Renter Horror Story – Mike The Murderer

crime-268902_1280-PDAll landlords have a renter horror story, I am no different.  As a landlord, I meet many interesting people.  As a Section 8 landlord in my early days, the people were MUCH more interesting.  Now I meet people who have jobs, might have a kid or two (with the same last name), and strive for success in a more standard method.  Most have never been arrested, let alone actually ever been in jail.   Quite a boring life…

Before this story gets started too far, I want to express my sincerest sympathies to the family and friends of GR.  I never had the chance to meet GR, I know she was a great person that did not deserve to have her life taken away so soon.

If you are a landlord, engaged in risky behaviors of not doing a background check, you will soon have a horror story too.  In actuality, this was not too bad of a story, but it could have been worse, if the crime scene was my property.  Luckily for me, it was another landlord’s issue.

Anyone who has been a Section 8 landlord for longer than about 4 hours will know about common problems with the entitlement crowd of Section 8.  The most common is extra move in boyfriends.

‘L’ was my first section 8 tenant.  I can remember all of the preparations I went through to make sure the apartment were fit to rent.  It was an older building, so I knew lead paint might be an issue.   The previous tenants were hard on the property.  I put in new carpet, replaced windows, replaced counter tops, painted, and did a terrific job of getting the place ready to go.  And I cleaned out 1,000’s of roaches.

Since I did not have a great turnover plan, and was a bit lazy back then, it took almost 18 months to get the place ready.  Thinking back, I could have hired the most expensive company in the area to do the work, and would have been $10K ahead.  Remember, vacancy is an opportunity cost.  It is real.

‘L’ moved in, and I passed the inspection without issues.  I was well on my way to Section 8 riches!  In total, ‘L’ stayed at the apartment for almost five years.

Back when I only had a few renters, I used to collect rent in person.  I figured that I could get a brief inspection of the property while I looked over the tenants shoulder, and get some face time with the person who was borrowing a $100K apartment from me.  I viewed it as a customer service thing.

When I am at the apartment, I try to make some small talk when I pick up rent to determine if I am going to have future issues.  Things like “How’s the job going?”, “Is everything working OK in the apartment?”  If I see a new person there, I try to figure out who they are, and how long they will be staying there.

‘L’ had her share of visiting guests, but one that moved in after she was there for a year seemed like a solid person.  His name was Mike.  Mike was the one who actually paid the tenant’s portion of the rent.  I believe he worked a construction job, and made decent money.  He was very articulate, and seemed to be able to communicate at a higher level.  It was almost as he had a college background, and maybe he did.  He seemed to know how the world operated.  If you talked about complicated matters to him, he understood and could contribute.  All in all, he seemed like an upstanding character – if you didn’t know better.  I suppose Ted Bundy was similar.

Mike had four kids of his own.  They must have lived with their mother, because I never saw them at my rental.  At least not in the 5-10 minutes per month I was there picking up rent.  Mike’s brothers were mostly in law enforcement of some sort or another from what I understand.  They were deputies, jailers, and that sort of thing.  I am not 100% sure exactly how many brothers he had, but it seemed like he was from a larger family.  Remember, I am only getting bits and pieces in the five to ten minutes every month as I collected rent.

At some point towards the end of this tenant’s lease, Mike told me he was moving out.  He was breaking up with ‘L’.  I assumed that maybe it was a temporary thing; I even offered him one of my vacant places for a few days to get away for a bit.  Of course I assumed he would just take a few days for a break, and move back in with ‘L’.  Then, my rental would stay occupied and I would make more money.

I have written before about long term guests.  Always do a background check on them.  At least Google their name, at a minimum.  I had not done any searches, so I was unaware he may have had a dark past, even though you could not tell from his exterior.  In reality, his past was filled with drug possession, driving without insurance, driving after revocation, disorderly conduct, etc.  He was even acquitted for a drive-by shooting.

One day, ‘L’ called me, and says she needs to move out.  Her lease still had about six months to go.  I inquired as to why, and she said “You heard about Mike, haven’t you?”  At that point, I had no clue.  She wanted to move away from the area as she was always getting asked about him.  She didn’t want to be associated with him or the area anymore.  I didn’t know Mike’s last name.   So she said just Google his name and that will tell you.  I asked for his name, and did the search.

He was in jail, for murder.  Luckily for me, he did not commit the murder in my rental, but after he moved out.  The murder was about a mile away.  It is a bit gruesome, but the Criminal Complaint is here.  He is in prison for the rest of his life, no parole.

My tenant moved out.  I did hear back from her a year or so later, she was looking for a place to rent and wondered if I had any places available.  Since I did not have any vacant places, I have never heard from her again.

So there you have it.  Do a background check.  A leopard doesn’t change their spots.  Assume the tenant will do for the next seven years, what they did for the previous seven years.  Or ten years.

So, now I know someone famous?  But what good is it to know a murderer, when they are already in jail? (sarc)

Have you ever rented to a hardened criminal?  Ever know a murderer?  How about a movie star?

14 Replies to “Renter Horror Story – Mike The Murderer”

  1. Hi There! I just found your blog and at a glance it looks interesting. I tried to add your blog to my bloglovin feed and it couldn’t hook up. Seems like there are some other little bugs – contact forms, RSS feed. Only way I can contact you is via comment. And So I guess I have to subscribe via e-mail 🙁
    Anywho, I have been a landlord on and off for 7 years with my first home and primary residence. I have had plenty of bad experiences! Maybe you can convince me that it’s worth getting back into. Keep up the good work on the blog and I hope you can adjust your blog somehow to work with bloglovin!


  2. The renter definitely made for a good story – albeit a gruesome one after reading the complaint.

    My dad had a fourplex in Minneapolis with some friends for a few years and I believe that it was rented to section 8 tenants for much of the time they owned it. I can’t say they ever had a murderer living in one of their units, but I have heard plenty of stories of feces smeared on the walls, carpets ruined, and appliances and fixtures stolen from the home after rent going unpaid for months at a time.

    Can’t say it ever made me want to rent to section 8 tenants.

  3. You guys are elitists. Not everyone on Section 8 has a criminal background or destroys the property. Generalize much?

    1. Thank you for the comment!

      This blog is about maximizing profitability, it is not about providing high-risk housing. I agree that not all Section 8 renters have a criminal background, or destroy the property. Just as people with low credit scores and low income can be great renters, it is a higher risk. Higher risk demands a higher return, yet your returns are limited by the very definition of these types of renters.

      The fact is, if Section 8 was a highly profitable way to provide rental housing, landlords would be lining up around the block to take it. There would be no laws mandating that it be taken. After all, the landlords income is guaranteed, all you have to do is manage expenses and take your money to the bank. Yet, in MN, very few landlords take Section 8. I get many calls, and I can hear the frustration in the Section 8 applicant’s voice.

      There are a high percentage of ‘bad apples’ in the Section 8 program and those bad apples reduce profitability.

      So, yes, I generalize about section 8, as I do about my other criteria which included income, credit score, rental history and criminal record. This is not being elitist, although I can see an entitlement mentality in your comment, which confirms my policies against taking Section 8 renters.

      1. ” This is not being elitist, although I can see an entitlement mentality in your comment, which confirms my policies against taking Section 8 renters.”

        I am so glad I am not your tenant, and no, I’m not on section 8. You sir, are just a jerk.

        1. Thank you for the comment.

          I think we can say the feeling is mutual. I have no shortage of quality tenants, because they know the tenants next door are quality too. Risk mitigation is a huge key in any business, in landlording it is no different. Why waste time with a tenant that has a high probability of issues, when you do not have to?

    2. Anon alot of them do destroy property and try to get around paying rent. Not all but alot. Especially the ones with criminal backgrounds.

      He isn’t a jerk. He is very experienced and has had the experience of renting to section 8 tenants.

      1. Thank you for reading!

        You are 100% correct. With Section 8 comes a lot of drama. It is extremely hard to find a qualified tenant, so I just avoid the program altogether. And there are a bunch of issues when you have a bad tenant. The tenant gets free legal, and you have to go too slow to get the tenant out. And HUD can quit paying you rent at anytime for non-habitability of a unit, even if it was caused by the tenant themselves. A torn screen will get the tenant a free place to live, and you are without rent.

  4. Wow, that story was crazy, but reading that complaint was even worse. How gruesome indeed! My parents only owned one rental unit while I was growing up, and after a terrible (although not criminal, thank goodness) experience with Section 8, they immediately got out of that business. They continued to rent, just not to Section 8 individuals. Nothing against Section 8, but with only one rental unit, my parents wanted to maximize profit and reduce headaches, and Section 8 was not working for them.

    Personally, I’ve never heard anything that bad. My parents own more units now, and the worst thing I heard was a group of elderly tenants had a wild party at the rental, and ended up pouring bottles and bottles of alcohol all over the furniture, floor, everywhere. Totally random, and a waste of alcohol in my opinion. Place reeked for a while!

  5. How awful! I hope your tenant was able to move away from the mess, that would be awful to have to live through.

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