In this week’s episode, Podcast Host, Property Manager & Business Owner, Andrew Schultz, chats about whether or not there should be limits on a tenancy. How long would you keep a tenant?
We get it, musty smells in basements are not ideal. So, what should you do with those unfinished crawl spaces in your property that gather up moisture? Find out.
Last, but not least, garbage disposals. Find out if these once ever-so-popular appliances are still trending in the industry.
Andrew Schultz: (00:00)
Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. This is episode number 416 and I’m your host, Andrew Schultz. On today’s episode, we’re gonna be talking about what to do when a tenant destroys your rental property, encapsulating crawl spaces, and garbage disposals in your rental. We’ll get to all that right after this.
Voice Over: (00:23)
Welcome to the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. Now, your host, Andrew Schultz.
Andrew Schultz: (00:28)
Have you joined the free Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group? Our group members get access to our Sherwin Williams and PPG Paint Discount Programs can ask questions in our monthly AMA sessions and if you have a question or a situation that you’ve never encountered before or just need to bounce an idea off a group of almost 14,000 housing providers, this is the place. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do it today over at facebook.com/groups/rentprep. Don’t forget to mention the podcast when answering the questions so we know how you found us
Voice Over: (01:03)
Forum quorum, where we scour the internet for ridiculous posts from landlords and tenants.
Andrew Schultz: (01:11)
We’re gonna start things off this week with our forum quorum segment. This one comes to us via the Rent Prep for Landlord’s Facebook group. Let’s go ahead and jump into this one. I hope someone can give me some advice. I live in Pennsylvania and rented a mobile home in my front yard. I stupidly gave them a five-year lease. Well, that lease was finally up on the 31st. They didn’t move until the fourth. They then informed me that they had 30 days to remove their stuff. We’re now down to nine days. I went into the property on Saturday and what I found was a nightmare filth beyond imagination, trash everywhere, holes in the wall and floor toilets that have never been cleaned, the places destroyed and will have to be torn down. Mattresses I am that I am sure are home to many creatures. Can I sue them and give their new landlords a heads-up?
Andrew Schultz: (01:56)
And again, this one comes to us via the Rent Prep for Landlord’s Facebook group. There are a few issues at play here. First off, and I’m not gonna beat a dead horse on this because I’m pretty sure that the landlord already learned their lesson the hard way, but first off, never sign a five-year lease on a piece of residential property. In some states, that’s not even gonna be legal. I’m not sure about the laws in Pennsylvania with regard to lease length, but I don’t see any benefit to a five-year residential lease in any state. It’s also worth noting that in some states mobile homes are regulated differently than traditional rentals. New York has a lot of laws that deal specifically with mobile homes aside from traditional rentals. So operating a mobile home as a rental has some additional concerns that you need to be aware of if you’re going to be using it as an investment property.
Andrew Schultz: (02:40)
Moving on to the next item here. You mentioned a lease that ended on the 31st, but the tenants held over and then told you that they had 30 days to remove their stuff. So at least here in New York, when your lease is over, you move out and you take your stuff with you. There’s no 30-day period to come get your stuff. And actually lemme correct that if someone’s evicted in New York, we’re required to store their items for a reasonable amount of time, which is generally understood to be 30 days, but that’s only on an eviction. If someone just moves out as a normal course of action and they tell us that they’re moved out, but we and that we have possession at that point, anything that’s inside that unit is considered debris and we’re probably gonna pitch it out. Now let’s get to the real meat of the question here.
Andrew Schultz: (03:20)
The unit is trashed and you’re looking to figure out what your next steps are once you’re actually in possession of the unit, which I’m not sure if that’s the case here currently, but once you are in possession of the unit, you’re gonna wanna walk through and document everything for your records, photos, videos, inside and outside of cabinets, inside and outside of drawers, inside and outside of your appliances, the works, everything. You’re going to need this information if you decide to go to court to pursue the tenant for damages. Next, get started on cleaning up and turning over the unit. This home isn’t going to generate any revenue for you while it’s vacant and it consumes revenue during the turnover process. So the faster you can get it turned over and get it back on the market, the faster you’re going to be able to stop that bleed.
Andrew Schultz: (04:04)
You did mention that it’s in such poor condition that it may need to be torn down. I’m obviously not there and I can’t see it, but don’t rush to that conclusion before you see it without a bunch of garbage in it. It may not be as bad once you get all of the filthy carpets and debris out. Now, what do you do about the outgoing tenants? You have a couple of options. You could try to send this to collections, assuming you can find a collection agency that would be willing to take it on, but that’s gonna be an uphill battle with it being just one account. Most collection agencies are not going to be interested in just one account. You could also pursue it in court and try to get a judgment against the tenants, at least here in New York, you’re going to be looking at taking the tenants to civil court as this is going to be way above the limits for a small claims court case, and this isn’t going to be a quick and easy process.
Andrew Schultz: (04:49)
Different states have different rules and you may even need an attorney to represent you depending on how the courts operate In Pennsylvania, if you recorded the property condition at move-in and at move-out, which hopefully you did, this should really be an open and shut case, but collecting on your judgment is going to be another concern entirely. It sounds like you’ve taken some lumps on this rental and the best and most expensive teacher is certainly hands-on experience if you decide to continue in the rental game going forward. I recommend investing some time in researching and understanding tenant screening as well as the landlord-tenant law in your state. Good luck no matter what you decide to do, but definitely spend some time learning from this experience.
Voice Over: (05:30)
Water cooler wisdom expert advice from real estate pros.
Andrew Schultz: (05:38)
Moving on to our water cooler wisdom segment. We actually have two water cooler wisdoms this week, both of which come from the Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group. We’re gonna go ahead and jump into the first one here. Anyone have experience with encapsulating a crawlspace? These companies want thousands of dollars to put down plastic. I’m wondering if someone can give me tips on how hard it is to get what I need and find a laborer to just put this plastic down. The home has a musty smell that comes through the AC vents and those AC vents run through the crawlspace. The smell is especially noticeable after a rain, and again, this one comes to us via the Rent Prep for Landlord’s Facebook group. Okay, so the goal is to eliminate the musty smell that’s coming into the home via the ducks after a rainstorm. There are a few things that I would check out here when making a determination as to what exactly needs to be done.
Andrew Schultz: (06:29)
So first, if you’re smelling moisture in the room and it’s coming from the ductwork, chances are there’s an issue with your duct work. Check all of your ducting and ensure that everything is connected from end to end. In addition, you can seam seal or duct tape all of your seams and corners to prevent your hot or cold air from escaping into the crawl space, but also prevent your musty air from the crawl space from getting into the ducts and up into the home. Now, let’s look at this a little bit deeper. If you can eliminate the source of the moisture, you can eliminate the smell in a crawl space. That can be difficult simply because they suck to work in. No one likes crawling around on their stomach all day to work in a crawl space. You have moisture in the crawl space. It could be from plumbing or condensation or groundwater, et cetera.
Andrew Schultz: (07:13)
So finding and eliminating the source of the moisture is going to be the priority here. Now, eliminating the source could be very simple. If, for instance, you find a leaking pipe under there, that’s probably going to be one of the main causes of the moisture and the smell. That’s a pretty simple fix. It could also be significantly more complicated. Now, there are some different options here and you may need to layer more than one solution to resolve the problem, but we’re gonna kind of work through these from least to most expensive. First, check to see if your crawlspace has vents and if the vents are open. Airflow will help reduce the moisture levels in the crawl space, which can definitely help reduce the overall smell. If you have no vents or not enough vents, you’ll wanna add some in so that the space can breathe.
Andrew Schultz: (07:57)
Now, a quick word of caution. If you’re in a cold weather climate, you’re going to wanna make sure that the vents are closed before winter arrives and that you don’t have any air gaps anywhere around the crawl space. This helps prevent drafty cold air from finding its way in, which is going to keep the floor of that crawl space warmer. And if you have any plumbing lines that run through the crawl space, definitely make sure that you have them wrapped with pipe insulation or a heat tape or whatever’s most appropriate for your scenario. But the enemy of crawlspaces in the wintertime is cold air. Anything that you can do to keep cold air out of a crawlspace during the winter, especially if you have duct work or plumbing that runs through that crawlspace, is only going to make your life easier because it’s gonna help you prevent things like pipe breaks and things of that nature.
Andrew Schultz: (08:45)
Now, I mentioned air gaps a few seconds ago. If you’re truly looking to encapsulate the crawl space, part of that process is going to be closing up any air gaps in the area. This can be done with spray foam or bat-style insulation or caulk depending on what you’re closing up. We’re seeing a lot of spray foam applied to the rim joist area to help seal and encapsulate in basements and crawl spaces, and it’s great from both a weatherization and an insulation standpoint. So closing up air gaps is going to go a long way in helping you to kind of reduce the amount of air that’s getting into the crawl space, which you may not want, but you may also need to find a way to get rid of the moisture since now you’re kind of sealing it into the space. Depending on the size of the crawl space, you may be able to install a dehumidifier into the crawl space to help reduce moisture levels.
Andrew Schultz: (09:34)
If you’re going to go this route, make sure that it’s connected to AGFI outlet and make sure that the discharge has somewhere to go outside of the crawl. Typically, you can install units that have a discharge hose on them. You would run that hose outside the crawl space to an area that your dehumidifier will be able to push that water tube to help keep the moisture levels down. As an aside, how do you actually go about monitoring the temperature and humidity levels in a crawlspace area? We found a monitor that we can access via Bluetooth so that it can be left in a crawlspace and be monitored from an app inside the home as long as you’re close enough to download the data logs. The monitors we’re using are called Switch bot Smart Hydrometers, H-Y-G-R-O-M-E-T-E-R-S, hygrometer, and you can pick ’em up on Amazon for like $15 each.
Andrew Schultz: (10:22)
They keep a 30-day data log if both the temperature and the humidity, so you don’t have to run back to it every day to be able to monitor the conditions. You could even have your tenant install the app and monitor it as well. It’s just a Bluetooth connection. There’s no account required or anything like that, and we use these things all over the place. Anytime we need to monitor ongoing temperature and humidity in an area, that’s what we use as those little switchbot hydrometers, and they’re great for that purpose. So back to reducing moisture in your crawlspace. Another option is to install a vapor barrier in the crawlspace, just like you were talking about, to help reduce the amount of moisture finding its way up from the ground, the vapor barrier should be installed on the ground and secured at all edges and around the piers and walls.
Andrew Schultz: (11:07)
Any gap in your vapor barrier is an area where moisture can get up into the crawl space, so you’re going to wanna make sure that everything is sealed well so you don’t wind up having to go back into the crawl space in the future to deal with the situation all over again. Now, going to the extremes. If you have a lot of moisture, you may be in a scenario where installing drain tile and a sump pump is the best option. Obviously, this is going to be the most expensive option, which is why I left it for last. A lot of the other options, you can DIY before bringing a professional in, but if you’re talking about drain tile and a sump pump, chances are you’re going to want to bring a pro in for that job. But going this route is the most certain way to eliminate the moisture in the area underneath your crawl space.
Andrew Schultz: (11:50)
As I mentioned earlier, you may need to layer multiple solutions in order to resolve the issue. I would start working on drying it out first, adding ventilation, and then move on to the more expensive steps like insulation, moisture barriers, drain tile or sump pumps. Hopefully, you’re able to get this resolved. Good luck to you as you work through this onto our final segment this week, which is our second water cooler wisdom. Let’s go ahead and jump into this one. What do you all think about garbage disposals in a rental property? Are they more trouble than they’re worth? So I hate garbage disposals and we remove them from every single rental that we encounter them in. Whenever we’re doing an apartment turnover, honestly, we have more plumbing issues related to garbage disposals than any other plumbing item. Even clogged toilets. People seem to treat garbage disposals like a garbage truck and think that you could throw whatever you want down them.
Andrew Schultz: (12:44)
Obviously, that’s not the case. I think the worst one we dealt with was a tenant who ran a full banana peel down the garbage disposal. It actually ended up being faster and cheaper to install a new garbage disposal than to try to clean out and repair the old one. Keep in mind that from my perspective, we’re a third-party property manager, so every time we go out to perform a maintenance job, someone has to pay for it, whether it be the tenant or the property owner. Typically, these repairs would fall to the tenant, and then you’re arguing with the tenant trying to collect for the repair, which is also frankly a headache. Ultimately, we determined that we were better off to just eliminate the garbage disposals when we turn the apartment over. It reduces maintenance cost. It has zero impact on the rent price, and this is not a feature that tenants are specifically looking for when they’re out looking for a new home.
Andrew Schultz: (13:34)
Dump the disposal and move on. Is your rental due for a new smoke detector? In our latest blog post, we list our top five smoke detectors on the market to help protect your tenants and your investment property. Check it out today over at rentprep.com. That pretty much wraps up this episode of the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. Thank you all so much for listening. We truly do appreciate it. Our goal with the podcast is to help as many people as possible make educated decisions when it comes to real estate, and you can help us to reach our goal. If you heard anything in this week’s episode or any other episode that will help someone you know, please do us a favor and share it with them. If you’re looking to get in contact with me, I can be reached over at whatsdrewupto.com. From there, you’ll find links to everything going on with me over at Own Buffalo, as well as other projects that we’re working on.
Andrew Schultz: (14:23)
You can also grab a copy of our free deal analysis tool today over at whatsdrewupto.com. There’s no obligation and it comes with a free companion video showing you how to use it. If you’re looking for top-tier tenant screening services, head on over to rentprep.com. There are multiple products to choose from, including a tenant-paid option, and if you’re over 50 doors, ask about the enterprise-level programs and pricing. I’ve been an enterprise user of Rent Prep for over a decade now, and it’s absolutely changed the way that we screen our tenants. Check that out today over at rentprep.com. Again, thank you all so much for listening. We’ll be back in two weeks with an all-new episode that you won’t wanna miss. Until then, I’m Andrew Schultz with ownbuffalo.com for rentprep.com, and we’ll talk to you soon.
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