The Two Times a Landlord Gets Into Trouble
June 1, 2001
Somewhere, right now, as you read this, a landlord is getting into trouble. He or she has a tenant who won’t pay the rent, is violating the terms of the lease, is trashing the apartment or even whom he or she is physically afraid of. Daily I get emails from landlords asking how they can bail themselves out of the mess they are in.
It’s infinitely harder to get out of a pickle than it is to stay out of one in the first place. Once trouble starts, the damage is done and attacks from several fronts may be required, some of them involving the legal system, to make it go away. Fact is, it is easy to avoid trouble in the first place through careful tenant selection.
When I get to the root of the problem, the troubled landlord has almost assuredly made an error somewhere along the way in the application process, and the error always falls into one or both of two categories.
Before you get all huffy, yes, the tenant is at fault and responsible for the violations. But bad tenants are always going to be bad tenants. Think of it as their job. It is our job as landlords to root out bad tenants before they ever get a chance to move into our properties.
So when do landlords get into trouble? The only two times landlords have problems is when they’re in a hurry and when they feel sorry for someone.
When landlords are in a hurry they don’t operate in a businesslike manner. They take shortcuts in the application, verification and move-in process. They have a vacancy, the mortgage payment is due, they’ve spent too much money getting the unit ready after the last tenant trashed it, and have no applicants on the horizon. Desperation is setting in.
Prospective tenants show up with cash in hand, ready to move in, and having to find a place to live “today.” The soon-to-be-in-trouble landlords can see their mortgages paid and imagine everything being all better. Now you now have a brew that will blow up no longer than two weeks after the tenants park themselves in the unit.
Yes, landlords know they should check everything. They should go through the checklist, and take the amount of time necessary to make sure tenants are really the ones they want. But they don’t—they’re in a hurry.
The second time landlords get into trouble is when they don’t want to be considered the evil landlord of myth and legend and feel sorry for someone. Bad tenants are masters and mistresses of milking sympathy out of landlords. They have countless stories and tricks that they use over and over again to get landlords to let them move into their buildings. They use them over and over again because they work over and over again on landlords who don’t follow businesslike procedures.
Think back to the times when you’ve had a problem tenant and you’ll almost assuredly be able to trace it to when you were in a hurry or felt sorry for a tenant.
There’s a cure, and it works every time. When you select a tenant always follow your procedures to the letter, take the time necessary and do it right, no matter how good the applicant’s story or when your mortgage payment is due. Better no tenant than a bad tenant.