Lessons Learned From Nightmare Tenant

by Chris on May 9, 2011

You know you are in bad shape when a professional junk hauler refuses to clean up your rental property after your tenant destroyed it. But that’s what happened to one landlord, who shared his story in his local newspaper.

Desperate, the landlord also asked the city for help, but there was little anyone could do.

The landlord had rented out his unit to a woman who paid the first and last month’s rent. But then she disappeared, and her crack-addicted friend–a man who accompanied her on the property tour, remained on the property. This new tenant was on public assistance and could not afford the rent on his own. He also had a criminal history.

After a number of police calls to the property, the landlord eventually got an eviction order on the second try. The landlord’s first eviction case was dismissed because he made a mistake completing the forms. In the end, there were so many syringes lying about that public health had to hire a special contractor to clean the place up.

The cost: more than $8,000 in cleanup and repairs, including a door broken during a police raid.

Criminal behaviour of tenants not only causes damage, it can place a landlord in serious jeopardy for fines, and even forfeiture of the rental property.

What lessons can others glean from this disastrous tenancy?

Know the Law

Not understanding your rights and responsibilities as a landlord is an accident waiting to happen. Review the tenancy laws in your province, and take steps to educate yourself — through newsletters and blog archives such as TVS Landlord Blog, participation in your local landlord association, or reviewing books written by experts in the field.

Understand that your tenants may not know what is expected of them. If you don’t educate them, they may take advantage of you.

Review Your Lease

A well-written tenancy agreement can pave the way for a successful tenancy.

Even under the most tenant-friendly laws, the landlord has a right to choose appropriate tenants and has a say over who moves in and occupies the property. A lease agreement should cover this contingency.  

The lease can prohibit criminal activities on the property and warn that tenants who don’t comply will be evicted.

The lease also can set out a plan for routine property inspections.

A good lease agreement can keep the original tenant from slipping off the hook for damages or unpaid rent when new occupants move in.

Screen Your Tenants

Prevent income loss by requiring a completed rental application and a tenant background check on all adult occupants.

The landlord in this case had two opportunities to ask for a tenant background check on this culprit — when the man toured the property with the original tenant, and later when the original tenant moved out. A credit report or income verification would have shown he could not afford the rent, while a call to his previous landlord likely would have uncovered the earlier police interactions.

Stay in Control

Laying down the law with tenants from the first interaction can discourage bad behaviour, including criminal activities, because the tenant will fear the consequences.

Follow through with frequent inspections, and enforce your legal rights as soon as possible. By delaying, a landlord could compromise those rights and give the tenant the advantage.

And in a case as bad as this, don’t hesitate to contact a legal expert if you are not clear on your rights — it will most often save both time and money.

If you are experiencing trouble with tenant crime, consider speaking with your local law enforcement about the Crime Free Rental Housing Program.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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