There’s nothing like feeling you’ve finally found the right tenant, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt that way, only to have the proverbial red flag thrown in my jaw dropped face of disbelief. Did they just say, do—what the…no, they…ugh. Dang it.
This was definitely not one of those times.
Well, at first anyways.
The Honeymoon Phase
It started out pretty promising in fact, a glowing credit check, no evictions, no criminal record. A little address mismatch, but that could be cleared with a driver’s license.
An offering of breakfast tacos followed, and a few initials later, I was handing over the keys, and finalizing the details to what would hopefully be a rare, quiet year.
It wasn’t meant to be—not for me, not this year, hell, not for even two full weeks!
There are red flags that are obvious to most…most that aren’t clouded by upfront rent and deposit…oh, and did I mention breakfast tacos?
I pulled up to the unit later that day to deliver a stove to another unit and was met with a scene out of “Mad Max.”
It was crazy, insane actually. There were vehicles, not vehicle, vehicles on the front lawn.
I’ve come to discover for some strange reason the neighborhoods I invest in tend to appeal to those who love parking on the front lawn.
Despite the presence of a perfectly functional driveway, which seems to serve merely as a conduit to a proverbial urban car pasture.
There were people milling everywhere, furniture being ferried in like it was an evacuation…but in reverse.
There were people with hoops and rings, and things I’ve never witnessed as facial, uh, accouterments. “Well, the new tenant(s) seem to be a popular lot.”
Anyways, day three and I get another request for a copy of the lease.
“If this is as tough as it gets…” I “PDF” a copy, but since my typical tenants look at me like I have three heads when I ask for an email address, I decide to deliver a copy, since I’ll be passing the unit on my way home.
Plus, at this rate, I’m not going to be out this way much anymore, anyways.
“Wow, looks like the tenant(s) installed a closed circuit camera system on the exterior, and, what’s this?
A digital combo entry lock… and motion sensor lighting…did I put that there? I’m sure I didn’t….but…” Whatever.
“They must have nice stuff…” Yep, exact words.
Are you keeping count? I wasn’t.
9 days. Start to finish.
That’s all it took. Yep, 9.
Reality can be a real *****
I had hit my stride at this point with my buy and hold strategy.
Confident, hell, I was getting downright cocky at that point. I was actually doing acquisition work for my next property when it happened.
My girlfriend and I decided to pass said property while heading to a listing of hers. “Is that a cop on your porch?” It couldn’t be, he’s probably visiting and—three more appear, sheriff’s department, oh, and in olive drab garb.
Yeah, this isn’t good.
Wow, I didn’t even notice the pickup on the front lawn with the doors all slung open.
If I didn’t say it before, cars on front lawns no longer phase me. I’m that cool.
Front door to the house bashed in with a battering ram? Well, that was something new.
“Keep going,” I insisted, “I really don’t want to deal with this right now.”
But by this time my girlfriend had stopped the vehicle right there in the middle of the street. She muttered something about it being my house, responsibility, blah, blah, blah.
I clamored up the drive, all high-powered investor-type now losing major steam. The police met me halfway and they had a great chuckle when they discovered that I was the landlord, and were eager to fill me in on all the juicy details.
They seemed to enjoy it, I really believe that—me, not so much.
I remember asking them if they knew how much it pained me that they felt the need to kick in interior doors as well. Especially hollow core doors that seemed to literally explode on impact, much to their fancy I’m sure.
They gave me the look like I had three heads.
I had arrived at just the right time to put an end to the carnage, as it appears my drywall expertise it not even passible to the police.
They were ready to tear sections of the wall out they were sure contained contraband. I assured them it was my handiwork. Through some sort of miracle, they accepted my plea.
My kitchen fared worse.
A literal mountain of cereal, chips and every other dry good sat piled high in the double sink. It was enough to take nearly 30 minutes of constant suction from a shop vacuum to contain.
The house looked like a circus—but a sad one.
With closed circuit video cameras, safes that had been pried open, overturned furniture, stolen goods–oh, and a stripper pole in the formal dining room, which was securely mounted to the wood plank ceiling I had just completed nearly a week before.
I also discovered people who use, and/or sell methamphetamines have a strong affinity for gallon sized Arizona Iced Tea and their flavored drink line.
Like real strong. I found at least twenty. Gallons.
Three vehicles were seized, including a brand new Cadillac with temporary plates.
I told the sheriff’s deputy I’d need a warehousemen to help store everything, they chuckled and instructed me that it was a straw lease, illegal, and to liquidate everything that hadn’t been destroyed or hauled off for damages—that sounded pretty good at the time.
To be able to lock up the house, I’d need tools that were all the way across town at my place. The police ensured me they’d stick around until my return. I walked into my garage, literally reached for a hammer, and my phone buzzed,
“We’re outta here.”
It was the police, who just 15 minutes earlier had me believing that they were, in fact, the police.
That night was a long one.
I had miraculously purchased a gun the night before…after not owning one for over 15 years…I probably pulled it on at least a dozen people throughout the night/morning who came looking for drugs.
This part was not fun at all. I had my back to the street, and sat crouched with a screw gun repairing the front door, aided only by the dim porch light.
That following Saturday morning I piled everything on the front lawn for one of the “tenants” to come pick up, along with all the trash.
I wasn’t hauling all that off, I had just paid several hundred dollars for a dumpster full of construction debris to be taken away…it’s expensive to get rid of junk!
The “tenant” missed his deadline, and at some point stopped responding to my texts.
So I held an impromptu yard sale, and made it necessary that a certain number of trash bags had to accompany each purchase.
“How much for the bag of new Air Jordans? How about $300, but you have to take five bags of trash.”
They all looked at me like I was crazy, and then complied, and stuffed bags of trash into their minivans and trucks, along with their purchases.
The prices were too dang good. People even walked off with items—it didn’t even matter at that point.
All in all, it didn’t cover the damages, much less put a dent in them, but it was definitely entertaining.
I did set some less savory items aside, namely four glass bongs, and a stripper pole that didn’t sell, to dispose of properly in the trash.
A yard sale attendee inquired about the one of the bongs and I instructed him of their pending disposal.
“Well, that’s too bad, each of those are worth a few hundred a piece—used.”
That got my entrepreneurial mind going…a little cleaning, an ad on craigslist, “tobacco use only” of course…
Time to cash in
Let’s just say the first call was what I should have anticipated.
No one that inquired was reliable by any stretch of that word. While out at dinner, I received a text from one potential purchaser, who stated,
“I’ll meet up in a bit, but Imma smoke a sweet first.”
I asked my girlfriend if she could decipher what I was looking at, and we decided to google it. “So, what does it say?” she asked.
It says “how to smoke a sweet potato.”
He never showed.
We, well I, never sold any of them, and they were unceremoniously sent to the landfill. I’m pretty sure our buyer wasn’t smoking sweet potatoes either.
To keep people away from the unit, I posted fake sheriff’s department notices on the doors and windows.
They caused quite a stir when I started to show the place again, and forgot to remove them.
Mercifully, the next tenant stayed for a full, uneventful, pleasant year.
He was able to somehow see the value, beyond the posted “property seized by sheriff’s department” notices I had inadvertently left up. I definitely needed it at that point.
Let’s put a fork in this one
To be a Landlord, you need a gut of steel, and you get to a point there’s not a whole lot that surprises you anymore.
I think the best thing about being a landlord is learning to take things in stride, roll with the punches, and there’s no throwing in the towel.
There’s no one standing behind you to call the fight. So you have to get up.
You realize you can’t just walk away…you mill over it, then grab a shovel, broom, or screwdriver and get back to making your idea profitable, and provide a safe, clean tenantable unit.
That’s what being a landlord is all about.