Tenants can be nightmare for landlords
Posted: November 10, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — While renters are wary of having unscrupulous landlords, property managers can sometimes be left to pick up the pieces when a tenant leaves behind a mess.
Such was the case when renters were evicted this fall from an apartment at 727 S. Kent St. in the city.
They left behind a mattress, garbage, food in the refrigerator — which likely ruined the appliance since the apartment’s electricity was shut off prior to the eviction — and other refuse and problems that needed to be fixed.
Robbie Molden and his wife Amy have operated Middletown-based A&R Rentals, which manages the apartment, since 1998. They said they have had numerous renters who left behind similar messes.
“It’s a chronic problem,” said Amy Molden, who along with her husband oversees about 60 rental units in the Winchester area.
A woman and her two children lived in the South Kent apartment from June to early October. Rent for the two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit was $550 per month.
Robbie Molden estimated the damage at $3,000 after factoring in labor and cleanup costs, repainting the walls and ceiling and other expenses.
“That’s not including what rent we lost,” he said. “We lost three months’ rent and then the court proceedings that we had to go through to legally put them out.”
“It’s [definitely] a process that’s painful for a landlord, it really is, because you’re watching your property be destroyed and there’s no rent being paid.”
The Winchester Office of Housing and Neighborhood Development, part of the city’s Department of Social Services, helped to place the tenant and her children at the Moldens’ unit and helped to pay their first month’s rent in June, Robbie Molden said.
However, the tenant did not pay any subsequent rent and was evicted in October.
Robbie Molden said he doesn’t like to see people take advantage of a system that’s supposed to help struggling families and is worried that future landlords might rent to the tenant.
“Social Services will try to place them with another landlord, and there’s no accountability for the damage that they’ve caused,” he said. “We really try to cater to the people who need help, need that chance to get into a place.”
Amber Johnson, interim director for the city’s Social Services Department, said that while the Office of Housing and Neighborhood Development helps qualified individuals find housing with the Housing Choice Voucher Program, ways are available to protect tenants and landlords.
Inspections are performed through the program before tenants move in, and at any time one is requested by the tenant or landlord.
If any issues are found, they are noted and placed in the client’s file, and that information can be disclosed to other landlords, Johnson said.
Molden said that while he has now had a bad experience with one Social Services client, he is not opposed to renting to the department’s clients in the future.
“We have had a lot of [Social Services clients] who have come to us because they’ve heard that we’ll give people a chance, and we have a lot of them who are very appreciative of that chance to get in one of the units and keep it clean and keep up with the rent,” he said.
While A&R Rentals has had its share of problems with bad tenants over the years, other local companies have been more fortunate.
Jason Aikens, vice president of Winchester-based property management company Aikens Group, said his company does not encounter too many cases like the one the Moldens are dealing with.
“It’s not really a huge issue, it doesn’t happen to us very often,” he said, adding that the higher a unit’s monthly rent, it’s less likely that problems occur.
However, Aikens said that while landlords can file a judgment for damages against a tenant, it isn’t a guarantee that a company will recover its losses.
“You can file a judgment, but if they’re not going to pay their rent then the odds of them paying a judgment aren’t high,” he said. “The industry practice is that you’ve got a security deposit that’s used to recoup costs.”
Chuck Jarrett, property manager for Winchester-based OakCrest Cos., said the firm has had tenants leave behind old furniture — but nothing too troublesome.
“We’ve run into [the problem] a couple times, but not in an extremely bad way,” he said. “We’ve never had gigantic amounts of trash left behind.”
He added that because OakCrest conducts background and credit checks on potential renters, the company is usually able to avoid bad tenants.
— Contact Matt Armstrong email@example.com