Lessons learned from being a landlord…Going cheap cost you more

One of the goofiest lessons I learned and I say goofiest, because it never crossed my mind in a million years that this would happen.

I had this tenant named Donna. Donna was a tenant for about three years. She was on section eight (government assistance).

She had already gotten another apartment approved for her to rent before she calls me and tells me she is moving out. I hated to see her go. But it happens. It was smart on her part to get the other one approved before she let me know.

Donna, was a little bit of a hoarder so needless to say she had a lot of junk in her place. What was weird though is she had a bunch of baby stuff. Like brand new stuff that had never been used. And she didn’t have kids.

Donna, calls me a couple of weeks later and tells me that she had taken everything she wanted from her apartment.

I said, “Ok. But did you leave anything in there?” She said she left a few things.

I trusted Donna, so I didn’t think much about it. We said a few words and that was that.

I go over to the apartment and quickly found out that she left a bunch of crap. I called her, but she didn’t answer and didn’t care any longer, because she already had her new place approved through section eight, so I was left with cleaning this place up.

By this time in my evolution as a landlord I thought I was a little more advanced. I didn’t do things I knew I could pay someone to do for me. But I was still cheap though.

I call up a reputable company to come out and give me a quote. Three guys come out. One guy you could tell was the boss and then he had two other guys with him.

I don’t mean to be disparaging here, but all three looked like convicts. I think the main guy picked the other two guys up at the Labor Ready office that morning. Because it didn’t seem like they all knew each other that well.

The boss guy does a look around. The mess is evenly scattered throughout the apartment. This apartment is 1200 sq feet with 3 bedrooms and 1.5 baths.

After he does his assessment he calls, who I am assuming the big boss, and starts explaining to that person what it looked like.

While he is on the phone, I am in another room with the two other guys. One of the guys whispers to me that they would be willing to do the job themselves for $500 dollars.

When they whispered this to me, I had not gotten the quote from the boss guy. He was still in the other room on the phone.

I replied back to the guys when they gave me the price. And I pointed to them and said,

“Just you two, and not him?” One of the guys said yes. That they have a truck and would come back after their shift and do it. I said give me your phone number.

I also said, “Will $500 be cheaper than what he is about to say to me? He said “Yes, I guarantee it.”

The boss guy comes and find us. He says to me.

“This job is going to be several thousand dollars and we won’t do it unless you put all of the loose item in to boxes.”

I said, “why would I put it in boxes if you are just going to haul it out and throw it away?”

He said “We can’t move it without all of the small stuff being boxed up.”

I said, “Can’t you all box it up and haul it out?”

He said, “We can, but it is going to cost you more.”

It was obvious to me by this time that this was a job that was not what they normally do and it sounded like they really didn’t want to do it.

So I said to the boss guy, I will let you know what I want to do. But I had already made up my mind that I was going to call the other guys immediately.

They leave, and about an hour later. One of the guys calls me. Out of the two guys, one of them was the leader so to speak.

I met them over at the apartment around five to let them in. They were in a pick up truck and not in one of the big van trucks like they were in earlier and like most moving company’s have.

We confirmed the price again, and I asked them how long it would take. They said a couple of hours.

I said “sounds good” and I left.

Don’t ask me why I was so trusting other than being an idiot, but I knew they wanted the money and I wasn’t going to pay them unless the job was done and done well.

About an hour or so later, the leader guy calls me.

He said “Do you care if we keep any of this stuff?” I said “Heck no”.

He said “Even some of this newer stuff, it is probably worth money?”

I said “I just want it all gone, I could care less.”

We hang up.

About another half hour goes by and he calls me again.

He says “Do you have someone that is going to do the actual cleaning of the place?”

I said “I do, but would you do it and for how much.”

As a landlord you just want to get things done as quickly as possible.

He said “Their wives would do it for an extra $200 dollars.”

I told him what I expected to be done and he said ok.

About three hours go by and he calls me and says they are done.

I go over with the cash in hand. I look at the apartment and they had done a great job. The two guys were there and so were their wives.

I was quite satisfied with their work. I paid them and they left.

About three weeks later, my tenant downstairs calls me and says that there are two citations on her front door from the city. I said what do they say? She couldn’t really tell me, so I go over there later on and pick them up.

I couldn’t understand the citations. So I call the number on the document.

A lady answers the phone and looks the citations up in their system.

She then says “Are you a landlord?”

I said “Yes!”

She said “Did you recently have someone move out of one of your apartments at this address?”

I said “Yes!”

She said “We found a couple of places around the city where mail, furniture, and lots of other items (junk) had been thrown out in alleys, city dumpsters, and in the streets. Did you have someone remove the stuff for you?”

I said “Yes!”

She said “Do you have a receipt from that company, if so, we can reach out to them and let them know they are responsible for these citations!”

My heart sunk and I said “No” I don’t have any receipts.

She said “You are responsible for these citations then.”

I said “How do you even know it is from that apartment?”

She said “In each of the junk piles there was pieces of mail with that address on it.”

I am sure I could have pushed back a little more, but at time I don’t think I would have won. And if I didn’t pay them, they would have filed a lien on my place. So I just moved on and paid them.

I think each citation was $500 dollars or so. I paid them and once again learned a few lessons.

1. Get a receipt
2. Don’t hire people to do work when they openly try to steal business from their current employer while on the job for their current employer. They may not be the best characters.

To your success and your future.

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