Getting Rid of Problem Tenants

by Chris on August 8, 2010

There is a common saying among property managers and landlords: it’s much easier to allow tenants in than it is to get them out.

That’s a mantra Los Angeles property manager Adam Bray-Ali knows all too well. In L.A., rent control laws severely restrict a landlord’s ability to evict tenants, even those who commit crimes.

While there are no restrictions on a landlord running a criminal background check before they rent, without explicit provisions in the lease agreement prohibiting all levels of criminal behavior and some cooperation from a judge,  Bray-Ali can’t evict in some instances, like when the tenant gets arrested for a crime committed off of the rental property.

This is true despite the fact that other tenants are complaining or want to leave.

“I can try to evict for nuisance to neighbors or property, but that takes a sustained and regular amount of stupidity by the tenant to work out in my favor,” he says.

L.A.’s rent control provisions place the burden on the landlord to prove that they have a valid reason to evict, and to provide witnesses. More often than not, that means inconveniencing other tenants who will have to spend their time testifying in court.

When faced with protracted litigation and the very real possibility of losing in court, Bray-Ali has found the best way to deal with a problem tenant who is protected from being evicted is to be open, honest and very direct.

“Before serving any eviction papers, I verbally offer them money to move and tell them that the offer will only be good if they move, leave the place clean and do not expect me to pay for a lawyer in the process. They are welcome to get legal counsel, but I will not pay any attorney fees for them,” Bray-Ali says.

“If at that point they move – great! I’ve just saved a bundle of money and gotten my unit back undamaged. If not, I start documenting any and all issues and become the tough guy landlord, raising rents at any possible point, enforcing any rules in their rental agreement and in general, keeping complete documentation on every issue so when the time comes I am ready to make my case in court.”

Any landlord who is facing an eviction may discover that getting rid of a problem tenant is not all that easy. Courts require strong justification, and may side with a tenant who has not broken a specific provision of the lease, or where the infraction is deemed to be minor.

While it may seem an unappealing position to offer a bad tenant money, the “cash for keys” alternative – offering a payment to a tenant you can’t evict easily in exchange for return of your unit, may be your best eviction strategy.

Adam Bray-Ali is a licensed California broker and Property Manager with Arroyo Apartments in Los Angeles. Bray-Ali is available to assist landlords with rental property management in northeast L.A. Email Adam@arroyoapartments.com.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Services, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Alberta Eviction December 23, 2010 at 11:37 am

To many new landlords simply don’t do enough initial screening of their tenants which can save major headaches if you have to evict a problem tenant later. As the author states it’s easier to let tenants in than it is to get them out, so take the extra time to ensure you get the right people in to begin with.

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