#290 Q&A on Firepits, Theft, and Evictions

It sounds innocent… just a fire pit. But then it turns into 500 to 600 pounds of damage. Hear how one guest across the pond describes her English garden nightmare.

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Show Transcription:

Eric Worral: (00:00)
Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of RentPrep for Landlords. It’s episode #290 and we’re going to be going back in time a little bit where we used to be doing these question and answer episodes and we’ve got some questions, some voicemails that have been left for RentPrep for us on our website. And we’re going to be going over some of those voicemails. I’ll tease it a little bit. Some of them are pretty funny actually. But we’re going to be going over what was right, what was wrong, and maybe what could have been done differently in these scenarios that these landlords have found themselves in. And we’re going to be covering all those right after this.

Voice Over: (00:36)
Welcome to the RentPrep for Landlords podcast and now your host, Eric Worral.

Eric Worral: (00:40)
Alright. To kick things off, we’re going to start with a voicemail that was left by someone over the pond, I’m assuming. And I think you’ll understand why as soon as you hear her voicemail. So let’s give this a listen and we’ll break it down and see what kind of little maybe nuggets we can pull out of it.

#1 Voicemail: (00:56)
I don’t have a microphone, but I do have a bad tenant. This tenant asked if they could put a fire pit on the lawn that should have been about a foot deep and a foot wide. So I said yes, and I went to see what had happened. The whole garden has been ripped up and the fence down, not happy about that. Now they say they cannot pay their rent anymore unless they have my bank details. So they can’t pay the rent or not. The bank details on a small fire pit has cost about 500 to 600 pounds worth of damage. I’m there. It is just there. All the dirt and broken fence and no rent. Okay, bye. Hello. It’s Marie. Don’t care. Who knows. Bye.

Eric Worral: (01:59)
Oh, that’s fantastic. I love the end there. Ah, bye. It’s Marie. Don’t care. Who knows. I was talking with Steve on this one. I played a form and he was laughing about how the idea of, even if you’re angry, if it’s in a British accent and sometimes it just doesn’t sound like anger. I mean, that lady sounds like she could have played Mary Poppins. She was so sweet about her situation. Listening to it, you probably thought some of the same things I did. As far as when a tenant makes a request and they’re saying something kind of ambiguous, like, Hey, can I put in a firepit she’s making some assumptions on what a fire pit means. Like maybe it’s, you know, she’d, they’d dug up a little hole, but to the tenant, maybe it was like, well, fire-pit meant we wanted a whole back patio that we’re going to create ourselves.

Eric Worral: (02:42)
Then they started doing it and they stopped and they’re just ripping up a bunch of stuff. And like she said, there’s five to 600 pounds of damage. So in my thinking, it wasn’t clear what the communication was and what the outcomes were. And this kind of dabbles in an area that a lot of landlords into issues is when you make your [inaudible] allow your tenants to make improvements to the property because they may think it’s an improvement, but you don’t. So if through to redo this, probably either say no or give clear parameters on what a firepit meant and maybe you’re thinking the same thing as me too. And you get into these kind of gray areas where tenants are making the improvements to the property that can be a source for anx for landlords because of like I was just saying and the communication gaps.

Eric Worral: (03:27)
But also it just kinda changes that relationship a little bit from Mike. And I’ve run into this as a renter before where I was making improvements upon asking the landlord and she said, fine. Then when the rent came, she deducted things out of the rent because we made changes to the property. Like it was messy. You’re better off just you know, any kind of improvements being done by you or your team and not the renter. So speaking of improvements being done to the property kind of a humorous voicemail that we got here another minute and a half year where a woman is explaining why she let a couple of homeless people live in her trailer to do work. And you can see how this one played out as we listen in right now. So let’s take a listen.

#2 Voicemail: (04:11)
I met to a couple stay in my travel trailer for a few days. That was homeless. When it comes time for them to leave, they said, make me, I have to victim. They were supposed to do work and they’re not for those few days. Now they have, they’re stealing from me and other people bringing it onto the property. They’re doing drugs or selling drugs. And now they’ve torn up my gate, bringing a four Wheeler through it. Take it off as hinges because it wouldn’t fit because, and I had to lock my main gate because it brings selling things in and out. So they just took my gate off the hinges. Vantage grabbed my sidewalk called the long, they couldn’t help me when I found stolen stuff. My stolen stuff in there and the Treader, they were staying in a mine. Now I have a four Wheeler sitting in my yard, Chang to my huge…

Eric Worral: (05:16)
All right. I kind of just cut off there. I think the a minute and a half timer almost upon him, which might’ve been for the best. This is a classic case though of, you know, doing some sort of like quid pro quo type relationship where you know, you’re, you’re not charging these people any money. You’re letting them live in your trailer. Maybe she had a, you know, overall she thought she was doing these people a favor. They were homeless. You can live rent-free, but I need you to do some repairs. And then in this situation it backfires. You said there was someone drives, they damaged our property. They had stolen stuff out of her property and had it in her trailer and now she’s got to evict them. Like what a mess. This is a tough situation. And again, it’s because you’re blurring the lines between landlord and tenant in this one.

Eric Worral: (06:02)
Right? you know, you could probably go down some other rabbit holes of things you shouldn’t do in this particular scenario. But you know, these are the type of things where you can almost, if you listen to enough of these issues or you’ve been to some landlord meetups and you’ve heard the horror stories, you can kind of see ahead of the curve when you’re hearing a story. Right? And this particular one is a, I run into a couple of homeless people so that they could do some repairs on their property. And, and you already know, like they didn’t end up following through on the work they said they were going to do, or you’re having other issues. And it’s not really surprising as the the issues start popping up through the communication. Most landlords probably aren’t falling into this extreme of a situation, right?

Eric Worral: (06:45)
It’s usually something smaller. It’s more something that creates a little bit of tension or it’s not ideal the relationship you have with your tenants, but it’s probably started kind of on the same path by the same issues in place upfront where you’re, you’re not creating that landlord-tenant boundary. And maybe there’s a couple of things and like the last lady from, from England you, it was a good example where you kind of have that loose interpretation of what a fire pit is. Well, this lady had an, had an idea of them coming in to do repairs and they didn’t, you know, there’s, you can just see those things to kind of set things off on the wrong trajectory. So staying away from those is definitely key. I know that I’ve had relationships like that where I started to bend on rent for people if they could do XYZ, you know, it was just a, I’m trying to think. I know I had a tenant who was reduced his rent for him helping out on the property or something like that. And it’s just never, never a great idea. So why don’t we take a listen to a new, another voicemail that we got here? And this one is going to be split up into two voicemails. So we’ll, we’ll play the first one and then we’ll go back to him. Play the second one. So let’s take a listen.

#3 Voicemail 1: (07:55)
Hello. I just wanted some advice because we decided to rent our house and this person who we rented it to, hadn’t paid rent or any like a security deposit or anything. And when we tried to give her a contract, she decided not to sign it. And then she claimed that there was no hot water, there was no electricity, and that’s why she wasn’t going to pay rent. So we decided to tell her that, you know, that she had to move because she hadn’t paid rent, not even since the beginning of the month. And since she really needed a home, we decided to open up the home and we decided to give her an opportunity to stay and pay us the rent at the end of the month. So she would be [inaudible] two months basically. And she didn’t want to let us in to our house when we told her if we could come in because you know, we wanted to check out, you know, why it wasn’t working and she didn’t let us in. So we told her that, you know, that if she didn’t want to let us in that, you know, she had to go like she wasn’t paying and she said that she didn’t want to.

Eric Worral: (09:19)
Okay. So that’s the first voicemail probably worth cutting off right there. This is a classic example too, of a situation that’s just escalating over time. And probably one of the first things it’s worth highlighting here is first time landlord. It sounds like decided to rent their house out. I’m not sure if I maybe misheard or didn’t gather it, but I don’t know if they moved out and they’re running it out or they’re running out a room probably moved out cause they talked about the fact they couldn’t get back into the apartment or the house. So first time going through it get somebody in, there were some warning signs with things right away. Sounds like they didn’t even get any kind of clear lease signed because she said that they didn’t want to sign it or something. And then late on rent and then late on rent again and you probably picked up on it.

Eric Worral: (10:07)
But unfortunately, this landlord, which maybe doesn’t identify as a landlord, right, they’re just thinking, well, I’m just renting out this one place I had and just trying to make a few extra bucks. It’s a business. She is going to start running into potentially self-help eviction issues where she went over, she couldn’t get in. So she just tried to evict this person out of the place and probably not taking the correct steps that she should be. And completely understand why, right. She’s she can’t get into her own property. The person’s late on rent for two months. It should just be like, just get him out, you know, toss her stuff to the curb. But that’s not the way it works. You have to go through the right process. Even at this person is really, really sticking it to you. You don’t want to give them any ammunition to bring up in front of a court or in front of a judge on what you did improperly. Because most times we know the judge is going to side with the landlord because they don’t know what happened. It’s just your story versus theirs. And they see that you clearly did something illegal. So why don’t we take a listen to the second voicemail to see how this unfolds further. So again, here we go.

#3 Voicemail 2: (11:15)
When we tried to go to our property, she didn’t let us go. So we had told her that she had to go. So we gave her about two weeks when she was supposed to take her all her things and leave. She never gave us a key. She never did anything. Then we had to go to our home, opened it ourselves. When we went in there, our property was basically destroyed. She had put in new electricity cables and she had disconnected things. She had played with the light switch where you start, where you can like turn off like the main houses and everything. Cause we live in a trailer. She had had half of the on and half of it off. She had changed the colors of the walls. She put in a new mirror that had to do with electricity. So keep in mind that was the reason why she didn’t have anything. And then we threw her stuff out because her stuff had to be thrown out. And now she’s saying that she’s, and we haven’t gone to the police about it because, you know, we didn’t want to start anything and now she’s saying that she’s going to sentence to the court. So I’m not really sure what to do or anything. So I would really appreciate the advice if you could do that for me and maybe hear the rest of the story since I can’t really finish it off.

Eric Worral: (12:34)
All right, cut off again there. By yeah, just like we were talking about, it kind of developed further with a cell pulp. Eviction. She said that she gave her two weeks, said you gotta be out. They got in a place was a mess. They ended up throwing out all of their stuff outside of the trailer. And I mean, I imagine if this goes to court, this person’s going to have a tough time because of the fact that they took their stuff. And you want to research your state, cause this is different by each state on what you can do with a tenant’s belongings that are held that are leftover. Some States may require you to even put it into storage for them. It sounds kind of crazy if somebody, you know, just kind of goes to do like that.

Eric Worral: (13:15)
But this is where I think it’s dangerous for some people when they’re first getting started. If they’re not really doing the research and educating themselves from the get-go, cause it’s more like, Oh, I can make some money doing this. And then like, I wouldn’t be surprised in the situation if there was no lease. I, if there was no formal eviction filed it was just, everything was kind of like a mouth contract if you want to call it that, you know, just you know, just your, your word is your bond kind of thing and it’s really biting the person. And it’s gonna be a really tough situation. And again this is the third case where you have tenants making improvements to the property, or at least they think so. They added, the Amir had electricity with it, they said, sounded like they ran some new electric, turned off some circuit breakers.

Eric Worral: (14:05)
I’m assuming she was talking about. So there’s some issues there. It stinks to be honest. It’s one of those things, or you hear the story and you go, wow, that, that socks that, that’s, that’s gonna, that’s gonna sting for that landlord. But you understand why they ended up in the problems, you know? And that’s why you hear that adage that a lot of landlords make their own problems. Educate yourself upfront. If you’re not sure on something, don’t assume that you can just kind of throw out somebody’s stuff, like research it. What do you do with their stuff? What do you do? If you’re in a situation where you can be held legally liable for locking somebody out of an apartment, you know, am I doing things within the letter of the law? It doesn’t mean you have to go and get an attorney for every decision you make, but you could at least start with Google and Google it and, or you, somebody who’s experienced more experienced than you and use them as a mentor.

Eric Worral: (14:54)
So those are the three calls we got this week. I want to thank the people for leaving those voicemails, especially the one from across the pond. It’s good to know that, you know, you’re getting people from an international audience sharing their stories of fire pits that were way too large. But until next week, guys, I hope you have a great week and yeah, take care. And hopefully, you learn a few things from some other landlords, heartaches and remind yourself to do things by the book and do it the right way. All right, guys. Have a great weekend. Take care.