Controlling Trash on Property

11 Replies

Hi All - We have a property in Cobb Co., GA and while everything is going great, we are dealing with one annoying issue that we cannot get our arms around - tenants leaving trash around the complex. The property is only 32 units, so it is not big enough for us to have a full time employee on site to help manage this, but we do have someone on site 2 days a week and then pay someone to do a sweep of the grounds 4 days a week.

It seems that even if we pick up at 9am, there is trash by 3pm. The neighbor across the street has made it her personal mission to call code enforcement every day, even for the smallest of trash violations (most days the violations are very minor from what the contact at code enforcement told us). However, we have just received our first citation from Cobb Co. even though most violations are small. Code stated that they legally have to serve us the fine.

Does anyone have experience with managing trash on a property and /or dealing with the neighbor / county? We have added extra trash bins, hired help to pick up the trash and our next step is to install cameras on the property so that we can start levying fines by catching people in the act.

Any creative ideas would be much appreciated.


@Matt Wood @Azeez K. @Kiran K

One lower cost option is to put up outdoor vinyl signs and a letter campaign for a few months to the tenants. Most people are more affected by seeing something in writing. In the letters, I would phrase it like "95% of your fellow tenants keep the complex clean. Please do not litter.." People tend to want to conform. If you say "45% of you litter!" people will think "Oh well if everyone else is doing it.."

Otherwise I would write it off an as operating expense. If it's becoming an expensive problem, then cameras, fines, possibly not renewing certain tenants' leases. This route is a little more expensive (cameras + wiring) as well as time intensive since you'd be monitoring the cameras, citing people, dealing with those people, trying to collect those fines. If you do collect fines and it's not described in your lease, you may want to run it by your attorney. It might be more effective though. There's tons of more ideas on complexes who have dealt with dog poop issues - I read one article about a complex who did cameras and even I think DNA tested the dogs and the dog poop and yeah... it can get crazy.

No experience here... I'm still a newbie, however I've been on the flip side of the coin most of my life. I would say it all originates with the quality of people that rent in your complex. Professionals who take pride in how they live, will probably take better care of a property than someone of a different social class. Hate to sound like a snob, but it's a reality. Growing up in NYC, the buildings I lived in housed some pretty interesting characters. I also got to see some of the ritzier apartment complexes. Huge difference!

One interesting method of screening a tenant (which I learned on one of BP's podcast), is to look at how they keep their car. Somehow, find a creative way to take a peak! lol! sounds funny, but can be revealing. If they are slobs with how they maintain their car, they will be slobs in and around your complex.

I would say that renting to older retired people may be one another option to look into. My REI niche is mobile home investing. I have seen the way older people live in the 55 and over communities, versus family parks. Without question, they seem to take great pride in how they live and how they keep their grounds. They also tend to watch out for each other, and report things they see.

Another thought that comes to mind is getting involved in a neighborhood watch program. This could also add value to your property, as it may help bring people together and keep out the riff raff.

Putting up signs and creating newsletters/mailers  addressing the littering may be helpful, as it shines a spotlight on the problem at hand.

And finally, the most extreme and drastic approach... Putting up cameras around the complex (or fake ones)... just a thought! :)

Two ideas come to mind.  

Idea #1 -  Make contact with the neighbor across the street who is calling in the complaints and let her know that you're on the same team because you also don't like to see trash on your property.  Try to befriend her and ask her to call you directly next time she sees the trash, instead of calling code enforcement.  That way, you (or the person you pay to do it) can respond directly to the issue and not involve code enforcement (and avoid the fine).

Idea #2 - Send a letter to all the tenants advising them of the problem and try to elicit their help in solving it.  They may not even realize it's a problem because the trash keeps getting picked up (maybe not til after code enforcement gets there and you get a fine - but they likely don't know that part of it).  Tell them that if the problem doesn't stop, that you may have to raise their rents to help pay for all the fines from code enforcement.  That should give them some financial motivation to help solve the problem.

1) make sure your lease includes a clause to maintain the unit in a clean and appealing manner and to not allow waste to accumulate on the grounds.

2) send a NOTICE TO PERFORM (registered), "citing the filthy conditions and the city citation.  You have 5 days to perform OR move out".

By trash bins you mean the regular house containers correct?? Not the large trash bins with a lock that the dumpster truck picks up once to twice a week.

This 32 unit is it self enclosed?? Meaning it is not say a bunch of buildings surrounded by other property owners like 20 quads on one street etc. 

I have been through all of this before. If it is all your property it will be much easier to control. Are these lower income to middle class tenants??

If so they tend to spend their money on a bunch of junk products. They also unlike higher income renters have "hand me down" meaning beds,chairs, TV's, sofa's that are on their last leg. This means constant regeneration of trash. The dump trucks will not pick up usually the large stuff people put to the side of their trash bins. They will just leave it there. Those items have to be taken to the dump or broken down to fit into the small trash bins.

If you own the whole complex putting a security gate upfront helps to keep out the drug dealers or people parking at night and also keeps out most illegal dumpers.

If the street is shared with other investor owned properties then it might be other tenants dumping trash onto your properties.

You need to write into the lease that for trash only certain items are allowed to be put into trash and that putting those other items in that are not allowed is a lease violation. This is for the big dumpsters. You can add security camera, light, and padlock key given to each tenant.

At my office building we have a dumpster that is gated and a camera and lighting. Without the key you can't unlock it to put trash. Only certain trash items are allowed ( no construction materials etc.) Contractors who live in apartment units love to dump trash they would otherwise have to pay a fee for to legally dispose of.

Old tires is big also. There used to be trucks that would dump 100's of tires on abandoned apartments in the night and leave. The cost per tire to dispose of can be 2 to 3 bucks or more. Eventually  a tire disposal company made a contract with the city of Atlanta and for a certain price and mile radius picked up tens of thousands of tires over a month from various locations that were illegally dumped.  

You could try to offer a reward for whoever is illegally dumping trash. Once the word gets out that people are getting paid money to catch others a lot of that activity moves to other properties.

It is not an easy problem to fix. You can't just increase everyday pick up as the illegal dumping will increase. A standard large trash bin per unit with a family of four should not need more than 2 pick ups per week with regular trash.

Does your current provider offer the recycle bins?? If not I would look into that. Cardboard and plastic takes up a lot of negative space in the trash bins. Waste management has recycle program. By breaking down boxes and having plastic in recycle should keep the trash bins down to an acceptable level.  

A fence going around the whole property helps with people "Cutting" in and out of the property trying to get around to the other side because they are lazy or breaking into places and escaping. It also helps keep drug dealers out. Criminals tend to go where they can commit a crime and be lazy. If they have to work for it most will search elsewhere for easier target rich environments.    

Originally posted by @Kyle J. :

Two ideas come to mind.  

Idea #1 -  Make contact with the neighbor across the street who is calling in the complaints and let her know that you're on the same team because you also don't like to see trash on your property.  Try to befriend her and ask her to call you directly next time she sees the trash, instead of calling code enforcement.  That way, you (or the person you pay to do it) can respond directly to the issue and not involve code enforcement (and avoid the fine).

 Yes, this neighbor and other tenants need to tell you who is doing it.  It's been my experience that 1 or 2 tenants out of 30 are always responsible for 90% of the trash in the yard.  Once you figure out who is doing it, come down hard on this person and/or evict and the problem will be solved.

@Mike O'Connor I'm curious if you ever found an effective way to fix this issue. We are having similar issues recently at an 18-unit with tenants leaving couches or mattresses next to the dumpsters and trash in the laundry rooms.

@Todd Witt we are making progress. We are still holding off on cameras, but that is our next course of action. We have recently put up both "no trespassing" and "no illegal dumping" signs around the property and the dumpsters. We also offered up one month of discounted rent to any tenant who can identify who is causing the issue. We found out that some of the bigger items (couches, tvs, etc.) was actually due to someone in the neighborhood (not in our complex). We were able to ID the car and the tag and will pursue them further should they keep leaving their trash.

We also hired one of the tenants to do a quick pick up of the property 5 days a week. The amount we are paying is small, and it is controlling some of the smaller trash like candy wrappers.


@Mike O'Connor The "no illegal dumping" signs are a good idea. I have a feeling some of ours are coming from the complex across the street too. Some of it is our tenants though because I recognize the couch. For now, I think I am going to send out a letter to everyone reminding them that what doesn't fit in the dumpster will not be picked up and that it is their responsibility to properly dispose of it. If I know whose stuff it is and am also going to start invoicing them for my time/landfill bill.

We are resistant to cameras too, but that may be where we are headed. Even if we never take the time to review them, just their presence may help out. Who knows.

Thank you for taking the time to give an update on your experience.


One of my mentors from North York faced similar situation. He solved that problem by organizing a meeting of all of these tenants and offered them a common rental dumpster bin. He realized that the tenants just need a place to dump their junks and and he offered a decent arrangement by setting the dumpster bin. In the meeting he also demanded that tenants should share their bin rental and it really works . They contacted a dumpster rental company Junkit and they offered a decent rate

I think no one will say "NO! We can't bear the cost of that" when you request such a matter publicly. I encourage you to embrace his technique