12 Things I Hate About Landlording

I was cruising around the BiggerPockets Forums today and I stumbled upon a thread started by Karen M. titled "Tell Me What You Hate About Landlording."

I thought it was a fascinating discussion – to see what some people consider the worst or best parts about Landlording. After all, we landlords tend to get into this "real estate investing is awesome!" mentality (bloggers, like me, are most guilty of that!) and love to talk about the good stuff... and often times the hard stuff gets ignored because no one likes a complainer.
Well... I'm going to do some complaining!

It's my hope that this post can serve dual purposes:

a.) Help others get a realistic vision of what landlording may look like and
b.) Hopefully generate some incredible discussion in the comments.

Let me preface this article with this: I already know about 20 people are going to put a comment below that says "this is why I use property management." I agree – many of these problems (not all, but some of them) would not affect me if I had a property management. However, any honest real estate investor who uses property management could easily come up with a list of their own of 12 things they hate about investing in real estate. Arguing property management vs. self management is a topic for another day. The fact is: I am a landlord.

Finally, if you are reading this, I would LOVE if you do me a favor and comment at the bottom of this post, offering me (and everyone else reading) some advice to help overcome some of these issues. Also, let me know what you hate the most about Landlording. I look forward to seeing what you have to say!

Without further suspense, I give you: 10 things that I absolutely HATE about landlording.

1.) Never Truly Taking a Break

Although I set specific office hours, don't answer the phone in the evenings or weekends, hire others to do most of the labor... I still never get a true break. Even if I get a physical break, my mind never stops working on the landlording business. I still carry the stress and the knowledge that things might be going wrong right now. Last January I took a cruise through the Caribbean. No cell phone, no computer, nothing. However, I still thought of, planned, schemed, read, and discussed real estate investing on the trip.

Sometimes... it would be nice to simply ignore it all.

2.) Being Lied To

"I mailed the check last week!"
"I don't have a dog – you must have just seen my nephew in the window."
"I called twice this week and no one answered, so I just let the roof leak destroy the property."

Ugh. I hate lying tenants... but I can't seem to escape it. Even when I've caught them in their lie... they continue to lie to try and cover up the previous lie. It's a never-ending battle!

3.) Dealing with Contractors

This is just the worst. Trying to find reputable contractors that don't demand my first-born child is ... tough. However, even more than just the money, it's the dependability. Even the expensive contractors fail to show up when they are suppose to, fail to bill the correct amount, fail to answer their phone when there is truly an emergency. Sometimes I feel like I go through contractors more often than I change my socks.

4.) Water Leaks

I've had four major water leaks in the past six months, each causing several thousand dollars worth of repairs. The fact is, water is a battle that every real estate investor will face with any property they buy, but it's especially bad for landlords with older properties. Whether it's a roof leak or a plumbing leak, water is the enemy. For those of you battling the same thing, be sure to check out Darren Sager's great article, "The 4 Things to Check When Water-Proofing Your Potential Investment Property."

5.) Watching Slow Motion Train Wrecks

As a landlord, I get a pretty good idea of how someone is living, how they act, and what their past looks like (from my in-depth tenant screening process.) Sometimes it's tough to watch and not be able to do anything about it. I think of it as a "slow motion train wreck." I can see drugs tearing their life apart, selfishness tearing their kids apart, uncleanliness tearing their health apart. All I can do is kick them out... I can't really get involved in their personal lives. I want to sit them down and make them read every one of these books. I want to teach them how to clean, how to raise their kids, how to respect their neighbors. But I can't – I'm just the landlord, not their Dad. All I can do is watch the slow motion train wreck and try to avoid getting hit.

6.) Insurance

Oh... the bane of my existence. I would estimate my wife and I spend 20 hours a month on insurance alone. There is always a policy being canceled, changed, renewed, increased, or added for no real apparent reason. Recently we've doubled the fun by all the changing laws and policies regarding flood insurance. Properties that have been free of the need for flood insurance suddenly now need it. Other policies are requiring us to obtain an "elevation certificate" – for $600 – just to keep the current flood insurance we already have. My wife spends more time talking with our insurance agent than her own mother these days... and it's not getting any better.

7.) Being the Bad Guy

Sometimes I just get tired of being "the bad guy" in every situation. For example, on Sunday we had a small water leak (yep, again) in a top floor unit from a drip in a water supply line in the attic. We sent a contractor over immediately to fix it. The tenant called today, livid, to chew us out for the leak. To them, it's as if I climbed into their attic and cut the water line just to be a jerk.

Seriously, people.

8.) Paperwork

The more properties you accumulate, the more paperwork it takes to manage and control them. From closing documents, insurance documents, mortgage documents, tenant files, leases, applications, and taxes – the paperwork can really pile up. Even the most organized landlords out there still have to deal with mountains of paperwork and office work just to own those properties. For example, one of the cities I own rental property in now requires I fill out a new business license for every property in that town, every year. Yes, it's only 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there... but it adds up.

9.) Babysitting

I often times think of landlording as babysitting. When you let a tenant do whatever they want, they will quickly become their own worst enemy and destroy the property, turning it into the town dump. As a result, we have to consistently monitor the tenants to make sure they are "behaving." For example, in the past week, we've had to send letters or call tenants about:

Throwing garbage over their apartment decks
Piling trash bags on their apartment decks
Parking on the lawn rather than in the parking lot
Not throwing garbage in the woods because the dumpster is too far away
And a lot more that I'm not even aware of because my wife is amazing at trying to shelter me from it all!
Sometimes I just want them to treat the property the way I treat my own house. However, I know that's not going to happen anytime soon.

10.) Refinances

Trying to refinance rental properties is a pain. I'm working through two right now ... and it seems every day there is a new form that they need me to fill out, a new document they need me to fetch for them, a new law that they need to work around. I understand the need for the laws and the rules and the rigidity... but sometimes it just drives me crazy.

11.) The Aftermath of an Eviction

To be honest, I don't actually mind evictions that much. We screen tenants well so it's not a big concern (click here to check out my screening process) and when we have had to do an eviction, it's usually pretty quick and painless once my lawyer takes over. However... it's the aftermath that I hate. The junk they leave behind, the filth on the floors, walls, ceilings... everywhere.

12.) CapEx

Finally, let's talk about CapEx. CapEx, or a capital expenditure, is a non-regular expense that needs to be replaced only once in a while, such as replacing the roof, replacing the furnace, replacing the driveway or parking lot, replacing all the windows, etc. Let's be honest... our properties are falling apart every minute of every day. Every year the plumbing gets older, the roof shingles get a little thinner, the asphalt a little more cracked. This stuff may seem like it's not a big deal, but the fact is: there is ALWAYS something new to fix and replace on a property. There is no "done." This is why it's so important to budget for CapEx when analyzing a rental property, and why we make it an important part of the BiggerPockets Rental Property Calculator. Ignoring CapEx is a quick way to lose your expected cash flow.


I know this post sounded like I'm whining because... well, I am. However, I still love being a landlord because of all the great things it can do. Perhaps that will be my next article!

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This article 12 Things I HATE About Landlording originally published on The Bigger Pockets Blog and is Copyright 2014 BiggerPockets, Inc.

Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (9)

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  • Report this Comment On July 12, 2014, at 10:46 PM, Sampson wrote:

    First off Yes you are complaining and that's not a bad thing, but it's all your own fault:

    -If you can't take a mental break from real estate ( or anything for that matter), you may need some professional help. We all need some space from everything in our lives, it's not healthy.

    -You say you screen tenants well, but then complain about them leaving a mess and lying to you. The tenants themselves will always be the worst part of renting. So many slobs and self-centered jerks in this world not caring a dib for what they are given ( or pay for).

    -Sounds like I should move close to you to be your contractor. Yes we can be expensive but that's all part of owning a home, taking care of it and doing so in the correct manner. Not sure why you couldn't find a decent contractor ( and forget about how much he costs, maybe that's the reason you can't find a reliable one) and stick with that one. Repeat business is wonderful for contractors, makes life easier on both parties and can form some sort of friendship ( aquaintanceship).

    -babysitting; all goes back to who you rent to. I am a renter yet I care for the property BETTER than every landlord I have had.

    -Conclusion: I could only imagine the pain and frustration being a landlord, and the one thing other than me not owning my own home first to keep me from being a landlord is certainly the renters. The thought " well it's not my house, I just rent, so I don't give a hoot" irks me to death. Such inconsideration in this world, but hey you are foremost in any benefits from owning that property. Ask yourself " will it have been worth it, or not)

    And at least you're not a deadbeat landlord who doesn't care about his property, only cares for the current flow of monthly rent, because that is the person who will in the end say " it was not worth it" when there house/property is falling down.

    Keep your head up and get a little mental away time

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 2:26 AM, rfrtunk wrote:

    I agree with Sampson.

    I own all single family homes and could have all the problems that were listed. Yes, the book work is terrible. I do this book work myself but nothing what you speak of.. I stay on top of the book work daily. I don't seem to have the problems listed in the other areas. It could be, I screen people better. I do have a good application process. I will allow a home to be empty months looking for a good tenant. I do have my own inspector inspecting my homes every three months. This works two fold. If a problem with the home is found, I can have it repaired before it grows. Believe me the problem never gets smaller. If it's a problem caused by or with a tenant, they will be allowed time to correct the problem. At the end of the time given, the problem issue must be corrected. If not, the tenant will be leaving in 30 days or less.

    I learned from the past when I started renting properties thirty years ago. Back than I saw everything possible that could happen. I learned to react quickly.

    My homes are in three counties. They are the most inexpensive to rent for the area. I have been told many times by many different people they are the best rentals in the area. I hear this from contractors all the time.

    You may ask, why are they the least expensive?

    I look for a person that will help me take care of my property. I help them with a lower rent and they help me by taking care of my property.

    I have had tenants for as long as twenty years. It's not uncommon for most to last ten to fifteen years.

    I expect to receive a call if a problem occurs. I tell everyone they can call 24 hours a day, The problem is corrected as it would be in my own home. As quick as possible. If I can not be reached, I provide phone numbers of people to call. Rarely does anyone receive a call. Furnace going down when it 10 below would be one. Out of thirty homes I don't believe I receive two phone calls per year. I could be on vacation and never be missed.

    Actually, I like to see a little turn over. When the house is empty I do a complete remodel and update.

    Renting property is not for everyone. I do enjoy doing so and it started as a hobby. In the past thirty years people have changed. Many do not have the respect for themselves let alone property belonging to a stranger. I learned, I react quickly.

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 1:43 PM, sillajean wrote:

    Most of what you mention is just part of doing any business on your own. Being a landlord has the added challenge of dealing with people more extensively, but things go both ways. There are many landlords that don't fix anything until it becomes a major problem, and then sometimes, not even then. Problem tenants would be problem homeowners, too, so just be glad if you don't live next to them.

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 1:58 PM, skiman56 wrote:

    After renovating and renting a couple mobile homes in a trailer park because my contracting business had a slow spell and having a very bad experience with the whole thing, here I am a couple years later considering doing it again only not in a trailer park. Nothing is as unnerving as having a property sit empty or be working unsuccessfully to evict a tenant while paying space rent every month.

    Your reminder about tenants lying kind of froze my blood. I also hated that with an absolute passion.

    Lessons learned: Don't be forced to rent to marginal tenants because the bills are running. It's probably worth waiting for a responsible tenant. (I say this because I didn't actually experience a good one although I've heard they exist)

    I never cut corners in anything I build and it paid off while renting. There were no large or even small building failures during my 3 1/2 year "experiment".

    Use PEX plumbing. One tenant fled and let the place freeze (I live in the North country) and the toilet and faucets cracked but the plumbing was fine. Very well worth the money. Also, I ran the PEX plumbing in the upper corner of the rooms and just put an easily removable cover over it. Kept it from freezing unless the trailer was without heat in the winter, easy to work on if it fails and leaks won't go unnoticed. Downside is a significant leak would require replacing the sheetrock below the leak.

    Roof, windows, plumbing are the three crucial elements in dealing with a mobile home. Aluminum wiring in late '60's, early '70's models needs to considered but "pigtails" and GFCI breakers can be easily and cheaply installed to mitigate some of the problem.

    Be firm, even hardnosed right from the beginning. Being nice to attract a tenant then switching to property protection mode creates problems.

    Do your background checks! Investigate every aspect of the prospective tenant the law allows. Court records are easily accessible online and check on every adult that will be in the unit including spouses that may not live there full time.

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 3:39 PM, erich69 wrote:

    I know people who own rental properties and had them rented out by property management companies. Some tenants absolutely destroyed their houses involving $20,000 worth of repairs. A lot of these tenants have no money so a lawsuit against them is futile. What kind of protection does a property owner have against these tenants? Is their special insurance? Can the property management company be sued?

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 9:09 PM, belle23 wrote:

    I was a landlord one time and one time only. I made the mistake of renting to family and they were the worst. That being said, screening is not nearly enough. Do you sit down and just have a conversation with your prospective tenants? seriously just a short chat about sports and cars or even why they decided to rent will give you great insight. I now rent. I chatted with my prospective landlord several times. We discussed what I would like to do and what he felt comfortable with. I asked to be able to put up a nice chain link fence for my dogs and also if he would object to me buying the paint and painting the interior of the house instead of him doing it. I love this place. I take care of it as if it were my own. he had never had renters before with pets but he had plenty that were nasty and destructive. I had to have the house exterminated. yes he did spray ,but bugs rarely show up in a vacant house during a walk through. I have happily painted and redecorated and done my own minor repairs. I plan to live here for a long time. he does not inspect my home but I do invite him in for a cup of coffee and to get his approval on a color or something I would like to change. I appreciate a good landlord and he appreciates a good tenant. You just have to be a little more diligent. where do they work? How much is their take home pay? these are not intrusive questions and if they are not willing to tell you, then warning bells should go off. Hope things get better for landlords in the future and tenants have more respect for where they live.There are so many slumlords in my area I have to be very careful. Also an all round handyman saves contractor money. I think management companies are a mistake. Most take your money and are worse than any slumlord about taking care of your property.

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 10:28 PM, cobranut wrote:

    We have both commercial and single-family residential rental properties. We keep the rent down and try to minimize turnover. We've been fortunate to have mostly good tenants who stay for a while. (Not too many landlords keep a tenant for over 40 years. His family moved there when he was young and he, as a young man, stayed when his father remarried and moved out. When a minor problem pops up, he just fixes it. If it's more serious, we get a call promptly and he works with us to get it fixed.) I sure wish all tenants could be like this. :-)

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2014, at 7:04 AM, foolupatree wrote:

    Being lied to is the worst part.

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