7 Landlords Dish on the Most Bizarre Things Renters Have Done in Their Units

published Aug 24, 2020
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Credit: Lisa S.

Most landlords can tell you a tale or two about bad tenants. Noise complaints from neighbors, a messy move-out, and consistently late rent payments are usually part of the narrative. But some landlords have juicier tales of bizarre happenings that have played out in their rental units. Here are some of the strangest (not to mention sneaky and spiteful) things renters have done, as told by landlords.

A DIY man cave

“We got a call from the neighbor of a rental property we own that the tenant was outside, behaving strangely. After several failed attempts to reach the tenant by the phone, we found him in the backyard of the property in a dug-out bunker. Apparently, the couple we were renting to was going through a divorce and the man’s response to his wife kicking him out was to dig up the back yard and live in a literal man cave. We filled the hole and proceeded with eviction. Not funny then; very funny now.” —Scott Titus of Patriot Homebuyer in St. Louis, Missouri

The purple house on the corner

“I had a tenant who informed me that he was having some trouble in his relationship and that his wife had left and now he would not be able to continue renting my house. I told him that I understand and we set up a time to do the final walk-through and part ways. As I pulled close to the house I was really confused because I was positive that my house was on the corner but this was not my house… he had painted the house purple! And not a nice shade of lavender but full-on Barney the Dinosaur purple. Top to bottom, everything but the windows and shingles was purple. When I asked why my house was purple, he told me that his wife’s favorite color was purple and he thought that this might bring her back.” —Nick Disney, owner of Sell My San Antonio House and a landlord and real estate investor in San Antonio, Texas

Smelly situation

“A few years back, we received a call asking if we wanted to buy a set of duplexes in Austin. The owner was forthcoming and told us he had trouble maintaining tenants. Like clockwork, they would occupy the units, move out, and break the lease before the end of the year. He truly sounded like he had no idea as to why, but he was proud of his one tenant who had been there for 8-plus years. Curious, I went to check out the duplexes for myself. I happened to catch one of the tenants who had recently moved in. He told me that every other weekend the entire place smelled like a sewer. I asked if I could return on a Saturday to figure out for myself what might be going on. Saturday comes and I pull into the driveway of the duplex, and I’m hit with the sewer smell. I asked the tenant who had been living there for eight plus years if I could investigate what was going on. He let me in and told me he knew exactly what the smell was as he led me out to his garage. He had a still and was making his own moonshine. The mash is what stunk the place up.”  —Christopher Burgelin, a real estate broker and owner of CallWeBuyHousesFast.com

An unsolved mystery

“I rented out one of my apartments to a soft-spoken couple who had two young boys. I never had any problems with them for the three years that they lived at my house. However, when they moved out one winter, the person I had hired to repaint and repair the house in readiness for another tenant said he needed me at the house urgently. Upon getting there, I found him in one of the bedrooms on the lower floor. On the concealed corner behind the door, he had removed some tiles and right below it was a trapdoor! He opened it and to our amazement, there was another ‘room’ almost the same size of the bedroom. Its walls were neatly secured with soft-board and it was complete with tiles and fluorescent lighting. Upon trying to contact the former tenants using the same numbers I had always used, they were out of reach and I never heard from them again. I invited the authorities to try and establish what had been going on in the underground room, but they were unable to unravel anything. They guessed that the tenants simply wanted to have a unique room away from the rest of the house for purposes only they knew about. I decided to let the matter rest. We refilled the “room” and restored its original status. It still puzzles me how they did that, and for what purpose.” —Jay Scott, landlord and proprietor of Pugsquest

For sale by renter

“I had one tenant try to sell my house. She had been paying rent on time and everything seemed to be going fine until one Saturday I received a call from a random number asking if I was the owner of that property. I informed the lady that I was and she then let me know that they are now living in the house and that my tenant had sold them the house. The tenant had posted an ad online that they were selling my house For Sale By Owner, held an open house, and then took $2,000 from this lady as a down payment and allowed her to move in. When I called my tenant to inquire about the situation, she told me that it was all a lie and that she was still currently living in the house. I informed her that I was currently at the house and with the people that she had sold my house to and that my next call would be to the police.” —Nick Disney, owner of Sell My San Antonio House

Now that’s a paint job

“I rent out an apartment in Austin. We had one tenant use the wall as a canvas, and he painted an entire masterpiece on the wall over the course of the rental agreement. I found it strange since he couldn’t take it with him, but did feel bad painting over it because it was quite well done.” —Jesse Silkoff, co-founder and president of MyRoofingPal

Let’s taco bout it 

“I had a tenant set up a taco stand out of the house he was renting from me. He even added a ‘drive-thru’ in the garage.” —Loren Howard, founder of Prime Plus Mortgages

RoundUp revenge

“A male tenant of ours was in bed with a woman… who was not his wife. His wife came home and found him in flagrante. She left and returned later that night with a huge can of RoundUp, with which she wrote ‘F*** Y***’ in huge letters on the front lawn. Within days all of that grass had died, leaving her message literally burnt into the ground for all to see. The guy had to pay for a whole new lawn.” —Glen GellaValle, CEO and founder of DellaValle Management, Inc.

Like these kinds of real estate confessionals? Here, realtors share their weirdest showing stories, from drunk buyers to naked sellers.