Our Property Management division has seen some crazy things in their day, from tenants (residents) parking motorcycles indoors to ankle-deep water after botched faucet repairs.
Happily, most of our residents are reasonable, responsible people, but a few of them—or sometimes their children—get themselves into some wild situations.
While I was still in college, I bought my first rental property. I knew almost nothing about property management, but I was thrilled when my mom found someone to rent my place. Unfortunately, he was not an ideal resident. Not only did he park his motorcycle indoors “to keep it out of the rain,” he thought it was just fine to change the oil in the living room. By way of explanation, he said, “I put carpet remnants down.” Ugh.
These days, before we rent a property, we put potential residents through an extensive screening process. We check their credit, their rental history and their references, and we pay attention to how they treat our staff. We adhere to fair housing practices and never discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin. We do, however, refuse to rent to people with terrible credit, with a history of late payments, or those who are belligerent with our employees. If they can’t be reasonable with our staff now, that tells us a lot.
Sometimes, no matter how carefully we screen our residents, their children will do the darndest things. Whether they are trying to hide something to avoid punishment or spite their sibling, kids find creative ways to be hard on houses. Property manager Kathy Hair recently recalled a time when a potty-training toddler had an accident in his pants. Rather than admit it to his parents, he tried to flush the dirty underpants down the toilet. Needless to say, things got a bit clogged up. Toddler tantrums can also get expensive. When one little boy threw his Tonka truck against the mirrored closet doors in his bedroom, the glass shattered and made a huge mess.
Sibling rivalry has also cost more than one tenant a fair chunk of change. When siblings are angry with each other, they tend to find their brother or sister’s favorite toy and flush it down the toilet. We’ve found Barbie doll heads, Matchbox cars and many other interesting items.
Even without children, residents sometimes surprise us. At times, they surprise us because of their lack of initiative (seriously, you can change your own light bulb); and sometimes they surprise us because of the repair projects they take on, even when they clearly know nothing about a given situation (based on this flooding, you probably shouldn’t have tried to replace the leaky faucet).
When people move into a new place, it’s normal to have some questions, but before calling us, we expect folks to spend a moment or two trying to solve their own problems. For example, before calling about a broken refrigerator or faulty thermostat, they should check to make sure appliances are plugged in and turned on. Once we tell people there’s a service charge for us to come out—one we will pay if there’s a legitimate problem and one they will pay if the appliance simply needed plugging in—they tend to reach for the phone a little less quickly.
If you have an investment property and prefer to manage it yourself rather than hire a professional property manager, the best advice we can give you is to use a robust screening process. Although you’ll still get the folks who think it’s okay to tear down the carport, so their truck will fit better from time to time (true story), well-screened residents will usually work out just fine.
If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.