He said it best himself: “Check your tenants out before you let them occupy. That’s the one thing I was guilty of.” A Florida man is out more than $15,000 in damages after thieves, who may or may not have been his tenants, ripped off everything that wasn’t nailed down from his rental house.
Actually, they did steal or damage several items that were nailed down, screwed in, glued on and attached to the structure. Here’s a partial list:
- The kitchen sink
- The carpeting
- The phone lines
- The kitchen island
- The kitchen appliances
- The kitchen cabinets
- The toilets
- The hot water heater
- The air conditioning unit
- The countertops
How could this happen? First of all, the house was in Florida and the landlord lived in Washington State. Next, he apparently had not received a rent payment “in months.” It was only then that he attempted to contact the tenants. Unsuccessful at reaching them, he trekked across the country to check on the rental house—only to find it stripped.
The homeowner is new at the landlord business. Purchased as an investment he decided to rent the home after unsuccessful attempts to sell it. Out-of-state owners sometimes make classic landlord errors that might have prevented this loss:
1. No local property manager. When you live 3,500 miles from your rental property, it’s very difficult to keep an eye on things. Spending the money for a good property manager can prevent losses such as this one.
2. No relationship with neighbors. How many neighbors saw the house being stripped? Surely the thieves had a handy excuse for what they were doing, but had the landlord made one contact, even one neighbor who had agreed to call if they noticed anything unusual, he might have helped prevent this theft.
3. No tenant pre-screening. The landlord did not conduct a background check or pre-screening or any kind on the tenants. He had homeowner’s insurance, of course. But he didn’t really know who was renting his home. Tenant screening is simply a must-do when leasing rental property. Just like paying taxes, doing maintenance and buying insurance – especially when the rental property and the rental property owner are separated by thousands of miles.
Perhaps this major theft could have been avoided. While the landlord doesn’t know for sure that the tenants were involved, he has not been able to reach them for months. Screening them thoroughly would have at least informed the landlord whether they were credit worthy, had a good rental history, and had any criminal history. It’s always better to be safe than stripped!