Tenants' attitude- Am I looking at it the right way?

10 Replies

I own and manage a single fam that a 2/1 and rents out for $635. I acquired it 2 weeks ago. Seller listed at 38k and I offered 24k cash after finding a few big ticket items for repair. I asked the seller at closing why they're selling the home and they mentioned about the tenants being a headache and too demanding to make repairs for every little thing. BUT, I can tell the owners and/or their PM didn't take good care of the property, a lot of repairs should've been done and tenants could use a relatively better place to live in than what it currently is. 

I met the tenants last week and as the seller mentioned, they did have a lot of complaints. They wanted a few things to improve and I agree with some of them. I definitely agree on things that are a safety hazard- especially with kids in the home. I mentioned to the tenants that I'll take care of the safety issues first- I'll do the must haves first rather than the nice to haves, if that makes sense.  I  want to do a good job of taking care of the property and provide good living conditions- while still making a profit. 

I think it's a good thing to have tenants let me know what's wrong so that I can attend to it and make a judgement call on whether it needs to be fixed or not rather than sit on an issue and later find out it blew out of proportion because of neglect. 

Here's what alarmed me a little bit. The tenants are suing the previous seller for neglecting a flooring issue. There was a hole in the floor and it wasn't fixed right. The seller put a styrofoam pad to fix it rather than put something sturdy or even fix the floor. The lady tripped and fell and incurred medical expenses (apparently). She asked the seller to reimburse for this expense and the seller didn't. I can vouch for the sloppy job that was done- I cannot vouch for her tripping there. But what's scary, in a way, is their attitude to sue. It makes me think if this is how they approach most issues and will this attitude be a problem in the future. 

I am mentally prepared and getting accustomed to the idea of landlords being sued- so I have a decent insurance policy and have the property in my LLC. But, this is the only property I bought for the learning experience and I'm enjoying the experience so far.

I'd appreciate any valuable insights on the current situation!

So your next in line,, step up and realize you are now just as liable at the previous owner if you don't fix that hole today..

I'd give them notice to vacate asap and make sure your insurance is paid up.

Photo's inside and out of current conditions.. 

@Mihir Bhimaraju ,

I can certainly understand your hesitation if there is a pending law suit.     If the prior tenant did a sketchy patch job, and she fell through, got injured because of the landlord's negligence, IMO they should sue.    It sounds like you are on the right path, and get all the safety issues fixed ASAP.     I'd get 100% of the safety things fixed,  and add any other additional security features needed.      Slumlords ignore problems,  when tenants feel they aren't being listened to, they go to someone who will listen (lawyer).  I will say-- with this tenant, I'd document like crazy, times/dates/ pictures/ actions, expenses, be on the offensive  and be ready, just in case.     Show them you are available and you listen.

What we tell our tenants, is that we are always looking to improve their homes, so each year at renewal, we ask them what's a $150 fix they want done?   Maybe it's a water outlet, maybe it's a new microwave, whatever.. they tell us, and each year we improve their homes.   It's tax deductible, and shows them we care about their quality of life.   I'd explain you can't do everything now, but you will continue to improve each year!   

Hi Mihir, 

Once , one of my properties had two bad bedroom floors ( the hardwood floors had buckled up and the bedroom doors would not close) , and the bathroom floor had become extremely soft from a slow dripping toilet shutoff valve. The tenants let me know about the floors. In my opinion, it was not their fault for the floor issues( maybe some local blasting cause the buckling issues, and leaky valves just happen). Anyway, I was not a happy camper, but I got the floors repaired, while the tenants continued to live there. I figured that it was better to absorb the repair cost, than to have a tenant get hurt and possibly sue. Well, that was my story, I hope that that helps. 

We bought a property with lots of deferred maintenance, and have been rehabbing the units as they become vacant -- but nothing like you describe.  I would not want to do major repairs with suit happy tenants in place.  Even minor work with a tenant in place is  a pain (especially kids).  You have rotten subfloors?  You might be best off getting the property red tagged as being uninhabitable  (so tenants have to leave), doing the repairs needed, getting a new certificate of occupancy, and then re-renting for a higher price.  I am not a lawyer, but I would imagine that getting the property red tagged would absolve you of responsibility (the city is saying the property is unsafe and the tenants cannot live there -- not you) and save you eviction costs.  You are only being a responsible LL trying to follow the law and keep everyone safe.

@Deanna McCormick Thank you!

@Linda D. I like your strategy and I agree- I intend to get the safety issues fixed right away.

@Bernard B. your story helps! 

@Bettina F. The flooring issue is fixed now- seller fixed it after the tenant sued her for it. The case is ongoing. But, I intend to get other fixes done as well. they're mostly exterior fixes and the ones that are interior, I plan to get them done when the tenants are at work. I appreciate the response

If the place is in that bad of shape and needs quite a bit of real work done I would get them out and start fresh. Depending on their current lease status, that may mean just 60 days notice, or cash to move out etc. Trying to rehab a home with a lot of neglected maintenance while an "iffy" tenant is there is a huge PITA. They are already primed to complain about stuff (and sue) and once you start fixing things, they will add more and more to the list that they feel is "necessary" that you feel is not and there will be conflict.... you can bet on it. They think they have a new sugar daddy savior to make the house exactly the way they think it should be.....

My advice.....get the tenants out....fix the important stuff and get new tenants. I know having a vacancy is scary, but is likely less hassle than trying it the other way