Renter Horror Story #1 – The Finger Biter

Renters junk left behind
The entry into a junk filed apartment

My life as a landlord was not always as easy as it now.  It takes some experience, and some research to understand what kind of renter to avoid.  This is a recap of one a renter horror story…

After every renter, I tried to determine what went wrong.  A property manager is like a project manager.  You have a project, it had a begin date and an end date.  It is either a success or a failure.  Even the successful projects can be improved.  Here is a classical case study pf one problem renter.

This was a private market rate couple, where the wife worked.  The husband floated from job to job, with more float time, than job time.  This couple had poor credit scores (535), and the husband had a few criminal issues with drugs and drinking, but not serious ones.  he was not a felon.  They had only a $500 deposit (note to self, low quality renters need larger deposits, not smaller ones)

These pictures are from a couple that was asked to leave.  They had a long term (2 months) guest, a former cop, who got into a fight with the husband.  Of course this was after the husband got into a fight with his own wife.  All the adults were ~40 years of age, and they were fighting over a lost video game.  In the end, the former cop bit off the tip of the index finger of my tenant.  Yes, bit the finger OFF.  The former Gary, IN cop went to jail for a felony for ~4 months.  Here is the criminal complaint.

As it turns out, the ex-cop was an ex-cop because he shot a 16 year old burglary suspect as the suspect was running away.  The kid was only 16, and probably should have been shot at 14, but the cop became an ex-cop.  And prior to becoming a police officer, this ex-cop shot a person, and was charged with attempted murder, but was acquitted as he testified in self-defense.

The finger biter, was a long term guest, staying over the holidays.  he was there for about two months.  Here is an article to avoid long term guests.

I left out the pictures of the clogged toilet, where a pencil was flushed down the toilet and then clogged with toilet paper and excrement.

There is also a 5-gallon pail in the picture with three large goldfish that were alive and left behind.

After I gave them the 30-day notice, needless to say, I was not paid the next month’s rent.  I took them to court for ~$4500, and was awarded ~$1500 plus the $500 deposit.  Since the wife had a decent job, I was able to garnish her wages through a collection company.  I only received 55%, but I would have loved to see the look on her face when 25% of her take home pay was sent to me for two+ months.

In the end, the apartment was rented ~2 month later, after we made a few improvements (removed the kitchen wall, installed a center island and washer and dryer).  It then rented for $150 more than it was previously rented for.

So new carpet (after only 2 1/2 years), paint, removal of a lot of junk, and the improvements were completed.  Total cost was not that much in terms of materials and money paid to other parties. Carpet $900 (after I pulled it), paint $100 (I painted), disposal was $0 as I used my dumpster (I removed all of it), cleaning $0 (my labor), pulling toilet and removing pencil $0 (my labor), vacancy 2 months.  There were also some eviction expenses, court costs $320, serving papers by sheriff $100, Writ $55, delivering writ by sheriff, $125.  There were also some other smaller items that needed to be fixed or replaced.

If I would have had to pay for all of the fix ups to a third party, it would have been at least $2,500 more and the total cost well over $5,000 including vacancy.  A property manger would have also changed another month’s rent to fill the unit for another $1,000.

Low credit score people will have a high probability of failure.
– Low deposits do not cover actual court costs, let alone vacancy and damages.
Month-to-Month leases are better than year-long leases to get people out.  Use those Month-to-Month leases for marginal tenants – if you even take them at all.
– Even an ex-cop can be bad.

refrigerator a mess
Refrigerator a mess
Dirty Oven not cleaned by renter
The ovenRenters junk in the living roomThe living roomRenters junk left over in the kitchenKitchen AreaRenters junk left over in the garageThe garage 
Slob Renters vanity
Under the vanity


14 Replies to “Renter Horror Story #1 – The Finger Biter”

  1. Wow. For the kind of people who would have a fight over a video game that ended with a finger bitten off… The fridge is really clean! 🙂

    In a case like this where they’ve abandoned all of that stuff, assuming you could find a buyer and had the patience and time for it, would it be legal to sell that stuff on Craigslist?

  2. Yes, after 28 days in MN, I can sell, donate or trash all of the items. The three large goldfish died. I attempted to give away a bunch of stuff to Goodwill, but they do not take bikes in the winter, and do not take any kids toys. In the end, most was trashed.

    Looking back, I could have done a ‘Free’ ad on Craig’s and got rid of a bunch of stuff, with less effort. The problem is holding the stuff, and re-renting the unit. You have to have a place to store it. In this instance, I did have another vacant place I was rehabbing.

  3. Ah, the comment “drugs”. In our background check, anything comes up with drugs and we’ll decline your application. We’ll let a criminal record slide if it’s minor, youthful and has some age to it – eg it was 5+ years ago. But anything felony, walk on by.

    Enjoying reading your blog.

    1. Thank you for the comment!

      People sometimes do not realize the lifetime of trouble they can be in for what they think is a minor thing. Like selling hard drugs, or having a violent background. I go 10 years for most things.

        1. Thank you for reading!

          It really depends on where you are in your rental and landlording. In hind-sight, I never should have rented to them. I was handed a neighborhood that was near impossible to get a decent person to drive though for a showing, let alone rent there.

          I should have lowered the price and keep looking.

  4. With all the items they left behind you could have recouped some $$ selling at garage sale, auction, etc!!!

    1. Thank you for the comment!

      If I wanted to spend the time, I may have made a small amount. Most of the stuff was junk, and even the local Good Will did not want it. I should have posted pictures on Craig’s, maybe some of the stuff would have been picked up if it was in a free ad.

  5. There has got to be a way to look at Juvenile records too. You said this kid should have been shot at 14. How did you know that? The color of his skin?

    1. Juvenile records are protected. It doesn’t matter what color his skin was. When a kid is a burglar at 16, and running away from the cops, he has likely been in several crimes already. Likely he started a few years ago. At some point, I am OK with thinking that we have enough people on the planet, do we need this one? Call it a retro-active abortion.

  6. Man…. I have got some horror stories for you. My grandfather was a landlord in a small town, and a *really* “nice guy”, i.e. had a soft spot for people that could convince him they were trying to get back up on their feet. Even with incredibly low rent prices, he almost always had one tenant on one of his properties that was just not paying… at all. He let it slide for almost a year with one family, and woof…. The fridge picture reminded me of it. If you think that’s bad…

    Story 1: imagine an old, unplugged refrigerator (several of them actually) in the basement of a house. Actually, they had a few of them. The stench was just…death; a stench I would unfortunately smell many more times cleaning up after his tenants, but never get used to. I opened the first one, and a small swarm of flies came out. This was on a farm, so flies often got into the houses, but this was a small cloud. When they cleared away, it became clear that they were feasting on a pile of apples that had been left to rot away in the bottom of this fridge. The next one…. no kidding… the remains of a butchered goat that were left to rot in the bottom. The smell made me throw up when it hit my nose directly.

    Story 2: We had a little house on the same farm that was originally rented to the lead farm worker and his family. A few years after the last tenants left, grandpa decided he wanted to renovate it and rent it out. In the process of replacing the drywall in one room, we discovered a honeybee hive. Apparently, it covered the entire length of the wall in that room. Whatever method the exterminator used to kill them, it caused them to end up dead in a pile on the bathroom floor. It was about a foot high.

    Story 3: One family moved without giving notice in the middle of the night. They left a note that said they were leaving to go live in Alaska. OK… kinda weird. And they left EVERYTHING, in a hurry. Their dresser drawers were open, stuff was scattered haphazardly everywhere. A month or so later my grandfather received a bill from the power company and couldn’t figure out why it was so high… until we crawled under the house. MINI POT FARM. LOL.

    Story 4: One jerkass that moved in with his wife and her kids turned out to be a violent piece of trash that loved, loved, loved his guns and his booze. He put up a big sign that read: “WARNING: TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT”, and he wasn’t kidding. He fired “warning” shots over many people’s heads. One night after a fight, he ended up turning the gun on his wife, and then putting it into his own mouth, right in front of the kids. Most of the gore was taken care of by my grandparents, but I found little bits of brains and skull under the oven. I was 8 years old.

  7. I have to say that these pictures (aside from that filthy oven) don’t really convey a nightmare to me. I’m assuming the “nightmare” is the court dates and the financial loss and the pictures are just ancillary. Sure, the place is in a bit of disarray, but your floors and walls still look to be in good shape. I have lived in a rental where I actually had to point out damage from a prior tenant that the landlord overlooked AND fumigate the entire place on my own dime after scrubbing the oven and the walls in the kitchen due to roach infestation.

    You have commented with regard to Section 8 tenants, and I agree 100%, but consider yourself extremely lucky. If this is one of your horror stories, just think of all the landlords who have to deal with needles for diabetes and heroin in their toilet plumbing, with people drunk and high leaving their tub water overflowing, rage damage to the sheetrock, fires due to grease not being cleaned in the kitchen and careless cooking, and 50 other things I cannot even list here that would all be much, much worse than that place seems to be.

    1. Thank you for reading!

      I have had plenty of holes in walls, and ruined floors due to pets. To some extent, a hole in the wall is easy. A scrap piece of Sheetrock, some mud, tape and a little sanding, and it is `100% again. Moving stuff out of a 3rd floor apartment, with no elevator, then storing it for a month, is a pain. Then you have to pay to get rid of it.

      There is definitely much worse out there. That is why, the lower priced areas you need to make a lot more money. A 15% cap rate is just the place to start. Buying a place for $20K, or less, and renting it for $800 a month is still difficult to make money in those areas.

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