Updated on 01.19.16

Eight Landlord Horror Stories That Will Dash Your Dream of Owning Rental Property

Being a landlord is one way to grow your wealth - but it isn't for the faint of heart.

Investing in rental property is one way to grow your net worth while building equity in a tangible investment – a home or structure you can touch, feel, and even live in if you needed to. And if you do it right, you’ll end up with a paid-off property that was entirely financed with someone else’s dollars. Better yet, your property will – hopefully – appreciate in value over time.

Sounds like one heck of a deal, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, the reality of growing a real estate empire can be harsh – if not absolutely shocking. From evicting tenants to cleaning up their filth, landlords are constantly charged with fixing messes that would scare off almost anyone with common sense.

Landlord Horror Stories That Will Make You Seriously Reconsider Investing in Real Estate

Almost every landlord has a horror story to share, a gruesome, annoying, or downright disgusting tale that cost them sleep – and probably a whole lot of money.

Think you have what it takes to become a landlord? Here are eight landlord horror stories that may make you think again:

That time your tenant decided to have a bonfire… in your house

Brandon Turner of Bigger Pockets.com shares his tenant trauma:

“This tenant was the very first tenant I ever put in place. For eight years he lived in this property, mostly as a good tenant. But then something changed. He stopped paying and became irrationally angry over our insistence on rent being paid. After several late notices and conversations, we finally filed for eviction. He slowly moved all his stuff out of the home while the eviction date came closer. Finally, after all his “good” stuff was moved out, I left on a business trip to Charlotte, N.C. That’s when I got the text: ‘Your house is on fire. You need to call me.'”

“I didn’t know if it was a joke or something serious, but I only had a few moments to ponder this when the phone rang. It was the fire department, who was putting the fire out. Apparently, a box was left on top of the stove… and the burner turned on. Accident? On purpose? We’ll never know. But the fire destroyed the kitchen completely and the smoke caused damage throughout the remaining house. In total: $61,000 in damage. It’s a good thing I had insurance!”

Toilet trouble

“Back in the days of answering machines, where you could hear the message, I got a call at 2 a.m. from a Ms. Rosalina,” says Ryan G. Wright of DoHardMoney.com.

“I didn’t pick it up,” he continues, “but I heard the following: ‘I hope this is the right Ryan Wright, I’m calling all of them in the phone book and I am halfway through. My toilet is really backed up and I have bad diarrhea, but I can’t use the plunger because my old boyfriend broke both of my wrists.'”

One tenant, many problems

Brad Chandler of Express Homebuying shares this tragic and frustrating experience renting in the nation’s capital: “I managed a section 8 community in Southeast Washington, D.C., years back. We had a tenant who had issues and liked to start problems. We believed at the time she may have been a prostitute and drug and alcohol abuser. We tried everything to get her evicted, but because D.C. is so tenant friendly, it was impossible.”

Chandler continues: “When she got mad at our office she would turn on her water, block the drain, and flood the apartments below her – she lived on the third floor. She did this three times in six months. We were left to pay for and clean up the damage and we still couldn’t evict her. One day she got in an argument with a gentleman outside of her apartment door, in the hallway. It turned physical and she pushed the man over the railing. He ended up dying. Still, we couldn’t evict her. A few months after that she was run over by a bus not far from the community and she died.”

Rats and turtles and snakes, oh my!

“I had a friend who wanted me to manage a single-family house that had become too much for him,” says Chad Carson of CoachCarson.com. “So one afternoon we visited the brick, ranch-style house with a basement. The tenant warned us before entering that they were doing a little side-project with animals in the basement. Of course we went there first since my friend officially did not allow pets! When we reached the top of the stairs, we saw two bright red, rat-sized eyes staring back at us from below. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

“As we descended, the sound of hundreds of squeaky rat wheels could be heard coming from below. Our red-eyed rat had friends! And to our shock, on the other side of the room stood dozens of aquariums containing many varieties of slithering snakes. This underground pet store also harbored large tubs full of water, exotic turtles, and amphibians. The tenant soon moved without paying the last month of rent, but a hoard of escaped rats lingered in the house and continued the horror story for many more months.”

When you seriously dodged a bullet

“I bought my very first investment property in 2008,” says Tammy Bauer of Because 789. “It was a house with an upstairs suite and a basement suite. My first good applicant for the basement suite worked in construction and had wonderful references. I offered him the suite, he accepted, and I cancelled my ad. The next day he told me he wouldn’t be able to take the suite since he decided to move to be closer to his children.

Five months later, I was watching the news and a man had held his former girlfriend (the mother of his children) captive in a cabin in the woods for 5 days. She escaped and ran for safety. The man who kidnapped her was the man I had offered the basement suite to five months earlier.”

A special present in the closet

“Our very first tenants were a young, married couple with three small kids. Shortly after moving in to our newly remodeled house, they purchased a black lab looking puppy. Kind people we are, we didn’t throw a fit,” says Coleen Kramer Beal, CLTC.

“It’s a long story, but seemingly the father was at home for long periods of time alone with his children because he ‘couldn’t work.’ He apparently let them run wild. The screens were knocked out of the windows, coloring on the walls, and holes in the walls. He put a lock on the outside of their bedroom door so he could seemingly contain them. When we found the house abandoned after their failure to pay the monthly rent, we discovered poop in the closet. The downstairs room (and the new carpet) looked like they had slaughtered the dog. All the new carpet throughout the house had to be ripped up and replaced. It was a disaster.”

Eviction encore

“One of the most shocking tenant situations to me was when we evicted a couple because they were consistently late on rent, abusive to my other tenants (it’s a fourplex), and were trashing the place,” explains Casey Fleming, author of The Loan Guide.

“We spent several thousand cleaning it up, and when we went to shop the unit to new tenants, the couple had broken in, moved back in, and claimed that we would have to evict them again,” Fleming says. “Fortunately, the police cooperated and removed them, but we had to spend several hundred more to clean it up again. That was a new one for me.”

That time the SWAT team got involved

“Vacations in Hawaii and landlording don’t mix,” says Todd Tresidder of Financial Mentor. “On one trip I got news that the SWAT team had surrounded my investment apartment complex. Fortunately, no guns were fired and the drug dealer went peacefully. It turned out a long-standing, excellent tenant had a grandson temporarily staying with her and he was a serious bad apple.”

 

And if you think you can dodge landlord headaches by employing a property management company, that’s not always the case, Tresidder says. “Almost unbelievably, the management company lied through their teeth claiming it never happened –all the while I received threat letters from the city saying I had to clean up my building or they would take it away from me.”

Final Thoughts

Being a landlord isn’t for the faint of heart. Besides the everyday headaches of property maintenance, you either have the cojones to deal with unthinkable circumstances and incredible hassles, or you don’t – there is no in-between.

Sadly, a handful of bad tenants – or even just one awful one – can completely foil your dreams of investing in real estate. For a lot of people, the risks are just too great. Because, let’s face it, dealing with poop, arson, and crazy people isn’t everyone’s cup of tea — not at any price.

If you’re considering investing in real estate, you should know what you’re getting into. The rewards can be great, but the reality can be downright crappy.

Would you ever want to become a landlord? Why or why not? If you have a landlord horror story, please share it in the comments!

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