Bad-Landlord Horror Stories
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20 Tenant Horror Stories That Will Make You Never Want to Rent Again

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Bad-Landlord Horror Stories
RapidEye/istockphoto

NO REST FOR THE RENTERS

Every landlord seems to have a horror story about problem tenants, but there's a flip side to that coin: There are plenty of nightmare landlords out there, too. Some of them are so horrendous that they might have you scrambling to save up for that down payment on a house (just make sure to double check that there are no HOA horror stories first). From a little crazy to seriously criminal, here are 20 landlords that will make you hesitate before you sign that next lease.

Who Needs a Floor?
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WHO NEEDS A FLOOR?

A husband-and-wife team of landlords terrorized tenants in their San Francisco apartment building, earning them the much-deserved nickname "landlords from Hell." Their goal? Drive residents out so they could sell the apartments for a profit. Their tactics? Stealing tenants' belongings, shutting off their power, boarding up their windows, cutting their phone lines, and even sawing through the floor to try to make it collapse.

Shoveling Is a Man's Job, Clearly
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SHOVELING IS A MAN'S JOB, CLEARLY

It's not the 1950s anymore, but one Wisconsin landlord certainly missed the memo. A single mother hoping to rent a two-bedroom home on a cattle farm was told she wouldn't be considered because she didn't have a man around to shovel snow. The landlord, who also said she never rents to single mothers and thinks they are part of the country's economic problems, was later charged with violating the federal Fair Housing Act.

A 'White Only' Swimming Pool
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A 'WHITE ONLY' SWIMMING POOL

An Ohio landlord lost a discrimination lawsuit after she put up a sign on her property's swimming pool declaring it "white only." A resident says the sign appeared a week after he brought his biracial daughter to the pool, after which the landlord questioned whether products she used in her hair had made the water cloudy. The landlord unsuccessfully argued that the sign was just an antique.

Cockroaches Galore ...
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COCKROACHES GALORE ...

It can be hard to control every creepy-crawly, but some tenants in Los Angeles were forced to deal with cockroaches "that crawled into their ears and burrowed into their electronics," spawned inside refrigerators, and infested kids' beds, according to court documents. Also a problem: rats, exposed wires, and lead paint. They later reached a $2 million settlement with their landlord, who claimed he'd used a pest company but some tenants refused to open their doors.

... And Bed Bugs, Too
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... AND BED BUGS, TOO

In case cockroaches aren't gross enough, bed bugs certainly are. A Southern California property management company was forced to cough up $1.6 million in damages after responding too slowly to tenants' bed-bug infestation. During pest-control treatments, tenants were told to sleep on infested carpet that wasn't replaced for three months, and their 3-year-old was left with permanent scarring from the bites.

Post a Bad Review, Pay $10,000
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POST A BAD REVIEW, PAY $10,000

Online reviews are a powerful tool for tenants who feel their landlords aren't up to snuff, but one apartment complex decided it wouldn't risk any sort of internet nonsense. Instead, it forced potential tenants to sign a "social media addendum" to their lease forbidding any negative reviews, and fining residents who ignore the rule $10,000. Incredibly, the policy also claimed ownership of any photos taken on the property. After a bit of media attention, the property managers ultimately voided the addendum.

That's One Way to Get Your Due
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THAT'S ONE WAY TO GET YOUR DUE

Some West Virginia tenants were shocked to return from a week away from their rental home, only to find it ransacked: Couches were cut and flipped, medication bottles were open, and electronics were missing. Even worse: The burglar was their landlord, who later told officers that he was worried the absent tenants were going to skip out on paying their rent, so he simply decided "to take their stuff."

A Dangerous Way to Make a Buck
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A DANGEROUS WAY TO MAKE A BUCK

Los Angeles is an expensive place to live, but one unscrupulous landlord wound up facing criminal charges in an effort to exploit tenants desperate for cheaper housing. His alleged offense: Converting a triplex into a shocking 44 rental rooms. Unsurprisingly, the illegal conversion was accompanied by dangers including faulty wiring, a lack of smoke detectors, and illegally installed kitchens, prosecutors say.

Home Is Where the Sewage Is
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HOME IS WHERE THE SEWAGE IS

It's a horror story indeed: A rental home with walls full of black mold, raw sewage floating in the basement, and trash and debris blocking the back door. Even worse, upon being told he had to find safer housing for his tenants, a Detroit landlord put them in a hotel with "prostitutes and drug users" instead, officials were told. The landlord was smacked with 60 days in jail for code violations.

Landlord Moonlights As Peeping Tom
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LANDLORD MOONLIGHTS AS PEEPING TOM

A New York City landlord was twice busted for secretly filming female residents in his building. In one case, he hid a camera inside of a bathroom clock. The resident found the camera, which contained a USB drive full of illicit videos. After authorities reviewed footage found on the landlord's computer, it was discovered that he had also secretly filmed a second tenant.  

House Rules? Here Are 31 of 'Em
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HOUSE RULES? HERE ARE 31 OF 'EM

A would-be tenant backed slowly away from a potential rental room in London when she was given a list of 31 house rules, many typed in ALL CAPS, before signing her lease. Among them: No pork allowed, ever; no overnight visitors; no showers longer than 15 minutes during morning and evening hours; no cooking exceeding 30 minutes; and no lingering in the kitchen after meals.

As If Lead Poisoning Isn't Bad Enough
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AS IF LEAD POISONING ISN'T BAD ENOUGH

Tenants in a Brooklyn apartment building sued their landlord after a small boy was stricken with lead poisoning from lead paint that hadn't been properly removed or covered. The tenants prevailed, only for the landlord to later appeal the $2 million in damages. He argued — unsuccessfully — that the amount was too high because the child was Latino and therefore unlikely to go to college and earn a degree.

24 Hours' Notice Is Just a Guideline, Right?
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24 HOURS' NOTICE IS JUST A GUIDELINE, RIGHT?

Landlords are supposed to give tenants ample notice if they need to enter their unit, but one Florida landlord decided that was more of a recommendation than a requirement. After finding his lights on and belongings moved around several times, a befuddled tenant set up a camera that caught his landlord strolling around his home on several occasions. The landlord denied that he was entering without permission until he was told he was on tape — at which point he tried to kick the tenant out without returning his security deposit.

Nosy Landlady Becomes Unwitting Star
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NOSY LANDLADY BECOMES UNWITTING STAR

An overbearing landlord can make life uncomfortable for any tenant, and one New York City man found out the hard way that it's even worse when the landlord lives directly above you. In a short documentary called "One Year Lease," he chronicles the unceasing voicemails he receives from his ever-watchful landlady, who even requests that he come upstairs to help her medicate her cat. Complicating the issue: plumbing and heating woes that ultimately drive him from the apartment.

Landlord Morphs Into Cyberstalker
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LANDLORD MORPHS INTO CYBERSTALKER

A Florida landlord was found guilty of terrorizing a former tenant who rejected his advances while renting a studio apartment from him. A few months after she moved out, he began cyberstalking her, and even posted ads on Craigslist including her home address and workplace that "invited men to show up for sex." The landlord's attorneys unsuccessfully argued that his vindictive ex-wife was responsible for the stalking.

Hope You Got a Bonus This Year
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HOPE YOU GOT A BONUS THIS YEAR

Credit checks and proof of income go hand in hand with rental applications, but one San Francisco landlord overstepped his bounds big time when it comes to financial requirements. He slipped a memo under tenants' doors demanding that they retroactively prove an income of at least $100,000 and a credit score of 725 or above — most likely in an effort to drive older tenants out of the rent-controlled building to make way for new ones paying market rates. After a little unsavory media attention, the landlord rescinded the memo and apologized to residents.

Vote Blue? Higher Rent for You
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VOTE BLUE? HIGHER RENT FOR YOU

It might have been a joke, but a note that a "quirky" Colorado landlord sent to his tenants after the 2012 presidential election didn't leave everyone laughing. "If you voted Democrat on Nov. 6, please notify me ASAP so I can raise your rent first to help pay for what you asked for," the note read. The landlord also criticized President Barack Obama for an "assault on small business." One tenant insisted the note was a failed attempt at humor, but another said she'd been threatened with eviction over her political beliefs.

Tenant Whipped for Failing to Pay Rent
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TENANT WHIPPED FOR FAILING TO PAY RENT

Dealing with tenants who fall behind on rent is undoubtedly frustrating, but one Ohio landlord was accused of taking those frustrations to the extreme. He was charged with assault after allegedly whipping a tenant who had not yet paid; police say he told the tenant that "if he was going to act like a child, he would treat him like one." Incredibly, the landlord was later accused of whipping another man, described as mentally disabled, who worked as a volunteer at his grocery store.

No Thanks for Your Service
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NO THANKS FOR YOUR SERVICE

A veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sued a Massachusetts landlord after he says she told him she was "just not comfortable" renting to him because of her anti-war views. "I would suggest you do the right thing and look for a place less politically active," a voicemail from the landlord said, according to news reports. The landlord denies that she discriminated based on his veteran status.

Nothing Fixes a Rental Dispute Like a Bomb
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NOTHING FIXES A RENTAL DISPUTE LIKE A BOMB

A New Jersey landlord might take the cake for craziest response to a rent dispute: He was charged with planting a bomb in his rental building in an effort to frame a former tenant, a pizzeria owner, whom he was battling in court. The bomb was rigged to go off when someone opened the door to the pizzeria, police say, and could have killed dozens by igniting natural gas in the air.