We got one of those stranger than fiction tenant calls yesterday afternoon.
I’ve been landlording for a long time (this month marks my 20th year) and my dad has been at it for 51 years, but we’ve never had a call quite like this one.
The tenant, who is in the process of moving out, called to say there was a major leak coming down from the upstairs bathroom into the kitchen below.
“It’s a 5 foot line and we’ve got buckets and things underneath, but we need help now,”she told me.
“Where do you think the water is coming from in the bathroom?” I asked.
“The commode, of course.”
“How do you know?”
Uh oh. We’ve had leaking toilets before but nothing of this magnitude. That commode probably took some kind of direct hit some way. I don’t think the line can suddenly break in a unit less than 25 years old for no good or bad reason.
Next question: How do you handle a situation like this?
Here are 3 tips.
1. Don’t accuse the tenant of any wrongdoing until you have the facts.
We don’t know exactly what happened, but we’ll find out just as soon as we can get our man in there to do a thorough examination. We’ll send him over there just as soon as they move completely out.
2. If you suspect you’ve got a problem tenant who is tearing your property up, get them out as quickly as possible.
Of course this is easier said than done, but it should be a goal. Don’t allow a bad situation to grow worse. Be pro-active and do something about it – now.
Do the $300 Move-Out Special where you pay them to move, if you have to. If you dangle some cash in front of a bad tenant instead of arguing with them, you’ll probably get them out much sooner. Never allow a destructive tenant to stay and do more damage.
Since these tenants are moving anyway, that’s a mute point for us this time. They’ll be out by the weekend.
3. Keep your head, and gather the facts
Even if you know something strange was done to the toilet and you’ve got the facts, remember you have their deposit. The ball is really in your court and that is why we collect deposits in the first place.
I’ve discovered the person with the facts who can make the best case, usually wins. At least they do on T.V. I think that is probably true with real courts also. Keep meticulous records. Take pictures. Get everything together and keep their deposit, if you need to.
If the tenant tries to contest the fact that you’ve kept their deposit, you’ve got the facts to back yourself up.
In summary, every now and then you’ll probably get a tenant who will do damage to your properties. Be prepared ahead of time to just deal with it. If the tenant destroys, the tenant must pay for that destruction. Make sure your lease spells it all out and protects you and your property. Then keep the tenant’s deposit.
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