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Rental Horror Stories: The Good, The Bad and The "Oh My..."

A mouse on a kitchen table.

Rental horror stories don’t always start that way. A renter moves in, signs the lease and pays on time, right? Not always. The worst rental nightmares include renters that became squatters. And then there were the renters that paid up front but were suspected drug dealers (maybe the guns and guard dog were a red flag). And, for renters, there are also rental nightmares. A landlord that won’t make repairs or a noisy neighbour and paper thin walls.

Here are a couple of rental horror stories that will have you shaking your head (and updating your insurance policy).

Not a Happy Meal

A group of roommates moved into an apartment above a McDonald’s. Everything went well until the McDonald’s underwent repairs for a piece of fryer equipment. Apparently a part of the machinery didn’t fit properly and one of the roommates felt the floor vibrating beneath him. This went on for about a week and after several complaints, the repair was made. But, no fries were given out with this shake!

This is Growing in a Bad Direction

One landlord on the Gulf Coast in the states wrote about how he rented his property to new tenants. He specifically stated no pets and no smoking. He was so excited when the tenants paid a year’s rent in advance. Until he learned the tenants had a German Shepherd dog that ruined their yard. They also chain-smoked and turned much of the house into a storage facility (motorcycles, bikes). And, then there was the marijuana.

The tenants smoked pot on the property and might have sold it there. They also did a lot of cursing in the backyard and the other neighbours could hear them. They even had weapons and occasionally fired off guns in the backyard. Only when the landlord went to court was he able to get the property back and then noticed that several appliances had been stolen. One property manager was quick to point out the tenants were probably drug dealers. See the tips below to avoid tenant nightmares when interviewing applicants.

Check Out These Amenities...

In one story, a potential tenant went to view a shared space. But, quickly changed their mind. Maybe it was the mouse on the stove or the tenants smoking weed in the bathroom. Or, the eight other people sharing the small unit. Or, it could have been the landlord asking her out! She said, “No, thank you!” and left.

Scratch But Don't Sniff

In one stinky story, a landlord evicted a tenant for nonpayment. A horrible stench was coming from the closet and the landlord opened the closet door to find a box of old kitty litter and human waste. The man had been defecating in the closet. Maybe he thought closet meant water closet?

The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon (And the Fridge)...

A famous rental nightmare story is the landlord that grew suspicious when his tenant stopped paying rent after about a month. The landlord went to check on the property and noticed several appliances were missing (fridge, microwave). The landlord called the police. But, the tenant then turned on the landlord and accused him of trespassing and said she didn’t recognize him. The police agreed with the tenant’s rights and the tenant left… with the washing machine.

Not Today

One couple moved into an apartment that hadn’t been painted yet. They contacted the landlord about repainting. But, the landlord couldn’t get there until the following weekend. The couple spent nine days unable to unpack until the walls were painted. In situations like this, confirm what changes will be made before moving in and get it in writing. If a landlord doesn’t hold up to their lease agreement, you have grounds to take them to court.

This Stinks!

Chicago, Illinois is considered the “windy city”, but this one stinks! A landlord spent months trying to evict a tenant for three months of nonpayments. After several court appearances, the landlord was able to get the tenant out. But, the legal process took an additional eight months and the landlord still hadn’t been paid. When the landlord finally got possession of the apartment, he cleaned it up and new tenants moved in.

The new tenants immediately complained about the “horrible smell”. The landlord had the carpet cleaned. The tenants complained again. The landlord then had the HVAC filter replaced and reinspected the apartment. He even used deodorizer bombs. During his visual inspection, he noticed a patch of wall that was discoloured. This next part isn’t for the squeamish.

The landlord had the section of the wall torn down and found the cause of the stench. The former tenant had created a hole in the wall and filled it… with several packages of raw meat. Not only was the stench unbearable, but there were maggots everywhere. The insulation and drywall had to be replaced there and in the neighbouring apartments to get rid of the wretched smell.

Housewarming Party

One tenant moved into a gorgeous apartment only to find that it was filled with roaches her first night there. They were everywhere! In the lights, her shoes and even her bed. Turns out the downstairs neighbour was a hoarder with several cats. The woman reports she still has nightmares about the place.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

In one story from Tenant Horror Stories Magazine, a landlord evicted two tenants after they stopped paying rent. And, that’s when he saw the gift they left behind. Instead of politely leaving, the tenants filled all the drains with parrafin wax. They spray painted every wall and shorted the entire electrical system. They also stabbed several holes into the drywall and sold all the landlord’s appliances. They even poured what looked like battery acid on all the tile floors. The landlord was so upset, he hasn’t rented an apartment since.

An Ark for the Flood

One tenant moved into a tiny apartment and began cleaning. When he went to clean the toilet, the cleaner backed up in the toilet and it began to overflow. Apparently, there were tiny critters living in the walls because a HUGE colony of ants came rushing out followed by a mouse.

In the Beginning…

One landlord in London posted on Reddit about his rental nightmare. His tenants paid on time until the wife became pregnant and quit her job. The couple stopped paying rent and changed the locks. The eviction process took eight months and the poor landlord had to pay his mortgage and legal fees without the extra money from the rental. Upon getting possession of the property, the landlord realized the couple had also trashed the apartment. But, they were such good tenants… in the beginning.

Free Ride

One landlord’s story is from the National Association of Independent Landlords. It stresses the need for running background checks. A landlord rented to a man who had a nice car and nice clothes. The tenant asked if he could avoid the background check because he said his wife had just died. The landlord agreed and after one month, the tenant stopped paying rent. It took seven months to evict him and the landlord couldn’t get his money back because the tenant filed for bankruptcy. When the landlord finally ran the background check he learned that the man had been doing this...for years!

When You "Lease" Expect It

One tenant was told that because he moved into a basement apartment there would be “chores”. He was responsible for manually pumping scalding-hot water out of the furnace and onto the crawl space to clean it. Was this in the lease? It was added as a clause.

"We're Stuck Inside!"

In one section of New York, an ongoing story brought out the news media. Tenants complained about poor housing in the NYCHA housing complex but to no avail. Tenants were growing more and more upset because they had no place else to go. The landlords insisted there was nothing wrong with the units and that repairs were being made. Residents began making videos that showed the rat bites their children received. They recorded rodents in the halls and showed the collapsing ceilings. They also showed the mold and rust along with outdated and broken appliances. Then there were the holes in the walls and lack of heat in the winter.

At one point someone from the news media went to stay for a few weeks. The newscaster and her team went to the property to help show the damages tenants had to endure. But, some thought it was a publicity stunt. The newscaster arrived all dressed up with her hair done and nails manicured. Tenants said on the news repeatedly, "I hope she can really help us." It was on the second or third day, the newscaster and her team reported the elevators also need repaired. They had been stuck in a broken elevator for hours!

Not a Concert

In one rental horror story, a tenant moved into a lovely apartment only to find the neighbours weren’t the problem. It was the thin drywall. The tenant could hear the neighbour in the adjoining apartment. Every time she sat in her dining room to eat her meals, the man in the adjacent apartment was in his bathroom. He sometimes sang or loudly rapped his favorite songs. When she complained, she found out there was nothing she could do because the drywall and “as is” condition were included in her lease.

For tenants that experience this, always read the references about a multi-dwelling property before you move in. Because some noise issues don’t fall under the noise abatement in leases, use other methods to enjoy your residence. Put soundproofing on the walls like a bookshelf or hang a large carpet. Ask the landlord if they can insulate the property. And, if the noise is still a problem, run a large fan. That way you can hear white noise in the background and not a neighbour going through their morning or nightly routine.

Things That Go "Bum" in the Night

One man moved into an apartment to find a homeless man sleeping in front of his door. He called the police and learned that a disgruntled, evicted tenant gave the man the spare key. He'd assaulted someone in the building before his nap.

Steps to Avoid a Rental Nightmare

A few steps can help you avoid rental nightmares with your tenants. These are helpful if you’re subletting your property and have to find tenants yourself.

Application Dangers with Potential Tenants:

  • Applicants that are in a hurry: If an applicant states they’re in a hurry and have to “move fast”, this can be a red flag they are being evicted from another location. They might be apartment hopping. Explain that you have to run a background check and get a credit check.
  • Applicants that won’t fill out the application in front of you: A well-prepared and responsible tenant will fill out their paperwork right away. A disorganized tenant or someone with something to hide might not.
  • Applicants without jobs: It’s one thing to be laid off and searching for work. It’s another if you were fired for a difficult attitude. Landlords should take caution with tenants in between jobs to confirm how long they’ve been searching for a job and if they can afford the rent.
  • Applicants with no references or poor references: An ideal tenant will have a job and former housing references you can speak to. Take caution with tenants whose references you can’t reach. And, don’t rely on their “friends” as references. Talk to their employer and former landlord.
  • Applicants with minimal income and bad credit: A tenant’s rent should be 30 percent of their income or less. If a potential tenant has poor credit, it can be a sign they won’t pay their rent on time.

Safeguarding Your Property

When setting up leases with new tenants, be suspicious with tenants that pay a year in advance. You still need proof of employment, income continuity and a background check. Drug dealers will pay in advance (they have ample amounts of cash) and then proceed to trash the property.

Next, verify every quarter that there are no pets on the property or smoking. Include in your lease that any infringements can be grounds for breaking the lease and result in an immediate eviction with loss of the full security deposit. Then, include a clause that states clearly no actions will be taken on the property that breaks the law. This includes turning the property into a marijuana grow farm or dealing drugs from the property and discharging firearms.

Lastly, if you're concerned about your property being used for storage or a tenant making off with your appliances, perform routine (monthly) inspections and include this in your lease.

Are You Ready to Shop for the Best Home Insurance?

A rental horror story can happen for both landlords and tenants. If you’re a renter, read your lease and know your rights. Purchase tenant/renters insurance to safeguard your belongings because personal property isn’t covered by insurance for landlords. For landlords, purchase home insurance to protect your property if you’re subletting and run background checks for all tenants. If you’re unsure about renting out your property, hire a reputable property manager who can help with leases, rent rolls and ensuring you get quality tenants (without breaking any laws).

With Rates.ca, you can compare quotes from Canada’s leading insurance providers (and protect your belongings, property and assets). Compare home insurance rates today.