ONETIME- Beastly tale: The tenants we thought we liked

Helene Rosenberg

One time, my husband and I rented some houses we owned with friends. We decided to handle the whole process of choosing renters ourselves. Big mistake.

We knew the renter's credit wasn't good, but she was rich-looking. She had really nice hair and clothes. But she was actually probably broke. She was a professional con artist.

  She had a boyfriend who worked at Big Lots with her. A guy helping us warned us about her because she was a packrat. But we said, 'Naaah.' So we rented her the place. It went downhill fast.

I told her she could repaint the place a neutral color, as long as she repainted it later. She painted it bright orange and never repainted it.

Then her checks started bouncing. We had asked her to put the utilities in her name, but she never did, so it was all on our bill. We went crazy! Then she couldn't pay the rent.

When she left, we sued her for non-payment of rent. She raved hysterically at the judge, and he told her to shut up! She accused us of ruining her and her kids' health.

She never paid, and it took something like nine weeks from the start of the judgment. We waited, hoping she would pay. 

When she left, we went in, and there were bags upon bags of garbage inside, along with rotten food and appliances, rugs and furniture. It took us forever to clean it out. All the floors were ruined– disintegrated. There was human feces and urine on the floor– it wasn't the dog's. It was sicko. The smell was unbelievable.

We tried to garnish her wages, but every time we'd find her latest employer, she'd leave.

We're still down about $4,800.

My advice: Do not interview your own tenants. You should do it only after some professional has cleared them. When you do it, it personalizes the whole thing. You get to know the people, maybe you like them, and then they tell you a sob story, and so on...

Think less about it as human interaction and more as business, and you'll do much better. 

And above all else, do not rent to people who can't afford to pay. 

If someone doesn't pay their rent for a month or two, send them an eviction warning five to ten days after the rent's due date. In thirty days, with that notice, you can go to court, and the judge will be sympathetic because you have a paper trail. Then he sets the court date. But you're still talking about a month and a half.

It takes a while to get somebody out, so be warned.