Please help! Rented pays on time but is becoming a thorn

32 Replies

Hello BP, One of my renters is becoming more and more of a total thorn. I made a huge mistake giving them my cell phone number too. Texts every night about little small issues. For instance, she texted me tonight asking to secure the crawl space entrance doors. Last Friday her water turned off while in shower. This was a legit concern and i had a new well drilled on Saturday. $4,000 later i basically told her i was tapped out with service requests. It gets to be out of hand. Just curious- do you hold any of your tenants responsible for anything in the house? To top it off, after the crawl space entrance text, she says the air conditioning isn’t working greAt. It makes me want to rip the central air out and tell her to get window units. It’s just non stop and is really starting to get to me. The house is old and it’s been a huge learning curve for me. There are definitely more issues with old houses but it’s getting to the point where i need to put my foot down and let them know i am not a 24/7 non stop service call center. She rented the house AS is, and i have had enough. Their $1,000 window blinds and $4,000 well is not enough. It’s always something. Please help, any insight would be much appreciated. Thanks!

I hope you did a bit more research prior to forking over $4k and drilling a new well.  Could have just been a pump or other less serious issue.  If you rented it with central AC as part of the agreement than you need to keep the system functional.  Tell her to submit maintenance requests via email if you don’t want the calls.  

@Dick Stevens @Dick Stevens house was built in 1800’s and i already replAced the pump. A new submersible pump well adds value and eliminates wAter issues in the long run. Are saying if the actual lease states there was central air conditioner?
@Benjamin Haberman Sounds like your typical pain in the $&@ tenant . You need to get some backbone here you ate beIng taken advantage and It wIll obky get wIrse If yoybkeeo fIcIbg stuff fIr tbIs fool . you must lay the law down that you are not bob villa running over there every day for stupid crap . Instead write up a document that says you are keeping regular business hours of 9-5 and after hours only in an emergency can a call be made . GIve thIs to the tenant . Also requests are to be sent to your email not random messages . If the belly achIng continues you are to tell the tenant about your “ happy clause” a happy clause is where you let the tenant know if they are not happy wIth the property they can get out of the lease immediately and go
@Benjamin Haberman I’m going to take a slightly different viewpoint. They are a pin for asking for all this stuff, but they rented a house expecting the services to work. I’d expect reliable water service. I’d expect an AC that works. I’d expect blinds that work, etc. one of the reasons people rent is so they don’t have to deal with these things. I would take a step back and determine whether the house is truly habital, and if it’s priced appropriately for the expectations. Someone renting a $500 apartment shouldn’t expect much more than working vinyl blinds. Someone renting a $2500 place probably won’t put up with the same yellowed, cracked blinds.

You might consider hiring a property management company to take over the management since it sounds like you don't enjoy it.  And, to be honest, based on what you wrote it's your responses to the tenant that sound off.

If I had a tenant call me with a minor/frivolous request (i.e. secure the crawl space door, change a light bulb, whatever), I'd just politely explain that something like that is their responsibility and I'm not going over there to do that.  After that, I wouldn't ever expect another call about something similar.

On the other hand, if I had a tenant call me with a significant/legitimate request (i.e. no water, AC is out, etc) I'd get right on it because that's part of being a landlord (plus the law likely requires it in most cases for the home to even be considered habitable). 

I certainly wouldn't tell the tenant "I was tapped out with service requests".  Suppose there was a small leak that developed in the bathroom and the tenant opted not to tell you about it because she didn't want to bother you since you were already "tapped out with service requests".  What could have been a simple $5 fix could later turn into you replacing subfloors because it was left unchecked. 

The point is, you WANT your tenants telling you about things that are wrong so you can fix them earlier rather than later.  It's always cheaper to fix something sooner rather than later.  Plus it shows your tenant that you care about your property and encourages them to do the same. 

@Kyle J. That’s a good point . I’d rather the tenant tell me of a potentIal problem then tell them over again I am tapped out of money and they’say screw it lol . Tenants won’t believe you anyway ! they resent landlords and think we are all rich . One of the reasons I never drive my corvette near where the tenants will see me in it

Something that may help with the constant phone calls would be setting up a separate number that you provide to tenants.  Try Google Voice. It allows you to have a second number directed to your primary phone. It also allows you to set up its own voicemail box and filter when you allow calls to ring vs going to voicemail. Just give all tenants this new number and tell them you changed numbers. 

@Benjamin Haberman why are you telling the tenant you are out of money to fix things?!? This is your business.

Did the a/c work when they rented it? Then the unit as-is had central air and they reasonably expect it to work. Nothing strange or excessive about that unless you EXPLICITLY state in the lease that it will not be repaired. I did this with a house that had an older Jacuzzi tub. I stated that it worked, but the mechanical portion would not be repaired.

I'm not sure what you mean by holding the tenant responsible. Normally tenants are only responsible for damage they specifically cause. Some landlords however make the tenant responsible for small repairs under a certain dollar amount (Example $50).

Tenants can be a pain to deal with, but remember they do pay a significant chunk of their income for a service which affects their lives every single day.

It sounds like this is possibly a bad combo of an older house that needs a lot of repairs, matched with a picky tenant.  Like others have mentioned, set office hours for phone calls and/or request service calls be sent to an e-mail address.

The only true after-hours "emergency" I can think of...that I could do anything about...is if water is gushing.  And that's why I leave instructions in each unit...as well as verbally tell and show each new tenant...on how to shut the water off and how to flip a breaker.

Although it has never regularly been a problem with any particular tenant.  Just recently I had one tenant call at 11:30PM to complain her a/c wasn't working.  A text message I don't as much mind.  But a phone call that late?  Really?!?  And that's why I turn the sound of my cell phone off and leave it in a different room when I go to bed.

Yes.  That is an important repair that needs to be taken care of ASAP.  But exactly what she thought I could do about it in the wee-chee-chee hours of the night, I have no idea.  I am all out of magic fairy dust and HVAC service techs aren't available 24/7.  Exactly the same problem if this was her own home she owned.

With that said, you are responsible for legitimate repairs that come up and/or are needed.  Improvements?  No.  Damage caused by her?  No, though you'll typically want to use your own or vet her repair people.

Sounds like you need to read "The Book on Managing Rental Properties by Brandon & Heather Turner"

Old house, picky tenant, sub-par land lording = bad combo

Remember this is your BUSINESS so you should run it like a BUSINESS, if you can't do that then it's time to hire a property management company.

@Benjamin Haberman investing in real estate is not all cash flow and rainbows. Old houses have great cash flow and in return you get high repair expenses. It is your job to keep everything working at your expense. If you underestimated repairs or didn't set aside sufficient reserves, that is not your tenants fault. You listed four complaints:

1. Water not working - this is 100% your responsibility to keep water working. 

2. Air conditioner not cooling - it is your responsibility to keep provided mechanical items working.

3. Secure the crawl space entries. - need to determine if this is this some type of security issue and if so it is your responsibility

4. Replacement window blinds at $1000. - Sounds like your choice to do this. If you provide functioning blinds as part of your property, then you need to maintain them. This varies by property, so the key is have a clear definition of who pays. I can get blinds for $20 a window, so not sure how you racked up a $1000 bill.

Do you have a family? I encourage you to ask yourself if your kids and wife didn't have water, air conditioning or secure entries to the property, how would that make you feel? You signed up to be a landlord, so you need to fulfill your responsibility.

It's your property and you are the one to decide what is and is not necessary to be addressed.

For ligate serious issues you respond immediately for all else you simply text back that you will take a look next time you are at the property. Do not ever make any special effort to address insignificant issues.

Your only problem going forward is ignoring her texts and determinimg what is a serious issue. Ignoring tenants is part of your job as a landlord. Text messages should be very easy to ignore. 

@Benjamin Haberman I feel your pain! It can be very stressful, self managing and I have absolutely had crazy tenants message me late at night, early in the morning, often about things that could wait for normal business hours and/or were not technically my responsibility or had been a problem for several days or weeks and they decide that 10:30 pm Friday, Saturday Sunday night is the right time to message you.

Some people will mistake your friendly demeanor as being their friend, some will look to you to be their surrogate parent. And yes, some will obsess about every little amenity in a quest to get the best level of service for their money, some to the point they are taking advantage of you....who would not want a personal 5 star concierge to fix every little thing?

I agree with the other suggestions 1.work phone(google voice) 2.specific maintenance request procedure(in writing or message during 9-5 M-F) 3. Don't be afraid to politely say "no"

Also, don't say "no" too often...I like obsessive tenants like that, they often keep the place clean and report every little issue, long before it becomes a BIG issue and if you keep to the standard of an OCD tenant you will always have the asset in tip top shape to re-rent or sell. 

Example, the crawl space could probably be secured with a few dollars of chicken wire or a new latch and about 10-30 min worth of time, but could help you avoid a raccoon or possum setting up a nest or dying in there and stinking up the place(also costing much more to remedy than the latch) OR you may notice a plumbing leak when you secure the crawl space, that may have gone unnoticed for many more months eventually doing some real damage. 

Wether you like it or not, the house is slowly decaying and falling apart(you even get a tax right off for it, depreciation), everything does, stopping that from happening faster or remedying the problems enough to make it last longer or still be an acceptable dwelling,  is the value you add as a landlord.

I hope my reply added value to this topic?

This is the clause in my lease that sets boundaries between my tenants and how/when/why they contact me.  And I use Google Voice.

(a) Maintenance requests may be made by phone or text from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday – Friday, or by email anytime. In the case of an emergency, call the Property Manager anytime. Emergencies include fire, flood, electrical shortage, and sewer backups.


I also only offer MTM leases.  That way, if someone is over the top and does not respect boundaries, I can terminate their lease.  Obviously, if there is a legitimate maintenance issue, it is your responsibility to address them.  If the minutiae is causing you a "death by a thousand cuts", you can diplomatically have a frank conversation with them:

"Mrs. Jones, I can't help but notice that you've called me many times over the last few months over maintenance issues.  While  some of those issues I appreciate you reaching out to me for me to address, several  others have been what I would not consider my role as the landlord to address.   I work hard to provide a habitable place for our tenants to call home, but I would hate to have someone living here who isn't happy with the property.  If that's the case, I'd be willing to let you out of your lease and we could go our separate ways.  I just thought I'd ask.  What are your thoughts?"

Her water "turned off while in shower". What does that even mean? How do you know they didnt just take 30 minute showers back to back? Did you inspect the house before buying because they turn on all water and see how the pressure is, at least they do in the Midwest.

Tenants rented the place with no blinds spending that $1000 is on you. You could've let them buy blinds. 

Originally posted by @Clint E. :

Her water "turned off while in shower". What does that even mean? How do you know they didnt just take 30 minute showers back to back? Did you inspect the house before buying because they turn on all water and see how the pressure is, at least they do in the Midwest.

Tenants rented the place with no blinds spending that $1000 is on you. You could've let them buy blinds. 

It means the water turned off while she was taking a shower and apparently the entire well was dry and needed to be re-drilled. Do you really think that someone can take enough showers to run a well dry? It is amazing how people will find a way to blame a tenant for everything. It was probably a bad well when he bought the place. Not the tenants fault.

Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock :
Originally posted by @Clint E.:

Her water "turned off while in shower". What does that even mean? How do you know they didnt just take 30 minute showers back to back? Did you inspect the house before buying because they turn on all water and see how the pressure is, at least they do in the Midwest.

Tenants rented the place with no blinds spending that $1000 is on you. You could've let them buy blinds. 

It means the water turned off while she was taking a shower and apparently the entire well was dry and needed to be re-drilled. Do you really think that someone can take enough showers to run a well dry? It is amazing how people will find a way to blame a tenant for everything. It was probably a bad well when he bought the place. Not the tenants fault.

No but you can take enough showers to run out of hot water especially if the efficiency setting is used. 

@Benjamin Haberman if you respond to tenant requests after hours you are teaching the client that it is acceptable to text you any time. Unless the house is on fire I would suggest ignoring all texts outside of business hours. Respond to the texts only during business hours.

John,

That is the whole point of posting on BP. You need to hear both sides of it. I slept on it and decided I need to step it up and just button everything up that needs to be fixed. At the same time, im also going to put the tenant in check by stopping the 24/7 texting. Appreciate the response.

Originally posted by @Wesley W. :

This is the clause in my lease that sets boundaries between my tenants and how/when/why they contact me.  And I use Google Voice.

(a) Maintenance requests may be made by phone or text from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday – Friday, or by email anytime. In the case of an emergency, call the Property Manager anytime. Emergencies include fire, flood, electrical shortage, and sewer backups.


I also only offer MTM leases.  That way, if someone is over the top and does not respect boundaries, I can terminate their lease.  Obviously, if there is a legitimate maintenance issue, it is your responsibility to address them.  If the minutiae is causing you a "death by a thousand cuts", you can diplomatically have a frank conversation with them:

"Mrs. Jones, I can't help but notice that you've called me many times over the last few months over maintenance issues.  While  some of those issues I appreciate you reaching out to me for me to address, several  others have been what I would not consider my role as the landlord to address.   I work hard to provide a habitable place for our tenants to call home, but I would hate to have someone living here who isn't happy with the property.  If that's the case, I'd be willing to let you out of your lease and we could go our separate ways.  I just thought I'd ask.  What are your thoughts?"

Awesome info. Thank you. 

Originally posted by @Thomas S. :

It's your property and you are the one to decide what is and is not necessary to be addressed.

For ligate serious issues you respond immediately for all else you simply text back that you will take a look next time you are at the property. Do not ever make any special effort to address insignificant issues.

Your only problem going forward is ignoring her texts and determinimg what is a serious issue. Ignoring tenants is part of your job as a landlord. Text messages should be very easy to ignore. 

thank you!

Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock :

@Benjamin Haberman investing in real estate is not all cash flow and rainbows. Old houses have great cash flow and in return you get high repair expenses. It is your job to keep everything working at your expense. If you underestimated repairs or didn't set aside sufficient reserves, that is not your tenants fault. You listed four complaints:

1. Water not working - this is 100% your responsibility to keep water working. 

2. Air conditioner not cooling - it is your responsibility to keep provided mechanical items working.

3. Secure the crawl space entries. - need to determine if this is this some type of security issue and if so it is your responsibility

4. Replacement window blinds at $1000. - Sounds like your choice to do this. If you provide functioning blinds as part of your property, then you need to maintain them. This varies by property, so the key is have a clear definition of who pays. I can get blinds for $20 a window, so not sure how you racked up a $1000 bill.

Do you have a family? I encourage you to ask yourself if your kids and wife didn't have water, air conditioning or secure entries to the property, how would that make you feel? You signed up to be a landlord, so you need to fulfill your responsibility.

 All good points.

Where are you getting blinds for $20 a window?