Weapons of “Mouse Destruction”

Over the years, as I added to my Indianapolis rental portfolio, I came across a myriad of pests that found their way into my units … ants, fleas, bedbugs a couple of times, cockroaches, and mice.

I’m not afraid of any of these, but I certainly don’t want my tenants to share their space with them! So, I’ve done lots of research on eradicating all kind of infestations.

20 years ago, I purchased a fourplex that had been empty for quite a while. There had been squatters in the second floor unit, and they had left all kinds of drug paraphernalia and a toilet full of human waste and dirt. Utilities had been turned off for months.

I ventured into the basement apartment with my flashlight. There was quite a bit of standing water down there, and I could hear several critters skittering around. I caught a couple with my light — RATS. The basement was full of them. Babies, teenagers, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas. Ick!

So I went to Lowe’s and purchased six rat traps. The next day, I loaded them with peanut butter and scattered them around down there. I unloaded them the following day. And reloaded. It took me about two weeks, but I got rid of those freeloaders. Here is the house today … I have great tenants there and the ROI on it is incredible. I recently replaced the roof and had it painted.

Formerly the rat house

Since then, I’ve found a much easier solution to mice/rats. I’ve never seen another rat in any of my rentals, but there are little field mice that somehow manage to get in when the weather gets cold.

The product is Final Blox. It can be bought on line. It’s a red pellet, about 1″x3″, and I just put one under the bath sink, behind the stove or frig, etc. (You wouldn’t want any pet or child to get to it.) A much easier solution than traps!

This product, and many others, have streamlined my journey into real estate investing!

 

No Heat Call (Uh-oh)

I own several rentals in Indianapolis, and I’ve self-managed them for over 24 years. It’s been quite a ride — very eye opening — but I’ve enjoyed it tremendously.

At the end of every month, I write a news letter to all of my tenants, and I deliver them to each home, along with pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes for their next month of rent. The reasons I do this?

  • Hand delivering these allows me to check out the condition of the outside of the property. If I see messes outside, I talk to the tenant or add a handwritten note to the tenant letter. (And I make a mental note to do an interior walk-through very soon.)
  • I’m able to give them reminders re: some of their lease commitments, like keeping noise (music, voices, TV, children) to a low level so as not to disturb neighbors.
  • I’m eliminating the “no stamp” and “no envelope” excuses for not sending their payment on time.
  • And during cold weather, I can give everyone valuable tips to help them stay warm, keep their pipes from freezing, etc.

But sadly, things don’t always go as planned …

I got a “no heat” call from a duplex tenant, in the dead of the cold, Indianapolis winter. I called my HVAC guy and had him go check it out. The furnace was older, and I hoped it wouldn’t need replacement. Now, there’s one furnace in that duplex, and a thermostat in one of the units that controls the entire house. My repair man walked into the unit and yes, it was really cold in there. The furnace access was in the other side, so he went to check it out.

Amazingly, it was totally warm in there! Whaaatt? There sat the tenant, toasty warm. But when Jim walked into the kitchen, he discovered that the stove top elements AND the oven were turned on “high.” And of course, since it was so hot in there, the thermostat in the dining area wouldn’t kick on.  He and I both had a serious talk with the tenant. Not only is that practice dangerous, the furnace wasn’t kicking on at all. There was nothing wrong with the furnace, only something wrong with the actions of my tenant!

So NOW, when winter approaches, I include the “Never, ever use your stove or oven for heat!” advice in my tenant letter! 🙄

Onward and upward, right?

 

Best Sealer/Primer

I’ve tried them all … from Kilz to Zinsser. Most of them are too thin, even the oil-based ones. I stumbled upon the best one ever, made by PPG. I have an account there, and I love their Hi-Hide brand of interior paint. I had a major “issue” to take care of at one of my rentals, as seen here: my tenants decided to have a painting extravaganza (unbeknownst to me), with these horrifying results.

(Don’t ask me what that red thing in the corner is — I have no idea.) Anyway, the PPG rep suggested I try their Seal Grip Universal Primer/Sealer. They even tinted it to match the color I was going to use in the rooms. It’s water base and doesn’t have that annoying toxic smell that some do, so I was happy to give it a try. I’M SOLD. It’s nice and thick and only required one coat before moving on to my normal paint color. Here’s what it looks like:

The house is back on track and ready to rent, and I’ve discovered another great product to add to my long list of “faves” I share with my readers!

😎 Onward and upward ….

Major Fail

I do my best on the screening side with my tenants. For my low-income demographic, I don’t run credit checks; many of them either have no credit, or poor credit. But this doesn’t necessarily disqualify them. If someone has a solid job history, a good recommendation from their prior landlord, I generally give them a chance. And I, of course, do apartment checks, to ensure they’re taking care of the place.

But things don’t always work out. I did my first walk through on these people about three weeks after they moved in, and I was NOT pleased. I warned them, in writing, that the situation needed to improve fast, but — fortunately — they neglected to pay rent the following pay period, so I immediately filed eviction. (Here in Indianapolis, the court date is two weeks after filing, and the judge orders them out five days after the court date.)

So, in that three week period, things deteriorated further and the video above shows  what I faced after they moved out. Luckily, this doesn’t happen very often! But when it does, I get to work right away … no tenant = no income. This place was up and running within a week, and my new tenant has been delightful.

Onward and upward!  🙂

 

OMG….

Saw this contraption on the way to one of my Indianapolis rental properties. Whaaat?

FullSizeRender

I imagine it’s some type of heat source, being vented right through that window and up the side of the house. Wow …

I’m surprised the Board of Health hasn’t tagged this owner and sent a threatening letter. Crazy! If this is the scene outside, I can only guess what’s going on inside!

Classy Wall Repair

Bet you’ve never seen anything like this … me neither! My tenants hadn’t been getting along and I told them they’d need to move, or face eviction. So they moved, quickly.

003 (1)

 

But not before one of them took their anger issues out on this wall. This was a make-shift storage room off the hallway, adjacent to the attic area, and the walls were thin to begin with. I find it interesting that they made this crazy attempt at “repair” … using the term loosely! A plastic bag, cardboard, duct tape and clear packing tape. Nice.

I don’t put up with disturbances at my multi-family rentals. People deserve to live peacefully, and when I get noise complaints, I give tenants one written warning, period. (“Be nice, or leave!”) I got this place up and running quickly, and now, peace and quiet has returned. Onward and upward!  🙂

 

Putting Lipstick on a Pig?

This second bath in one of my rentals has been an eyesore.  It has cement block walls that always look dingy.  It’s in an otherwise decent basement that has a nice living area and extra room next to it.

photo[1] (2)I did a little research and came up with a product that might take care of the problem permanently … swimming pool paint!  Actually, it’s not really paint.  It’s a rubberized coating that applies like paint, and totally seals the walls.

It sounded like a great idea, and the guy at the pool store thought it would work well.  It’s the consistency of paint and you apply it with a roller and a brush, just as you would paint.  Fortunately, I only needed one gallon, because the stuff is costly … about $70/gallon.

Here’s a photo of the can:  It’s called Smart Seal SR Pro 7.

photo 1[1] (2)

Here’s the “after” picture: photo 3[1] (2)what a transformation, right?  I’d definitely recommend this product.  HOWEVER, this stuff is really toxic!  I had to wear a mask — which I hate doing — to be able to tolerate being in the area long enough to get the job finished.  And also, Smart Seal is an oil-base product, so I bought cheap a roller sleeve, pan and trim brush, and threw all of it away when I was finished.

Now the bath looks presentable, and I can charge appropriate (higher) rent!

I’m always looking for inexpensive updates I can do at my rentals … things that will make them more attractive to applicants without costing me an arm and a leg.

Inexpensive updates, attractive results, coupled with attentive landlording … a win/win for everyone!

Defining “Hoarder”

You be the judge … check out these pictures I took of one of my tenant’s basements:

Hoard 2Hoard In my opinion, this tenant is a hoarder.  When I asked her — several months ago — why she had so much stuff down here, she said she was having a “garage sale.”  Well, it’s six months later and there hasn’t been a garage sale and the pile has grown.  Fortunately, she’s moving, so I’m not being faced with having to force her out.

There’s a fine line between what constitutes a hoarder vs. someone who just has a lot of “stuff.”  I’m kind of a minimalist, I don’t like clutter, so it’s difficult to judge other peoples’ lifestyles when I do apartment checks.  Some of my tenants’ homes have what I’d say is a lot of clutter, but they aren’t dirty.  The floors are clean, the dishes are done, bathrooms are clean, etc.  I may have a negative reaction to the clutter, but that’s my problem, not theirs!

But as for the tenants who let the junk — and funk — stack up, I strongly advise people to 1) protect themselves — with appropriate wording — from hoarders in their leases, and 2) perform apartment checks on a regular basis.  Basements like the one above are invitations for pests, mold and other hazards.

This case was a bit different because this person was buying the house from me on contract, i.e. a type of rent-to-buy agreement.  I was a little more hesitant to evict her, since the process would be more costly and involved than a straight eviction.  But she initiated the move-out, and I’m thrilled.  I’m even going to put a dumpster on site for a couple weeks, to expedite the process for her.  I wonder if she’ll use it and fill it up with some of her hoard, or whether she’ll take it all with her?  LOL

More follow-up on that issue later …

Onward and upward!

Hoarder Strikes Again . . .

Well, I’ve just about had it.  This is a duplex I was selling on contract.  I did the deal with Martha back in ’06 and all was good.

Bu slowly, she started to collect “stuff.”  In the back yard, in the house, and now in the front yard and on the porch.  I’ve confronted her about it, and she insists she “needs” all of it.

The Board of Health has sent me two letters about the junk that has piled up at her property.  The last letter was in April of 2011.  At that time, I wrote her a letter and told her that if I got one more letter from the BOH, I was going to foreclose on her. 

And sure enough, the inevitable happened.  I got the letter last week and contacted my attorney.  She’s not going to be happy but it’s not as if I didn’t warn her!  This is crazy stuff.  It’ll take a while to process the court papers — maybe two or three months at the most — but it’ll be worth it to me to get her out. 

I just hope she doesn’t leave me any of her junk!

Onward and upward ….

Clean-up in Aisle Three …

So, I evicted Brianna and stopped in to check out the house yesterday.  There was trash in every room of this three-bedroom rental, including a few bags of open garbage.  As you can see in the picture below, she owned a broom but maybe just didn’t know how to use it?

She also stole some of the curtains from the windows.  (Glad I buy them at Family Dollar, for about $10/window!)

I had told Brianna what I tell all of the people I evict:  “If you leave the place clean and empty, and you’re out before your court date, I’ll drop the proceedings against you.”   For many tenants, this is an attractive incentive, and they comply.

Brianna didn’t care about that.  She stayed til the bitter end.  She had to be out five days after the hearing (for which she didn’t show up), and she was gone one day ahead of time.   But, just couldn’t quite get everything out:

This kind of thing doesn’t happen very often but when it does, I bring my rake (yes, I said rake!) and 55-gallon trash bags and get the place ready for my next tenant.

Brianna wasn’t behind in her rent.  I don’t allow pets and she had a couple dogs in there. (I discovered this when I was at the house doing some outside work.)  She was evicted for violating our pet policy.  Throughout the eviction process, I was respectful — this is important — and she didn’t leave angry.  The mess she left behind wasn’t due to anger or resentment on her part … she was just a slob.

Brianna was neat and tidy in the early part of her tenancy but things had fallen apart in her life and she wasn’t keeping the place in very good order.  She was on thin ice with me over this before the dog incident … I discovered this fact during one of my periodic apartment checks.

The moral of this story?  Always protect your investment by doing occasional checks of the interior.  And, don’t worry about the stuff you can’t control, like the scenes in this blog piece.  Get the rake and the bags, and get it back up and running!

Onward and upward … 🙂