Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Perils of Landlording: Canine Catastrophes

Being a landlord is not an easy chore. Before becoming a landlord you need to have a reality check: Not everyone chooses to live like you do. Some people choose to leave the TV blaring all night long. Others prefer to pour their waste bacon grease down the drain. Others have a knack for never doing the dishes. Yet others prefer to keep their dogs inside...always.

Now that we have a good grip on reality we can begin moving forward being a landlord. Keep in mind that the biggest part of making money as a landlord is screening. If you become an expert screener, you will become a profitable landlord and your experience will be rewarding. You will learn to develop certain policies and rules. Some of these will apply to a tenants credit record, others to income, and others to pets.

I reaffirmed my policy of No Dogs today. Tenants moved out of one of my rentals over the weekend. They called me and said the place was clean and in good order. I had been over to the home a month prior and the home seemed well kept. I remember nice scented candles were burning during my visit which gave the place a nice fresh smell.

Yet, when I opened the door after they moved out, what was there to greet me? Here I beheld a cute well kept home that was choking with the smell of dog urine. It was like getting smacked in the face with a two-by-four.

I initiated the lease with these tenants two years ago prior to my No Dogs policy. A later bad experience had solidified this rule for me. However, I never expected a bad experience from these tenants.
On the surface, the carpets seemed to look good. Here is what the back sides looked like:

Urine Urine Everywhere But Not a Drop to Drink. The back of the carpet should be uniform gray in color and instead we have something that looks like it belongs in Yellowstone Park. If you scratch your computer screen over the photo you can actually smell the carpet. Not surprisingly, the pad was completely disgusting as well. Subfloors too.

In all, this reflooring experience will top $2500. The tenant's (now forfeited) deposit was $700 so I am out about $1800 for the experience. Unfortunately, these particular tenants suffered a significant decline in their credit so it would be pointless for me to take them to court. As the saying goes: You can't bleed a turnip.

The bottom line is that YOU MUST CREATE RULES TO PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY. I effectively wiped out more than a year's worth of positive cashflow by allowing this to happen. I am fortunate that appreciation on the property compensated for it. However, in a marketplace where prices are flat, you can't afford to make mistakes like this too many times before your goose is cooked. I recommend banning dogs from your rentals.

You can solve the pet odor problem very easily. First, you have to concede that the carpet is not worth saving...even if it looks ok. The odor locks into the fibers and the pad. If your carpet cleaning guys can't get it out with one pass, then you must scrap the carpet and start over. Since urine is a liquid, it will sink into the wood subfloor. I have made it a practice to run over the dry wood with a water/bleach mix. The bleach will neutralize the ammonia in the urine and chemically begin to break down the odor. You will notice foam bubbles forming where the bleach reaches the urine spots. This means that its working and is creating a gas. WARNING: THIS CHEMICAL PROCESS CREATES HYDROCHLORIC ACID GAS WHICH CAN CAUSE LUNG DAMAGE AND DEATH. In other words, do this at your own risk. When in doubt, don't do it. The other thing I do after the floor is dried is paint KILZ brand stainblocker on the floor. This chemically seals any muted left-over odors into the wood. It is highly effective. Once the KILZ has dried for a day or so, you are ready for new carpet and a fresh smelling home. I have done this on 6 homes with complete success each time.


Ken Coman said...

Jeremy - I feel for you. Good luck with that clean-up & beware of scented candles :)

bill said...

hey that carpet looks pretty good on the up side can I buy it?

Jeremy Peterson said...

You Bet! I am offering a 2-for-1 special. Pay for the carpet and I throw the used pad in for FREE! But wait, that's not can have the carpet, the pad, and the dog collar I found all for three EASY payments of $29.99 per month!

OAC. Does not include shipping or handling. Offer not valid in Hawaii, Florida, and Delaware. This product is known to the State of California to cause nausea and vertigo. Please allow 6 weeks for delivery.

Anonymous said...

For six years I was a Regional Manager for a National REIT...
I overseen 600 + unit properties in 9 different states.
When you left advertising to become a landlord I tired to warn you :-) Sounds like you have experienced the same joys of being a landlord that I experienced for 6 years. I feel for ya! Good Luck.
Take Care - your cousin - Tami