Leaks, fires, and pit bulls (oh my!): Anno Darwinii 1.25

by The Darwinian Doctor

Today in Anno Darwinii 1.25, I highlight some of the problems we’ve had with one of our new properties. I’ll tell you about the leaks, fires, and pit bulls that plagued us during the renovation and lease up.

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Welcome to the next exciting installment of Anno Darwinii, my quarterly update on our rental property empire.  Today, I’ll give you an inside look into some of the challenges we’ve encountered over the past few months with one of our rental properties.  Some of these problems were not unexpected, like a leaky toilet.  But the other incident was really out of left field and threw us for quite a loop.  

The property

Front of a duplex

I first introduced this Indianapolis property in Anno Darwinii 1.0.

We picked this duplex up from a wholesaler for $165,000. We were able to finance the purchase with a mortgage, but we waived our right to an inspection to make our offer more attractive (more on this later). 

There were some Covid-related delays from our bank that delayed our closing about a week and almost lost us the deal, but in the end we closed on the property successfully.

We initially felt that we had gotten a good deal on the property. It had three bedrooms and two baths on each side. It also had hardwood floors, central air, and was in overall good repair.

One side came with a pre-existing tenant and the other side was vacant. Given the realities of the pandemic, we felt blessed that the tenant wanted to stay. She even agreed to a rent bump from $900 a month to $1000 a month, which was a nice bonus.


Our original plan was to do some minor upgrades to the vacant unit and then rent it out for $1100. We decided to upgrade the kitchen countertops and add a dishwasher, trash disposal, and a backsplash. The kitchen upgrades cost $9725.

There were some miscellaneous exterior upgrades we also completed for another $4250.

Here are some before and after photos of the kitchen:

Our contractor unfortunately picked a speckled pattern of granite instead of the black granite that we’d requested. Even worse, he matched it to a brown and white narrow tiled backsplash. He installed everything without asking us about the materials, and later claimed he had no choice because Covid had made certain materials scarce.

Looking at the photos now, the combination doesn’t bother me that much, but for some reason in the heat of the moment the Dr-ess and I were really disappointed at the look of the kitchen.

In fact, we were so upset that we demanded that he switch the backsplash to the white subway tile that we had originally requested. Thankfully, he did this at no extra charge.  

Here’s the final version of the kitchen:

Despite the kitchen design conflict, the renovation finished up pretty quickly and we put it on the rental market in September. After just a couple weeks on the market, a great tenant moved in and agreed to $1200 a month!

After just a few days, though, the upstairs bathroom toilet started leaking profusely and dripping into the first floor. This is something that would have been probably picked up on an inspection, but as I mentioned above, we skipped that option.

Our plumber found a solid blockage in the drain pipe of unknown origin, and the fix was estimated at $750.  I okayed the repair and haven’t heard anything since, so hopefully that’s the last I’ll hear of it.

I wasn’t informed what exactly he found blocking the pipe, and no, I didn’t ask.  

Fires and pit bulls

I’d love to say that we have both units now up and running, but I can’t. What happened to the other tenant, you ask? Fires and pit bulls. That’s what happened.

Allow me to explain.

The lovely tenant that had happily lived in her side of the duplex for four years walked her dog one fine morning and was attacked by the neighbor’s pit bulls. The vicious dogs got out of their enclosure and bit both my tenant and her dog.

She reported the pit bulls to animal control, who promptly picked up the dogs and took them away. The neighbor didn’t like this, and SET MY TENANT’S CAR ON FIRE.

The aftermath

As if this wasn’t enough, the neighbor allegedly called and texted death threats as well. My tenant made the decision to move out. Given the circumstances, my property manager and I agreed that we wouldn’t charge her a fee for breaking her lease.

Before she could make the move, though, she got Covid-19 and had a TIA, also known as a mini-stroke. Thankfully there were no lasting side effects, but she spent the entirety of September recuperating in my duplex, rent free.

We considered pursuing legal action against the neighbor, but our tenant didn’t want to press charges. She felt that there was little for her to gain by doing so, and potentially a lot to lose.

The importance of a strong “Why”

You can’t make stuff like this up. It’s just too ridiculous.

The pit bull and car fire put me in a temporary funk. I spent a few days scowling and worrying about the situation. I wondered if this was a sign that I was expanding too quickly or that real estate investing wasn’t a great idea.

But having a strong “Why” saved me. I previously wrote about my motivation for real estate investing in this post: My Why: family, friends, and freedom

Here’s my Why: I want the ability to spend more time with my kids, see my friends when and where I want, and have the freedom to travel the world for months at a time.

Thinking about this allowed me to put this disastrous situation out of my mind.

Next week, we’ll be doing a “tenant turn” on the vacant unit. This means doing some painting and repairs to get the unit ready for a new tenant. With any luck, I’ll finally have both units up and running by Thanksgiving.


I hope you enjoyed this installment of Anno Darwinii. This post gave you just a small taste of the hundreds of minor (and major) obstacles that come up while creating a rental real estate business.

Each of these obstacles has the power to derail the growth of your empire, but only if you let them. While I got temporarily discouraged, a strong Why was able to get me back on track.

What else is going on? I’m neck deep in the renovation of the other two duplexes, and yesterday I placed an offer on an 8 unit building. It’s full speed ahead to moFIRE, baby!


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3 years ago

Too much drama for me to deal with (your poor tenant!). I am impressed with your fortitude, but I am sticking to the stock market.


[…] some degraded plumbing and an unfortunate issue with a neighbor, things finally seem to be going right for this duplex (knock on […]

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