Haus Schwatz: Cati's DC Real Estate


Tenant won't let you in? No problem!

A house that can be bought but not seenThe case of the Sears kit houses in College Park that couldn't actually be shown (while being offered for sale) does not have to be a lost one after all.The sellers--or their agent--of a listing in DC's Shepherd Park neighborhood show us how to handle the situation:


The house is offered for a stately $975,000. And, at least in the pictures, it looks like a place with lots of potential. So, who cares what that needed "TLC" will cost you. Just write down a number for your offer, and you'll find out later!

Who says there couldn't be an easy solution?

(Picture courtesy of Champion Realty and MRIS.)

© 2012, Catarina Bannier


Comment balloon 46 commentsCatarina Bannier • April 14 2012 10:46PM


Catarina -- that is an interesting approach to the problem of a recalitrant tenant.

Have a great week!

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 6 years ago

If I were to make an offer on that house it would stipulate that the current owners had the tenants out and the place re-keyed before that inspection.

Getting rid of the tenants might be the biggest job of all.

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) over 6 years ago

What I would like to know is -

1.  Who wrote the lease that permits a tenant to control the showings of a home they don't own?????

2.  Is a buyer and their agent supposed to prepare a multiple page written offer for presentation without even seeing the property?

3.  What assurance is there that the property can be seen even AFTER a contract acceptance??

Sad, sad, sad.


Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Sounds like a scary situation to me.  I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.                                              

Posted by Amanda Christiansen, Christiansen Group Realty (Christiansen Group Realty (260)704-0843) over 6 years ago
Sounds like a good deal to me! Id love to spend nearly a million dollars on a place Ive never seen. In our area it is more common than not for the landlord to empty the house of occupants before putting it on the market.
Posted by Dale Samples, REALTOR -Homes for Sale Charleston, West Virgini (304.741.4705 • ) over 6 years ago

I don't take listings that will have renters in them. There is nothing in it for them to cooperate.

Posted by Rob D. Shepherd, Principal Broker ABR, GRI (Windermere/lane county) over 6 years ago

Catarina, that is certainly a creative way to cope with an uncooperative tenant - but how many buyers will be willing to bid almost a million dollars for a home they can't see?  And who knows what such a tenant may do to the house before they are forced to leave it?

Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) over 6 years ago

Great solution! I know tenants can be hard to handle...

Posted by Scott Fogleman, New Home Team (New Home Team 804-573-9592) over 6 years ago

Works for me. We rarely look at properties anyway until the offer has been accepted.

But having said that, landlords have rights too. In Florida they can show the house with reasonable notice whether the tenant likes it or not.

Posted by Bryant Tutas, Selling Florida one home at a time (Tutas Towne Realty, Inc and Garden Views Realty, LLC) over 6 years ago

It's just like a surprise birthday party. Only bigger ; )

Posted by Charlie Dresen, Steamboat Springs, CO e-Pro (Steamboat Sotheby's International Realty) over 6 years ago



I applaud you on your novel solution to a difficult problem.

Of course, I wonder how you'd handle access for an appraisal.

Posted by Jesse Skolkin (Independent New York State Certified Real Estate Appraiser) over 6 years ago

Tenants are driving the bus in some areas. I have checked on a few foreclosures, and been told by the bank that the home won't be available for a year to sell due to a lease.


Posted by Sarah, John Rummage, Love Being Realtors® in the Nashville TN Area! (Benchmark Realty LLC, Nashville TN 615.516.5233) over 6 years ago

Another good post that shows your neighborhood leadership.....Knowing the most current information on the landlord tenant act is important so that both agents and landlords know their rights!

Posted by Jennie Miller, PLLC, AZ Broker - Real Estate Services 480-382-9681 (Buy/Sell/Rent Your Home in Phoenix Metro Area) over 6 years ago

Catarina, amazing how the tenant can control a sellers situation. Buying a home site unseen can be a disaster. Who knows what the tenant may have done to the inside. Good Luck!

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 6 years ago

There is definitely something wrong with our tenant law/tenant law enforcement in this country. I am really tired of seeing tenants run the show and wreck the premises, while everyone stands back and does nothing.

I don't take listings with tenants now. I cannot work when my hands are tied.

Asking people to write offers contingent upon walkthrough is wasting everyone's time. And I have tried this route, and tried suggesting this just doesn't wash. Good buyers don't want to take the risk, and bad buyers are a waste of time for all involved.

Additionally, with bad tenants usually come other problems - liens, violations, etc.

Not for me thanks! Life is too short.

Posted by Dawn Maloney, 330-990-4236 Hudson & Northeastern Ohio (RE/MAX Haven - Northeast Ohio Real Estate Specialist) over 6 years ago

Yes, this is a very bad situation. Tenants can really screw up a deal if they want to.

Posted by Bernadine Hunter, SFR, ACRE, "Finding Solution to Your Real Estate Needs" (Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realty) over 6 years ago
As. Far as I am concerned, landlord/tenant laws are unilateral in nature leaving the landlord with few choices and tenants know this. Although Btyant T. Is right with regard to notice, but what agent wants to voluntarily be subjected to a tenant's wrath.
Posted by Charita Cadenhead, Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama) (Keller Williams Realty) over 6 years ago

Spread the joy...In other words, make it worthwhile for the tenant to join the movement...Get creative on this

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 6 years ago

I don't know how that agent operates, but access to the property is required in order to price an offer appropriately for the buyer. I'm not impressed with that practice.

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 6 years ago

Going along with (#18 above) Ritchie’s ……. ‘drift’ …..  yes, there are situations that I have heard of, where the tenant is paid  ….. to allow showings ……. Where the landlord ….. feels ……  well, desperate.

Posted by Rosalind Nicholas, Toronto Condo Real Estate Agent, Toronto ON (RE/MAX Condos Plus Corporation, Brokerage) over 6 years ago

Surely difficult to buy a place without seeing it.

Posted by Richard and Jean Murphy, (207) 712-4796 (Harborview Properties) over 6 years ago

I recently tried to show a foreclosure that was tenant occupied. They only allow showings once a week between 4-6 p.m. Saturday. So all the agents flock to the property with clients to see the listing at the same time. No thanks. Good luck selling this one.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) over 6 years ago

That might work for a modest home. But if paying almost a million for a home, I would want to see it, feel it way before I plunk any money down on it.

Posted by Sandy Acevedo, RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale (951-290-8588) over 6 years ago

Hi Catarina,

In Florida reasonable notice is required to show a property.  Permission is NOT required.  I consulted an attorney that I work with regularly and was instructed to give notice and show the property.  You might want to check with an attorney in your area.

I have a home listed for sale now in the same situation.  I showed the home last week and I'm going to show it on Monday.  I called, and will call again, the police department for an escort.  

File for eviction.  Get rid of the uncooperative tenant. 


Posted by Maya Thomas LLC, Broker, Key West FL Historic Old Town Estates, Bungalows (Key West, Key Haven, Geiger, Sugarloaf, Cudjoe, Summerland) over 6 years ago
Doesnt make sense to me: bank owned? Tenant? Uh like , can't the bank evict the tenant? The law can physically remove them with a court order- ridiculous!
Posted by Deanna Dibble over 6 years ago

I remember having a tenant NOT let me in when I needed to show. Plus they had a huge dog roaming around inside. It was so frustrating but we finally after 2 wks got in.

Posted by Cheryl Thomson REALTOR Army Ret, Associate Broker in Northern Virginia ( United Real Estate (703.216.5635) over 6 years ago

I agree with Catarina to some degree. In my leases, I always include that tenant must show the property 60 days to lease expiration, so if they do not, I can force the showing just like Catarina says. If they have a lease however, and it is still current, with more than 60 days to go, than no, we do not have the right to bother the tenants.

Posted by Kamal Salim, A Superior Level of Service ! (The K Company Realty) over 6 years ago

We always do our best to work with tenants preference. Sometimes it is very difficult and we encourage the owners to speak with the tenants directly on this.

Posted by Eileen Hsu, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

This isn't unusual in our area, unfortunately.  I know of quite a few cases where the tenants had to be taken to court to be forced to allow access, even though the lease states only 48 hours notice is required.  Of course, the courts always side with the landlord and the verbage in the lease, but it does cost the landlord a fee just to file to ask for the help.  One of the risks of being a landlord.

In your case, with an REO, usually the tenants are much more cooperative and were pre-screened and coached by the bank ahead of allowing them to move in.  I wonder if this is a case of a tenant who was there prior to the foreclosure with the bank having to honor the lease in place?

Posted by Juli Vosmik, Scottsdale/Cave Creek, AZ real estate 480-710-0739 (Dominion Fine Properties) over 6 years ago

Catarina, I hate situations like this where you can't preview/show a property to an offer has been made. I've seen them done more often in houses that are to be down down and have little to no value and the real value is in the land, that's pretty understandable. Thanks for sharing this article. 

Posted by Adrian Willanger, Profit from my two decades of experience (206 909-7536 over 6 years ago

@Rosalind #20 ... paying tenants off to show the property??  Sheesh ... now I've heard everything!

Posted by Carie Shapiro (North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Lord! We do both rentals and sales, and we have never had a problem with a tenant not allowing showing ON THE FEW OCCASSIONS when we do both together. We tell Owners that they are far better off to PICK ONE- SELL OR RENT rather than try to do both.

There are rental laws everywhere and I woudl imagine that the tenants can't really block all showings IF the agent knew what they were doing.

Posted by Leslie Prest, Owner, Assoc. Broker, Prest Realty, Payson, (Leslie Prest, Prest Realty, Sales and Rentals in Payson, AZ) over 6 years ago

We encounter the tenant not giving access in a lot of situations, so I definitely understand not getting into the property. 

Posted by Morgan Evans, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

We see this in my market. No big deal. Write the offer and wait and see what happens. No different than buying a foreclosure at auction and that's happening every day.

Posted by Andrew Martin (REMAX Accord) over 6 years ago

It's AMAZING the rights tenants have over a homeowner. I would NEVER write an offer and "wait and see what happens". That's ridiculous. Yeah it's being done at auctions which are normally for investors.

Posted by LaNita Cates (REMAX of Joliet) over 6 years ago

Yikes !  Hope the buyers have nerves of steel on this one.  Still, no doubt the marketing will really be a challenge.

Posted by Bill Gillhespy, Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos (16 Sunview Blvd) over 6 years ago

HI CATARINA!  Yikes is right!  For a tenant to be this difficult the landlord must have really done them wrong at some point - in some way!  At that price - I think I would want to see it first though!

Posted by Gabrielle Kamahele Rhind, Broker/Owner (KGC Properties LLC, Tucson Property Management & Real Estate) over 6 years ago


Interesting problem.  We handle a lot of high end leases in Atlanta.  Fortunately, none have been foreclosed.  

However, all of our Georgia Association of Realtors leases specify that we can do showings the last two months.  In addition, it states a charge - we fill it in as $75 for each non-showing incident!!!!  

Because our lease is detailed and specific, we just don't have this issue.  Every once in a while, it doesn't make sense to show, - but no more than the average of with our owners.  

All the best, Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) over 6 years ago

I like the idea of putting a non-showing charge in the lease upfront...that would be a good solution IF the tenants were actually still paying rent.

Posted by Dawn Maloney, 330-990-4236 Hudson & Northeastern Ohio (RE/MAX Haven - Northeast Ohio Real Estate Specialist) over 6 years ago

Catarina, we had a situation with a tenant in a Freddie Mac property. They have 90 days to move out and if they don't cooperate, there's not much the bank can do. This person was difficult but we did finally get in and wrote an offer. Not sure how many are going to want to write when they can't see anything until the offer is accepted, especially at that price. Wow.



Posted by Sharon Alters, Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL (Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308) over 6 years ago

Catarina - We have a lot of short sales that aren't shown until after there is an accepted offer.  It's not fun.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 6 years ago

It's definitely a problem.  And even if they do let you in the home condition is often not conducive to showing - otherwords a mess!  

Posted by John F Muscarella, Broker/Owner, Venice, FL, Florida's Suncoast (RIVER FARM PROPERTIES, LLC) over 6 years ago

Wow -- I'm so overwhelmed! I've been away for a day, just to return to all your great comments. I will try and answer as much as I can tomorrow. What an amazing community this is!

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) over 6 years ago

Steven--I'l be surprised if it works! I'll watch it unfold.

Marte--Yes, and DC tenant law is very tough on the landlord. The tenants can really hold out, and if they're not cooperating, it can be an expensive legal process getting them out.

Lenn--all the right questions, and the whole thing is very mysterious. Showing instructions are "confidential," and is was on the market a couple of years ago for $1.5M (no Shepherd Park house ever sold for that), even then with tenants. At least it could be shown at the time.

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) over 6 years ago

Jared--you're so right. If someone cares less, though, they might take the listing anyway. Not much work involved when you can't do anything until after it's sold...

Dale--well, yes, that would be the approach of reason. Perhaps the bank has no desire to get into any legal fights, though. and i imagine that the rent on an 8,000 sf house might be a nice way to tie them over...

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) over 6 years ago

Rob--very true. Why would they care? But the sellers sometimes are afraid of losing the time (i.e., income) and don't see how much it will actually cost them to keep the people in. We have actually lost listings because we suggested they wait.

Brian--None, I bet! And all too often, we have seen a rather sad picture after tenants moved out.

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) over 6 years ago