This article was posted on Saturday, Mar 01, 2014

If you thought that the broken-down-car excuse was a good one, you haven’t heard anything yet.  The level of creativity desperate residents can achieve is only limited by the gullibility of the landlord(and I was pretty gullible sometimes).

When it comes right down to it, you have to be prepared to deal with bad residents. I’ve heard many landlords who respond to that by saying how much time and effort they put into screening their applicants and as a result they don’t rent to bad residents.  That is commendable and certainly the correct approach to take, but it won’t guarantee you that a good resident won’t “turn” bad over time.

I had rented a three-bedroom apartment to a nice husband and wife with three kids.  They seemed like the all-American family.  Tom the husband, worked as a delivery driver and Carolyn, the wife, worked nights at a furniture store.  They basically lived paycheck to paycheck and just wanted a nice home to raise their three kids in.  They were great residents for years and then they started to fall behind in the rent.

Evidently, one of them had their work hours cut back and as a result, the bills started to pile up.  Because of their previous good track record, I tried to work with them the best I could.  Eventually, the rent went from coming in short a few dollars to not coming in at all.  Instead of being a few days behind, now they were a month behind.

For a while, I actually believed many of the excuses, but then the excuses started to multiply and even get a little outlandish.  Soon, it was evident that “I mailed you a check last week” was just a blatant lie to buy more time.  I don’t know if Thomas Jefferson was a landlord, but he surely understood human nature when he stated a famous quote about it.Jeffersonstated, “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time ‘till at length it becomes habitual.”

- Advertisers -

My residents had certainly changed from the honest people they were when they first moved in.  The final straw was when Tom assured me that they had the rent money in their bank account, but they couldn’t pay me because they had “run out of checks.”  Before I could even open my mouth to comment on how ludicrous that excuse was, Tom blurted out, “And we went down to the bank and spoke with the bank manager about getting our money out, but the bank manager insisted that we can’t access any of our money until more checks arrive and that will take about two weeks.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh at how stupid that sounded or yell because I obviously wasn’t going to get my rent.  Instead, I just said, “Okay,” and then drove to the courthouse to file the eviction papers.

When the eviction was finally complete and they were thrown out of the apartment by the constable, they disappeared so fast they didn’t even bother to take their cat or their young son’s hamster.  I had to find homes for them both.  Can you imagine leaving your children’s pets behind?!

Lesson Learned

Even good people will lie when backed into a corner over providing shelter for their family.  Treat everyone the same and just have a standard policy for how and when you’ll file for eviction.  As Donald Trump says, “It isn’t personal, it’s just business.”  Keep it business-like and follow your policy consistently with every resident.

Dan Arnold is the author of Stupid Mistakes of a Self-Made Millionaire Landlord, available at  Reprinted with permission of the Wisconsin Apartment Association News.


Leave a Reply