Ground Clear!

I try to keep up with all the trimming, weed control, etc. at my Indianapolis rental properties. It’s a challenge.

At my own home, I’ve had the same issues … the back of my property runs along a small creek, and weeds, undergrowth, etc. have crept up into the yard. I finally had someone come and clear it all out. I asked him how to control regrowth, as I don’t want to lose any of my property to weeds!

He suggested I purchase Ortho Ground Clear. He sprayed it all along the back edge of my property after he’d cleared out all the undergrowth. Thistles galore, mulberry, etc. That was about a month ago. Evidently, this product keeps weeds away for a up to a YEAR! Just to make sure, I purchased a gallon myself and went down to respray last week. There was NO evidence of thistles resurfacing, and all the small junk saplings showed no “rebirth.” Another nice feature … The sprayer has an “on” switch, so no pumping.

When spring rolls around, I’ll recheck the area, allow some grass to grow, and respray the areas I’d like to remain clear. Of all the weed removal products I’ve used at my rentals over the years, Ground Clear is the big winner. I plan to take Ground Clear to my rentals as well, because this stuff definitely works!

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!


Setting the Tone With Tenants

The first contact with your tenant actually sets the tone for your entire relationship. It occurs when you show them the house … they loved the ad they saw on Zillow or elsewhere, loved the pictures, and the price fit their parameters. When I meet with potential renters, I let all of them know what’s expected of our tenants, mainly:

  • We expect you to pay rent in a timely manner
  • We strictly enforce late fees and file eviction for lease violations
  • We expect you to treat this home with loving care

With those things in mind, if someone moves in and is late with rent, they know we aren’t going to let that slide. Early on, I tended to let things go, and accept late rent with no late fee attached. Tenants caught on to this quickly, of course! Why the urgency to pay on time if there’s no penalty for paying late? I learned the hard way, of course ….

Now, I stick by my lease, which demands a 10% fee if I don’t have the rent by the 6th day of the month. If someone has to pay that late fee one time, they make sure it doesn’t happen again. Those fees can be hefty, especially on higher end rentals.

Moral of the story? Be kind, but be firm and stick to your lease terms. At the end of the day, it’ll create a calmer environment for you AND your tenants!

Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite …

Creepy little dudes … the bedbug population in the US grew by 500% between 2006 and 2010.  Yeah, I’d call that an epidemic.  I’ve only had a couple infestations in my rentals, and they were both from mattresses that had been given to my tenants.

Here’s a link to a great, informative piece about these tenacious critters who can survive for several months without eating:

Pest control companies are raking in the money, treating infestations.  I — of course — decided to take matters in my own hands and used a product from  I had my tenant wash/dry all her clothing/bedding in hot water, and I sprayed the mattress and box spring with the product, all the furniture and flooring.  I then placed plastic covers (they’re cheap) on the bedding.  No vacuuming for a couple days, to allow the cedar oil to work, and voila!  The bedbugs were gone.  I had her re-spray a few days later.

And, the spray is non-toxic and has a pleasant odor, like a cedar closet.

Of course, the best solution is to not get them in the first place!  Don’t buy used furniture or bedding, and be careful about travel, too … they’re sneaky little devils who will come home with you if they can!

Dog Bite!

I’m an animal lover, always have been.  But …

This past Thursday afternoon, I was doing house checks for one of my owners.  I manage several nice homes for him and I stop in occasionally to make sure my tenants are maintaining the home and that everything is in working order.

It was pouring rain, so I pulled way up into the driveway and made a run for the front door.  Out of nowhere, a big dog totally snuck up on me, barking viciously only when he was almost on me.  Scared the “you-know-what” out of me!  I turned to face him just as he bit my forearm.  I yelled “No!’ and he ran back to the garage next door.

My arm was bleeding, of course … it’s fine now, wasn’t a deep wound.  I couldn’t have protected myself from this because I never saw him coming, but I’ve been accosted by stray dogs before and I asked my daughter Allison what to do.  She’s a little smartypants in the realm of animal behavior.  (In the past, I’ve put my hand out, yelled “NO!” or “Raaaahhhh!”, and she said that’s probably the worst thing you can do.)  This was her advice:

When a dog approaches you growling, it’s out of fear.  Don’t look the dog in the eye, and don’t address the dog.  He will see these things as challenges, and this will increase his fear, which can lead to aggression.  So, I was wrong on all counts!

In the future, I won’t confront a snarling dog or look it in the eye … I don’t carry mace, but I do pack the heat … of course, I wouldn’t want to use it on a dog.  Actually, I hope I never have to use it at all.  Maybe I’ll carry treats in my pocket and throw them in the opposite direction?

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 …..  🙂

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!

Mouse Heaven

Mice don’t scare me.  Actually, there’s not much that does.  Well, maybe spiders, but I’m working on that.  Anyway, I had a tenant that moved in and 10 a.m. and moved out at 2 p.m. because she’d seen a mouse . . . now that’s some serious fear.

I’ve been close friends with Carrie and her husband for over 25 years.  She helps me paint at my rentals when she has the time.  Check out her rolling technique in the video below — she’s excellent.  But that’s not why I’m posting it here.  It’s more of a “mouse commentary.”  She’s scared to death of mice, as evident in the story I tell on camera:

Her “mouse-o-phobia” (I made that up) is so severe she won’t even look at a dead one.  After an eviction, I found a deceased mouse with what appeared to be a Christmas ornament is his mouth.  (Say what??)  Perhaps he expired while decorating the tree?  I have a somewhat warped sense of humor — I apologize in advance to those of you who may not find the following video amusing — and I couldn’t even get Carrie to come look at him.  Without further ado, here’s the clip:

Anyway, although I don’t fear the critters, they aren’t welcome in my homes.  A product called Final Blox gets rid of them.  I buy it locally at Gold Seal Pest Control (317-924-4114), but it can also be purchased on line.

Bottom line?  Whatever your critter fear, there’s probably a product that will take care of it, or a sub-contractor or friend who will take over while you cower in the corner.  🙂

Onward and upward!

Uh-oh . . . Bed Bugs

In my long landlording career, I’ve never had to deal with bed bugs.  That is, until last week.  Mia called to tell me she thought she had some in one of her bedrooms.  She’s an excellent tenant, keeps her unit very clean, and was understandably upset about the situation.  She’d only seen a couple, so she stopped sleeping in the room immediately.

Now, I have to admit, this isn’t really “my” problem.  There weren’t bugs in the house when Mia moved in.  These infestations happen through people who buy used furniture or bedding, or who travel and bring them in through their luggage.  From what I’ve read, hotels all over the world have had horrible issues with bed bugs over the past couple years.

But anyway, I wanted to help Mia get rid of the bugs.  I called my pest control company and was told the treatments are extremely expensive — hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the home and severity of the problem.  So I resorted to a product I actually had on hand, called Cedarcide (

It’s an all-natural cedar oil based product that works on fleas and other pests as well.  So, I told Mia she’d have to:

  • Take everything out of her drawers and closets
  • Wash and dry all clothing and bedding, dry them in a HOT dryer (very important)
  • Vacuum the entire floor, throw out the bag when done
  • Take the mattress and box spring off the bed frame and stand them up
  • Spray the floor, all surfaces of the mattress/box spring, inside and outside of the dresser and any other furniture with Cedarcide spray

A lot of work, huh?  But this is what needs to be done.  I took the spray to her and she followed my instructions.  The Cedarcide suffocates the bed bugs on contact, and also kills larvae and eggs.  It is safe for use around people and pets, and the cost is a little over $100 for a gallon of product.  Not bad at all, if it works!

I dropped the stuff off last week, and called Mia yesterday to find out how things were going.  She  hasn’t seen any bed bug activity.  So far, so good . . . I’ll check back with her in another week.

In the meantime, I communicated with Bethany Vale, who also sells a cedar oil product.  She was very impressive, as was her site,  I will probably purchase from her, next time around.  Her product is a bit less expensive and she seemed very knowledgeable. Getting rid of bed bugs is not easy, but this cedar oil stuff may be the answer.


“Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite…”

When I was a little kid, I thought this was just a nonsensical fairlytale reference my parents said when they put me to bed.  But over the past few months I’ve been hearing landlords complaining about infestations in their rentals.  Yikes!

And actually, I dealt with a bedbug problem in one of my apartments a year ago, although I didn’t realize what it was for a few weeks.  My tenant, Erica, was being attacked by “something.”  She was sure it was fleas, but she had no pets.  Well, although I didn’t mention this to her, I’d evicted the prior tenant for sneaking a cat in, so I thought there might be a chance there were fleas in the apartment.  So I treated for fleas.  (My pest control company sells me Ultracide, which is an excellent product — they use it themselves — and it really works.) 

I couldn’t figure out why, a week later, she was still having the problem.  When she said nothing was jumping on her (bedbugs don’t jump) and she was only being bitten at night, in her bedroom, the lightbulb went on.  She had a bedbug infestation.   Here’s an example of what bedbug bites can look like:

Erica’s mom had recently bought her a “new” (used) mattesss.  Big mistake.  Bedbugs are often brought in on used furniture, and they say the increase of cases in the US may be realted to more overseas travel and also an increase in people buying used furniture.

Anyway, upon closer inspection, I found the little buggers.  You can tell on a mattress by looking in the crevices for littles dark specs, and also for the same thing in other furniture or along the walls at the base of the carpet.   Ick!  I told her she was going to have to throw that thing out immediately, which she did, and vacuum the whole place thoroughly.  Anything that can be thrown in the dryer on high heat, should be.  High temperatures will kill them.  Aside from that, I recommend hiring an exterminator if the problem persists.  From what I know, there aren’t any truly effective home rememdies for bedbugs.  FYI, you might want to consider putting something in your lease about bedbugs . . . anything reported to you within 15 or 20 days of move-in could be yours to handle, but anything beyond that could be the tenant’s responsibility?  Something to think about.

As for Erica, we had more pressing problems . . . she did get rid of the mattress in question but she was also behind in her rent and was having issues with her rommate as well.  When Erica was at work one day, her roommate threw all of her clothes out back and set them on fire, a little too close to the house.  The fire department came, but not before the fire melted some of the siding right off the house . . .

Needless to say, they’re no longer with me . . . but neither are the bedbugs! 

Onward and upward   🙂