When my husband and I started looking to buy our own house, he was very gung-ho on buying a duplex. His plan was that we would live in one unit and rent out the other, with the rent covering the mortgage. In theory, it’s a great idea. In practice — if you’re looking to buy in San Francisco — becoming a landlord is something only the very rich or the very masochistic should do. Landlord-tenant laws are skewed so heavily in the tenants’ favor that it’s virtually impossible to evict tenants once they’re in. In addition, if you buy a building with existing tenants, not only can’t you evict them, you also can’t raise their rents to market value. I’d worked on several landlord-tenant eviction cases over the years, and I refused to put myself in that position.
Although this sounds like a renters’ paradise, it actually isn’t. Landlords, especially those renting out middle- to lower-value properties have absolutely no incentive to do improvements. Everything becomes an affordable slum.
And of course, if you’re a really unlucky tenant, your landlord might snap and go all psychopathic on you, as these landlords from Hell did. Actually, it seems as if these people started out psychopathic, but I’ve known other, stronger, more mentally healthy people who cracked under the strain of trying to evict tenants if they were foolish enough to buy a tenant-occupied property.