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World's Worst Tenants

By Salvatore Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA

I have to admit that recently I started watching a new cable show called “World’s Worst Tenants” on Spike TV. The premise for the show if you haven’t seen it depicts three individuals who are hired by various property management companies to handle unusually odd tenant related issues. The issues range from your basic nonpayment of rent to more bizarre and serious issues that can leave any self-respecting property manager shaking their head in disbelief. The show makes for great TV and entertainment, but on a serious note it can offer some insight to the importance of exterior and interior property inspections.

I noticed that usually the trio of characters hired to resolve the tenant related issues would indicate that the out of state owner or property manager had lost communication with the tenant and in most cases both were unaware of the property condition. This dangerous combination usually lead to disastrous situations leaving the rental property completely destroyed, and in some cases declared uninhabitable by city, state, and federal laws. I can’t help but think that regularly scheduled inspections would act as a deterrent in the outcome of some of these situations.Here at SDP Management our company policy is to conduct two exterior and one interior inspection annually. At the lease signing we advise the tenants of this policy and make it known that the property owner and the management company have a vested interest in making sure that the condition of the property is maintained. The exterior inspections are done randomly and documented via photo log. The interior inspections which are preceded by 24 hour written notice are detailed in a report. If concerns or violations are found during the course of either inspection, a notice of cure or solution to remedy the problem will be issued to the tenant before the situation gets out of control or causes damage to our client’s property.

Inspections are not intended to be viewed as “Big Brother” looming but more like a friendly reminder that the property management company will enforce the tenants contractual lease agreement to maintain the property in a certain condition. In some instances we hold raffle drawings and issue gift cards as a “Thank You” to unsuspecting tenants for maintaining curb appeal and general upkeep of their rental property. Keeping both parties happy (owners & tenants) may not always be easy but when you conduct regular exterior and interior inspections you may just avoid being on the next episode of “The World’s Worst Tenants.”

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  • Pardon me. Your policy definitely gives me the impression of "Big Brother" and exudes every negative connotation thereof. Coming from a Section 8 background, Residents understand there will be many inspections because the government demands it. When I came into conventional side property management, it seemed to make sense to institute some way of ensuring the property was kept in decent, safe and sanitary condition as well. However, it should be the policy of the Manager to walk the property daily, weekly and once monthly with the Maintenance Supervisor and make note of any problem areas. It should be the policy of Maintenance to inspect smoke detectors twice a year and make note of problems while completing furnace filter changes and any work orders. This should be done in a respectful, positive way. I find performing these onsite inspections to be less intrusive, less threatening and more respectful of our Residents and their privacy. We hold contests, etc. throughout the year and reward Residents this way publicly without encouraging the negative concepts of inspections to find what people are doing "wrong." Residents will not typically suspect or assign a negative connotation with the management personnel if these individuals are seen walking around a lot anyway. Our Residents do not want to feel judged, in my opinion.

  • Spencer, HB

    In some cases the tenant does not understand what an "inspection" is. It may be better to call them "quarterly services". Then the tenant feels they are being taken care of every three months. I like checking Smoke Detectors quarterly, and the fire extinguisher as well.
    In the course of the "quarterly services", naturally you will notice poor housekeeping and forbid the thought, filth. You may also notice excellence.
    We must remember that the tenant's clean is not "our" clean. This is hard for me due to 30 years US Army, and my own obsessive, compulsive disorder of cleanliness. However, a tenant is a "people" and if you find four people, then usually one (1) of the four is clean. (That is "my clean", not theirs.)
    Property damages is another thing, and you must instill it absolutely will not be tolerated and someone will PAY.
    The written report, a copy to tenant and a copy to file, normal business.

  • I also enjoy the show, and would like to add that the interior of the units are not the responsibility of property management and they should not intervene unless there is something that the resident is doing to threaten their health and safety, or that of their neighbors. Access to units is simple and can be done in many ways. The easiest is when the resident requests a repair. If the maintenance technician sees anything that concerns him; he needs to get a manager involved immediately IF he sees any of the following:

    -Any evidence of pest activity, especially bedbugs.
    -Any evidence of 'extra' household members possibly not on lease.
    -Any evidence of excess stuff preventing safe access to the entire unit; any blockages to the electric panel, or the water heater.
    -Any signs that emergency systems (smoke/CO detectors) have been tampered with or removed.

    I would suggest at minimum, a 100% inspection of all units every 6 months. While you are conducting this inspection, replace smoke/CO detector batteries, missing/broken vanes on blinds, and light bulbs as needed. If you have AC units, clean the filters as well. I would also do a 100% preventive pest control treatment twice per year.

    When you do the semiannual inspection, make sure you note any of these issues and follow up with them. If the resident has issues with housekeeping and/or hoarding; this is a huge problem that can be a major issue for your property. If you have a unit in need of serious work; schedule a time for the maintenance team to return to do an 'open ended' work order to address any and all issues that went unreported. Make sure the resident understands that any damage beyond what might be considered normal; or what can be proven to be caused by the resident, will be charged to them for costs of parts and labor.

    Mindy is right that residents do not want to be judged; but they need to understand that it is our responsibility to make sure all residents have a living environment that is clean and free of as many safety issues as possible (notice I did not include SECURITY). If there is an issue and you handle it in the right way; you will get compliance with the resident. Just make sure that you handle all issues confidentially and document what was said and who is going to do what by when; ensure the resident knows that if the problem is not resolved; you will be forced to either evict them or simply not renew them at the end of their lease.

    On the issue of hoarding; I do have a true story: At my last property, I had a property wide treatment for bedbugs; but one resident did not understand the entire process for the treatment and did not comply with what the exterminator had planned to do; putting the effectiveness of the entire project at risk. She was an elderly woman that was hoarding in her unit. Because of the fact that she did not comply with the treatment plan, or allow the exterminator subsequent access; she had a reinfestation and we needed to evict her. When we did have access to the unit; she had blocked access to the water heater, turned it off, had her bathtub and sink filled with stuff, and had stuff behind every door in such a way as to not allow the doors to fully open. I had to hire a company to remove her stuff and it took a crew of 4, 2 solid days and 6 truckloads to the dump; and that was after we redistributed the canned food to the rest of the residents. We know she had a birdcage with no bird, and had found more than one cat corpse that was trapped in the closet with the water heater.

  • Spencer, Herbert

    I wonder why these reality TV shows have people in them who have to dress, look, and act like the scum of the earth. What am I missing here? It all started with "Dog the Bounty Hunter" (quite a scary character) and them you could bring up the "Repo" show, and those folks look someone who just came from the bowls of hell itself. Of course I guess it is for entertainment. Or could it be that is what a large whole lot of the people today in this world "actually" look like? What am I missing here?

  • I think the appearance of the hosts of the show is secondary to what they find. I personally sometimes I wish I either looked like the ex-marine (I know there is no such thing as an ex-marine), or had someone that did when I had a problem resident.

    Someone that could make anyone tremble in their boots; or proverbially break thumbs to collect rent.

    The one guy they found that had been stuck in the bathtub for days was probably the strangest one so far; I am glad they were able to get in and help.

  • I worked on site for over 20 years and at our 700 unit Midwest community, we tied the interior inspection to our furnace filter replacement preventative maintenance program. We sent two maintenance technicians and one leasing associate inside each home and the two techs performed the usual preventative maintenance on furnaces, air conditioners, hot water heaters etc. while the leasing associate documented everything on a check list as well as observed the interior of the home looking at windows/locks, ceilings and inside lower cabinets for water leaks as well as the cleanliness of the home in general. The resident's were very pleased with the annual inspection because often times maintenance issues were found and remedied right then and there. We would leave a note behind letting the resident know we took care of something while we were there. The benefit for the owner/management company is obvious.

  • I do an "Apartment Check-up" 3 months before the lease renewal process begins. I tell them I am looking for plumbing leaks, loose toilet seats and ask them to let me know if anything needs to be repaired. I inspect for housekeeping, bugs, etc., at that time and tighten their toilet seats (pet peeve of mine). I leave them tips on saving electricity and a note that everything looks great. If not, I send them a follow-up letter. We have a lot of small pets and I especially want to see the condition of the property. At another property I managed, we would inspect and make notes about condition of carpet and paint to determine information for the next year's budget. I agree that, for customer service, we should not just do "Inspection!!" We want their residency to be positive, not intrusive.

  • I caught an episode where the resident could have easily been one I evicted.... His neighbors reported pest control issues and the exterminator treated all the units except one and could not solve the problem. The resident would not allow the exterminator in to inspect; so the owner called the gang to intervene.

    They were finally able to get in and found he was not only hoarding to the point there was a definite safety issue; but he also had a significant infestation of several different kinds of pests, including bedbugs that had been living off of him for a while. They served him a 5 day notice to clear up the stuff and allow access for treatment. This scene turned my stomach and made ME itch just seeing it on TV.

  • Some people don't mind inspections and some do. I have found a simple communication method actually helps. I always call it a "routine inspection of all apartments" and explain that everyone is included. I also say, "We are not there to look at or judge your personal surroundings, but to make sure the building stays at a quality level." Nonetheless there are still some people who are mad. That's just the way it will be.

    I agree with the comment that the "hosts" of this show are so ratty and alternative-looking. Their behavior is beyond ridiculous--getting into physical fights with residents, etc. Now that this show is on, I have people asking me if I find alligators in bathtubs, major-sized meth labs, etc. People are disappointed when I tell them that 95% of this business is asking people for rent, taking calls about stopped-up toilets, and other exciting adventures.

  • I was watching an episode last night, between coverage of the events in London; there were these issues:

    1) Resident had his own bee hives (to harvest honey) that had gotten out of control.
    2) Owner suspected squatting in one of his rentals; turned out that someone was creating leases and pocketing the money and was a former employee of the owner.
    3) Resident was moving out and the owner had the crew do the move out inspection; found significant damage including garbage in the backyard, a barbeque grill at the bottom of the pool, and an empty hot tub that was used as a firepit.....

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