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Rentals Gone Wrong: 3 Property Nightmares That Will Haunt Landlords’ Dreams

Ryan Deasy
5 min read
Rentals Gone Wrong: 3 Property Nightmares That Will Haunt Landlords’ Dreams

It seems these days nobody likes horror movies. I always end up going by myself. Anyone?

If you are like me, a PG-13 horror movie is sacrilege. I just cannot do it.

Anyways, as much as I like my rated R movies, I am going to keep this as family friendly as possible. Unfortunately, I have experienced some things as a landlord that are not appropriate to write about here.

I have been a landlord since 2012, which is a long enough amount of time where I can say, I have seen quite a number of oddities from tenants and properties. I want to discuss three of those instances here and how I handled them.

Landlords: Avoid These 3 Nightmare Scenarios

Horror Story No. 1

This situation occurred in my very first duplex. Bought her back in 2012. The listing said “Brand New Roof!” I was elated!

That is a huge expense that I could avoid as a new investor. As I have written about previously, I bought it via FHA financing, rented the rooms out to my friends, and proceeded to house hack it for years.

Later, there started to be issues with the roof during rain and windstorms. I would often find pieces of the roof on the ground. I did not think much of it.

Fast forward to a while later, I had my contractor go up there and take a real hard look at it. Apparently, my “brand new roof” was a complete hack job. They might as well have done it blindfolded and intoxicated. It was done all wrong.

Now, just last week, I get a call from this duplex’s neighbor. She has a nice black Infiniti SUV. While it does not make a whole ton of sense to have in a neighborhood like mine, I digress.

Apparently, multiple rows of shingles flew off my house during a wind storm and scratched the entire side of her SUV. She sends me pictures. As much as I want to dispute it, it does appear to be so. It looked as though the shingles flew off in such a way, at just the right angle, they completely scratched her entire passenger side. It was a once in a lifetime chance.

She sends me a bill for $1,500 from the repair place. I am super excited at this point.

In the meantime, it started raining outside again—even raining inside of the upper floor in a tenant’s bedroom. Now we are really having fun!

summer rain with hail falls on the roof of slate

How I Resolved the Issue

The very next morning, we patched the roof and the water coming into the inside stopped.

I am going to be paying the neighbor what she requested for the damage to her car.

I just did a roof at another property, so that hurt my cash reserves, too. But the plan is to replace the roof on this property before the snow starts coming down. And the fact is, replacing that roof is something I should have done years ago.

Lesson learned!

Horror Story No. 2

Look, renting rooms or whole units to the general public is assuming an inherent risk. That risk comes in many shapes and sizes. One of those risks is may be not so commonly discussed.

I am talking about someone’s (strange) behavior behind closed doors—more specifically, their (strange) bathroom behavior.

I know what you are thinking. As mentioned, I will keep this non-R-rated.

I had a tenant that did not like using the “facilities” in their designated areas. Instead, they liked to use, to a degree, wherever they chose inside the property. Now, this is bad, right?

This is bad even if you are renting a whole unit to one person. Agreed?

Imagine how bad it is when you are renting a living space to several people. Extra bad.

At first, I chalked it up to an accident. We have all had ailments and issues that upset our delicate balance. I let it go and hoped I would hear nothing more.

Unfortunately, the complaints (and pictures) kept coming in. I had to do something fast.

Related: How to Evict a Tenant: The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide

How I Resolved the Issue

As mentioned in a previous article, I have never evicted anyone. However, I have utilized cash for keys a number of times. This was one of those instances.

I offered the tenant $150 to vacate the room and leave his keys. He did just that. I got very lucky. That would have been an impossible case to evict over in my area.

Unfortunately, these sorts of behaviors are hard to spot. I think the key here is taking swift and calculated action. I had multiple other tenants threaten to leave if I did not handle this. I would not have blamed them.

I am grateful this worked out and that I acted quickly.

Tenant Horror Story No. 3

I have a college rental. I love it. I rarely have the issues that many others speak about (knock on wood). To date, the tenants have had two or three parties there (that I know of). Thus, no destruction from wild and crazy ragers has occurred.

Related: Student Housing Is My Best-Performing Investment (But Yes, There Are Some Drawbacks)

This is the same property as issue No. 2—no pun intended.

One day, not long ago, I started getting frantic texts from the tenants on that floor. They are all students at a local college. In a panic, they told me their unit had basically burned down.

My heart sank.

Kitchen on fire with a lot of smoke 3d rendering

My heart sank at first because I truly was terrified someone was or could have been hurt. Second, I had put a fair amount of money into renovations there, including a very expensive interior paint job.

Luckily, nobody got hurt. After I learned this, I sought to discover how it happened.

This may surprise you, but initially nobody fessed up. I was growing short on patience at this point.

One of the tenants finally told me it was the fault of another. Come to find out, that was the truth.

In fact, the story was the tenant had poured cooking oil into a large pot and placed it on the stove on high heat. He then retired to his room to lay down while it heated up.

He fell asleep.

I called my contractor and had him run over there to assess the damage. It was more of a billowing hot smoke issue rather than actual flames from a fire—luckily. The elements coming from this pot of oil were so hot, the finish on all the cabinets just melted off. And all of the blinds looked like candle wax. The beautiful paint job was scorched with smoke stains.

How I Resolved the Issue

My contractor quoted me $1,800 to fix the damage. Better than I thought it would be to be honest!

I tend to be more generous than I probably should be. Given this fact, I decided to just fix the issue and not charge the tenants in any way. They certainly did not do it on purpose and have been great to me otherwise.

The unit soon returned back to normal, and the young tenants learned a valuable lesson. Overall, it could have been a lot worse if someone had gotten hurt. I am grateful that nobody did.

As I like to say to people who talk to me about being a (long-distance) landlord, there is never a dull moment. My life outside of real estate is relaxed and mostly stress-free. Add in the rentals, and there is always something to deal with.

Although, no matter what’s happened, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have always loved a good challenge.

Whether you are buying your first rental or your 50th, you will have bumps in the road. They are inevitable. As long as nobody gets hurt, take it as a lesson learned and file it away with the rest of the bumps.

There will be many, but that is what keeps us on our toes!

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Do you have any tenant nightmare stories? Or have you heard any good ones? 

Share in the comment section below.

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.