There’s something that you start to learn after 15 years of property management and thousands of tenants. There’s nothing that will surprise or disgust you anymore. I don’t claim to have seen it all, but I’ve seen enough.
- The Giant TV of Doom – They’ll bounce the rent cheques, struggle to have any sort of savings and probably live in a 2-bedroom apartment till the day they die, but they’ll have a giant 50″ Plasma TV. If you’ve ever wondered who takes those ads from the Brick that say Don’t Pay ‘Till Stardate 2075.364, it’s your tenants. Pull a couple credit histories and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Apparently you can rent-to-own a coffee maker….
- Slippery & Slimy, Creepy & Crawly – I love animals. I actually studied pre-veterinary medicine my first two years of University. For lots of units (houses in particular) I have no problem with a cat or dog. Anything else starts to raise red flags. Fish? The tank seal goes and you’ve got 100 liters of water destroying the carpet, walls, ceiling and pissing of the tenant in the suite below. Lizards? They eat bugs, and even if 1% of their dinner gets out, you’ll have several thousand crickets in your building within a month. (This one I know from painful experience) Birds? You try and shut a bird up. A tenant who moves in with birds is a fight waiting to happen. Also, if they let the birds out, you end up with the same problem as most statues. I used to have a budgie who liked to hang out on top of the cabinets. Snakes? They fit just about anywhere, including down pipes and into vents. They also eat rodents and bugs, which means their food supply is a big risk (see Lizards above). One day I’ll tell you the story of the snake who died in a hot air vent.
- Dead Bodies – You might think you’re an experienced landlord, but until you’ve found a few dead bodies, you’re still a rookie. Two of the times it’s happened to us still give me nightmares. The first was a suicide (drug OD) that managed to leave a dirty suite plus a bunch of body fluids (your muscles relax when you die…you put the dots together). That’s the most likely example, and it still took $3,000 to disinfect the suite, plus hauling away the junk, replacing the carpet and underlay.The second example was an old man who died of a stroke, but wasn’t found for 2 weeks until the smell alerted another tenant. That was in a fairly ethnic building, so strange smells from cooking masked the strange smell from the decomposing body. That suite had to be peeled back to the sub-floor and replacement of some drywall.
- Grow Ops – What’s a little pot between friends? A couple little plants? Get a grow-op in your suite and you’re going to be pretty screwed. As the RCMP reminds us, you’re looking at little hazards like:
Fires – lots of electricity plus lots of water equals a quick way to short something out. They also adjust the furnaces to blow exhaust (CO2) into the growing room, increasing the risk of fire and explosion.
Mould and Fungus – humidity, plants and an enclosed space? It’s party time for the Kingdom Fungus. And just try to rehab a grow op with a mould problem. You’d be more likely to get the Green Party elected.
Poisons, Gases and Chemicals – fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are extremely common and extremely dangerous.
Booby Traps – They’re criminals, and they’re trying to discourage people from finding the grow op, and concealing the evidence. If you think you have a grow-op, call the cops. Don’t mess around.
Electrocution – plants require water, light and heat. All three need power to get things moving, and criminals aren’t interested in paying for it, or being found because they’re using lots of it. They’ll tap directly into power lines, leaving you on the hook for the bill and the repairs.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – No joke, some of the most frustrating, heartbreaking and irritating to deal with. Beyond the people who have 50 years of newspapers piled up, or racks and racks of clothes, or 15 VCR’s, I’ve seen people who would go to a social gathering and take the leftover coffee home and freeze it. Years of collected, dried and stored food, ‘personal items’ and more. Also, years of that area not being cleaned. Once you get an OCD tenant out, count on new carpet, paint, appliances and more before you can get some new tenants into your unit.
- The Porn Suite – There’s one in every good sized multi-family building. You open the door and come face-to-face with a life-sized poster of a naked lady. You turn left into the kitchen and there’s two more. And a giant stack of DVDs. Hopefully there’s no weird stuff, open sex toys or anything else you’d rather not tell your grandmother about.
Just back away quietly and go wash your hands…..
- Big Dogs – I love dogs, but more than one is a big problem. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the typical dog excretes three quarters of a pound of waste per day—or 274 pounds per year. Besides destroying your yard, I’ve had tenants turn the den, back entry or entire basement into a giant litter box. After a couple months the house is nearly beyond repair.
- Drug Addicts – I’ve seen suites where chemical drug users have done so much meth that you could see crystals on the wall. Besides the fact that drug addicts aren’t typically the most attentive people when it comes to cleanliness or physical hygiene, the drugs themselves are a significant risk. They also attract others involved in the drug trade, and that’s never a good thing.
- Hookers and Johns – I don’t have a problem renting to hookers in general, as long as their business stays outside of the building.
I have, however, seen fights break out between the boyfriend, the john and the hooker, resulting in stabbings, holes in walls and broken doors and locks. Your best defense is a good resident manager.
- The Party Place – More often in a house than an apartment, it’s the 24/7 party place, often combined with a bit of drug dealing or other illegal activity. Just trying to visit the property will scare the pants of you, and I’ve been to more than a few of them. They’ll destroy everything and scare your other tenants away. Get in there early and get them out.
One of the biggest reasons why people invest with me is my experience and my team when it comes to Property Management. I worry, they don’t.
The best thing you can do as an investor is to learn lots, ask questions and visit your properties frequently, without harassing your tenants.
Know that you’re not going to catch everything, don’t feel too stupid when something expensive and embarrasing happens.
Plan for the unexpected.
Learn and grow.