Murder/Attempted Suicide in Tenant Unit

17 Replies

Hello BiggerPockets family,

My wife and I own a multifamily apartment building, and we had a terrible tragedy a couple of days ago.
We await the final police report, but there was an apparent murder/attempted suicide in one of the units.

So far we’ve spent $20k in crime-scene cleanup and they still have another day of work to do.  Insurance has said they’re not covering it because it’s a ‘domestic situation’ which is not covered on the insurance.

We’re speaking with a lawyer tomorrow to determine what to do with their possessions and if there is any recourse with the surviving tenant to recover these costs, but we are doubtful he has money to pay us back. 

We’ve also been the lead story on several local news channels (in a metro area) for the past two days — luckily we’re starting to fall off the news cycle, but there were two trucks out front today taking, and later airing, some rather cruel and unflattering footage as we struggle to clean up the mess.

This building previously had somewhat of a ”reputation,” but we have worked extremely hard for over a year to get that successfully turned around, but this is a huge setback and I’m feeling like all the progress we made on our reputation is ruined. The only upside is our tenants are really going to bat for us on social media (which we are avoiding because of the risk of this mess getting even further out of proportion).

Has anybody been through anything like this? I need to make sure our business can survive -but I don’t know how I’ll be able to rent this unit again given the news and social media pile-on (the news were very specific about the apartment #) and I feel people in general will avoid us now. Any words of advice would be really helpful.

Thanks,

Robert.

Sorry to hear this. I have learned there is an odd set of people that would actually want to live in that unit because of the notoriety so don’t necessarily assume no one will rent it. There was a high profile murder down the street from my sisters house in a rental in a decent area and it wasn’t even 60 days later they had a new renter in there. 

@Robert Lindsley

Hey, people forget. Hugo Ferdinand Boss joined the NSDAP before Adolf Hitler and manufactured all the uniforms of the SA and SS, yet people buy an awful lot of clothing and cologne from the billion-dollar company today, proud to wear Nazi suits and Nazi stink.

@Robert Lindsley That is such a tough situation.

I had an OD in a unit a couple of years ago which I did disclose to applicants that were looking shortly after it happened and most were not phased.

I do think most people recognize when a problem is a community wide crime problem and when a problem is a disturbed family member problem.

Originally posted by @Mark Fries :

@Jay Hinrichs

20k cleanup....that's crazy! I would just lock the door and forget about the unit...make it a storage room...save the 20k....the 24 unit apartment just became a 23 unit apartment. 

I had one suicide by gun but it was done in the back yard so not a big issue on clean up.. I have to think this is not a toxic waste type deal that would necessitate that kind of expense for clean up.

@Robert Lindsley the news media could care less about you or any damage they do in their reckless reporting. It is all about sensationalizing, but the good news is these "journalists" and social media trolls have the attention span of a 2 years old. This too shall pass.

As far as any lingering bad media with the apartment number. You could possibly renumber the apartment units. Let's say it is an 8 unit apartment building, you could change the numbers from 1-8 to be 10-80. Another option is skipping the number of the murder unit, so 1-9 but skip the bad number. If it is a small complex you could use letters Unit A, Unit B, etc. If the apartment building has a name, you could change the name. 

You could turn this unit into a furnished STR and rent it that way for a while.

@Robert Lindsley I live here in Orlando and I am aware of what you are talking about. My wife and I pay attention to the local news on a daily basis and one thing I know for sure is that everyone will forget. That unit might need to be empty for some time but you will be able to rent it eventually. @Joe Splitrock had a great suggestion with renumbering. 

Robert, so sorry to hear about this incident at one of your properties. I had an elderly gentleman die in one of my units. In time, people forget. Just clean up the unit, drop the price and get it rented again. Keep us updated on the status. Best of luck to you.

I'm an insurance adjuster for a major insurer and I've done a couple of crime scene clean ups and 20k seems really high! DM me and I'll give you my number so we can chat to see if you are getting ripped off. 

Maybe you need to lower your rent in a short time. However, this will not last long. After all, this is not the main influencing factor, and you have absolute power to interpret.

@Robert Lindsley

I had a suicide by shotgun in an apartment a couple weeks after I returned from Afghanistan. The first estimate on clean-up was around $23,000. Fortunately my wife got a quote from a second crime scene cleanup company charged $6,000.

Some of the companies know you just want things cleaned up.

My biggest challenge was 3/5 remaining units stopped paying rent after the suicide.

Thanks for all the feedback and support!  It’s been really helpful.  It’s been one week today since the incident and we’re finally getting back to normal.

The crime scene company had to get rid of a LOT of the stuff in the unit (14 biohazard containers worth, to be exact) - and that was just for the things that tested positive for ‘bio.’  The cleanup crew said they’ve been doing this for 15 years and it was the worst crime scene they had ever encountered — same thing the police and CSI said.  While I think the cost is high, when I look at the individual breakdown nothing screams at me as excessive — it was a really gruesome scene.

They finally finished up on Wednesday and now we are getting rid of the remaining possessions.  From there we need put an ozone cleaner in the unit, Lysol the remaining drywall and surfaces, seal everything up with BinZ sealant and primer, and begin rehabbing the unit.  Hopefully we’ll be able to re-rent that unit at regular price, but we can lower the price if we need to.

I think we will re-number those units - I checked with the post office and the town and they approved it.  Also I think we may change the name of the complex.  Our building had a reputation for drugs and ‘illicit behavior’ from many years ago so that’s probably a good idea anyway. 

From a business perspective I’m really bothered insurance isn’t covering this at all.  What *does* insurance companies cover these days?!?!?

I’m really sad this happened in my building, but in truth it could have happened anywhere. 

Thanks again for all the great suggestions.  If you have any others, please let me know!

Thanks,

Robert.

Originally posted by @Robert Lindsley :

Thanks for all the feedback and support!  It’s been really helpful.  It’s been one week today since the incident and we’re finally getting back to normal.

The crime scene company had to get rid of a LOT of the stuff in the unit (14 biohazard containers worth, to be exact) - and that was just for the things that tested positive for ‘bio.’  The cleanup crew said they’ve been doing this for 15 years and it was the worst crime scene they had ever encountered — same thing the police and CSI said.  While I think the cost is high, when I look at the individual breakdown nothing screams at me as excessive — it was a really gruesome scene.

They finally finished up on Wednesday and now we are getting rid of the remaining possessions.  From there we need put an ozone cleaner in the unit, Lysol the remaining drywall and surfaces, seal everything up with BinZ sealant and primer, and begin rehabbing the unit.  Hopefully we’ll be able to re-rent that unit at regular price, but we can lower the price if we need to.

I think we will re-number those units - I checked with the post office and the town and they approved it.  Also I think we may change the name of the complex.  Our building had a reputation for drugs and ‘illicit behavior’ from many years ago so that’s probably a good idea anyway. 

From a business perspective I’m really bothered insurance isn’t covering this at all.  What *does* insurance companies cover these days?!?!?

I’m really sad this happened in my building, but in truth it could have happened anywhere. 

Thanks again for all the great suggestions.  If you have any others, please let me know!

Thanks,

Robert.

It makes sense that you can go into the apartment and clean up the bio hazard.  BUT how do you justify removing the remaining items?   

How did you get possession of the unit?  IF one person is alive, then that person does have possession, even if prison is his destination after he gets out of the hospital.  And the other person's heirs have a right to the items that are not biohazard.  By removing the things, both the person in the hospital and the heirs of the other person, can claim there were all sorts of valuable things that are now removed by you from the apartment.

You are giving them a blank check.

Also you should file a lawsuit against the survivor for the clean up costs because sometimes reporters or whoever sign book deals with these folks, and you want to have a claim to collect if it goes that route.  Or there may be life insurance that you may be able to claim, as he can not get it if he killed her.

Hi Lynnette,

Before clearing out the contents of the unit I spoke with local police, our attorney, and the families of those involved.  This building is technically a weekly rental, and since they didn't pay rent for the week we were able to wait the required time (3.5 days or 1/2 the rental period) and then proceed.

Both families collected everything they wanted before we cleared the unit.

Thanks for the suggestion to file a lawsuit.  Good idea - we will definitely do that, just in case the person ever has money.  Hopefully this incident won't be a complete loss for us!

Thanks,

Robert.