Landlording & Rental Properties

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

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics
19 Articles Written
flooded living room in modern living room couch and large plant in view

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

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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!

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

Share in the comment section below.

Ryan Deasy, of Deasy Property Group and RentReddy, is a long-distance landlord currently residing in Houston, T...
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    Wilson Churchill from Madison Heights, Michigan
    Replied 10 months ago
    I have to admit I was expecting worse than that. I have a couple good stories: I once rented to a lady that said she had pets. I didn't think to ask how many, and the fact that she was pre-paying the rent for six months at move-in put my mind at ease. Come to find out, she had six dogs and three cats. There was dog stuff everywhere, and the back room smelled like cats. I won't go into more detail, but all of the flooring had to be replaced. Another tenant smeared chocolate syrup on the baseboards when moving, and broke the toilet. There were roaches everywhere, on every surface of the home. Just standing in the home made my spine and body tingle from top to bottom. It wasn't hard to resolve, but the cabinets needed to be replaced.
    Kimberley P. Investor from Southern California
    Replied 10 months ago
    I wouldn’t recommend taking six months rent in advance.
    Ryan Deasy Rental Property Investor from New Britain, CT
    Replied 10 months ago
    hey Wilson, wow that is terrible! i have had a tenant with a pet here and there and its bad enough. i cant even imagine 9 animals. wow. glad you made it through it though!
    Gwen Jacks
    Replied 10 months ago
    Just wondering if the keys for cash is known in pre-tenancy stage or is it an understanding after a standard rental agreement has been signed?
    Ryan Deasy Rental Property Investor from New Britain, CT
    Replied 10 months ago
    Hey Gwen, cash for keys has always been what i try to do instead of an eviction. thus, it would be after the lease has been signed.
    Charlie Joseph
    Replied 10 months ago
    First off their should of been a bldg inspection by a professional before purchase if the propery.This would of saved a lot of headaches.
    Ryan Deasy Rental Property Investor from New Britain, CT
    Replied 10 months ago
    Hey Charlie, there was an inspection. i did not know until quite some time afterwards. just one of those things you have to deal with!
    Cynthia Gillespie Investor from Seabrook, Texas
    Replied 10 months ago
    No matter how long you're in the business, you "will" get a bad tenant. We've been landlords for 20 years. A tenant that moved this past Sept left the house stink with dog urine, carpets ripped (not just dirty), door frames knawed, cooktop, dishwasher and even the oven requiring replacement, hundreds of dollars of trash to be hauled off, back yard grass about 3 feet high. She was the filthyest tenant we'd ever had.
    Replied 9 months ago
    Ryan Deasy Rental Property Investor from New Britain, CT
    Replied 10 months ago
    Hey Cynthia, that is wild. how can people live like that? i just do not understand what could have possibly happened in their life where they would think that is acceptable to do.
    Matt M. Contractor from Easton, PA
    Replied 10 months ago
    Sorry Ryan, but these are barely nightmares. I’m kinda disappointed in this read.
    Ryan Deasy Rental Property Investor from New Britain, CT
    Replied 10 months ago
    Hey Matt! thanks for your feedback. as mentioned, this is all PG material. BP does a good job at keeping it family friendly. i am happy to tell you more explicit type situations that i have run in to, off line.
    Wenda Kennedy JD from Nikiski, Alaska
    Replied 10 months ago
    I've had a lot of nightmares over the last 43 years. You're stories sound familiar to my experiences. I own most of the mobile homes in my park that I've had for the last 20 years. I regularly deal with my tenants' bad behavior. I did have an arson fire last spring that we've estimated that did $37, damages -- but it wasn't my tenant who set the fire. It was the grown son's girlfriend who was trying to visit her boyfriend. He was visiting while his mother was in the hospital having back surgery. The girlfriend took a snow shovel, broke the window and threw something burning into my unit. After she started the fire, she took selfies in front of the burning mobile home while bragging that she had started the fire. She's waiting on her trial to start for starting the fire and trying to kill her boyfriend, who was sleeping inside. My worst poop experience was where the toilet got stopped up in a unit. They didn't tell us. So the pooped on the bathroom floor for months. We ended up tearing that one down. And yes, that woman had little kids living there. She went to work everyday and she held a responsible job. That's only two stories. We think we've seen it all and then something new comes up.
    Replied 9 months ago
    Ryan Deasy Rental Property Investor from New Britain, CT
    Replied 10 months ago
    Wenda! Wow. that is a heck of story. i just do not understand people. how can you do those things and live like that? i agree though. you think you have seen it all, then something shortly after tops it. i hope none of these things happen to you again.
    Alma Bagaoisan
    Replied 10 months ago
    Can you tell me what happened to your roof if it’s brand new. Thanks
    Ryan Deasy Rental Property Investor from New Britain, CT
    Replied 10 months ago
    Hey Alma, what i was told was they used the wrong kind of nails and did not secure the roof to the decking correctly. also, the decking was not done right either. pretty much a huge mess.