OMG …

Here’s a little video that’ll remind you of that “Hoarders” show.  I’ve had this tenant for about five years now and, unfortunately, she’s buying the house from me on contract, i.e. I’m “the bank.”  I’ve done a couple of these deals successfully but this one isn’t quite working out …

Martha cleaned up the mess, but I basically had to threaten her.  If I get one more notice from the Board of Health, she’s gone.  Since she’s on a land contract, it won’t be a simple “go to the small claims court, file eviction and she’s out in two or three weeks.”  I’ll need to involve an attorney and he’ll file it downtown.  If she doesn’t go voluntarily, it may take a few months.  This happened one other time, and it cost me five months and about $650 in attorney fees and court costs.

Sigh … so for now, it’s all good.  But I’m afraid that with Martha, the proverbial writing is on the wall.  And in the back yard …

Cockroach Buffet

This is a picture of a Sunday afternoon cockroach buffet.  The only item on the menu was Max Force bait gel, a spiffy little product made by Bayer.

I had evicted my tenants from this house. They left before the court date and when I went in the duplex I was greeted by several hundred fleas and cockroaches.  Nice.

Initially, these tenants were pretty decent — I do apartment checks and theirs looked good — but things went downhill over a couple months.  There were loud arguments with relatives in the front yard, resulting in calls to the police.  Then they brought a dog onto the property.  When I discovered this I filed eviction immediately, but the dog had already been inside (thus, the fleas) and their lives were coming apart at the seams (thus, the cockroaches).

So, back to the Max Force bait gel … cockroaches are so very hard to kill … they can live for nine days without their heads!  Ick.  They’ve been around for thousands of years, and they keep evolving their way out of every poison used to get rid of them.  But Max Force truly does the trick.

You put tiny dots of it in crevices and along the baseboards, under sinks, stoves and inside cabinets.  And they come for the buffet.  They eat it, get it on their feet, and take it back to the nest.  Their buddies ingest it too.  (They actually eat eachothers’ poop — am I giving you too much information here?)

Anyway, within a few days, you start seeing a lot of dead ones, and several who are moving slow, feeling sickly.  I love it!  Bombs don’t work.  They kill a few but don’t reach the ones who aren’t crawling around in the open.  Max Force reaches all of them.

The buffet crowd in the picture above gathered within a few minutes of me putting a small dot of Max Force in that spot.  I’m going back tomorrow and will be thrilled to see a cockroach graveyard in that duplex.

Oh, and I also sprayed for fleas, of course.  The product is Ultracide spray.  I buy both products from my pest control people here in Indianapolis, but you can get Max Force on line for about $10-12/tube.  I don’t leave home without it.

Onward and upward …..  🙂

Anger Issues…

I’ve never had a tenant tear up my rental out of resentment or anger toward me.  But something went on here that wasn’t pretty!

Theo had been with me for over five years and I’d never had an issue with him.  But a new girlfriend entered the scene, with a pit bull in tow, and I told Theo it was the dog or him … I’m an animal lover but I don’t allow pets in my rentals.  I’ve made a few exceptions along the way, but this wasn’t going to be one of them.  I gave Theo a second chance and even a third, but he — evidently — couldn’t stand up to the girlfriend, so he had to go.

There must’ve been some wacky stuff going on in there toward the end, because there are holes in many of the walls.  When I took down Theo’s “patch job” here’s what was behind it:

Nothing!  A black hole leading into space under the roof.  (It’s an upstairs apartment.)  Occasionally I come across fist-size holes in walls, but man-size holes?  We’re talking major anger issues here!

Anyway, this happened in a short span of time, and landlords can’t control everything, all of the time.  Even the best tenants can turn bad, quickly.  I made good money on Theo for over five years, and it was time for some cosmetic work on his place anyway.  I just thought it would be Botox, not a major facelift!

I’m just glad I’m a laid back person.  This stuff doesn’t happen often, especially if you do apartment checks.  I’ll whip this place into shape in no time, and hopefully get another long-term renter in there soon.

Onward and upward!   🙂

Squatters!

Carl had been renting from me for five years at my fourplex..  Never missed a payment.  Then, one day when I was at the property to talk to one of my other tenants, I heard a dog barking in his apartment.  And I don’t allow pets.  Hmmm….

I knocked on the door and Carl answered.  The dog, an aggressive pit bull mix, was going crazy behind him.  I calmly told Carl we don’t allow pets and the dog had to go.  “He belongs to my girlfriend.  I told her he can’t be here, but she keeps bringing him.”  I replied, “You need to tell her that if the dog is still here tomorrow, you’ll be evicted.”

I thought that would take care of it.  Carl was apologetic, understanding.  I stopped by the next day and the dog was still there.  Sadly, I told Carl I was filing on him.  I told him that if he could be out before his court date, I’d drop the charges.  And that’s what happened.  Carl moved out.  I’d told him to leave his key on the kitchen counter.

I went to the apartment the other day and, as I put my key in the door, I heard a dog bark!  What?  His girlfriend opened the door … Carl was out, and she was still there!  She said he was coming back for some things that weren’t out yet.  Okay.

I went today, and the dog, the girlfriend and Carl are gone.  But I let myself in and there were two people I’ve never met, one was sleeping on the floor, one was sitting against the wall, texting somone.  Awkward!  (Glad I had my gun in my pocket, just in case.)

I informed them that I’m the landlord and the locks will be changed tomorrow by 4:00 PM.  I told them if they were still there, I’d be calling the police to physically remove them.  I was totally pissed off, but was careful not to show it.  If I’d been disrespectful, God only knows what they’d do to the property, damage-wise.

Bottom line?  I allowed Carl to move out without filing eviction on him, although he belived I was going to do it.  I trusted him and decided I’d save my $82 filing fee.  I knew he’d move out.  He’d been a wonderful tenant who couldn’t stand up to the girlfriend with the dog.  But he — obviously — had a few low-life friends who helped themselves to his property.

I should’ve known better.  I usually file the eviction, regardless, to protect myself in case my tenant doesn’t show good faith and move out.  Carl moved out as promised.  But his low-life friends moved in!  I’ll be smarter next time …

Onward and upward … 🙂

The Black Hole

My lease specifically states, “Make no changes without landlord’s permission.”  Freddie must’ve assumed I wouldn’t mind if he painted his living room BLACK.  Here’s the redo in progress:

I’d just been in his side of the duplex last month and these walls were the normal creamy off-white I always use.  I don’t know what possessed him to do this but I discovered it after I evicted him.

The white part on the left is where I’ve used Kilz to prime the walls before repainting.  The horizontal patch is his work . . . a half-assed attempt at repairing a hole in the wall.  (Sigh . . .)  Fortunately, the priming didn’t take long.  He only painted half the room black, so it was a quick fix.

What I’ve learned through the years is that you can have an excellent, airtight lease but that doesn’t necessarily mean people will follow it!  That’s why it’s important to do apartment checks from time to time.  (Although a check would’ve discovered this mess after the fact.)

The bottom line?  Some frustrations are unavoidable.  You do the best you can, take good care of your homes and tenants, have a great lease and hope they adhere to it.  And when they don’t, you threaten them or evict them, and move on.

This apartment will be ready to go in a couple days.  It’s in a nice area, so a “For Rent” sign in the yard may attract a friend or relative of someone who already lives on the street. I’m hopeful . . . onward and upward!   🙂

Shots Fired!

Okay, so my lease has a clause that says, “Keep music, TV and other noise low so neighbors aren’t bothered.”  Unfortunately, it doesn’t say anything about gun shots fired or visits from the police.  😦

The Friday after Thanksgiving, at 11:30 PM, I got a call from a tenant in one of my duplexes, saying shots had been fired in the area, and there were police at the other side of the duplex.  Wonderful.  I didn’t get a call from the other tenants.  Hmmmm ….

I went down there the next day and of course, the tenants said it must have been a “drive by” because they don’t have any enemies, etc.  (Again, hmmmm…..)  The bullets went right through the two-inch thick wood front door and were embedded in the paneling in the living room.  Well, I’d had complaints and suspicions about these tenants previously re: drug activity and had the narcotics division check it out (to no avail), so I wasn’t buying their story.  I strongly suggested they move out and they acquiesced.

Here’s the bottom line:  if you suspect drug activity at one of your rentals, call the police and have them do surveillance.  And more importantly, put a clause in your lease to protect yourself, which I’ve done since this incident.  I’ve added a clause that states, “Police visits will not be tolerated.”  Enough said!  You need to be able to file eviction if there is police activity at one of your rentals, even if it’s domestic disturbance.  Putting that clause in your lease gives you the option to evict if you feel it is necessary.

We landlords can’t be at our rentals 24/7, and the best we can do is have an airtight lease to protect ourselves from tenants who are conducting illegal activity or creating disturbances on site.

When in doubt, get ’em out!

Sewer 911

Heavy equipment in the front yard is always a bad sign.  I’ve had plenty of drain issues at my rentals, but occasionally they reach the crisis level, as in this case:

The toilets and drains on both sides of my duplex were very slow a couple months ago, so I had my drain people come out and snake the main line.  No problem, right?  (Even though I warn them against it, my tenants sometimes put iinteresting items down the drains.  Toys, hair clips, empty toilet paper rolls, disposable razors, rubber bands, pens and pencils, etc.)  But when the same thing occurs two months later, it’s a definite red flag.

I had my drain people snake the main line, run a camera and — sure enough — there was a break in the clay tile under ground, in a couple places.  The cause?  Age and a big tree in the nieghbor’s yard.  Yes, those big old trees are beautiful, but not so beautiful when they work their way into your sewer lines and clog them up or break them down altogether!

This duplex is about 100 years old — much sturdier than some of the new construction we see today — but the clay tiles are also 100 years old, and they do have a life span.  Thus, the major excavation project that went down today.  Thank God I know Scott, who works for a commercial company but does side work.

There were two breaks in the line.  One was three feet deep, the other ten feet deep.  A full day of work to dig it all up and replace it, but half the cost of using another contractor.

It’ll take a while to make up this expense in rental income, but this event falls under the category of things I can’t control … gotta go with the flow and move through it …

Onward and upward … !

Cat Scratch Fever

It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part to try cat herding.  It was simply a knee-jerk reaction to a maddening situation and I was going to take care of it, single-handedly.  After all, I’m a tough girl from Gary, IN, right?

Um … in retrospect, no.  Here’s the back story …

My tenant Rick owed me money and, unbeknowst to me, had moved out.  My oldest daughter (Anne) and her boyfriend Steve were visitng and they went with me to pick up the rent.  When he didn’t answer we let ourselves in and were greeted with the smell of cat urine.  It was overwhelming.  He’d added a cat to his household — against the rules — and abandoned it along with the unit.

My nearly new carpet was ruined and I was furious.  Anne grabbed a broom and the cat herding adventure began.  It lasted about five minutes, and I wish I had it on video.  Steve would try to trip it as it streaked by, and all three of us were chasing it around the apartment, but Anne actually had it cornered — sort of — and that’s when I made the fatal error.

I swooped down (yelling “Rrraaaahhhh!!! as I did so — I don’t know what that was about) and grabbed the frantic cat by the scruff of its neck, just as it turned and sank its teeth into the back of my hand.  Terribly painful, but I didn’t let go, and neither did the cat, until I’d thrown it out the door.

Mission accomplished, except for the fact I had three or four bleeding pucture wounds in my hand, and I’m allergic to cats.  I washed the area well, but my hand and my eyes swelled immediately.  This from Anne: “Oh my God, you look like a monster!”  Nice.

In spite of getting on some big-time antibiotics that evening, redness and major swelling crept up to my elbow by morning and I ended up in the hopsital, where they opened up the back of my hand — it was ugly — and I spent the next 36 hours on I.V. antibiotics.  Anne and Steve visited me there … sigh.

Moral of the story?  If you need to move an unwilling animal from one place to another, think twice before doing this on your own.  Call the appropriate authorities, who have the expertise and equipment needed for this type of work. Even if you don’t have allergies, animal bites can cause serious infections.

Another lesson learned, the hard way.  No more cat herding adventures for this not-so-tough girl!

You Did WHAT???

One of the very important clauses in my lease state, “Tenant will make no changes (i.e. painting, etc.) without landlord’s written permission.”  This wasn’t part of my lease when I began my business.  Again, something I learned the hard way.  Here’s an excerpt from my book, The Landord Chronicles: Investing in Low and Middle Income Rentals.

” My forty-year-old tenant decided he’d give his apartment a face-lift, and repainted the entire apartment one weekend.  He loved the results, told me it looked more like a bachelor pad now, and encouraged me to come take a look.  I feared the worst, with good reason.  The dining room was bright aqua, the bedroom was muddy brown, and the kitchen was yellow-orange with a shocking green rooster-adorned border pasted haphazardly along the ceiling.  He was so proud.  I was so appalled.  He wasn’t even a good painter; he’d slopped paint all over the baseboards, drips had gotten on the carpet, and he’d bumped the ceilings several times as well.  Even if a tenant gets your okay on the color, you can’t trust they’ll do a decent job of it, so don’t go there at all.”

Bobby, my well-intentioned bachelor in the story above, is only one example.  I’ve had applicants and tenants volunteer to do work for me in exchange for deposit money and rent.  They claim they’re experts in drywall repair, plumbing, electrical work, carpet installation, painting . . . you name it, they’re experts and will do the work.  Believe me, it’s not worth the hassle, unless they’re employed by a legitimate contractor, and are licensed contractors themselves.

This advice also applies for any work needed throughout someone’s tenancy.  “Hey Ms. Barb, my brother can roof this house for you for cheap” and other such offers never instill confidence.  I don’t go there.  Ever.

Of course, sometimes I’m still blind sided by “upgrades” provided by my tenants unbeknowst to me, such as painting nightmares, stubborn wall decals, and botched-up flooring installations, but those items fall under the category of things I can’t control.  And, I don’t worry about stuff I can’t control; I let those things go, and just move on . . .

Onward and upward!

Hoarder Alert!

I’m just soo glad I have a well-developed sense of humor.  In my job, I often need it.  Here’s a case in point.  My tenant Martha is buying a double from me through a land contract, i.e. rent-to-buy.  Land contracts are a nice addition to real estate investing plans.   Normally, this is a great way for people who have bad credit, or no credit, to purchase a home.  Now, I didn’t know Martha five years ago when a friend recommended her to me.  But boy, do I know her now.  And I’m afraid she has hoarder tendencies.

She’s good about paying me on time — no complaints.  But the inside of her  house is filled with “stuff” and the outside — well, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, right?

I got a call from the Board of Health last week about her back yard.  (Uh-oh . . .)  I went down there immediately and took this picture:

Yikes!  That contraption is actually a “dog house” for her little dog, but she had filled it with bags of garbage.  (I didn’t bother to check to see if the trash can next to it was empty.)  It’s hard to tell from the picture, but there was also trash and junk to the right of it.  I was really unhappy about this — I’d be the one to get slapped with a hefty fine if the situation wasn’t remedied within about 10 days.  I had a “talk” with my tenant and she cleaned it up to this extent:

So I’ll be having a more detailed discussion with her tomorrow.  I don’t think the Board of Health will feel she’s in compliance at this point.  At least the garbage is gone.  She’s moving in the right direction.

But if she can’t do a better job of maintaining the property I’ll have to begin the foreclosure process.   (This is why landlords should always put clauses in their leases and contracts that allow them to evict if the property isn’t maintained to a certain standard.)  It’s more expensive and involved to remove a rent-to-buy tenant than a regular renter.  Even though she’s good about paying on time, that’s not enough . . . I don’t want to become best friends with the Board of Health folks because of her!

Onward and upward . . . More later . . .