There are a lot of different ways to wind up with an extra home on your hands. For most people, this seems like a dream situation: a whole house just to rent out or sell as you please. Maybe recently sized-up and bought a new home but haven’t sold the old one. Maybe a dear relative recently passed away and you inherited their home. Maybe you helped a relative get a home and they left you holding the bag. No matter what the circumstance, the next question is always “Now What?”
If you, like most Americans, like the idea of passive income, renting it out can seem like a pretty good plan. But wait. Becoming a landlord is a lot more complicated than it sounds on the surface. Before you dive into becoming a novice landlord, take a moment to consider eight of the many ways that bringing a stranger into your property can go wrong. Even if you weren’t that invested in the property to begin with. While most rental tenants are good people who uphold a lease, there are more than a few out there who can spot an inexperienced landlord and know how to take advantage:
1) Hiding Property Damage
The most innocent and common of tenant advantage-taking is, unfortunately, also dangerous for both parties. Tenants who cause damage, or their pets or kids or guests cause damage often don’t want to face the music. Whether they’re manipulative or just cowardly, they will put a poster over a gaping hole in the wall, put a couch over ripped-up or badly stained carpets, and you won’t find out until they move out. Sure, you can dock their security deposit, but repairs can easily exceed the few hundred you took up front, if it hasn’t already done permanent damage to the home’s structure.
2) Indoor Smoking
Thirty years ago, people smoked all the time. Indoors, outdoors, in their cars, and around their kids. No doubt, you remember the smoking sections that have since disappeared from restaurants and lobbies. But today, cigarettes are despised and many people simply won’t move into a place that smells like smoke. This is why most rental properties ban smoking inside, but inveterate indoor smokers know how to spot a rube landlord who won’t be able to stop them. And to rent the home again, you’re going to have to scrub and sanitize every surface of the house first.
3) Unauthorized and Uncontrolled Pets
Pets are the bane of every landlord’s existence. Even landlords who like pets and delight in seeing friendly little critters when they stop by have had experiences that are the reason there are so many seemly too-strict pet clauses in rental leases. But your lease can’t stop the determined pet-owner tenant who loves their little Tasmanian devil dog who rips up or pees on every inch of a home. Or their eight cats. Or their unusual pet that will take over an entire room and make it smell bizarre for years afterward. No matter what your pet clause says, tenants can and will sneak in pets or simply deceive you about how dangerous their pet really is to your home. Then hide and excuse the damage.
4) Hosting Disruptive Parties
An entirely other kind of unpleasant tenant is the type that throws wild and disruptive house parties. Not only does this bother the neighbors and potentially get you, the owner, in trouble with any local HOA, they also have a bad tendency to lose control of their guests. Holes get punched in walls. Cabinet doors get ripped off. Carpets can become stained with substances you don’t even want to identify. And if you don’t live nearby, you might not know that one of these ragers has taken place for weeks or even months unless someone finds a way to call you and report it.
Subletting is when the tenant you are renting to decides to rent part or all of the house to someone else. This could be anything from a cozy Airbnb’d spare bedroom to cramming students into shared rooms. Even if you have no problem with your tenant making a little spare cash with the extra space they are renting from you, the problem is that these new guests aren’t held to the lease and may even get out of control. They aren’t legally held to your behavior requirements and even vacation rental guests can go horribly wrong despite a good tenant’s best efforts. Subletting or short-term rentals might also be illegal in your city, putting you in legal hot-water if your tenant violates the law without your knowledge.
Sometimes a tenant wants to get out of their lease early, and they don’t always go through the propper channels to do this. Hot-swapping is when one tenant gets another to ‘take over’ their lease and occupancy of the house while they disappear to goodness-knows-where. Once again, you are faced with someone who is not on or bound by the lease, even if they continue to pay rent on time (which they often do not). Hot-swapping is also something that can happen if a tenant gets away with unauthorized subleasing for a while and gets the bright idea to simply leave their subletter behind.
7) Lease Squatting
And, of course, sometimes tenants just stop paying rent. More often than not, this happens because they fell on hard times or spend their rent money irresponsibly rather than simple spite. It’s not unusual for tenants who fall behind to catch up the next month or two if you are lenient, but sometimes they decide that living rent-free is pretty nice and they stop paying entirely. They may be bound by contract, they may have seemed nice and reliable at first, but you’re back to paying the full expense for the house with a hostile tenant inside. And after they live a few months rent-free, the worst of the worst may decide to refuse to leave after the lease term is over and become hostile squatters. At this point, you may need to call on the police and a lawsuit just to get them out and get your rental payments.
8) Forcing You to Evict Them
And on the topic of police and lawsuits, the biggest nightmare for most amateur landlords comes when you have to evict a tenant for the first time. This isn’t as simple as posting a pink slip on their door. An eviction is a lawsuit you must file, then defend your claim that the tenant has warranted eviction. Tenants who have already gone so far as to force this action are also much more likely to lie in court, say vicious things, and even try to frame you for negligence or abuse and sue you back.
It takes a lot of hard work to be a successful landlord of just one residential property. And even the pros with a dozen houses in three local counties sometimes have to deal with the horrors of a nightmare tenant who slipped past the screening process. For most people who aren’t ready to take on landlording like a second job, you’ll get a lot more monetary value and a lot fewer headaches just from selling the place. Fortunately, that’s where we can lend a hand! If you just want to get a home off your hands without hassle, lawsuits, or major clean-up projects, contact us today!