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How To Handle Bad Tenants

Running a rental property is difficult enough, but if you are dealing with bad tenants, it makes the whole experience even harder. When tenants sign the lease, you expect them to stick to the terms therein, but landlords often face problems here. A good rental situation can quickly become a nightmare if the issue is not handled properly.

Even the best landlords with years of experience can have a bad tenant, and the key is problem-solving. Difficult tenants come in many forms, from late rent payments to illegal use of the space. Read on for the best ways to handle bad tenants and the particular situations you might find yourself in!

General Tips for Dealing with Bad Tenants

Outside of some specific problem situations that commonly arise with bad tenants, here are some general ways to handle a less-than-optimal tenancy circumstance. 

Eviction is a costly and time-consuming process, so try some of these tips first!

Communication is Key

As in most areas of life, communication with your tenants is crucial to keeping everyone on the same page, and this is even more important with bad tenants. Issues that come up can be due to a communication breakdown, but it’s best to talk it out if there is a clear problem.   

Get insurance

Insurance is crucial for any owner of a rental property. So it is important to call your insurance agent and set up a policy to ensure you have the proper coverage.

Meet to Discuss and Find a Resolution

If you are experiencing recurring issues with your tenant, but want to save the landlord-tenant relationship, try scheduling a sit-down meeting with them. Discussing issues face-to-face can be easier than relying on texts or emails that can be easily misconstrued or ignored. 

If the situation is particularly strained or volatile, consider hiring a landlord-tenant mediator to assist at this meeting and with the arbitration process. They can supervise both parties and their grievances and help identify a solution that works for everyone involved.

Terminate the Lease

This is often the last resort option for landlords and depends on the leasing laws of your local jurisdiction. Before moving forward with this step, ensure that you fully understand the municipal regulations that relate to tenant protections.

Typically, a landlord can send tenants a letter informing them that the lease will not be renewed once it expires. This notification will be made 30, 60, or even 90 days in advance, depending on local and state laws. Make sure to include all moving-out policies in the letter and any other details of the lease non-renewal, as per the provisions in the lease.

Use the Tenancy Paperwork to Clarify Problems or Questions

Once your tenant signs the lease, they should follow all the terms within it. But if you run into problems following your rules or stipulations, use the tenancy agreement to solve them. Make sure you know the essential parts of what your tenancy agreement entails, and be prepared to walk your tenant through it again if issues arise.

Additionally, ensure inventories and damage logs are up-to-date and filled out and signed by the tenant. This will make disputes over damage much easier to resolve. If necessary, a third-party arbitrator can be brought in to examine the documentation and damages to determine fault.

What to Do if You Have Illegal Tenants or Secret Subletters

Tenants who try subletting the property without tenant permission create one of the most problematic situations for a landlord. Multiple extended guests are also an issue, as liability only covers the signed tenants of the property.

Guest Checks

Tenants do have the right to entertain guests or have people stay over for several days. But if your tenant is planning on having any long-term guests or significant others, they need to clear it with the landlord first. Keeping track of guests is important for safety and other considerations.

Inspect Often

Inspections are a great way to determine what has been happening in your rental property. Carry out routine inspections of the space and keep an eye out for any unauthorized occupants or signs of long-term guests’ presence. 

No Subletting

Make it clear in the tenancy agreement that you do not allow subletting within your property. You don’t want anyone living in your rental house that you have not vetted first. As long as no subletting is allowed in the lease, you can fall back on this legal document should issues arise.

What to Do if Your Tenant Causes Severe Property Damage

Normal wear and tear are to be expected when running a tenancy, but intentional and severe property damage leaves landlords with significant repair costs.

Analyze the Damage

Do a thorough investigation of the damage to the property, the repairs necessary, and the estimated cost. Record these things in an itemized list that will apply to the tenant’s security deposit deductions. Take photos of all damage that is over the expected amount.

Then, communicate both verbally and in writing to the tenant what funds are required for the repairs. Alert them to any deduction from their security deposit and implement a payment deadline. Remember that tenants might refuse to pay, and you may need to go to court.

Inventory Checks

Ensure the damage was done by the tenant and not previous owners by comparing the photos from before the tenant moved in with the space now and checking the move-in inventory. Additionally, ensure no damage was caused by a natural disaster, flooding, hurricane, etc.

What to Do if Your Tenant has Habitual Late Rent Payments

One or two experiences with late rent payments are not terrible, but a tenant who continuously fails to pay the rent on time does need to be held accountable.

Adjust the Payment Schedule

If your tenant is struggling with a shortage of income, consider adjusting the rental payment schedule from monthly lump sums to a more manageable bi-weekly one. Alternatively, you can discuss potentially lowering the rent temporarily until your tenant is back on their feet or about finding a roommate.

Create Reminders 

Even if the rental agreement has a built-in grace period for late rent payments, consider implementing an automated reminder. Automatic reminders that go out before the due date or when the due date is missed can fix a potentially forgetful incident and solve the problem.

Financial Penalties

However, if your tenant repeatedly does not pay the rent on time and adjusting payment expectations does not fix the root of the problem, consider implementing financial penalties. A tenant who is faced with extra fees for late rent might think twice about letting payday pass. Be sure to include this penalty in your lease for extra security.

What to Do if Your Tenant Has Secret Pets or Pet Damage

Unfortunately, if your building or unit has a no-pet policy, some tenants might ignore it completely and sneak their furry or scaley friends in any way—making post-tenancy cleaning more difficult.

Be Vigilant in Inspections

Keep alert for signs of secret pets during regular inspections. Like illicit subletters, you can often find evidence of pets in the home. Being alerted to the presence of unauthorized pets early on will make it easier for you and your tenants to come to a resolution and hopefully prevent further damage from taking place.

Discuss An Update

Suppose you are willing to budge on your no-pets policy or have a pet deposit clause you can implement for your tenants, schedule a meeting to discuss an update to the lease. A monthly pet payment can often offset your cleaning fees to cover any extra work to be done upon moving out.

However, significant pet property damage should still be left entirely in the tenant’s hands. If pets and their wear and tear were not in your lease agreement, this damage is not something you agreed to cover.

Removal of Pets or Tenants

Removing tenants or their pets might seem like an unkind option, but you need to be firm if you absolutely cannot have pets in your rental property. Inform the tenants that the pet needs to be removed or they face fines and eviction. In addition, any damage created by the illicit pet will be deducted from their security deposit, and excess repairs will be on their dime.

What to Do if Your Tenant is Disrupting the Neighbors

No matter how rigorous your vetting policy, some tenants just are not good neighbors. This is especially problematic when your rental property is a unit in a shared building or near other people. Disrupting neighbors can be a major issue when it comes to tenants.

Issue a Warning

Let the tenants know that you are aware of the problem and closely monitor the situation. Remind tenants of any rental clauses or building regulations that discuss noise levels and sound curfew times. You must be willing to enforce these.

Let Tenants Resolve the Issue

It’s not always in your best interest as a landlord to step in immediately when tenants are disagreeing. However, trying not to take a side, at least at first, can be beneficial. For example, if your tenants are disrupting neighbors by being noisy, allow the parties to try and come to a resolution themselves.

However, if this is not working and tensions are just escalating, it’s time to step in. You can advise fines and eviction that follow any further breach of quiet times or noise levels. In addition, many local jurisdictions have bylaws dealing with excessive noise that can help you.

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