Tenant's Messiness is getting in the way of Renting out Unit

10 Replies

Hi everyone,

I am having the unfortunate experience of dealing with an extremely messy tenant right now. Due to the conditions of the apartment, I am having difficulty getting it rented for June, a week away!

The clutter is intense in all of the rooms, the bathrooms are dirty, there is garbage in the hallways. This is clear violation of my lease and I have notified my tenant I'd like this to be resolved in a timely fashion. 

I have had no problem renting out the unit out by myself via Craigslist and Zillow in the past, but have even resorted to hire a real estate agent. Nonetheless, the agent is having trouble renting out the apartment as well.

Hypothetically speaking, in Illinois in a situation like this, would a landlord have any rights to the security deposit to remedy the potential vacancy of the apartment til July?

Thank you.

Clutter isn't damage. I'm afraid you're out of luck for now.

Maybe forget about doing showings until they are moved out and the place is clean. Then you won't be depending on them.

Don't show it until the tenant is out and you have it ready to show. Vacancies are part of the game and you should have 10% built into your business model. Your expectation of the tenant to clean and help you rent the unit with no downtime is unrealistic.

The one thing I will suggest for next time is a cleaning checklist.  There are a few available for download on the site.  It's a little incentive for them to clean the stove, refrigerator, etc or they will have that deducted from their deposit.

Best of luck to you

Make sure your lease mentions that the security deposit CANNOT be used in place of paying last months rent, unpaid rent, etc. Tenants are famous for trying to pull that one.

You want the security deposit and rent being owed to be 2 separate issues. The security deposit is supposed to help offset repairs and loss of rents until released if the tenant does not honor their lease obligations and deliver the premises vacant and clean on time with no damage ( courts generally deem reasonable wear and tear accepted ).

A lot will depend on if you are in a landlord friendly or a tenant friendly state and if the tenant moving out has good credit to lose and they are not judgment proof.

No legal advice given.

Thanks for the responses everyone. Like mentioned some of you, it's part of the game I suppose. I know it's a stretch thinking the deposit is there for remedy of not being able to rent it out, just frustrating.

@Joe B. "Your expectation of the tenant to clean and help you rent the unit with no downtime is unrealistic."

My expectations aren't that demanding, I don't need a spotless unit. I have other tenants who I have never had issues with. This is beyond and reasonable of what "normal" is.

Every prospective tenant has had their fair share of comments of disgust. There is only so much I, or the real estate agent can do with words for them to try to visualize the place in a normal condition.

I'll call it a sunk cost at this point.

Originally posted by @Daniel F. :

Hi everyone,

I am having the unfortunate experience of dealing with an extremely messy tenant right now. Due to the conditions of the apartment, I am having difficulty getting it rented for June, a week away!

The clutter is intense in all of the rooms, the bathrooms are dirty, there is garbage in the hallways. This is clear violation of my lease and I have notified my tenant I'd like this to be resolved in a timely fashion. 

I have had no problem renting out the unit out by myself via Craigslist and Zillow in the past, but have even resorted to hire a real estate agent. Nonetheless, the agent is having trouble renting out the apartment as well.

Hypothetically speaking, in Illinois in a situation like this, would a landlord have any rights to the security deposit to remedy the potential vacancy of the apartment til July?

Thank you.

 Until the tenant vacates, that's his home.  There are reasons besides an uncooperative tenant to wait to show a unit when it's vacant.  One being, that you will be liable if things go missing, or if someone you bring through the apartment is actually casing the place, checking out your tenants' television or computer, etc.

Plus, your current tenant could be a holdover.  It may take you longer to get the place ready than anticipated.  These unknowns can be dealt with in the lease with a clause about letting the new tenant break the lease if the unit is not ready on time, but it will still be a pain.

The best way to get a tenant to be cooperative for showings, is to pay them.  Give them a list of how the unit must appear - no clutter, no dirty dishes in view, clean bathroom, etc.  

But, really, as a manager, I tried showing units with the tenant still in them, but even if they're clutter-free, a prospective tenant will only see the current tenant's "stuff."  And they will judge your unit accordingly.  Tenants need to be able to imagine their own stuff in the unit, where will the couch go, etc.  And their imagination will always be more positive than reality.  In their minds the unit will be bigger, for instance.  If your current tenant has wall-to-wall furniture, it will look too small for the new tenants' furniture - in their mind - even if that's not the case.

They'll want to look into closets - which will be full of your tenant's junk.  And your current tenant might sabotage your efforts with even a sideways glance at you in the applicant's presence, etc.

Overall, it's just not a good idea to show a unit with tenant in place.  But, if you have to, you really need to pay them.  Plus, that way they will have no claim to a rent abatement.  If you're showing it quite often, you can be infringing on their right to quiet enjoyment.

But, no, you can't penalize them.  And if you were to try to do that, you can bet you'll end up in court, and the judge may just award them punitive damages and rent abatement for the showings that were beyond reasonable.  It's just not worth it.  In my opinion.

I just had this tenant type.  A couple of kids that were lovely personally, a little messy, and a ton of stuff.  We  just had to eat the vacancy time.  It is not worth showing it.  Collect perspective tenant names and show when empty. Don't stop advertising and consider giving the tenant an extra refund if they leave it empty  for you to show this Sunday.

Originally posted by @Joe Bertolino :

Don't show it until the tenant is out and you have it ready to show. Vacancies are part of the game and you should have 10% built into your business model. Your expectation of the tenant to clean and help you rent the unit with no downtime is unrealistic.

Completely agree, I think it's unrealistic to show it as well. The key to good management is a quick turnover.

You can't charge a tenant for "vacancy".

---------------------------------

One thing we do to cut down on vacancy is do a video tour of the property when it is vacant and presents well. We post the video tour on youtube and include a link to the video in our ads.

Many people decide that they like the place based off of the video and will sign leases before it's vacant.

This also helps out of state shoppers.

One thing to do to help avoid this problem in the future is to take pictures after you clean the place and before the new tenants move in.  Do that with every unit you own.  Then, as a vacancy is approaching in a less than clean unit, you can list the home online complete with pictures of an immaculately clean place.  Tell tenants you can't show the place while the tenant is still there, but the pictures present the place well.  If you're in a location with good demand, you should still be able to rent the house with little trouble.

Thanks for the responses... not sure where you are all located but in Chicago its common practice for the prospective tenant to be shown the unit while a tenant resides. Leases are on an annual basis that typically begin on the first of the month, and yes, the turnaround is one day. The tenant moves out the last day of the month, we clean and do any needed repairs that day, and the next tenant moves in on the first.

I haven't heard of any of my colleagues, whether it be other landlords or management companies that don't show units while tenants are there. It's just unreasonable and a complete waste of a month.

That being said, yes I have pictures of the unit from when it was clean, and on paper unit looks great, along with it being competitively priced. Fact of the matter is the current tenants aren't respecting the property, so be it we'll all move on.

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