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Dealing with Problem Tenants Has Never Been Easier


Problem tenants are a property manager’s worst nightmare. You prepared, planned, and interviewed, but your new tenants are not working out the way you hoped they would. When you’re facing tenant problems, your property management software can serve as an unexpected ally. This software not only collects data but also helps you identify trends or send out information to prevent problems with tenants in the first place.

If you’ve been working in the property management space for more than ten years, chances are you have already come across at least a few tenants who fall into these problem categories – the habitual whiner who is never out of reasons to complain, the rule-breaker who runs some illegal activity out of the property, the late-payer who never pays the rent on time, the non-payer who refuses to pay the rent—and the worst kind, the destroyer who trashes your property without a second thought.

While rigorous tenant screening can sometimes help you weed out potential troublemakers, a few still manage to wiggle their way through. As a property manager, you need to have one or two tricks up your sleeve to deal with such people before they make life difficult for you, the landlord, and the other tenants.

Tenants who are late paying the rent

They pay the rent every month – but after the due date. If you talk to them, they’ll most likely have one reason or the other why they couldn’t make the rent on time. But late payments, while inconvenient, can also put your landlords in a financially difficult position. So what is the best way to handle late-payers?

If the tenants are not habitual offenders and you have a good working relationship with them otherwise, your first step should be to send out a late rent notice reminding them that the payment is due. If it was an honest mistake, they will clean up their act and send you the rent immediately. If you don’t see any signs of that happening, give them a call and try to find out what is happening.

If your tenants have made late rent payments a habit, then you need to start taking tougher measures. But be careful not to call them repeatedly because they can turn the tables on you and accuse you of harassment.  The next time they miss the due date, send them a pay or quit notice, which will give them 3 to 14 days (depending on the local laws) to pay the rent or move out.

If proactive property management is more your style, try preventing such situations by sending out reminder emails before the due date or setting up incentives for making timely rent payments over a fixed period of time.

Tenants who love breaking the rules

The majority of tenants are decent, law-abiding citizens. However, there are always a few bad apples. If you have a tenant who has become a regular nuisance to his neighbors or is violating the terms of the lease blatantly, you need to take action immediately.

As a first step, talk to the client and find out his version of the story. Explain the situation to them and ask them to stick to the terms of the lease without fail. Remember to stay calm and non-confrontational. Showing hostility or hurling accusations will only aggravate the situation. If the problem persists and you see no signs of the situation improving, you may have to send out a cure or quit notice.

If the problem is more serious and you suspect the tenants are using the property for some kind of dangerous or criminal activity, you may need to contact the authorities to ensure the safety of your property and that of your other tenants.

Tenants who damage the property

While most tenants take pains to take care of the home/apartment as their own, there are others who intentionally damage the property or leave behind a terrible mess out of spite or pure carelessness. Of course, you also have the ‘remodelers’ who change the flooring, paint the walls a new color and replace the fixtures without your permission.

While you can’t expect the tenant to pay for the normal wear and tear of the property, in most states, you can ask him to pay for damages that were caused by his activities. If the tenant agrees to pay for repairs, you can either send him the bill directly or add the charges to their rent. If worse comes to worst, a detailed inventory at the time of move-in, proper documentation of the condition of the property, and time-stamped photos or videos can help you claim the damages from the security deposit.

Regular home inspections are the best way to stay informed on the condition of the property. In addition, make sure that your tenant signs up for renter’s insurance, which will help cover most damages caused by negligence.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.