Trash, or Treasure??

When tenants move out — planned or not — they often leave a few items behind.  Here’s an example:

003The tenant took all of their clothing and personal items from this bedroom, but left the mattress and dirty linens and some boxes and other trash.  They’re obviously not coming back for this stuff!  But how about the contents of this next photo, taken from the same house?


The shelving units in both rooms were not in good shape, but I suppose they could be used in another rental.  The stuff on the sheves — electronics, knick-knacks, etc. — was either broken or just plain trash.  So as a landlord, what do you do?  Can you throw it out?  Or will your tenant come back on you several months later, claiming you threw away some precious family heirlooms?

Here’s what I do … on my application, I always get the names and addresses of two contacts — family and/or friends — as emergency contacts.  In these cases, if I cannot reach my tenant and I don’t have a forwarding address, I call these people and try to find my tenant through them.  I let them know the situation, and tell them I need to clear out the rental for my next tenant.  Sometimes they come and clear out the house, sometimes the tenant does, and sometimes the emergency contact says the tenant doesn’t want the rest of the contents.  I get this in writing, take pictures of the junk left behind, and put it out for the trash man.  Simple.

When you’ve made all efforts to find your tenant and contacted the appropriate people, to no avail, you can — by law — label the stuff they left behind as “abandoned property.”  The law is purposely vague about this, and I’ve never, in 17 years, had an issue with throwing people’s junk away.

What’s that saying?  “One man’s trash, another man’s treasure?”  No, it’s “One man’s trash, another man’s trash!”  So don’t keep it, throw it out!  And know that you’ll find a better tenant next time!

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 … 🙂

“Next Week” Never Comes

One of my best qualities is also one of my worst . . . I choose to think the best, in people and situations.  This works for me, and against me.  It enables me to remain positive in difficult circumstances and, although I haven’t led the easiest of lives, I’m a happy, contented person.

So how does choosing to think the best end up working against me?  Here’s an example:

My tenant, Eddie, pays his rent bi-weekly because that’s when he gets paid at his job.  (I try to make it easy for my tenants to pay their rent.)   He called and said he didn’t have the rent due to a car breakdown . . . if he doesn’t fix the car, he can’t go to work.  If he doesn’t go to work, he’ll get fired and won’t be able to pay the rent.  I certainly understand this dilemma.  Many of my tenants are low-income individuals.  Eddie needed to fix his car, which ate up his rent payment.  He promised he’d double up on it in two weeks and be totally caught up.  Choosing to think the best, I agreed.

Two weeks later, I learned Eddie had been sick and hadn’t worked for a few days.  His check was short.  He was only able to pay one week of rent, which put him three weeks behind now.  And the beat goes on.  And on, and on . . .

What I’ve learned through the years is that “next week” never comes.  I want to believe it will, and many times my tenants fully believe it will.  But way too often, it doesn’t.  Choosing to think the best won’t make it happen, unfortunately.  I lost hundreds (maybe thousands?) of dollars early in my career before I toughened up.  This is an income-producing business, not a charity.  I can’t afford to allow people to live rent-free in my units.

So now, when they get behind, we make a written plan for them to get caught up and if they default, I file eviction.

So, a short word to the wise . . . Yes, choosing to think the best in people and situations is a wonderful attribute.  But it can cost you dearly if you allow it to override your good business sense!