29 Jul Protecting Your Property: How Property Management Companies Can Help Smooth the Rental Process
For the past month, I have been helping a friend renovate her brother’s rental house. This completely unplanned renovation occurred after the tenants who had been renting the house were evicted for being four months behind in their rent.
The rental house is in the Shenandoah Valley, approximately 2 hours from where the owner, John, lives. Like a lot of landlords, John decided to forego Property Management services and handle everything on his own. After haphazardly screening tenants, he decided to rent his investment property to a married couple, the Smith’s. John reasoned that, being only 2 hours from the rental house, if something broke, needed to be replaced, etc., he could make the drive & take care of everything himself, effectively saving on labor costs.
Luckily, Mr. Smith was a handyman and able to repair anything that went wrong at the house. They consistently paid their rent on time. They never complained. They were seemingly excellent renters. John never had to make the 2 hour trip to his rental property in the two years the Smith’s lived there. It was the perfect set up.
Like most things in life, this was too good to be true.
The Smith’s missed their first rent payment in February. When all was said and done and the eviction process began, they were four months behind. John was busy at work and unable to drive to the house, so he entrusted the eviction process to his sister. Together, we rode to the house and from the very moment we turned in the driveway, we were stunned.
The grass was almost thigh high. Junked cars were scattered across the lot. Trash was piled on the porch. When we got out of the car, we were met with a stench radiating from the house that was most definitely urine. I counted nine cats roaming around the property and found severed animal limbs in the driveway.
After calling the police and animal control and physically having to remove the tenants, we were finally able to take the house back. They had essentially turned John’s house in to a barn. There were rabbits, chickens and guinea hens living in the house.
The new carpet that had been put in two years before had been ripped up and feces was scattered across the sub-flooring.
The bathroom sink had been turned in to a roost for the chickens.
Bird feces was coated on all of the walls through-out the house.
Most assuredly, these renters are not the norm. In the three years I have been a property manager, I have never seen anything like this. This served as a reminder that resources need to be exhausted during all phases of the rental process. Most landlords do not think about the ‘big picture’. They are concerned with the rent being paid on time. Even if you have an extensive tenant screening process, in the end, what matters might not be their credit score, but how tenants treated your investment property.
John had to assume some of the blame in this situation. He never thought to perform yearly inspections. These inspections aid in keeping maintenance costs down, but they are essentially a walk-through of the property to determine how the tenants are treating it. If John had visited his property at all during the two years the tenants lived in the house, he would have caught this in time and not be out $20,000 in HazMat cleaning/disposal and structure renovation.
Remember – management of a home starts when a tenant moves in! Perform yearly inspections. If you own houses out of state or several hours away from you, a Property Management company would be ideal. They can ensure that every detail of the home management process is handled with the care it deserves and provide peace of mind to you. I am certain John never imagined that this would happen, so don’t be so sure you’ll never experience something like this. Be safe. Be extensive. Be secure.