1st Time landlord - tenant from hell

20 Replies

I’m a newbie landlord in Cal and have already served the 3 day notice twice with my very first tenant, I’m still in the early stage of this painful eviction process.

Tenant claimed heater broke down the second day after I served the 3 day last month. My attorney suggested to get the heater fixed before filing for UD even she didn’t pay within 3 days... Had the heater “fixed” (I believe she broke it) and received payment 18 days after due date, of course no late fees included. She was quiet and ignored my reminder on rent/ deposit until I served the 2nd 3 day notice on Sunday.

She was fuming and claimed the notice was illegal and demanded a discounted rent because the condition is so bad (not clean upon move in, leakage from fridge, kitchen faucet leakage that he had to fix herself blah blah). Then guess what, the heater broke down again today, day 2 since notice, one week after the repair. 

I have scheduled a call with my attorney tomorrow for suggestions. Although I feel very strong to proceed with UD this time, so will see what attorney says. The other thing I just found out was she’s been evicted before and I can track down who the attorney was, do you think 1). Is it better to work with the attorney who evicted her in the past and 2). Is it common to proceed UD with the nonsense repairs ( outstanding repairs) the tenant’s claiming, surely everyone has common sense sees what’s going on?

I know legal* advise should come from my attorney but eager to hear your thoughts please, also need to vent a little bit...

Are you serving a 3 day "pay or quit" notice after she paid? Then she's right, it's incorrect for you to do that after having accepted her rent. Check your local tenant laws. They may prohibit you from including late fees as part of the rent. It doesn't matter if the place wasn't clean upon move in. She moved in accepting the condition. If she made repairs herself, let her know that she isn't permitted to make repairs without your approval. You can choose to reimburse or not. You're not obligated (unless it's in your lease).

Finally, follow your lease and give her the required days notice to end the lease. She is not going to be a good tenant for you.

@Christy Miller ,

She seems really unhappy and that it's not a good fit.    Why not offer her a few hundred in a cash for keys deal?   It's obviously not a  good situation, and it sounds like there is quite a bit of stuff that needs to be fixed.. this will be cheaper than a full eviction.  

Sometimes tenants try this tactic when they get an eviction/rent court notice. Take care of the property as you normally would. If it's something truly important for the safety of the property and people, fix it. If it's a complaint about being dirty, broken mailbox, or other non-essential stuff, acknowledge it but don't jump immediately to fix it.

Follow your local rental laws and don't let bad tenants bully you. It's mostly a bunch of hot air to try and buy themselves time. 

Nicole A.

    If you do "cash for keys", make sure it's written up and you both sign it and keep a copy. The offer should state the date, and it shouldn't be a long time. A week or 2 tops for them to move out for the cash. No keys, no signature means no cash! 

    And as your "insurance" file for eviction anyway so that when/if they don't move out on the agreed upon date, you at least have started the process instead of wasting a week or however long you gave them on the cash for keys deal. Then when they move out, cancel the eviction process.

    Nicole A.

      Originally posted by @Linda D. :

      @Christy Miller ,

      She seems really unhappy and that it's not a good fit.    Why not offer her a few hundred in a cash for keys deal?   It's obviously not a  good situation, and it sounds like there is quite a bit of stuff that needs to be fixed.. this will be cheaper than a full eviction.  

      Yup - you can see if she would be willing to do that. But if you offer CFK, the conditions need to be crystal clear, documents need to be signed, etc. I would give her only a few days (other landlords can weigh in with Best Practice) to move out, clean, sign-off on ending lease mutually, only pay after inspection of property (and utilities, apparently, if you think she's breaking them) is complete and satisfactory. Don't forget about the security deposit as well - you may want to consider a pre-walk through before agreeing to CFK. If something breaks between pre and post walkthrough its far easier to identify the tenant causing the issue.

      Tenant screening is important; some folks have suggested some ideas to help. Some of the ones I like:

      • Walk though the lease with potential tenants BEFORE they sign, e.g. go to their current residence. You can get a sense of how a person lives and what kind of tenant they may be.
      • Ask for previous landlord referrals and CALL THEM ALL. You need to be incredibly careful about the questions you ask by state laws, but confirm the tenancy and any other questions. I would consult local state laws on the questions you can ask. I like to ask an open ended question at the end, e.g. anything you would like to share about this person? Would you consider having them as a tenant again?
      • It may be painful, but don't just rent to the first person who passes your background check. I did that because interest in my last property was low and I didn't want to skip another month of income. That tenant ended up costing me a lot more than just one month of rent in the long run.

      Thank you for your advice, it also makes me feel much better.

      It’s only over a month since she moved in and her first month’s rent bounced, didn’t pay for the 2nd (overdue two days ago). The 2nd notice was for the 2nd payment. It’s a lesson learnt the hard way, we’ll surely be more thorough with the screening process going forward.

      The house was newly remodeled, there was a general house inspection and repairs were done accordingly before she moved in. For both times “maintenance”issues only came up the day after we have served 3day notice, she just needs a place for free.

      I’m having a hard time convince myself of the “cfk” idea with her, maybe for someone that has a genuine reason. But she lied on her application, provided fake credit report / maybe also paycheck, had multiple evictions in the past.. plus I have a sense she’s going to demand 2mth+ rent (legal fees are ~2/3 rent), and I won’t be able to get over it easily.

      You need to take emotion out of the equation. Your last paragraph will be your downfall as a landlord. 

      I'm not saying cash for keys is the best option for this scenario, but if it is, you can't let emotion get in the way of your protecting your investment. If you have a tenant that is allegedly purposely causing damage to your property, get them out. Who knows what they'll damage next when maybe you could've given them cash for keys beforehand.

      Also, you need to pull prospective tenants' credit reports & do background checks, including calling their employer at a phone number you get from the company website. Do not accept copies of credit reports or employer contact information from tenants, it's worthless.

      Hey Christy,

      Sorry to hear about the unfortunate run in you've had. The points @Joe Papp made above about Tenant screening will definitely save you a lot of time, money and stress down the road. When screening make sure to get a full criminal, background and credit check, and be sure to check out any social media they have so you can get an idea of who the person you will be renting to, really is.

      In the meantime try to be as friendly as possible to the tenant and attempt to reach a reasonable solution, such as cash for keys. If she isn't willing to budge, provide proper written notice and file for the eviction ASAP.

      Christopher Finn

      Christy, Christy, Christy...

      I fear the worst with this tenant. First month's check bounced, didn't pay for the second. Things break upon notice. She lied on her application, committed fraud (fake credit report), etc. This tenant knows EXACTLY what she is doing.

      After hearing some more of this back story, I would advise you to call a landlord-tenant lawyer IMMEDIATELY. I agree a CFK conversation will backfire, I think. Please, do yourself a favor and call a LT lawyer and do not wait another second.

      I'd also be prepared for her to totally destroy your house as you lawyer-up. I hate to say it, but this person has preyed on your good nature and will now become your worst nightmare.

      Spend the money now to try and avoid a massive problem, but dig those heels in because I think its going to be a long ride.

      After seeing what you've said, I invite others to weigh in, but knowing what you've just told me, you've got a professional scam artist in your property and this won't end well. Cover your rear.

      I’m waiting for the 3 day notice to expire before filing for UD, also on the hunt for the attorney who dealt with her case before. In the mean time I have to send the same contractor for the heater ugh..

      This tenant really opened my eyes, as many mistakes we have made, the only thing I was able to really verify was employment, she doesn’t have a “professional” job but she’s making decent $ and drives a 2017 bmw. I just couldn’t imagine why ppl with a decent job behaves this way, but I know better now, never make preconceptions on anything and follow the book no matter what.

      @Christy Miller if you can live essentially rent free and move some of your stuff every 3 months, would you do it? I bet dollars to donuts this person is doing it.

      Also, a car is both a terrible and great way to judge someone's income and priorities. Most people opt for an unrealistic car and gigantic car payments, and then need to decide between rent and car payment one month because they're terrible with money. Guess who lost this month.

      I drive a 09 Honda Accord. It's full of dings, dents, scratches (I live in South Philly, nothing but street parking), missing a hub cap, and its in "crap gold" color. But I can tell you all my bills are paid at the beginning of the month like clockwork. It's all about priorities and again, this tenant knows exactly what she is doing.

      You're learning a lesson, albeit the hard way, but learning none the less. Again, treat this scenario with extreme caution. Here are the steps I am taking:

      1. Consulting with a landlord/tenant lawyer, bring up everything and also the fact that the heater is acting up again after just being fixed. That's interesting, you either have a negligent contractor or a tenant causing damages.

      2. If you trust the person who is taking care of the heater, ask if there are signs of tampering, damage, etc. If it can be proven, most likely the tenant has willfully violated the lease, and you can begin eviction proceedings much faster (hopefully).

      3. The lease is your friend; work with your lawyer to determine what offenses have been made and see if there are breaches. You need something to stick.

      I don't know what the laws are like but as I said before, be prepared to dig. in. This person is going to be the bane of your existence for the next 60-90 days until they are evicted. Hope and pray the property isn't destroyed.

      Originally posted by @Christy Miller :

      Thank you for your advice, it also makes me feel much better.

      It’s only over a month since she moved in and her first month’s rent bounced, didn’t pay for the 2nd (overdue two days ago). The 2nd notice was for the 2nd payment. It’s a lesson learnt the hard way, we’ll surely be more thorough with the screening process going forward.

      The house was newly remodeled, there was a general house inspection and repairs were done accordingly before she moved in. For both times “maintenance”issues only came up the day after we have served 3day notice, she just needs a place for free.

      I’m having a hard time convince myself of the “cfk” idea with her, maybe for someone that has a genuine reason. But she lied on her application, provided fake credit report / maybe also paycheck, had multiple evictions in the past.. plus I have a sense she’s going to demand 2mth+ rent (legal fees are ~2/3 rent), and I won’t be able to get over it easily.

      Reading this thread should serve as an example to all readers of the importance of tenant screening; you don't want to learn this the hard way, in retrospect, as in this particular post.

      You have to use a trusted source for background reports for credit, eviction and criminal activity - no exceptions because if you use a report provided by the applicant it can easily be falsified. I feel for the landlords in those states (like Wisconsin IIRC) that require a landlord to use a report pulled by others, due to this very reason, but unless you are in a state of this sort don't accept a report that did not come from your own trusted source.

      And be sure to research the land records for any landlord reference (and for ALL addresses listed on the credit report) so that you can get in contact with a real former landlord and not somebody that the applicant has asked to pose as a reference. And employment reference should be similar - any phone number the applicant supplies might be a friend who was asked to pose as the reference.

      Why? Because a PROFESSIONAL TENANT such as the one in this thread has figured out how to take advantage of landlords who do not perform  the due diligence needed to identify a professional tenant and the result is another landlord singing the blues about being victimized by this sort of tenant.

      Christy Miller here is learning this lesson the hard - and expensive - way. Don't be like her. Christy, sorry for me being so blunt.

      Just... wow. Some people have no values. Straight up ripoffs looking for another landlord to screw over. Like the previous poster mentioned, screening tenants is a number one priority. One red flag, walk away. Just hope she doesn't damage the unit too much. Seems like she got friendly with that heater. Those things really don't break THAT often... 

      Sounds like you have a Professional Tenant on your hands. Did you run full Background and Credit reports prior to leasing the apartment to this tenant?  Get rid of this tenant asap.

           The big lesson here is to work on your screening processes.  Put them down in writing and don't  be flexible on the minimum standards.  My standards say no evictions in the past 7 years, some people advocate 5, or 10 or whatever.  

            The reason to put them in writing and to follow to a "T" is it will protect you from a professional victim.  If your policies state 10 years and you rent to someone with an eviction 9 1/2 years ago and don't rent to someone who had just got evicted who happens to be in a protected class (African American, Person with kids, disabled, gay, Jewish, etc...) It could open you up to a lawsuit or coercion (if you don't rent to me...) 

             I had someone pull that, your not renting to me just because I'm a......  I was able to show her my minimum standards (she was evicted like 6 different times), that she didn't meet them and she was never to be heard from again.

      I have to agree with Judy you are most likely dealing with a professional tenant. She definatly fits the profile to a T.

      Do not waste a minute trying to work with her to resolve the problem. She has skills far beyoond your ability. Hire a lawyer immediately.

      I'm sorry for your situation. This person is a professional tenant based on what you're saying. Don't ever rent to anyone that has had an eviction, even if they have a sob story. You have to look at it as a business, you have to be friendly, but cold. If a tenant doesn't fit my specific criteria, I don't even give them the time of day. Here's my criteria: 1. Credit score over 650. 2. Gross combined income 3x the rent. 3. Positive previous landplord reference. 4. Job and income verification via company contact information I find myself. 5. No evictions, ever. 6. No accounts in collections on credit report. I also charge a 20% ($60) late fee on the 2nd and a $20 per day late fee everyday the rent is late. If they don't communicate with me about the rent being late, I also serve a 5-day pay or quit notice on the 2nd. I was asked by my current tenants, when I interviewed them, whether or not I gave a "grace period" because their last landlord did. I told them no and I also told them the entire month leading up to the due date is their grace period. I told them they're not required to wait until the first to pay the next month's rent. They understood and I've never received a late payment. Best of luck to you. I hope it all goes well. Don't be discouraged. Learn.

      Joshua Saunders

        Thank you all for your kind advice. My attorney asked me to fix the heater as it’s considered uninhabitable condition, and we can start filing right after. I have learned a lot from BP from the past week and really appreciate everyone’s input.

        @Christy Miller , as for her 2017 bmw haven't you ever test driven a vehicle? rented a vehicle? If you didn't verify her job, how do you know she makes good money? Obviously she doesn't because her check bounced. Also, DO NOT accept personal checks for rent. EVER!

        The first thing I did was to verify her job and income. That’s when I started to let my guard off and things just went south...

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