Learning the hard way from my tenant’s “bright” idea
Eric Page* moved into my two bedroom house, paying me $1000 monthly with utilities included. All was well until I received a costly hydro bill exceeding $500.
I spoke to Eric about the expense and he agreed to watch his usage, but because payment of utilities was written in my end of the contract I was helpless to make him responsible for the bill.
The next month I received an even pricier hydro bill, totaling $695. Furious, I approached Eric for payment. He refused to give me a dime, but again promised to watch his usage.
When I received the following month’s hydro bill, my stomach dropped but I was unsurprised to see a grand total of $690. I was beyond frustrated and my already unstable financial situation was swiftly worsening. I gave Eric an ultimatum: either he was to take over the responsibility of the hydro bill, or I would begin the eviction process.
Eric agreed to drop the ‘utilities included’ portion of the contract and reassign the responsibility to him. His name was transferred onto the account and the next three months went by problem-free. I gave myself a pat on the back for a problem well solved and moved on to other matters.
On April 1st I received the hydro bill for Eric’s next door neighbours, whose property I also own. A nice, hard working couple with an excellent consideration for upkeep, I had never had a problem with these tenants. That’s why – when I received a hydro bill for over $800 – I knew that something was up, and my gut told me it had to do with Eric.
As it turns out, I was right – Eric had his hydro cut off for non-payment in March, and had proceeded to cut into the neighbours meter to steal their power. Not only did this create a serious fire hazard, but Eric had played me for a fool.
The hydro company had also found out about the meter break-in, and upon inspection it was realized that the reason Eric’s bill was so ridiculously high was because he had created his own personal marijuana ‘grow-op’ in the basement.
The police were appropriately summoned and measures were taken to take Eric into custody. With my problem tenant in jail and my desire to keep my good tenants a priority, I was left with only one option – settle the hydro bill myself.
Knowing that I had been paying thousands of dollars in hydro to support an illegal operation frustrated me to no end. Had I completed a background and credit check on Eric Page, I would have found out that he has been unemployed for years, carries a bad history of bill negligence and had been arrested not once, not twice, but three separate times with drug charges.
From now on I will be extremely diligent about screening my potential tenants and will most certainly not be played for a fool again.
Illegal drug operations are a growing problem for landlords; here are some warning signs to watch out for:
- Tenants who pay their rent in cash. It is almost always illegal for legitimate employers to pay their workers in cash. Therefore, the absence of access to your tenants’ financial accounts may be a warning of illegal activity taking place.
- Covered windows. Windows covered with black plastic, heavy curtains that are pressed up against windows and make shift covers or blinds that are tightly shut are often tell-tale signs of a marijuana growing operation. This keeps natural light out of the house and prevents those around the property from discovering what’s going on inside.
- Problems with hydro. Localized power surges or decreased power are often indicators of illegal ‘grow-ops’. Be on the lookout for high power consumption and hydro meters that appear to be tampered with. A marijuana growing operation requires an excessive amount of synthetic light and heat.
*The account above is fictional; however, as a landlord, it is far too easy to be put in a circumstance where you are dealing with your own real-life ‘tenant from hell’. Keep the suggested tips in mind and always screen and take precautions before letting a new tenant into your property
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