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Bad Tenants - When Good Tenants Go Bad - What to Watch For - 5 Tips

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 3 7

C

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reating cash flow from a rental property is a great way to save for your future.  But like with any investment there can be risks involved.

Your job as a landlord is to minimize the risks and screen your renters so you can avoid bad tenants.

There are always those bad apples amongst the crowd that are determined to watch out only for themselves and to heck with your property.  This gives good tenants a bad rap and leaves landlords screening them as if for a high security job!

But no matter how well you screen your tenants, things can change, especially with long term renters.  You have probably heard all sorts of horror stories about landlords dealing with horrible tenants and illegal activity but sometimes it is not always that obvious, so you need to watch for changes in your tenants.

Most landlords, prefer to have a long term renter.  This way their property gets paid down, and they receive regular income without the bother of having to constantly repaint, repair or cleanup for new tenants. 

But sometimes you can get a little too laid back when you finally find that perfect tenant who

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seems happy enough, pays the rent on time and doesn’t bother you.  It is these long term tenants that you should watch.  Things can change and life happens to them too.  Job issues, health issues and personal issues can all add up to problems for them and you.

Here are 5 Tips or hints that you May have bad tenants or at least good tenants gone bad!

These tips should at least get you checking your property more often.

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TIP 1 - When Tenants Don't Want You To Go Inside

 When your tenant doesn’t want you anywhere near the property.  This should send alarm bells.  If you have a long term tenant then you should still be checking on your property every 6 months at least and not just driving by. Some will keep the outside pristine but the inside is where you need to look.

Bad Tenants

This was advice I received from my lawyer, and it is good advice.  He had said to me “find a way to get into your rental house at least every 6 months” 

So, I installed a water softener that I filled with 6 bags of salt every 6 months. It was worth the 4 bucks a bag that I covered so that I can get in.    I told the tenant about this arrangement right from the beginning.  We also change the batteries in the smoke detector and check the electrical panel and have a look around.  I fill out a report sheet of what we have done and get them to sign for the battery change in the smoke detectors so that I will never be accused of them missing in a fire (it can happen!) and for any repairs we both agree needs doing.  This is good for the tenant and you.

You do have to give them 24 hours’ notice that you are coming in. 

This way you can see the state of your property inside.  I have personally found some issues that needed addressing on these inspections.  Some tenants have a fear that if they complain too much you will not renew the lease, but you should be told of any repairs that need doing.

Small simple repairs can turn into disaster if they are not addressed.

If your tenant gives you a hard time about going in, take a closer look and make sure things are not broken or any activity going on that should not be happening.  You would like to trust your tenants, but sometimes things change.  Bring someone with you too when you do these inspections.

In fact a tenant had been renting the basement out to a friend to help pay the rent after losing her job and not letting me know she was in financial distress, but this friend had more friends and they all lived in the basement.  So, be aware of what is happening in your investment house, especially if they don’t want you coming in.  You have every right as long as you give them 24 hours’ notice to inspect.

TIP 2 - Tenants Doing Own Repairs

Tenants that like to do their own repairs or renovations – This can be a big one.  Stress to your tenants that they need to call you if things break or they could easily end up costing you thousands of dollars. 

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It can be a fine line, as you don’t want a call in the middle of the night for a burnt out light bulb, they need to do some basic maintenance such as light bulbs and keeping the place clean but larger issues should be dealt with by you as the landlord. 

A tenant that seemed capable to me and worked in construction noticed a bedroom door was rubbing at the bottom on newly installed carpeting.  He told me he was very handy and offered to shave the bottom of the door so it would not catch on the carpeting.

I thanked him and it never came up again, I assumed it was done until this tenant went to move out at the end of their lease.  I came in the house and never really looked at the door on final inspection as it was open to the room.  When I shut it days later, I noticed there was 6 inches hacked off the bottom of the door on a horrific angle!  So, I had to replace the door.

This tenant also “patched up some drywall holes” with gobs of plaster, he was not as handy as I thought he would be and loved duct tape!

Make sure you are covered with landlords insurance too!

TIP 3 - Marriage Break Ups or Arguments

Marriage Break Ups – These can be very hard on your investment property!  You may have rented your place to the perfect couple or family and after a couple years of great tenants and no problems they start fighting. 

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Things start to get broken in the house.  Domestic issues can arise and sometimes they get physical leaving your house with holes in the walls and shredded carpets and broken doors.  You may even get calls from the police or neighbours.  This is a sad situation especially if you have got to know your tenants but will be very hard on your house for repairs.  This is an example of good tenants gone bad!

You may be blissfully unaware that the tenants have split up until one spouse is trying to pay the rent and they report they can’t due to the split-up and then mention “some damage”.

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TIP 4 - Not Paying Utilities

Utilities - Make sure tenants have utilities in their name.  In actual fact my lawyer said that is one of the top ways to screen for a new tenant.  Tell them they have to pay the utilities and if see them squirm or come up with excuses, show them the door!  Utility companies are very strict with being paid, so if your “tenants to be” have skipped utility bills else where they will not be able to get them in their own name.

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But you should also have your name as backup with the utility companies, so that you can be told if the house is about to be shut off.  At this point you would start eviction notice and the utility company still goes after them for unpaid utilities, whereas if you left them in your name they will abuse the heat, A/C and water bills as they are not paying, and then leave you high and dry if you were supposed to be collecting utilities from them.

A friend of mine made arrangements with her tenants that she would send them the utility bill that she had paid and get reimbursement from them as they could not get utilities in their name for some “excuses” they gave her.  They left owing her hundreds of dollars as it took her 3 months to get them evicted and they continued to jack up the heat, use water and electricity and she was on the hook.

TIP 5 - Hoarding and Lack of Yard Work

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 Yard work and Hoarding – If you rent a house that has a yard and they are to take care of the yard such as mowing the lawn, you need to drive by or get someone else to drive by every so often to check on things.  This is your property and it needs to be kept up.  You will also start getting fines from your township or city if you let your lawn go to weeds. 

This can sometimes happen if the tenants are ill, or a breakup.  The other spouse or partner may have been the one doing the yard work. 

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They may also start storing “big boy toys even old cars” in the backyard, or old mattresses and furniture in the shed, until it looks like a scene from “hoarders” on TV.   One landlord was told by her tenant that she couldn’t afford her storage unit anymore so simply put it all in the backyard under a tarp after losing her job.

Watch for any Hints of a Bad Tenant

You can have good renters but even good renters can slowly turn into bad tenants.  You need to watch out for your property if you want it to keep its value and protect it from thousands of dollars in damage.   Come up with a regular scheduled visit, put it in the lease and then check everything.  

Keep a good working relationship with your tenants.  You don't have to be their best friend but you should be aware of any changes in their life.  Maybe you can help them, which would be great, but you still have to watch out for your investment.  

Make sure your tenants carry tenant or renters insurance too.  You just never know what can happen.  Read more about good reasons to have renters insurance with this article

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Comments

Apr 6, 2013 5:15pm
curiosity44
Sookie, this is an outstanding article! I love the way you use your Amazon Products to help you make your main points. The points you were making were so obvious, and yet, some landlords overlook them. If tenants are reluctant for you to visit, that is definintely a red flag. There is probably illegial activity going on there. Landlords should also check out the outside of their properties. They make sure that there is not a ton of garbage or other items scattered all over it. This can bring the value of their property down. Great job Sookie!
Apr 7, 2013 2:35pm
Sookie
thankyou!
Apr 7, 2013 3:21am
civilife
a good read! simple points to watch for clues of a bad tenant.
Apr 7, 2013 2:35pm
Sookie
Glad you enjoyed it.
Apr 7, 2013 6:30pm
KimChaos
This is an awesome article. It reinforces for me that I would not like to be a landlord :), but I have many friends who are and have tremendous respect for them. They have all had that one bad tenant.
Apr 8, 2013 4:32pm
german1
Sookie
G
Apr 8, 2013 4:40pm
german1
Sookie,
Great article , I also manage 3 4plexes (had my fair share of problems ) got most of them taken care of in the last few years, one addition has help a lot in Utah in the last year, the City has come up with a Good Landlord program, where they have made it a law , the owner or manager is
required to have a meeting with all the renters & check each unit 2 or times per year.
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