Why Landlords Must Protect Themselves From Their Own Good Intentions
My tenants gave notice to move and I began showing the property to prospective new tenants. One family came and were immediately interested. Nancy, Teddy and their young daughter seemed very nice. I was happy when she told me the “loved the place” as soon as they walked in. I had the place looking good and it felt nice when they commented how beautiful it was. Nancy told me “You should have seen some of the places we looked at – they were awful!” They said they wanted the place.
I’m an experienced landlord and know the importance of screening. I did a credit check on Teddy. He had a zero credit rating due to a lack of credit. I called him about it and he explained that it was because he was still in his early twenties and self-employed as a contractor. He spent a lot of money setting his company up and had all his equipment housed in his old truck. I didn’t do a credit check on Nancy because she was open about the fact she was on Ontario Works (welfare). She said at her last rental, her cheque went directly to the landlord and we could have the same arrangement.
I called all their references. The last place was either a family member or a friend of the family. I spoke with her and she confirmed their place was too small for them and they wanted to move out. She said Nancy was very tidy and I’d have no problems with them. I called a couple of other references they left and they all checked out too.
These were not 100% perfect candidates. But they were very nice, up front, their references checked out, and you rarely get those 100% perfect tenants. Mike has been a landlord since 1996 and we both know to screen as carefully as you can.
Both Mike and I made it very clear to them that we would rent to them, but there were certain conditions they had to comply with before they could take the place. This included paying first and last and putting all utility accounts in their names. The complied and they made us feel confident they would be good tenants. They were so nice and we felt glad to be able to supply a great rental property to this young family who promised they would treat it as their home. The place was theirs.
September 1, 2010 was move-in day. Mike and I were both there to make sure everything went smoothly. They were late showing up. This gave both Mike and I bad feelings in your gut about them. It’s hard to explain, you just start to feel something bad is going to happen. We tried to call them at the telephone numbers they provided (all cell phone) and found they had changed all their numbers. That bad feeling in my gut started to feel more like a stomach punch.
They eventually showed up and were sorry for being late. They moved in and things seemed to be okay. In fact, Nancy even told me not to worry about the few small things that still needed to be cleaned in the house. She said she was going to do it all herself and she would get the house tidy and comfortable for themselves.
The first real warning sign of things to come was a month after they moved in, on October 1, 2010. They didn’t send the rent cheque to me because they hadn’t filled out all the paper work they needed to do. It led to a huge runaround to get October rent. Tony told me some lies as I kept on him to pay. Right there my trust level with them was disintegrating fast. They finally got us the money, after we served them an N4 ‘non-payment of rent’ form. They could see I was unhappy and gave me their case workers name. They also asked me to sign some papers for them so we could get it set up so Ontario Works (welfare) would pay me directly starting in November. I got in touch with their welfare worker. She said she also had trouble getting in touch with them and I could sense her frustration. But at the end of the day we were now set up for direct payment of rent from the government, via Ontario Works. The next couple of months went by without any issues.
Mike and I do bi-annual inspections of our rentals to make sure the furnaces are working, there isn’t any mold, the windows are in good shape, the smoke alarms are fine and other safety issues. It was when we tried to do some inspections that the ‘fun’ began. They kept coming up with excuses for us not to enter, even after we gave legal 24 hours notice. Whatever time we gave on the notice, they would call us and say “it didn’t work for them.”
One time we went there with 24 hours notice and saw they taped a note on the door saying they didn’t want us to go in!
I also need to include that they changed the locks on us one time prior to us doing an inspection- I immediately contacted the IEU- and had them send the tenants a letter explaining to them that this was illegal…. we did get that problem rectified…..for the time being.
After lots of back and forth we explained to them the 24 hour notice is not a “choice”, it’s a legal document allowing us to enter. We made it clear we had every right to go in and put in new smoke alarms, etc. They finally agreed to let us in the next time we gave them notice.
Mike again gave 24 hour written notice and the next day went there. When Mike stepped in the door he saw the place was in disarray. Nancy was there with 4 randoms guys downstairs. Their baby was no where is sight. Mike checked everything and did some minor repairs and left. He didn’t want to be in there one minute longer than it took to do the inspection. After the inspection they called complaining to me about ridiculous things such as Mike going through “their personal things.” Total nonsense. We were happy the inspection took place, but very unhappy at how they were keeping the house.
Mike also saw their garbage situation was getting out of control. It was piling up outside and beginning to look like a junk heap! I wrote a letter to them explaining how important it was not to let the garbage pile up, the neighbors would certainly complain, it was a health and fire risk.
Soon after, we didn’t receive payment for rent on the first of the month. We tried to get in touch with Nancy and Teddy but it was futile because they never answered their cell phones. I called the Ontario Works office and they wouldn’t even tell me if the rent cheque had been mailed out or if it would just be late. To add to the situation, the garbage pile-up was getting really bad! It was growing from a hill to a small mountain. They didn’t care a rat’s behind about the property.
The late payments, the lack of cooperation with the inspections, the mess in the house, and the mountain of garbage outside made it clear to us: we had to get them out before things got worse. And it was getting worse fast as they had lots of shady people entering and leaving the house, always through the main window! During the inspection Mike checked for signs of a grow-op and didn’t find any. However, I started to suspect illegal drug activity going on.
Every time we drove by, we saw more and more people gathered at the house, coming and going through the window. Things were getting scary! I contacted Crime Stoppers and the house was being monitored. Things were escalating fast.
In fact, things were just about to get worse….
*names have been changed in this article