Every landlord at some point will encounter a problem tenant. From a perpetually failing to pay rent to destroying property—eventually, a renter will cause some sort of issue that you need to address. While a stringent screening process greatly reduces the likelihood of ever allowing a troublesome tenant on your property in the first place, what do you do when such a person inevitably slips through the cracks? Here are eight tips for managing this type of situation:
Establish Ground Rules at the Outset.
A signed lease agreement should detail the exact rules and regulations that people living on your property must follow. Be clear and unambiguous in your wording, describing how and when tenants must pay rent, what they may and may not do on your property, what repercussions will occur if they fail to comply with the rental agreement, and other important policies.
Never assume renters will read the agreement themselves. Instead, put aside time to review it with them before providing them with their own copy. By taking this extra step at the outset, you can limit the possibility of your residents pleading ignorance later on.
Keep Thorough Records.
When dealing with tenants, document everything, including phone calls, in-person conversations, notices served, and maintenance requests. You should have detailed records of any and all communication. Written documentation is appropriate most of the time, but you should also make sure to save any relevant photos, videos, text messages, and voicemails.
Failure to keep thorough records can result in a situation where you cannot disprove a renter’s false claim, such as that he or she was not responsible for damage to a unit. What’s more, you may face legal action if a tenant realizes that you lack proper documentation regarding an ongoing dispute. One way to avoid these pitfalls is to be methodical in your record keeping. If necessary, you should consider purchasing customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Respond Quickly and Decisively.
As a landlord, you have many eyes on you when a renter behaves inappropriately on your property. The offending tenant will look to see if you issue a meaningful reprimand and, if you don’t, he or she may determine that there is no consequence to flouting your property’s rules and regulations. Responsible residents, on the other hand, will judge whether you can effectively address a problem that may be disrupting their lives.
All of this explains the need to respond to issues with tenants quickly and decisively. As soon as you learn of a violation to a lease agreement, you should contact the renter. Describe the steps required to resolve the violation, and tell him or her that you expect compliance within a specific period of time. Do not hesitate on this point. The quality of life on a property can deteriorate rapidly when you allow problems to fester.
Keep Your Cool.
Although you may sometimes feel angry with a troublesome tenant, you should never communicate with him or her when in an agitated state. Doing so is not only unprofessional, it puts you in a position in which you may make a situation worse.
If you can, take some time to calm down before interacting with a renter. He or she will almost certainly receive your message better if you maintain a calm demeanor while you deliver it.
Keep Your Objectivity.
Laying out clear policies in your lease agreement eliminates any ambiguity about how to handle a situation with a problem tenant. You’ve already decided what to do, so all you need to do is proceed with your enforcement procedures as planned.
Yes, you will hear some heartbreaking stories, and you may even find yourself feeling sorry for some residents. Remember that operating a successful property means remaining objective and firm in your policies.
Engage in a Charm Offensive.
However, you shouldn’t feel as if you have to act like an automaton. In fact, one strategy for dealing with difficult tenants involves showering them with effusive kindness.
As part of this strategy, you should always respond quickly and courteously to renters’ phone calls and e-mails. You should also acknowledge their point of view and make sure never to lose your patience. Engaging in this sort of charm offensive can result in a softening of their attitudes and amicable resolutions to disputes.
Request That They Leave the Property.
If your attempts to manage your relationship with a troublesome tenant fail, you may want to consider requesting that he or she move out. Unfortunately, you have no guarantee that renters will agree to your proposal, and the law forbids you from trying to force someone out of a unit without obtaining an eviction order. Still, there is little harm in asking.
You may also consider offering to pay them to leave. When attempting this strategy, be clear that you will only submit payment to them once they fully vacate a unit, clean it, and return the keys.
No landlord wants to reach this point, but sometimes your only choice to rid yourself of a difficult tenant is to pursue an eviction. Remember that evictions may only occur for certain reasons, such as failure to pay rent or violating your property’s policies. You cannot evict someone simply because you don’t like the person.
If you decide to move forward with an eviction, hire an attorney familiar with your state’s laws and let the legal process play out. Securing an eviction is costly, so make sure you’ve exhausted all of your options prior to initiating the process.