Tenant Illegal Dumping Tip

Managing Heavy Waste Tactfully 

There are many problems plaguing property managers across the globe that can be resolved with simple hacks. This article offers an insight into one such issue and its easy solution! 

A reasonable concern of property managers is that while managing several multi-family properties, heavy trash such as mattresses and furniture are sometimes left by the dumpster, adding to the myriad of tasks that must be checked off the to-do list.

A simple way to tackle this issue entails mounting cameras outside the gate, overlooking the trash cans. The best part is that it is a cost-effective solution since you do not need to incorporate working cameras. Fake cameras work effectively to ward off most people who are tempted to relieve their responsibility of disposing of their waste in a proper manner.

In addition, it is always a good idea to clearly lay out your expectations to your potential tenants. You can incorporate a clause in the lease that imposes heavy fines and penalties on such actions. You can also draft a polite yet stern email to your tenants reminding them of the clauses integrated into the agreement that they must continue to pay heed to.

Some families might still dump out their mattresses while moving out. In that case, you can charge them a penalty or a fee from their security deposit to handle the disposal of their waste. In fact, even without added terms in your lease, you can still deduct a reasonable amount from their security deposit if you can prove that they were responsible for the mess.

This becomes particularly easy to execute if your HOA does include tenets prohibiting this kind of behavior. Regardless, it is understood that this is a nuisance for the neighbors. In addition, it is obviously unfair for them to expect the property manager to incur the charges for transporting and disposing of their heavy trash. In such a scenario, the penalty cannot exceed the rate of handling such waste.         

In a nutshell, if you are facing a similar issue, you could either resort to mounting fake cameras or integrate a clause in your lease that holds them liable for managing any heavy trash that they generate. Finally, you could also deduct from their security deposit the amount it would cost to dispose of the waste yourself.

In addition, another easy way to prevent this hurdle is by frequently reminding your tenants about the rules laid out in their leases, to deter them from taking actions that could cost you money. 

Philadelphia Property Manager, Joe White answers questions on how to handle tenants who dump mattresses & large items illegally.

Read the transcript here:

I occasionally get questions from others in the property management field, and today I’d like to take the time to answer a question from John W. Ashley.

“Joe, I know you manage a lot of multi-family properties. What are your solutions for excessive trash at the dumpster? You know, mattresses and furniture. How do you handle dumping?”

This is a tough situation to deal with. Right off the bat, I would probably consider mounting cameras in the area where this is happening. They don’t even have to work; they could very well be fake cameras! In situations like this, I try to aim for partial or gradual solutions. For instance, if you can even reduce the trash dumping by 10 percent just by putting up some cameras, that’s not too bad. It’s not the ideal solution, but that is a step in the right direction.

I’m never hesitant as a property manager to take minor steps toward the end goal, even if it’s not a full solution. Personally, I would get some inexpensive fake cameras to mount at the units right around the trash cans. The next and main item on my list would then be to target the incoming tenants. I would put some stiff penalties into a place built right into the lease.

No new incoming tenant is going to refuse to sign a lease because there are stiff penalties for doing something wrong; everybody thinks they’re great tenants and that they’re never going to do anything wrong! People never think they’re going to throw out a mattress until they are ready to move out and need to get rid of it. So, I say go ahead and put some stiff penalties in place to get your new tenants on board and avoid future problems.

I would also write some letters to your tenants. We actually send our tenants regularly worded friendly letters with some gentle reminders to keep in mind. We include helpful information, and sometimes we might need to include a little blurb to remind them that there are stiff penalties for behavior such as dumping their large items.

We often get this kind of behavior in condo buildings. People tend to move out of nicer condo buildings like Naval Square, for example, and as they’re moving out, they just dump everything they don’t want outside. Then, of course, the HOA springs into action. I hate to use the term “Karen,” but an HOA is basically just a group of Karens, and you don’t want to attract their attention.

We make sure to state in the lease that we’re going to charge them for dumping, but even if it wasn’t stated in the lease, this sort of thing is still pretty well covered by the security deposit. For example, if we find proof that they actually were the ones who dumped these items and it was against the terms of the HOA, the security deposit can help manage the fees required to take care of it.

When tenants move out and just dump excessive amounts of everything they don’t want out on the streets on their moving day, whether it’s trash day or not that’s not fair to the neighbors. And when it’s not fair to the neighbors, it’s certainly not fair to the property owner, as it damages their name and reputation in the eyes of the neighbors. Thus, we think it’s critically important to address it, and we charge the tenants accordingly.

Aside from the security deposit, we will absolutely charge tenants for the trip to the dump that’s required to take care of their trash. I will send our housekeeping staff to the property and ask them to take it to the dump, and they get paid quite well!-to do that. In this case, it becomes more of a tenant problem and less of an owner problem.

Where we run into problems is that sometimes it’s tough to prove, let’s say, whose mattress it is in the street. We actually encounter this situation somewhat frequently where the tenants will put their discarded mattresses in the basement of a condo building. Everybody in the building knows whose mattress it is, but there isn’t any proof that’s where we run into a little bit of a hurdle.

At that point, we sometimes end up eating the cost and paying to have the mattress removed. It’s not that expensive to have it taken to a dump or disposed of, but again, we put these terms in the lease and remind the tenants of our guidelines fairly often to try and avoid these situations.

Fortunately, we haven’t had that sort of problem in a long time, maybe about two years or so, and I attribute that to the preventative steps that we’ve taken. We interface with our tenants constantly. We send them emails on a regular basis, and our verbiage is always being refined. We keep finding a better way of saying some things and refining and tweaking things along the way to make it a little bit better, a little bit nicer, in the hopes of solving the problem.

In the end, I definitely recommend informing your tenants of your policy going forward in the lease and reminding them of that policy every six months or so. I also wouldn’t be opposed to putting up fake cameras to discourage the behavior! Even though it feels like a partial solution, it might still help in the meantime as you set your policies up to avoid future issues.

Thank you for your question, and I hope this helps!   


Joe White

Joe White is a Philadelphia Property Manager and Real Estate Broker. He is the owner of Grow Property Management and has been involved in the management, sales and purchases of Philadelphia area rental investment properties since 2008. He is an author and works as a real estate investment consultant and construction manager.

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