Landlord Decapitated – 6 Ways to Prevent it from Happening to You!
We’ve all heard stories of the tenant from hell. Some of us have probably even experienced one! You know the type. They don’t pay the rent on time, always have a poor excuse, disturb the other tenants or neighbors, damage the property — the list goes on and on. If you’ve been a landlord long enough, you come to expect bad tenants from time to time.
But what you don’t expect when you have a bad tenant is to lose your freakin’ head to the edge of a samurai sword!
That’s exactly what happened in Hartford, Connecticut when Victor King, a 64-year-old professional bridge player, was found decapitated in his home. His attacker? Jerry David Thompson, 42, who had recently begun renting a room from King.
According to the police, King called 911 the day previous to his death to report his unruly roomate waving a sword at him. Thompson was threatening to kill him when King tried to evict him for non payment of rent.
What on earth was the cause of the breakdown that ultimately left one man without a head? Thompson was behind on his rent payments, and King wasn’t happy about it.
I don’t know about you, but that feels a little extreme to me. But in today’s crazy world, it feels like we are living in extremes. Let’s look at some ways to keep your tenants happy and your head where it belongs — on your neck.
1. Perform Background Checks
I can’t stress this enough. The easiest way to ensure that you and your tenant are going to share a long and uneventfully happy relationship is to put the right tenant in your property to begin with. A basic criminal background check will go a long way toward keeping out undesirables.
Granted, not everyone with a checkered past is going to freak out and go all ninja on you. It takes a special kind of crazy for that level of violence. But as a general rule, conducting mandatory background checks on your applicants will leave you far better off than if you do not.
There are many services that offer screenings for $15 to $50 depending on how detailed of a report you want. Many use Zillow’s tenant screening service for a fast way to check your shiny new applicants!
2. Offer Rewards
Who doesn’t love getting free stuff? Reward your tenants’ good behaviour with something they won’t expect. If they’ve paid their rent on time for 12 months, offer them a free month. That gesture of goodwill will cost you in the short term but pay big dividends going forward.
3. Acknowledge Special Occasions
If your tenant has a birthday, why not send them a small gift basket or gift card? The amount isn’t important. What counts is the fact that you treat your tenant with respect.
Too often the relationship between tenants and the landlord is strictly financial. There’s nothing wrong with that, but remember — we’re looking for ways to keep your head. Literally. Send the gift basket!
4. Handle Repairs Without Delay
How would you feel if your toilet didn’t flush or the oven wouldn’t turn on? Now multiply that by a million, and you might come close to how a tenant
feels when they have to remind their landlord that something is broken.
Handle repairs promptly. If it’s not possible for some reason (like a part has to be ordered), communicate that to the tenant and tell them when they can expect the problem to be resolved.
5. Keep Family Out
Anyone who mixes family with business is just asking for trouble. Admit it: Even you have someone in your family who you’ve dreamed of taking a sword to. Every family has one, and if you can’t figure yours out…uh oh.
But I digress. Renting to family is a recipe for disaster. More often than not, something will cause friction within the relationship and something will have to give. Will it be the business or the relationship? Don’t make Thanksgiving more awkward than it already is.
6. Be Understanding
If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that shit happens and sometimes there’s nothing we can do about it. This year has been an emotional (and financial) rollercoaster for many of us.
If you have a tenant who has consistently paid their rent on time since signing the agreement but their world has recently been turned upside down, be understanding. Remember that they are human beings and not simply numbers.
Evading Decapitation Is Just That Simple
And there you have it: six foolproof ways to avoid getting decapitated by your psychotic tenant. It basically comes down to making sure that you have the right people in your property and then treating them the same way you would want to be treated. It’s not rocket science, people.
While the senseless violence that happened in Hartford is extremely rare, disputes between tenants and landlords are not. Do yourself a favor and follow these guidelines. At the very least, you can save yourself a few headaches down the road. And do you really want to take the chance that one of your tenants isn’t an ageless warrior, forced to duel to the death until there can be only one?
Oh, and if that reference went over your head, book a couple of hours off and treat yourself to the classic film Highlander. Just the 1986 original. No sequels. Trust me on this — they really should have stuck with their motto. One.