Smoke Detector Problems – Fun Friday (ok Monday) Stories

smoke detectorI started on my annual rounds of inspecting the smoke detectors in my rental properties the other day.    I have learned that I must check them myself, as I cannot depend on tenants to accurately report back to me if there is a problem.  Smoke detectors are one of those little maintenance items that you don’t want to ignore, as they can prevent a much larger problem in the unfortunate event of a fire.

During my inspections I found several smoke detectors that had the batteries missing.  When questioned, the tenants of course had no idea how they went missing.  Smoke detector batteries are something that are checked before move-in, so I know they were working when the tenants moved in.

This means that the tenants removed the batteries themselves.  Either the batteries went bad and the smoke detector chirping was annoying so the batteries got pulled, or they needed the batteries for something else and conveniently used the detector batteries.  Either way, I see this as a dumb move.  Needing a battery or being annoyed by a chirping sound is nowhere near as inconvenient as burning to death in your sleep because you were not alerted to a fire in the house.  What’s even worse is that one of the houses with non-working smoke alarms had several small children living there.  It’s one thing to be careless with your own life, but when you have other people you are responsible for, don’t take those kind of chances.

I made sure everyone had working detectors with fresh batteries.  Those with missing batteries got a lecture about keeping them working.  Let’s hope the message sticks and the tenants will realize the importance of having a working smoke detector.

Hidden Treasures – Fun Friday Stories

Hidden StaircaseToday’s Fun Friday Story is about a hidden treasure in one of our rental properties.  The particular property in this case is a two-story duplex.  When we bought it, the only entrance to the upstairs unit was a staircase that was on the exterior of the building, leading to an exterior door.  This set-up seemed perfectly logical.

The upstairs tenants moved out and we went in to see what improvements and repairs needed to be made.  We noticed that part of the wall in the living room seemed like it was moved in closer than necessary.  I guess we didn’t notice it before when the tenants were living there with all their furniture in the room.  We thought that they just had an extra long closet, but when we went to look in the closet the room was really small.  That did not make sense, as it left a good ten feet of what looked like covered in wall space.

When you knocked on the closet wall, it sounded hollow on the other side.  There was definitely something behind the wall.  Curiosity got the best of us so we got a saw and cut a hole in the closet wall.  It turned out there was a full staircase to the lower unit that had been closed in.  This was exciting to find.  Ok, maybe it is not all that exciting, but it is not everyday you stumble upon a hidden staircase.

There was not much more to the staircase besides a non-working light fixture and some old food wrappers.  It was still a fun find.  I think I will try to find a way to turn it into storage space for maintenance supplies.  Bonus storage space is a treasure find if you ask me.

More Applicant Rejections – Fun Friday Stories

Jail Bars and CuffsPart of the application process for our rental homes is a criminal background check.  Sometimes when I am pre-screening someone over the phone and mention that we do a criminal background check, there will be the “pause”.  This pause tells me that yes, there is something of note in their criminal history, and that the phone conversation will get more interesting.

Having a blip in your criminal history does not automatically disqualify an applicant, as the overall picture of what type of crime was committed, how long ago it was done, and the circumstances will all factor in to the rental decision.  A lot of times it is how the tenant discloses any problems that influences the decision.

Some applicants will straight up lie and say they have a clean history.  They are hoping that we do not actually run a background check and that they will be clear.  If it is found out you are lying on the application you will get denied, even if the problem was a minor infraction over a decade ago.  If you lie about the background check, it is assumed you are also lying about your rental history, income, or other relevant factor.

Other applications will try to downplay their background problems.  I once had an applicant, when told a criminal background check would be run, tell me that he did have a record but that it was for a small fight when he was 18 and young and stupid.  That didn’t sound completely unreasonable, so we proceeded to run his application.  It turned out that he had a felony assault charge and it was less than three years ago.  Not as good.

It would save everyone time if applicants were honest and straightforward at the beginning.  A criminal background check will reveal past issues, so being dishonest about your history or downplaying the situation will almost always get your application rejected.

Favorite Way Rent Has Been Paid – Fun Friday Stories

Today’s Fun Friday Story is about my favorite way rent has been paid.  Ten dollar bills

I had a tenant that had gotten behind on rent payments.  I had already given notice to vacate and filed for eviction.  By the time the court date was due, the tenant was behind several months of rent.  At the 11th hour though, they came through and managed to come up with all the back rent that was due, including late fees.  This was a relatively large amount.

The tenant asked if they could pay in cash, which I said was of course fine.  We made arrangements to meet in person so that I could be sure to get it (never trust the mail with cash).  We met up in the local mall parking lot.  When the tenant came out to meet me, they were looking around the area nervously.  They then said that they had a big stack of cash and hoped it was ok.  Cash is cash, so I said it was fine.  The tenant then brought out a huge bag filled with the thousands of dollars of rent owed – all in 10 dollar bills.

The tenant apologized and said that was all the bank had available.  The stack of money was huge.   The tenant was understandably nervous because if any shady person saw us with that money we would immediately be a target for robbery.  They handed the money off to me underhand style.  It felt like I was conducting some illegal deal in a parking lot.  It was actually hilarious.  Even though it was all tens, it was fun to have a stack of money that big in my possession for a while.  It is of course not the recommended way to pay rent, but was kind of awesome.

A Tenant Who Was Not Approved – Fun Friday Stories

This week’s story is about someone who wanted to be a tenant in one of our residences, however they did not get approved.rooster

Tenant applications are straightforward. Most people who get rejected for a home are rejected because of insufficient income, serious credit report problems, history of evictions, or something along those lines. In this particular case, I had a tenant apply and everything seemed fine about the application and no red flags were thrown. I showed them the property and everything looked good.

I was then asked if animals were allowed. This is a very normal question, so I ran through what animals were and were not allowed. They then asked if chickens were ok. In general chickens are not ok, but I try to keep an open mind and find out more about the particular pet in question. After more questioning it comes out that it is not chickens that they have, but roosters. Not just any roosters – fighting roosters. I was appalled to be asked that. Of course I told them that was not allowed and then rejected their tenancy application.

What made this stranger was that the house they were applying for was in a subdivision where houses were close together. Backyards touched each other, so it would only have been a matter of time before neighbors started complaining. I suppose the bright side is that the people actually let out their intentions ahead of time. It was so much easier to just turn down their application than to have them move in and be surprised to find a rooster fighting operation going on in the house later. I guess I dodged a bullet on that one.

Most Destruction in Shortest Amount of Time – Fun Friday Stories

crayonToday’s Fun Friday Story is about my tenant who holds the record for most destruction to a home in the shortest amount of time.

This particular tenant – actually a family of four –  moved into their home in June.  They paid first month’s rent and the deposit with no problem.  July comes around and the tenants had not yet paid rent.  I could not get them on the phone, so I stopped by the house to investigate.  I then noticed that they had moved out of the place.

They had lived there less than one month, but they left behind a huge mess.  They left behind large pieces of broken furniture that had to be hauled out.  There was trash and spoiled food in the refrigerator.  A big hole was in the living room wall.  The worst rooms though were the kids’ rooms.  They had allowed their young kids to draw all over two bedrooms with crayon and markers.  The walls were completely covered and had to be repainted.  They also put up hundreds of tiny star stickers.  To add to the fun, they spilled nail polish all over the bathroom counter and floor.  There was also the usual window blinds being damaged and no cleaning done at all.  All of this accomplished in under a month.

I am not even sure how it was possible they did that much damage in such a short period of time.  The biggest shame was that they did not feel the need to try to pay for their damages.  Their deposit did not cover the lost rent and repairs.  It is tenants like these that make me hate the rental business sometimes.

More Fun Leave-Behinds – Fun Friday Stories

This Fun Friday Story is about some of the more fun items tenants have left behind.  More Lawn moweroften than not, when a tenant moves out they leave some stuff behind.  The majority of stuff is trash – including broken appliances and TVs, dirty old couches, broken dressers, etc.   Usually nothing of value, which is why it was abandoned in the first place.

Sometimes though you get some gems.  There are two items that are a tie for my favorite so far.  The first was a bag of Christmas lights.  By bag, I mean a huge 45 gallon trash bag filled up with probably 50 strands of lights of all colors.  The majority worked too.  That was a fun find, especially due to the randomness of it.  What makes it even better was that this particular tenant only lived in the house for three months before being evicted due to non-payment, and it was summer months that they were there.

My other favorite item left behind was a riding lawn mower.  It seemed fairly new, and best of all was in working condition.  It is rare that you get an item of value actually left behind.  This same tenant of course left trash everywhere too when moving out, but at least there was something fun to find.

Caught in the Act – Fun Friday Story

This week’s Fun Friday story involves surprising a tenant who was in the middle of doing a stealth move-out.   moving-day

I had a tenant who had gotten behind on the rent and had not yet paid for the month.  I was in contact with them about rent, and they promised me that it was coming.  They claimed they were getting paid within the week, then I would have the rent money.  In fact, we had several conversations where the tenant promised to meet me on a Friday and pay the rent.

On Wednesday of the week that the tenant was supposed to meet up with me, I happened to be driving through the neighborhood so decided to take a drive by the house to check things out.  To my surprise, there was a U-haul truck in the driveway being loaded up with household items.  Clearly the tenant was moving out, having not bothered to clue me in on their intentions.   I got out of my car and walked up to the tenant as they were loading some furniture into the truck.  They looked shocked to see me.  Then they looked really nervous.  I of course asked them if they were moving out, and they started stammering excuses about getting a new job and needing to move quickly.

Of course it was a blatant lie.  They were just caught in the act of stealth moving and didn’t know what to do.  It was fairly comical busting them like that.  You could see their brain trying to think of any excuse I might buy that would explain the situation.  The unfunny side was that they still owed rent and now I had to deal with an unexpected tenant move-out.  I don’t know why tenants think it will be easier to make up elaborate stories instead of simply telling me their situation.  I am a reasonable person, and if I know what I am dealing with I can usually work something out.  Unfortunately this tenant opted to do it the hard way, which in the long run turned out to be worse for them.

Leaving Items Behind – Fun Friday Stories

This week’s Fun Friday Story is about a renter who left behind some items and thought we would store them for her indefinitely.

Photo AlbumThe tenants were a girlfriend and boyfriend.  They lived at the house fine for a while until the relationship went bad and they broke up.  The lady moved out first, then apparently the guy had trouble paying the bills on his own because he abandoned the house a few months later.  When cleaning up the property afterward (because of course they left behind a lot of stuff and did not clean), I came across several photo albums.  These were family photos, mostly of the female tenant from when she was young.  They were old photos, and probably irreplaceable.   The kind of thing that someone would want to have.

I did not want to just throw out the photo albums, so I attempted to contact the tenants to try to make arrangements to return them.  i called both the lady and guy and left several phone messages for each over a couple of months.  I also sent emails to the lady and got no response.  I guess since they left the property owing money they were not keen to return my calls, even though I stated why I was contacting them.  Eventually I gave up, and after a few months I trashed the albums.

Six months later, I got a random phone call from the female tenant saying that she had left some personal items in the house, along with a freezer, and wanted to know if we still had them.  I couldn’t believe she thought that we would really store their abandoned items for over six months on the off chance they would one day contact us and want them back.  I had to tell her that we had sold the freezer to try to recoup some of the back-rent, and that we had thrown away the photo albums months ago.  I then asked her about scheduling a payment plan to pay back the rent that was still owed.  Not surprisingly she quickly got off the phone, never to be heard from again.

Unpleasant Rental Discoveries – Fun Friday Stories

It’s Friday again, so time for another one of my bizarre rental stories.  This week’s story is one of the more depressing rental experiences I’ve had so far.  It involves animal cruelty.Rabbit

The tenants in one of my rental properties had moved out unexpectedly mid-lease and left no notification they intended to move.  I only discovered the property was abandoned after checking on it one day after rent was late and I was unable to get in touch with the tenants.  This means that the property had been abandoned anywhere from a few days to a week or two before I was made aware.

The tenants kindly left behind the usual mess for me to deal with – trash everywhere, old broken furniture left behind, food in the refrigerator (however luckily they had not yet shut off the power so no food spoilage), holes in walls, that kind of thing.  Annoying stuff, but sadly not that uncommon.  What made this property stand out though was that it had an outdoor storage shed.  I went out to the shed to see what was left behind, hoping for lawn equipment or something that at least had resale value.  To my surprise though I found that they had left behind a rabbit.  This is where it gets bad – the rabbit was left in a 100+ degree storage shed (no air conditioning) with no water, and with some old food scattered on the ground.  It was stifling hot when I went in there.  The poor bunny was just laying on its side, panting heavily.  I had no idea how long it had been in there, but believe it was very close to overheating and death.

The rabbit was obviously a pet, based on the cage and food I found, as well as how it liked being handled by people as I later discovered.  I was shocked.  I could not imagine why anyone would leave behind an animal, let alone a pet, to suffer a horrible death of dehydration or overheating.  That is cruel and inhumane.  I tried getting in touch with the tenants but of course could not get a response.  I was finally able to get in touch with a family member and explained that we had found the rabbit.  The response was “Oh, if they left it they probably don’t want it.  I would just let it go.”  Their solution was to just release the almost-dead bunny into the wild to fend for itself.

Of course that was an unacceptable solution for me.  I did not call animal control as I know rabbits are not commonly accepted into the local shelters, so decided to try my own luck helping the bunny.  I was able to find a friend who agreed to temporarily foster it, then was eventually able to find a permanent home for it.  The bunny turned out to be very sweet and calm, so hopefully it is being a great pet for someone.

I can deal with tenants leaving behind trash, but abandoning animals in a cruel manner is one of the worst things I have encountered, and hope to never find again.