A Landlord Story: Case of the Tenant that was “Too Good”

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A little over 15 years ago I thought it would be a great idea to start investing my money into real estate.  I made the decision; I was going to become a landlord.  I am fairly handy so the thought of fixing up property in order to get it into a rentable condition was not that big of a deal.  Neither was fixing things when tenant’s called.  However, no one could prepare me for the number of things I have seen in my 15 years experience.

If you are a landlord then you probably have experienced something as bad as this, and if you are were thinking about being a landlord do not let this story scare you off, instead learn from it, in case you run into a similar issue.

I had a three bedroom property that was vacant and I was in the middle of screening tenants to get it filled.  In the city where I owned this property I literally had hundreds of applications, so the ball was definitely in my court when it came to picking a good tenant.

I did my normal background research on the applications that looked promising, based on job history, previous rental stability and so on.  Finally I found a tenant who I thought was going to be the cream of the crop.  It was husband and wife, whom both had solid employment backgrounds, credit was a bit shaky, but better then the others I had screened, and they were extremely nice people.

So I rent the property to them and all goes smooth for about 3 months then the rent stops coming in.  I put a call in and he says “I am a bit behind but I am catching up.  I will send it out to you in a couple of days.”  So I wait a few more days, still no rent.  I put another call in and hear all kinds of excuses.  With a mortgage payment coming due, I can’t wait any longer it is time to evict.

I go down to my local county courthouse and file the paperwork.  In a couple of days the day in court is set and I receive the notice (as does the tenant at this time).  I have gone through evictions before and usually when they owe money they just end up moving out and never had to actually go to court.

The day in court is close at hand when in the mail I receive a letter from the Federal Bankruptcy Court.  The worse nightmare that could possibly happen to any Landlord, the tenant filed bankruptcy and put me down as one of the creditors.  Since I never actually went through this up to this point and put a phone call in to the courts to get more information.  According to the law at the time, while the tenant was under Federal Bankruptcy protection awaiting his bankruptcy hearing, he was basically untouchable.  I couldn’t call him, evict him, send him any letters; I couldn’t even so much as look at the guy wrong.  I was stuck with him.

If the was not bad enough, the hearing was scheduled for, get this, 6 months later!  That’s right boys and girls, Mr & Mrs. Tenant got to live in my house, rent free for six months.

Well to make a long story short I eventually was able to evict them some 8 months later after all the paperwork was filed and completed.  Needless to say for that year I took a pretty sizable loss on the property, but lucky for us landlords, Uncle Sam is kind when it comes to filing your taxes.

The moral of the story here is, no matter how great of research you do on a tenant you just never know what could happen.  My advice, stay calm, don’t do anything illegal that could make matters worse, and let the system take its course.  It does work, even if it did take 8 months.  Just keep in mind, you still own the property and you will move someone else in and eventually get that money back.

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