When I first started investing in real estate, many people tried to tell me it was a mistake. I recall my grandma telling me it was a horrible decision, and she knew someone years ago that had a horrible experience being a landlord. It had something to do with a deadbeat tenant that had flooded a property, and left the landlord with thousands of dollars in repairs. I told myself this wasn’t going to happen to me. I was going to get systems in place, maintain my properties, conduct background and credit checks with clear tenant acceptance requirements. Even with these systems in place, real estate investing isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.
I do still consider real estate investing an excellent way to accelerate your wealth, and your journey to retirement. And, even with systems in place it can cause headaches from time to time. In fact this is a story of multiple headaches all within a week. Gahhhhh….
A Window Into Darkness
Let’s start with a property I’m currently in the process of replacing windows. My management company does regular maintenance reviews as well as good tenants provide notice of anything that should need repaired, maintained. My tenant provided notice last fall that there was frost and condensation on the interior of some of the windows. I had a few different contractors look it over, and it was determined the windows should be replaced. I decided to do this project in phases. After all window replacement can be a fairly large capital expense. I wanted to not deplete my reserve funds for any other unexpected things that could come up across my rental portfolio. So we started with about half the windows to be completed first. I payed the down payment, and the windows were ordered the beginning of last October. Taking over three months to finally receive the windows, and beginning the project. I had expressed disappointment, as originally I was quoted the project to begin in December.
Once the project had started, here is what every Real Estate Investor or property owner wants to hear from a contractor, “We have uncovered some additional issues.”
The contractor had uncovered some mold under the trim and needed to investigated further. Luckily, they felt the mold hadn’t infiltrated the Sheetrock and was on the surface, and could treat the area.
Then, the contractor wanted to address some additional concerns noting none of the windows that were removed were not originally flashed properly, causing the moisture/ rot issues. They had repaired all of the affected areas with these first batch of window replacements but wanted to give me fair warning that once we begin the next batch of windows in the future, we are likely to find other fairly significant rot issues. Great. Face Palm.
The Walls are Old and Moldy
Next, let’s take a look at a townhome I have in which I have owned for about two years. There hasn’t been any significant issues with the property or tenants. My Management company had received a maintenance request to review Mold in the bathroom. This was on the wall paneling, and had treated the effected area only to have it re occur. We had determined, we’d need to determine where the moisture was coming from. Unfortunately this did involve opening up some finished walls, and investigating the plumbing. Therefore beyond my normal labor and maintenance costs from my management company. We had to go to and outside contractor for this one.
After the walls were opened up, a plumbing contractor was able to determine where the small leak was originating, and repair the issue. Then there was the time and cost to repair the bathroom walls and correctly waterproof and drywall the open areas. Plumbing sucks out loud.
Sewers and Snakes and Water Oh My
Now we move onto a backed up sewer issue. Yeah, you heard that correctly. The f’n sewer backed up in one of my properties causing thousands of dollars of damage. The crazy thing is it wasn’t just me and my property on this backup. It was several along the entire block. This gets messy…er complicated. This issue was due to an issue with the city sewer.
The Home Owners’ Association has filed a claim with their insurance company, and the city has also claimed responsibility. We have been told that the city with reimburse any owners costs claimed to the insurance. There are two concerns here. 1) I expect this to be months before us property owners see any sort of funds reimbursed. 2) the next is that, myself, nor anyone else’s had backup and sewer coverage on our policies. Not many people do have this coverage, as it doubles the annual premium. So I’ll be covering this deductible amount out-of-pocket.
Then….if that this wasn’t enough, I get a phone call from the City of Saint Paul. Ummm… this doesn’t happen very often, and it was a bit cringy. This is was the Water and Sewer unity office. They were looking for the property owner for a duplex that they noticed a dramatic increase of water usage.
You may ask yourself, what would this increase be that would cause a city official contact you? Welp… They said the year of year for the meter reading for March statement billing for the period Dec-Feb 2022 to 2023, the water consumption went from 20 units to 207 units. One unit equals 748 gallons of water. Yeah, you read that correctly. That is over a 900% increase. I immediately contacted my property management company and we need to determine if there is major leak, or something catastrophic. Other than the leaky toilet flapper, that was already addressed there wasn’t anything apparent.
This duplex has one meter, so I pay for the water utility, typically around $120 per unit. As you can see, this is a major unexpected expense. After discussing with property management we determined someone, most likely a previous tenant that just recently vacated had left water running while they were moving out. It’s nearly impossible to determine if this was malicious or not. There was periodic late rents, and was on Rental Assistance during Covid. This would cause them to get 3 or 4 months straight without paying rent. I hadn’t felt there was any angst or animosity from the tenant. This is so disappointing.
These were a series of headaches that have all happened within a week. These issues have incurred costs, and a bit of stress, but I do still consider Real Estate Investment Properties a good investment strategy. I had property management in place that conducting all the communication with 3rd Parties including insurance companies, the city, and my tenants. I had reserve funds, or money placed in a M&R account to be used for just circumstances.