Trauma – Landlord Edition

June 5th, 2010 · Tell Me What You Really Think Here · Commercial Property, Landlord & Tenant Board, Property Management, Rental Property

I deal with a lot of landlords that have had to deal with horrible tenants. Yet no one seems to realize that in some cases landlords have been severely traumatized by their victimization. That’s right ! It’s the same as other people experience when dealing with other criminal acts such as fraud, identity theft, assault, robbery and more. In the case of landlords, the psychological impact of having your investment taken hostage and possibly damaged while dealing with insane, gloating, arrogant con artists is denied and minimized. The landlord will often have to suffer severe financial consequences over an extended period of time until finally getting rid of the tenants. Finally there is a sense of abandonment because in Ontario there is no quick and easy way to get rid of the offending tenant. In fact serial abusers of landlords are almost impossible to detect because they know exactly what they are doing. There is no registry for bad tenants anymore because of the Privacy Act protecting their identity. What the professional tenant does is out and out fraud.

Landlord’s Victimization

Typically the deadbeat will move in sometimes paying first and last, sometimes conning their way to a smaller entry fee by claiming hardship. Some landlords will take a chance thinking that their manipulation is truth. These con artists will tell you whatever they have to just to get in. Sometimes their reason is how horrible their last landlord is and how they are being expected to live in a slum. They will also give you a NSF check so they can move in but usually the landlord will collect first & last month’s rent. The very first month rent is owing, the excuses for non-payment will start. Lots of times the tenant will give very believable excuses but the name of the game at this point is to put you off and extend the time before they have to move again.

Landlord’s Awakening

So after several weeks or sometimes even months the landlord realizes what’s going on and they try to find help. A new landlord must start to learn the law, what notices to serve, how to serve them and so on. It’s not unusual for the landlord to do it wrong the first time and have to start over. Meanwhile their investment property is being held hostage, the landlord is having to pay the mortgage out of their own pockets and no one is helping. For the people of the Landlord & Tenant Board it’s just another eviction, for the new landlord the process is entirely anxiety producing, they want the tenant out urgently and they can’t believe that people are allowing this.

Landlord & Tenant Board

It doesn’t take a law degree to buy a house and rent it out, but it sure would help! I have been to the Supreme Court of Ontario with a tenant who was a prostitute on welfare. Meanwhile she was stealing hundreds of dollars per month from the landlord. Get as much help as you need or hire a good paralegal for your first couple times at the Landlod & Tenant Board. The system can be very complex and your tenant may well know more about the Board than you. The landlord feels even more abandoned and angry at this point because the system that should be protecting them from cons artists and fraudsters is allowing them to work the system. Meanwhile the landlord is still having to pay the bills for the tenants in the house by law, getting complaints from the neighbours and is very afraid.

Deadbeat Moves On

At some point the tenant will move out, and the landlord will have to deal with the fall out. Rare is the eviction that doesn’t involve significant damages to the property. I have seen places waist high with garbage bags, filled with dirty laundry, rotting meat, punched out walls and doors. The landlord is relieved the tenant is gone finally but is further victimized by the effects of the tenant’s totally dysfunctional lifestyle. At this point the Landlord finds out that the Order received from the Landlord & Tenant Board is hardly worth the paper it’s written on and that they have to go to Small Claims for enforcement. They are also finding out that their chances of collecting the money they are owed is infinitesimally small. There is more outrage to find this out. Meanwhile they are paying for contractors or materials to repair the place.

It’s Over Now. Right?

No it’s not over. It’s just starting as the psychological damage inflicted takes toll. The typical landlord will blame themselves for any mistakes, real or imagined. They will remember any incidences and replay them over an over, trying to figure out what they could have done differently. In short like any trauma victim of rape, robbery, fraud or whatever, the landlord is just having to begin the healing process and dealing with the emotions of grief and anger and incredulity that this could happen to them.In most cases the landlord did absolutely nothing wrong.

Healing

Talk about the experience with someone experienced in dealing with trauma and processing the emotions associated. Talk to other landlords who understand the situation. Grieve the loss of the dream that real estate is a golden path to riches. Some landlords may even be cast out of an investment group because they are no longer positive. Truth is that it’s damn hard to be a landlord. Do whatever you have to, to admit how horrible the whole experience was a nightmare. Be kind to yourself, eat healthy, sleep enough, go back to basics. Some landlords may feel guilty because they have suffered a bad financial loss which has affected their family savings. They may not trust their judgment. They may think all tenants are bad. None of these things are true.

Renting Again

The place is finally fixed and ready to rent. Like the recent divorcee the scarred landlord has to now “go on dates” and interview potential tenants and establish another landlord & tenant relationship. That takes a lot of trust, trust that the landlord may find hard to muster. I can assure you, if you’re still so raw that you’re telling your potential tenants about how horrible your last tenants were, that you need to give yourself more time. Great tenants don’t want to listen to how the last tenants ripped you off. Just like your new paramour doesn’t want to hear about your ex. It may be wise at this point to hire a rental service to rent your place until you feel better about the business. Being so vulnerable and renting again is a recipe for disaster. You don’t need a rebound tenancy. You need a good solid tenant.

Finally

There are great tenants out there. You need to heal and develop trust before you reestablish a new healthier landlord/tenant relationship. Don’t take it personally, they didn’t do this to you, they did it because they’re sick mofo’s and that’s how they survive. You are not responsible for other people’s bad behaviour. Be gentle with yourself. There’s a lot of good people out there. Take your time and don’t get desperate.

Here’s a link to a website about trauma, trauma symptoms and PTSD. Read it and you’ll see that perhaps the most significant damage caused by these deadbeats is psychological.

Landlords take care of and be gentle to yourselves during these difficult times.

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