Dad is FIRE

One dad's journey to Financial Independence Retiring Early

What to do when tenant destroys rental property

There is a big fear that keeps people from being a landlord. People are afraid that a tenant destroys rental property. Yes. It happens. Every landlord has horror stories. The stories aren’t myths. Landlords exchange the horror stories.

You think you’ve done a great job screening tenants. But don’t worry about whether or not tenants will destroy your rental house. They might. It’s not a big deal.

Examples of when tenants have destroyed rental property

  • Battery in the garbage disposal
  • fleas, fleas, fleas. I said that three times on purpose. It’s happened plenty of times, and they are a pain to get rid of. Even when you tell a tenant no pets, they will do what they want. Are you really going to evict a tenant that pays on time over a dog? I hate fleas
  • So much stuff and trash you need to get rid of. This has actually shifted from being something I dreaded to a way we make money. My wife posts things left behind for sale on Facebook Marketplace and we make money. What’s left is donated to Goodwill or thrown away. It is amazing at how many things people will buy. Even gross mattresses will sell. This is an important point to understand. Just because something is trash to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value to someone else. Sell stuff. It makes you money, gets people things they need, and keeps crap out of landfills
  • Greasy stove, oven, and gross fridges. I actually learned my mistake with these and stopped providing appliances altogether. We were spending way too much time cleaning appliances between tenants. Further appliances are expensive to get fixed. Learn from me, you do not need to have appliances. Just explain to prospects that you’re willing to provide them for higher rent, but they will be ugly cheap appliances and they are better off getting their own. (this only works if your demographic is the same as mine: middle class ~1k a month rental houses)
  • Holes in walls, ruined flooring, broken doors, etc. These are easy to fix. Drywall patches, light carpentry, flooring, and paint are all easy.
  • trash, trash, trash

But those aren’t my horror story. Those were inconveniences. Nothing was really destroyed. My worst situation was “Weber”.

My tenants destroyed my rental house: The story of Weber

This situation was gross. The tenants stunk so bad that the neighbors had ordinance violations files over their smell. It has to be bad for this to occur. So the tenant had to move. When they moved it was so hard to be in the house. I don’t think kitty litter had been thrown away in a year. If you assume the cats were ok with that you are wrong, because they stopped using the litter and just went wherever.

The house was just plain gross. It was horrible. How they lived there I don’t know. They were also horders.

The house had two very large detached garages. The tenant filled the garages completely with the rubber coating that insulated the copper piping that they had been stealing from the warehouse being rehabbed across the street. We had a large dumpster filled with just this material. It was heavy too. They must have been paying rent by stealing copper.

Should I have known they were doing it, in retrospect I could have stopped by more. But this is touchy. Tenants have rights. I also don’t care to stalk them. A few more checkins would have been smart, but looking back I doubt I would have changed things. They deserve to be treated like people. They lost their home over this.

It’s not a big deal

But like I said this was no big deal. These are math problems. Rehabbing the house back to good shape only cost me $5k. It was a small slab house, only 700 sq feet. We just ripped the flooring out, had new carpet put in, painted, threw away a lot of things, and fixed broken stuff. There wasn’t much to it.

My girlfriend at the time flipped out. Her parents flipped out. I didn’t understand. They were insulted that someone destroyed my rental property. They didn’t understand why someone would do this to me. I didn’t feel that way and didn’t care. I tried to explain, look these tenants gave me 48k over 5 years so I could absorb a 5k set back.

Process that. The tenants paid $48,000 to me. It cost me $5,000 to clean up after them. It wasn’t a big deal.

Bottom line when a tenant destroys rental property

That is the point here. Tenants will destroy your house. Step back, take a breath, and just remember it is all just bricks and sticks. It is just a math problem. Figure it out. Over a long time line you come out ahead.

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