Renter Horror Story – Bernard the Strangler 

bully-655660_1280-PDIn March of 2012, I was advertising for a vacancy that I had coming up.  I had recently removed tenants that were from a different renter horror story.  I wanted to find great tenants, as I already had the previous two sets of tenant in this unit go bad.  Little did I know what the next horror story I was about to have…

I had just completed a remodel after the previous tenants that had left.  I installed a washer and dryer, one of the best amenities that can be installed in.  Tenants want their own washer and dryer.  They want to use them they want them; they do not want to wait for the rest of the building to get done doing their wash.  They do not want to wash their clothes in a washer that just got done washing the neighbor’s baby diapers.

The place was immaculate.  I replaced the carpet; the appliances were almost new, RTA kitchen cabinets from JSI Cabinetry, nice laminate floor, new paint.  Everything was 100% clean.  I started showing the apartment as soon as I could, even though we had a lot of construction to do.

Several tenants had looked at it, but all were either low credit score tenants, or their income was too low.  One prospective female tenant was going to move in a platonic relationship with a guy she knew, but after our background check came back, she decided she did not want to live him to live with her and her 3 year old daughter.  I do not know why people do not do a quick background check on their potential life partners.  It’s a no brainer; their baggage is your baggage if you get tied up with them.

A reasonable couple applied after a week or so, and wanted to move in relatively fast.  The male was a relatively famous musician.  The female has just moved from quite a distance to be with him.  They had never lived together.  It was just the couple, and a cat.

The female had a 750+ credit score, but no job.  There were 40+ accounts on the report, all positive.  She had a professional occupation, so I was not worried about her being able to get work.

The male was a train wreck.  He had four evictions from three different addresses.  The past three landlords gave these comments:

  • Eviction action. Unpaid housing collection for $ 2,631.   Money is owed for non-payment of rent & damage to unit.
  • Eviction action.  Late every month with rent, currently owing $12,822.29, for rent, removal of belongings, cleaning, and damages – dogs caused a lot of damage to yard & home.
  • Eviction action.  Currently owes $3,500. Balance is still outstanding and no arrangements have been made to pay.

His credit score was terrible, he did not have one; and there were several tax liens and bad accounts. His criminal history was dismal, but old.  He had a domestic assault ten years prior.

The male played in a band in different venues all over the world, and even in the USA at different festivals, and made very good money.  He was only going to be in the apartment for about six months out of the year, as he was traveling and recording records.  He said the evictions were due to his wife not paying the rent, after he sent her the money to pay it.  He was out of town, and were not aware things not getting paid.  I bought the story, hook, line and sinker.

So I took them in.  I had a high credit score person who could make sure the rent got paid.  I had a high income earner to make sure there was enough money to pay the rent.  The responsible person should be able to keep the irresponsible person responsible, or so I thought…

So one evening, the male was drinking.  That’s what starts most incidents, anywhere.  I think alcohol is a very bad drug, and I even owned a bar at one time, and partake in an adult beverage once in a while too.

The male was upset at the female because she wanted to listen to music that was not recorded by him.  He is an excellent guitar player, and had recorded over twenty albums.  If I mentioned his name, you might know him.  He wanted to listen to his band, not a competitor.  So the fight began.

It was very verbal at first.  And then, the male started choking the female.  The female went into the bathroom, and took a shower thinking all would be resolved when she came out.  After all, even a crazy person should settle down after a few minutes.  The male attempted to break into the bathroom, and did not get in.  He punched or threw something at a picture that broke it.  Glass was on the floor.  The tenant stated to police he kept his hands on her neck for approximately ten seconds.

The female called for a neighbor to come up to help her.  Once the neighbor arrived, the female came out of the bathroom, and the male continued.  He choked her again, and was pulling her hair.  The police were called, and the fight was stopped after the male was arrested.  He spent about five days in jail, and could not come back to the apartment without a police escort.  An Order for Protection (OFP) was filed, and he would be arrested if he came back while she was there.  He eventually did come back to get his things, but was not allowed there per the Court, without a police escort.

The female wanted me to change the locks so that she would be safe; she thought she was going to be killed.  Since I understood her situation, I did it immediately, before the male got out of jail.  The police later told me that I have to give the male keys if he asks for them, as he is also signer on the lease.  It doesn’t make sense, and I did not have to give him any keys as he did not ask for any.  I was going to wait for a Court order before I gave him any keys.

I knew these were risky tenant from the start, but the earlier move in date helped mitigate the risk, an extra month of rent compared to waiting.  I didn’t know if they would break up, or be loud music people; after all, he had several guitars and an amp.  I was not expecting a domestic assault.  Knowing the risks, I rented to them, but I kept them on a month-to-month lease, rather than an annual lease.  I also required a double damage deposit.  Luckily, I had the larger deposit.  After he was arrested I never saw another dime in rent.

I gave 30-day notice to the male that I would not renew the lease after the 30-day notice.  I notified the female that she could stay, but he would not be living there.  She didn’t feel safe to live there after that, and started looking for a new place immediately.  So, just a few days before Valentine’s Day, the fight started and he was arrested.  They had already paid for February rent.  The deposit was used for March rent.  There was a little bit of cleaning by the female, and that was also deducted from the deposit, and I still had money left over to refund.

All in all, the major damage was to the other tenants in the building.  I had another turn to do, but got new tenants paying rent with zero down time.  The new tenants are both high-score, high income, white collar professional tenants, a pilot and a school teacher  So it took four sets of tenants in this building to finally get good ones, not the track record you want.  I was beginning to think the building was cursed…

Have you ever had a renter horror story?  Been a victim of abuse?  Why do people abuse others, when they know nothing good will come of it?

7 Replies to “Renter Horror Story – Bernard the Strangler ”

  1. Sometimes having renters that are qualified can lead to a rental horror story, we have had a couple small ones, but nothing close to this..

    1. Thank you for the comment!

      Exactly. There are so many resources to check out people, before you get too close, you need to do some checks. In this case, the woman moved over 2,000 miles to be with him. She was stuck at first. She had no job, not many friends. She started to make plans to leave him a few months prior to this. She has since moved back home.

  2. What a crazy tenant story, I understand how even after doing a background check, nobody ever expects a domestic assault to occur unless they had a previous felony charge. Hopefully the diaper washing tenants will not rent from you ever again.

    1. Yes, it is near impossible to be 100% accurate in deciding which tenants to rent to. In the end, I was paid 100% for the rent, plus any cleaning I had to do. Most domestic assaults are misdemeanors, not felonies, but they are still likely to happen again.

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