggerPockets Rental Property Calculator. Ignoring CapEx is a quick way to lose your expected cash flow.

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I know this post sounded like I’m whining because… well, I am. However, I still love being a landlord because of all the great things it can do. Perhaps that will be my next article!

Now, it’s your turn. What do you HATE about landlording? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to jump into the forum conversation here and leave your thoughts also!

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He began buying rental properties and flipping houses at age 21, discovering he didn’t need to work 40 years at a corporate job to have “the good life.” Today, with nearly 100 rental units and dozens of rehabs under his belt, he continues to invest in real estate while also showing others the power, and impact, of financial freedom. His writings have been featured on Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com, FoxNews.com, Money Magazine, and numerous other publications across the web and in print media. He is the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down, The Book on Rental Property Investing, and co-author of The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which he wrote alongside his wife, Heather, and How to Invest in Real Estate, which he wrote alongside Joshua Dorkin. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.


  1. Contractors are the worst! That sucks about the water leaks. I agree about the insurance. My policies are always getting cancelled for no reason. I have handed off most of the responsibility to someone on my team for managing which is nice.

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Mark, it’s nice to see I’m not the only one getting my policies canceled for no apparent reason! And although I handed all my annoying insurance stuff off to someone else… that someone else is my wife so now she’s going crazy with it! I need to start building a team like you have!

      • Curt Smith

        Insurance getting canceled?? You might be using Auto-Owners? I dumped those guys long ago for doing that to me. Plus the hassel of keeping track of individual polices per property is a lot of work and frustrating! I moved to a landlord friendly carrier, that is ‘blanket” like. I email them to add a new property, once a month I get an email with a list of my covered properties. Each month they ACH my business account for coverage. So easy. Was called Affinity, now rebranded reiguard.com . If you are a REIA member NREIA has a similar carrier: realprotect.com also a blanket style carrier.

  2. Brandon, great article. I only 4, working on 5th, and I feel your pain. I have a targeted area and each of my properties are within a 15-min drive. My worst fear is water, which luckily, I haven’t had to encounter yet. The second is the paperwork. Because I also have my license, when I have a turnover, I have so many documents to complete. Most are for my own protection, like the move-in/move-out form. It saved me a couple hundred dollars last month by having it.

  3. I can relate to most of these! I try to use train wrecks as teachable moments for my kids: “See this brown stuff I’m washing off the walls? That’s what coats your lungs if you smoke.” “If you do drugs, this is the filth you’ll end up living in because you just won’t care. And your teeth will rot and fall out like his did.”
    “If you ever decide to move in with a girlfriend, you will be completely on your own financially.”
    “If you waste your life playing video games, you will always live in an apartment like this one.”
    My kids all say they’ll never be landlords, but I hope that seeing how some people live will give them a broad perspective.

  4. Yes, all a headache. And you forgot, you have to be the bad guy once in a while.

    I had a tenant die on 6/9, left the two adult children (18 and 22) and a deadbeat ex-husband to pay rent. So far, no indication they will pay on 7/1. Looks like a sure eviction on 7/7, time will tell… June rent was paid by the tenant, on her last days battling lung cancer at 51 years of age.

    I have a post on my blog about it, and will update it accordingly.

  5. There’s a trick to having near zero effort rentals. I’ll get to that.

    Insurance: I had the same problem with the national carriers. Then I moved to NREIG. Call Bethni: 913-951-3285. Regardless of which entity they list all properties on one list. No more individual policies per address, getting pictures to bind a property. Poof my problems went away. They even do mobile homes on land no problem.

    Water; replumb in PEX. Your water problems will stop. Copper is dumb today and CPVC breaks when freezes or pops apart if put together with the wrong glue.. PEX!

    Problem tenants #1: buy in a great schools 5 or better. If 7 or better you will get TOP tenant families who want the best for their families.

    Problem tenants #2: up your rent alot. We find that folks who can afford higher rent are better renters. If you don’t have #1 (great schools) then you can up the rent only so much but it’s a thought.

    We have the original renters in most of our properties. 3-5 yrs. A 3yr renter txt me that they are moving at the end of July, and I put an ad on craigslist / postlets and I have several prospects asking to fill out an app they’ve just driven by and I’ve only phone called / txt to get to know them. All nice sounding folks with good reasons for wanting my place.

    Tenant screening: All the usual questions, us mrlandlord.com to screen, but these 2 are differentiators:

    – “why do you want to rent this place?” If I hear anything that might change in a few days/months like: your’s is the nicest, cheapest, I like it, I toss those apps. I want to hear something sticky that won’t change: I want my young kids to all go to high school “XYZ”, my uncle lives 6 blocks away, This is mid way between our jobs… Has to be sticky and not change in many years!

    – I follow them out to their car. Their car HAS to be neat. I prefer older cars, not new or expensive. Older and neat is my preference. Older for being financially frugal and neat says they will keep my house neat. I’ve never had this fail. 🙂

    Getting the rent: never let them mail checks. Use some electronic transfer service directly to your bank account. erentpayment.com dwolla.com, williampaid.com. Now for low end rentals I hear 7-11 (??) is taking cash to pay electric / rent etc. Not sure about this because my rentals are higher end.

    I have NO problems managing my rentals but I had a game plan before I bought the properties so that each purchase had to fit my model of zero effort landlording.

    Contractors: ok ok, I’ll agree with you on this one! LOL I over fix during the rehab so there’s little fixing over time, but the few times I didn’t go myself I was disappointed with the cost and or end result. There’s a shortage of good handymen that’s for sure. Paying more for the help is a part of the solution but not the whole solution. I’m still working on this one. The big time flippers have solved this with permanent crews and constant culling / turning over the staff. I have one fix every 12 months so I’m forced to take my chances with handyman referrals from the REIAs here.

    2 new websites to find contractors:

    http://friendtrusted.com/ (seems more retail oriented but worth a try)

    • Brandon Turner

      Thanks for the comment Curt! Yeah, I just moved all my insurance over to a similar policy that covers everything, which seems to be going great, BUT now it’s a problem with the mortgages – half the mortgage companies are having a problem with this. Apparently they have a round hole I’m trying to fit a square peg into! Oh, just more and more paperwork!

      And yes – I’m actually changing out all my copper lines with Pex in the apartment complex this summer. Got a reasonable bid the other day, so that will be nice!

      I also got rid of mailing checks, and that’s been helpful. They can pay online or through PayNearMe (at 7-11) and it’s made the “lying” issue a little easier!

      Thanks for the great suggestions Curt!

  6. Mike McKinzie on

    OK Brandon, I will be the first to say it, THAT’S WHY I HAVE PMs! But, dont forget that I ran a small property management company for a few years so I have been through everything you listed and much more. Things like the investor selling and the new investor wanted the tenants out, even though they were excellent tenants. Or being physically threatened because I asked for ten dollars for a credit check. Or letting the DEA execute a search warrant. Or pulling wallpaper off the wall and having hundreds of live cockroaches rain down on my head. Asbestos in popcorn ceilings. Unpermitted additions that the tenant reported to the city. Neighbors complaining about the race of my tenant and thus harassing my tenant. Having a two year old drown in the pool of my rental. And if you think water is bad, wait till you have a fire! Or a tornado! And much, much more. And thus my current purchase requirement of newer housing; no asbestos, no Cap Ex, no bad plumbing, no roofs, etc… Yes, I only get around 1% in rent, but I will compare my ten year profit with my 1% over any 2% ten year profit. For example, I tecently purchased through a private party who was desperate, a house for $40,000 that rents for $795 a month. The tenant just moved out and the estimate is $4,000 to $5,000 for carpet, paint, cleaning, new window coverings, etc… My so called 2% just turned into 1%. So WHY did I buy it? It appraised for $75,000 the day I closed on it. Sorry, got off track, but a big mistake investors make is that what they think is a good buy turns into a huge bucket of Cap Ex!

    • Mike, your comment needs to be bolded.

      Cheap to buy does not make for a good deal or profitable rental. Pay more in a better school district and you’ll likely make more AND have fewer calls and problems.

      Here in Atlanta the Funds bought up the $30k houses along I20 and they are real sorry now. The investors who followed suit are lossing their shirt with turn over and vacancy due to too many rentals on the market.

      The sure sign that something bad is in play is when:

      – search in craigslist and 3/4 of the ads the titles are all in CAPS.
      – You’ll know when an area is in real bad shape is when you see 10% of the ads or more with free first months. I bet Memphis, Jacksonville, and I know Atlanta all areas that were cheap to buy but are rotten rentals.

      The only thing that will save a landlord’s business model is only buying in top school districts and advertising that school in your subject to attract good families.

      There’s one more tactic… move your buying to emerging market cities where there’s few rentals so you have better renters to choose from plus we’ve found that folks living in small cities actually want to live there so the move infrequently.

      All this adds up to; you have problems or don’t have problems as a landlord by what you plan (or not plan) _before_ you buy. As in the stock market, it’s never too late to sell a looser and trade up to better properties. 🙂

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Mike, I think you are onto something there 🙂 That said, a PM doesnt’ fix #1,2,3,4,5,6,8,10, or 12 – but it would lessen the blow sometimes!

      I’m definitely happy about the properties I bought, as they enabled me to quit my job and go full time… but now – in this new part of my life – I’m thinking of selling most and going to lower-cap rate, higher quality rentals to reduce the headaches! Thanks for the comment!

  7. A few things I hate:

    1. Bed bugs! They are very expensive to treat (about $900 for a house, $300 for an apartment) and they seem to be popping up more often these days.

    2. Drama. Lower end tenants seem to think that drama in their lives makes them important, and they really want me to see how important they are by bringing me into their drama.

    3. Tenants wanting me to be a referee. I typically do not get in the middle of arguments between tenants. I often find that tenants complain about another tenant’s loud music just to get them in trouble because they don’t like them for some other reason. If I get repeated complaints about one tenant from another, I just tell them both that if I get one more complaint from X about Y’s music, I’m kicking them both out, That usually works.

    4. Basements. I no longer buy rental houses with basements. Basements leak, smell, and are great places for tenants to hide unauthorized dogs and people not on the lease. Most of my Section 8 inspection items are basement-related. Basements only cost me money.

  8. What I hate the most is when somebody skips out in the middle of winter. And the temps get down to 10 degrees. And I have to make sure that the pipes don’t freeze and burst (assuming that I actually know that they skipped out).

  9. Darren Sager
    Darren Sager on

    Great article Brandon! And thanks for the shout out! Is that Bob Geldof tossing the TV out of the window in “The Wall”? BTW the GIF of the guy standing in the rain is classic! I need to get my next article on waterproofing the inside of your home completed!

  10. In general I have found that most tenants are total ingrates. Example–this JUST happened –two huge trees were worrying the tenant as they were leaning toward the house.
    She called Thursday night- on ,Friday I had a tree company on site, they changed their schedule & removed both huge trees (cut all for free firewood for lher) on SATURDAY, and all she could say was, “they arrived an hour later than you said they would.” No matter how fast we repair or replace something, no matter how nice the house is, they just all seem to be ingrates.

  11. The post from Curt Smith was a near carbon copy to my experiences. Joann Miller too. Now, let me share a few tips, if I may, that have helped us, and hopefully may help others here. 1) NEVER ever EVER take a check. A check is nothing more than a piece of paper. Any banker will tell you that. Ditto for money order/cashiers check, which can be printed on any Lexmark printer. Only CASH, or direct deposit into our bank account. We have a separate bank account for each property; this way, the bank does some of our bookkeeping And we give clear instructions to our bank top accept ONLY cash from the tenant. 2) ALWAYS have a partner, even if it is an invisible partner. So when your tenant asks if he can have 3 more Pit Bulls, simply smile and say “Well, if it were up to me I would say yes, but I have to check with the other owners, and they will get back to you.” 3) About the drama – right on. And the ingratitude. But remember, there is a REASON why these people do not own a house of their own. Be firm. Be fair. “Friendly with all, friends with none” is your mantra. You are running a business, providing quality housing. 4) WATER – OMG. A Realtor friend commented that it seems as if nearly all property damage he has seen, is caused by water. Burst-proof hoses for washer, dishwasher. REQUIRE tenant to have insurance. That should be part of every lease. 5) ABSOLUTELY no one moves in until the full deposit is paid, along with first month rent. We have many tenants who pay bi-weekly. With rents in the range of $1500 a month, that is simply asking too much for them to save all that money for an entire month. Too much drama; my car broke down, my purse was stolen, had to buy Christmas presents, had to pay bail for my son in North Carolina, I got carpal tunnel syndrome from rubbing all those scratch-off tickets, blah blah. $750. every other week works out well. Make it clear from the get-go that if the rent is even one day late, you file in Rent Court, because that is only way you can comply with the law. And the day they move in, get everything ready to do just that. Hopefully they will be a model tenant, but giving tenants slack, letting them “slide a few days”, is the #1 mistake and downfall of the inexperienced landlord/manager. I speak from experience. Yes, many/most tenants are bad with money, but not all! Everyone reading this knows, that to successfully own real estate, one has to be very responsible with money and finances. And to successfully rent it out makes that doubly true. 5) Finally, we use the kitchen-sink lease. It is 20 pages. Leave NOTHING to question. Of all the books out there, “Landlording” and “Landlording on AutoPilot”, contain what I feel are some of the best, common-sense ideas to make this business a success. Excellent blog and I hope there is more on the way. Good luck to all !….. *jimmy in MD

    • What kind of tenants do you all have anyway? The implicit disdain in “there’s a reason they do not own their own home” may be part of your problem. And like the other comment, what happened to “it’s a business transaction.” However, the tenant is supposed to be grateful. Patriarchal bosses have a similar idea about employees, “They should just be grateful I gave them a job.”

  12. Something I hate, since I’m in the middle of it right now: screening approximately one zillion applicants to find a qualified tenant. No matter how you stress your requirements in your marketing and your first contact, everyone wants to kick the tires.

      • I’m finding that I’m getting about 50/50 right now between craigslist and the various sites that Postlets syndicates to: Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, etc. As far as which are better qualified…so far, it’s pretty much a wash. 🙂

    • When I was a tenant, if you thought I was “kicking the tires” when I did not fill out the application, you would have been wrong. I did not fill out the application because I rejected the unit for some reason. When I was a tenant, I learned it was pointless to tell the landlord why I was rejecting the unit. They had no intention of fixing the problem, and they only want people who will take the place anyway. If a tenant does take the place anyway, and then notifies the landlord of the problem, many landlords will not fix problem even then. They say, “When you signed the lease, you accepted the unit as is.”

  13. Yes, being a landlord does have its problems and why do these problems usually happen at 2 or 4 am? I just don’t know. The properties that I rent or do a rent-to-own program, I make sure that my tenant or tenant/buyer understands that I am not the landlord. I do this first by having all my tenants agree to, in writing, to a home warranty program. This cost is passed onto the tenant and the cost is broken down into monthly payments and then added to the monthly rent.This has worked out great not just for me but for all my tenants as will. The tenants know that they can call the company 24/7 when there is a problem and they don’t have to wait for me or my contractor to show up to see or fix the problem.

  14. Just finished going through #11 Now I am screening potential new tenants. So far after numerous phone calls and showings, only 1 application turned in so far. Hoping to get a really good tenant like I have in another unit of mine. Eviction was by far the hardest thing in my first 9 months of Land lording. I am now looking to realize the profit potential I know the property is capable of.

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey J, yeah evictions suck, especially when you are just getting started. You may be tempted to lower your standards as you have trouble finding tenants, but I encourage you to drop the rent, not the standards. In the long run, it will be better 😉

    • For about a year and a half know we do not show any rental unit without a rental application first. We don’t charge for a app and this way it saves allot of running. So then we can call previous landlords and look the person up on C Cap.

      • george p.

        interesting… i think though that people can waste 15 mins filling out an application with junk information just to see it when they know they wont get charged to get inside.

        dont you think that parting with $35 or $40 of their hard earned money instead of wasting their time on a free application is a better option?

  15. Mehran Kamari on

    At first glance I thought the guy in the rain was Josh for a second 🙂 Great article Brandon!
    I use NREIG (Affinity Group Management) as well for my insurance and haven’t really spent any time on my insurance other than the process to get it started. So far at least!

  16. I only have one rent house that I have had for 3 years, but I have 1) been lied to, 2) had problems with the contractor, 3) had a water leak, and 4) had to replace the A/C two years into it. I’ve also had a different renter in there each year and it is about an hour from my house. But having said that, I would still do it again. It hasn’t really taken that much work on my part, I’ve had zero vacancy and I’m in the black.

  17. Hey Brandon, Great post! My hubby and I plan to get into the investing game here in the next two years and I’m SOOOO looking forward to it! It just seems super exciting! I love reading articles like this about what to look for when we do start investing. I’m a complete Fact-Finder and need all the information I can get.

    I absolutely love everything about bigger pockets and the podcasts are the best! Keep up the awesome work!

    I hope you have a fabulous holiday and holiday weekend!

  18. Brandon – many great comments on all but #1. It’s a real trick, isn’t it, not letting all this weigh you down. For starters, we don’t take calls out of business hours, which are clearly established with tenants. We do watch for emergencies and follow up appropriately but in SFHs, tenants are much more likely to be prepared to deal with emergencies on their own. Agree that the vast majority of issues are caused by water.

    For # 1 – consider reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.” His material on freeing your brain to think about what is most important to you on any given day is life-changing. Then, you have to do the hard personal work of occasionally (say when you are on a cruise with the family) letting go of landlording and make being in the present with your wife… or your cat… the most important thing you are doing that day :-).

    What I hate about landlording… hmmm. I love what I do so that’s a tough one but I really do dislike being lied to. I’m working on changing my mindset to finding it funny, which it often is after I’ve calmed down. Not crazy about the sheer mind-numbing paperwork of doing the taxes either, although I hire most of it done these days. I hate cleaning but learned early and quickly not to do it. It was the first task we hired out.

    A comment on the PM vs no PM. We don’t use a PM but we do hire others to do most of the work so in essence are our own PM.

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Deborah, thanks so much for the comment! And I’m actually a HUGE Getting Things Done fan! I don’t follow it exact, but I wish I did 🙂 But it has helped my tremendously!

      And yeah, we hire almost everything out as well, which helps with a lot! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  19. While I’ve dealt with nearly all these things over the years, we are in the middle of a cash-out refi right now and it is making me crazy. It’d be easier if I just gave these folks the passwords to all my accounts 🙂 I know I should be thankful to have such problems, but the amount of documentation they require is just crazy. I would perhaps understand if we were talking about risky loans, but even low LTV, high income properties still require everything but a DNA sample.

    I appreciate the entertainment!

  20. -Bad landlords and bad tenants that make life harder for all the good landlords and good tenants.
    -Remodeling a house I just remodeled 6 months ago.
    -Sec 8 and city inspectors who have to find something to justify their jobs. “broken light switch cover” really??
    – crapping on the carpet literally. No matter how many times i see it or hear about it, feces on the walls and carpet just goes beyond my comprehension.

    • UM….wow. I suppose it would be tempting to have DNA analysis run on it to prove the individual from whence it came, just to stack that onto the other charges if you have to take them to court. But once a person does something so reprehensible, the chances that they have any money to pay the damages are probably slim to none.


      Most recent of my experiences is my ex renting one of his houses to his ex (the one before me – they are both in their 50s and had 3 kids together, of whom I have custody of one). She left that place an absolute dump. Garbage everywhere, fridge full of rotted food. Lawn torn up, anything you can think of. Guess where my child support comes from? Yep….and she never paid him a dime in rent for months. What a lovely individual.

  21. Gualter Amarelo on

    This list is all pretty true and I have to say this post made me laugh. It feels really good knowing there are hundreds of other Landlords out there taking these challenges on every day!

    I agree that the worst parts have to be the “slow-motion Train Wrecks” and the Lying! I’m not an idiot and I could care less “why” pulled power from the house meter to feed your washer… I’m going to charge you for my time to repair it regardless!

    There are certainly aspects to this business that are stressful and beyond our control, but I’ll take the headaches along with the freedom any day!

  22. Mike Thompson on

    Yeah, I can say that my wife and I have personally experienced all of that (in spades in some cases). #4 for instance, we recently had a mainline sewer leak in a second floor bathroom in one of our apartment buildings that our insurance company denied our claim on and resulted in over $10K worth of damage.
    #7) I find the best way to deal with these instances is to just invoke the “Happy Clause”, which simply put just is: “It sounds like you’re unhappy living here, I’d be happy to arrange a way out of you lease/rental agreement early” . After that, you’ll never hear another word/complaint from them again (unless it’s a truly legitimate one).

    #9) I simply advise them that “We take great pride in keeping our premises neat and well maintained and expect the same of you along with all of our tenant’s and their guests . The next time we have to remind you of this, we will be personally issuing you a formal notice to perform or quit (or 30 day to vacate if they’re on a month to month)”.

    #11) We once had an inherited tenant that completely destroyed the unit. Graffiti on the walls and refrigerator, feces on all the floors everywhere (presumably from the dog they left/abandoned that was lying down in the kitchen), about 4 full sizes couches along with all of their furniture (beds, tables, etc), tons of clothes, rotten food, broken windows, destroyed backyard , yes – you name it, they did it. Took us an entire week of working 8 hours days with extra help to restore the unit to rent-able condition. Truly an experience that I will never forget.

    Even with all those experiences to speak of, I still have no regrets of being a landlord.

  23. Blessings on you for this enjoyable post. I’m keeping it around to revisit to make me laugh.

    Water: we get 142 inches of rain a year in Hilo, Hawaii. (Local slogan: No rain, no rainbows.) My two older houses deal with leaks constantly. I find someone to be my leak fixer person always on call. Sometimes it’s a tenant who likes a few dollars extra. For other water issues (including catchment tanks and pumps) my goal is also to bond with a local plumber who can be called by the tenant and gives me priority service. You have to work on this, but it’s worth the extra effort in appreciation or maybe extra money.

    Blood. No one mentioned blood that has to be handled as a hazardous material by qualified people. I had a tenant slash her arm and spread blood all over the kitchen with visitors there.

    Drama and lies. No good answer for this until we get portable polygraphs ala Star Trek. I Just read about a cellphone size medical device that will take blood pressure, etc. Bring it on! Good until the Supreme Court rules it an invasion of privacy.

    • Brandon Turner

      Thanks Tanya for the message! Yeah, I’m out near the only rainforest in the mainland US and although we dont’ get quite as much as you (i think we’re like 120 inches a year) it still is a never-ending problem!

      And blood – I haven’t had to deal with that yet! Not looking forward to it 🙂

  24. #8 Every time we switch the utilities between tenants, the utility companies (Comed and Nicor) screw up the billing. After sending the bill to our business address for months they suddenly send the last bill to the rental so we don’t get it and then are late. Or something along those lines gets messed up. Every. Single. Time. And it takes forever to fix. And I can’t outsource it because whoever calls needs to be able to answer personal security questions. Argh!!

    • Brandon Turner

      Hah this happens to me ALL THE TIME also! If I would have thought about this one, I would have added it to the list. It seems like there is always some kind of issue with utility billing and it takes multiple phone calls to clear up!

    • in order to handle the “personal ” questions for utitlies can you create a fictional entity with an equally fictional easy-to-remember set of attributes (bornein New York, New York, on the 4th of July, 1976, Mother’s name was Martha Washington, Father’s middle name was Doodle etc )?
      As long as you are consistent it should work & allow you to outsource (not to mention the entertainment value if anyone DID try to steal your identity with that info!)

  25. Great article, Brandon! (Hey awesome topic, thank you for continuing the discussion!) By the time I got to #9, I started to lose enthusiasm for the idea of becoming a landlord. Wow, it is good to know the hard realities and not get too romantic about the idea that it’s easy to be a rental property owner! I’m going to read this one over and over as I prepare for the possibilities.

    • Hi Karen, Landlording can be easy and near zero calls. But it starts with choosing the school district and upgrade level of your rehab. Our experience is that when you buy in great schools 7 (out of 10) or better district, choose a cute house, fix up with laminate floors etc and charge going rate rent you’ll be able to pick great families who want the best for their kids. Better school districts attract more responsible and financially secure renters.

      The experienced investors will complain that you give up too much cap rate to buy more expensive rentals in good school districts… then they complain in posts like this. LOL Just saying this street of complaining about being a landlord goes both ways. IE We might take the easy direction and complain about renters. I suggest that the real issue is that investors didn’t choose their rental location to minimize these issues. 🙂

      I know plenty of landlords here in Atlanta who’s entire portfolio is nothing but these problem areas and they’;ve gotten good at managing. But it takes more talent and stomach than I have so (thanks to my retired school teacher wife) we developed a business model that allowed us to only buy in good school districts, in nice neighborhoods that nice people would feel safe and their kids could go out and play… We’ve since moved to rural towns doing rent to own with owner finance exit. This is where you’ll find the very best renters… those who see themselves as owners.

      Problem rentals don’t just happen, is my point.

      I hope my point is seen as “good news”, that it is possible to self manage and never be called. Set this as your goal, study up on how this is accomplished and best of luck to you. I’m open to chatting with you about how we’ve done it and why we are currently exclusively doing rent to own – owner financing.

      • Brandon Turner

        I agree with your point, Curt, to a degree. The downside is – it’s very difficult to scale when you only buy nice houses in nice areas. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but trying to manage 100 nice single family homes is not going to be “easy” and “zero calls.” Things do break, people do stupid stuff, evictions do happen, insurance does get canceled, etc. When starting out, with a few rentals, sure it’s easy. But the more you get, the more trouble it becomes – no matter how nice they are. At least, that’s my opinion!

    • Brandon Turner

      Thanks Karen! And like I said in the article, I don’t regret anything and I love being a landlord. But so many landlords like to talk only on the positives – not the negatives. Hopefully this balances things out some!

  26. My husband and I purchased a 4plex in March we already own a newer single family home that has extraordinary tenants we make $400/mo on that property and it’s easy money. The 4plex however is a money-pit, on top of needing about $40k in interior renovations and $20k exterior we inherited some really lousy tenants 2 moved out immediately leaving bags of trash, food, etc. and one tenant who is continually late with rent, always has a sob story to tell and has broken his lease in a number of ways. We are tired of the excuses, the lies, and we can’t wait til the day we have cherry picked tenants living in all our units. We’ve done all the remodeling ourselves; put in granite, tile, and laminate for ease of maintenance and with the finer finishes have attracted high quality renters for our two remodeled units, it’s a lot of time, money, effort but it will payoff in the end out rents went from $950/mo to $1250-$1350/mo, when all 4 are completed the 4plex will pull in $2k in profit/mo.

  27. I really enjoyed this article. My first job was working for an investor and cleaning his properties then later helping do rehabs. It inspired me to invest in real estate myself and I love it. One of the best tips my old boss ever gave me was to always, always check references and the last 3 prior addresses of prospective tenants and speak to prior landlords. I still chuckle when I think of the 7 page application he used; but I learned the hard way that the more info you get upfront the better.

  28. That’s a great list Brandon, and the graphics are awesome.

    I could have written that list myself. Being a hands on landlord is a tough job, and if you plan to do it you need to get good at it. Having good systems in place and rules that are enforced every time for every tenant certainly saves you from a lot of headaches.

    Have a great weekend.

  29. My wife and I were landlords for 12 years, 3 multi- family properties with a total of 32 units. I had a contractor for every problem on speed dial. If your network is reliable, it will eliminate a lot of the stress of repairs. I agree that the liars are one of the biggest thorns and tough to avoid if you have many units. As to the insurance, we had one blanket policy to cover all of the properties, even though they were in 3 separate towns, maybe hard or impossible with separate SFHs. A simple test to a prospective tenant was how much they talked, the more they rambled on with their life story the more red flags there were. Water leaks were a big concern, but i will add to the list pest control. Beyond roaches, nastier critters became a huge expense.

  30. If you have low-income tenants here are three more things I hate:
    1. The big screen TV’s, Blu-Ray Players, Blu-Ray discs, nice stereos, smart phones, etc. and yet they can’t pay
    2. Rent-to-own places where they sometimes get these nice things and then have no money left over and then lose them anyway when they, inevitably, run out of money
    3. The “rental smell”

  31. Units on well water. I have a few like this but regardless of how many precautions the company I use to manage the well it will at times a.) fail b.) not produce enough water when the tenant needs it.

    Basements, yep. I don’t buy any with basements and the ones I have I do not lease the basement or in some cases I have been able to frame off the area that has a leak ( in an older home ) and not make that part of the rental. It’s my personal storage or utility room etc.

    PEX. I like PEX but have had 2 bad leaks caused by mice chewing thru the PEX. So my advice is put copper at the stud level ( where the mice stand to chew:) and then proceed with PEX.

  32. The only thing I want to add to your list is the “tenant-laywer partnership” of misusing the warranty of habitability. Some of our tenants delinquent on their rent (class c-d properties) tends to use this warranty (as advise by their lawyers) to prolong eviction process, get free rent and then disappear. I don’t want to generalize this but it happens even if they deny it.

  33. Paper work!! We have streamlined a lot of processes, expanded our lease over the years and give full disclosure on expectations and how we operate during the screeening and move in process. Which eliminates a lot of future problems…But I still cring on the paperwork. It is a lot. Documenting everything, sending out late notices, most paper work is from the tenant turns. The ins/outs was okay when we had 3-5 properties but now we have 10 ugh!!…but love being a landlord and building the portfolio and cash flow!

  34. Waaa Waaa! As someone who can’t get a mortgage and would love to own her own house, I have no pity for you. My landlady is the most condescending bitch ever, and the last landlord I had was too! If you people made me feel comfortable, maybe I wouldn’t lie to you. As it is, I lie because I don’t feel my landlady would understand ANYTHING. Honestly, we’re leaving our apartment complex without a 30 day notice and with considerable damage in the apt. If the landlady had been a decent, considerable person, we would have paid for the damage YEARS ago, and would never have thought of leaving without a 30 day. Respect your tenants, they’ll respect you. Disrespect your tenants, and they won’t respect you. It’s clear to me that your problems weren’t your tenants, it was you being an asshole landlord.

    • Curt Smith

      Hi Erdmann, Read my post above on July 1. We have 29 rentals and rarely get a call or have a problem. Sure ACs go out, that’s no big deal. Just txt the AC contractor the address. 15 seconds to handle that one. Sure out of 29 once a year someone looses a job etc and I have to ease them out. Big deal.

      Landlords create their own problems!!! By buying high risk cheap houses in bad neighgborhoods. We buy based on great school rating. If you buy great schools 7 or better and select for young kids and smart 2 income parents who want their kids in good schools, you’ll have nothing to do! The Maytag repairman.

  35. Dan Heuschele

    The train wrecks that are not fully caused by the tenant are tough.

    A year ago we had a new tenant move into the place that was nice and clean. She actually improved the place by planting plants, touch up paint the outside after getting permission, re-seeding the lawn. Unfortunately her boy friend was a deadbeat and decided he was not going to pay what he had agreed to when they moved into the place.

    I had to evict her and her children for non-payment. She had spent effort to make the place nice but could not pay the rent without the boyfriend’s share of rent. She did choose the deadbeat boyfriend so the problem was partially of her making but it was still unfortunate (for her and her children as well as for us). The only person who benefitted was the deadbeat boyfriend who got some free rental time.

    If I were her I would have dumped the deadbeat boyfriend but I suspect that they are still together.

  36. Landlords that don’t upgrade or fix their rental units are on their way to becoming slumlords. But they love to blame tenants for their rotting wood and peeling paint and mold in the bathrooms and scratched up floor and bathtubs, cabinets and doorknobs falling apart. How can you blame tenants for 50, 60, 70 years of normal wear and tear? Don’t forget this is a business for landlords. They are greedy and want more money so they will never try to upgrade or even replace things with more expensive material. There are just not enough laws to protect tenants AND to protect neighborhoods for ghastly looking rentals.

  37. One thing I hate is my warranty company. Since January, I have had to make repairs every month. This includes replacing the furnace, fixing the water heater, fixing a collapsed ceiling, cutting a tree that was about to fall on the house, and most recently replacing the AC. Almost every time I call the warranty company to obtain coverage, they find some bullshit excuse to not cover it, thus forcing me to pay out of pocket. Does anyone have a warranty company they use and would recommend?

  38. We owned one and sold it off. I see why these rent your tv/furniture scam places have 900% mark ups. When someone doesn’t own something they simply don’t value it. If your not fresh out of prison and showing up to collect with 20 Aryan buddies shaving with a knife to collect they don’t fear any consequence either.

    Good tenants are gold, so get used to dirt and shit in the rental business. If I was to ever consider it again it would have to be as a partner on a large multi unit complex. Houses and individuals just carry too much depreciation,expenses,liabilities,whining,and paperwork for the return. If you want to make bank your going to have to farm them like ants, treat them like them, and manage a the cluster instead of the individual. The individual in loans or any vessel of trust is a risky and bad bet.

  39. These really are things every landlord has to deal with sadly. The water leak issues can be a nightmare to handle specially if you manage many properties. Using a property manager for such things can ease the stress a bit but these are problems that come with this career so not much we can do about it other then dealing with them more effectively.

    • Curt Smith

      I self manage our 35 SFR portfolio. I’m in a large REIA and hear about alot of other landlord’s problems as well. My opinion is that a property manager is more likely to leave maintenance issues un-addressed in your homes then the opposite. Then when the PM does fix things getting over charged is common. I do hear it IS possible to find an honest PM but the contracts and mechanics of the landlordPM relationship will always be in the landlords disadvantage. You might read a PM’s contract they want a landlord to sign.

      There are solutions to problem tenants and maintenance issues. It starts before you buy the house with where you buy and the level of rehab you do prior to putting a tenant in. Its a few pages to cover how to buy a problem free rental portfolio, look for some of my posts in rental forums.

  40. Amanda McGuigan

    The thing I hate most are the excuses for why rent is going to be late. Sometimes they are decent reasons but their excuses don’t pay the mortgage! I’ve been able to solve most of the issues though. For example, for the tenant that was too irresponsible to budget her money I switched her to biweekly payments and asked her to give me post-dated checks. Every other Friday at 12:01 the money shows up in her account and since I’m usually up until 2am anyways, I deposit her check around 12:30am. By the time she wakes up and looks at her account, the money is gone and I don’t have to hear the excuses. She just renewed for a year and I set her up with recurring payments on erentpayment.com so that I don’t even have to worry about depositing the checks effective Feb 1st.

    My point is that I try to find out what works best for them and I do that. I don’t care if they pay weekly, biweekly, monthly, by check, by ACH, etc as long as I get paid!

  41. From 2014: “But remember, there is a REASON why these people do not own a house of their own.” I am one of “these people.” I am a 63-year-old academic librarian, who, as a single parent without child support, put 3 children through college without incurring debt and while saving for retirement. When I have left a rental (most frequently because it was sold or repurposed by the landlord), I have always had a follow-up call from the landlord saying that when the house cleaners showed up after I moved out that there was nothing for them to clean and thanking me for being such a good tenant. I have been screwed over by various landlords, but I will not dwell on that here except to say that I found this blog while Googling “my landlord’s plumber is driving me crazy.”

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