5 Ways to Avoid Tenant Disputes

by Chris on May 25, 2020

The last thing landlords want to deal with is a disgruntled tenant, especially if that tenant gets passive-aggressive and stops paying rent. Target the most common reasons why tenancies go sour, and you can avoid disputes with your tenants:

Noise
Unresolved noise complaints are a major reason that tenants withhold rent, cause disruptions, or look to terminate the tenancy early.

Most noise complaints occur in multifamily properties and can be prevented by including house rules in the tenancy agreement, and then warning the offending tenant to stop.

But some noise disputes are trickier to resolve because some tenants are overly sensitive to normal noises. Once that tenant begins to focus on an annoyance, it’s hard for them to let it go.

Tenants in single-family units also may complain about noises in their environment.

Avoiding noise complaints begins when you choose your tenants. Look at rental history and determine if the applicant has been a source of noise complaints — like rowdy parties — in the past.

To avoid noise-sensitive tenants, be upfront about known distractions at the property, like traffic, early morning garbage collection, or a bar down the street, and give that applicant a chance to find a place that better suits their needs.

With existing tenant who are chronic complainers, try your best to be understanding, but offer the option of terminating the tenancy without penalties. Sometimes that “out” relieves the stress for the tenant, and they learn to tolerate the situation. If not, you will be free to pick someone else who is not bothered by the noises.

Maintenance
The number one complaint tenants raise against property managers is the failure to fix things when they break. The easiest way to solve that problem is to use a repair request form.

The form will serve as proof that the tenant complained and will create a timetable for fixing the problem. Allowing repairs to languish frustrates the tenant who begins to feel they are not getting their money’s worth. Completing the repair request form makes it seem like something is going to be done about the problem.

Fill the request form out over the phone with the tenant, and discuss the procedure that you will follow to resolve the problem. Scan and send a copy of the form to the tenant.

The form should include a section for follow up. Before filing the repair form, speak to the tenant once the repair is made and ask if the tenant is satisfied. Thank the tenant for reporting the repair item.

Keep a copy of the repair form in the general building file for recordkeeping and to track warranties on repairs.

Restrictions
No one likes surprises, least of all tenants, who feel blindsided when they bring home a pet or a roommate and the landlord responds with an eviction notice.

Tenancy agreements, even simple or “standard” ones, are several pages long, and not that easy to follow. Tenants sometimes genuinely forget what they promised to do — or not do.

Make it easy to do the right thing by highlighting the rules that will result in a risk of eviction. If bringing in a pet is unacceptable, for instance, then draw a lot of attention to that provision in the lease. Read it together, place it in bold, have the tenant initial it, or better yet, compile the most important rules in a summary page or lease addendum for easy reference. The tenant should know what the landlord won’t stand for — before the tenant moves in.

Changes
Tenants strongly dislike changes made during the course of the tenancy. This is one way to make even the best tenants want to pick up and leave — or stop paying rent.
Don’t take away tenant amenities, add in a fee, or place restrictions on the use of the property after the lease is signed, unless you get the tenant’s consent.

Examples include:
No longer providing on-site laundry;
Limiting the hours for on-site laundry;
Prohibiting pets or marijuana mid-lease;
Eliminating the tenant’s parking space;
Taking over the basement, driveway, garage, or storage shed with the landlord’s belongings; or,
Adding fees for any amenities that were free.

Modifying the terms of the lease requires the tenant’s consent, and probably some sort of adjustment in the rent. Otherwise, landlords generally are not allowed to increase fees or take away amenities after the lease is signed. Wait for the next tenant before changing the terms.

Right of Entry
Tenants have an expectation of privacy, and the landlord who shows up unannounced or too frequently likely will face a tenant dispute.

Avoid the problem by:
Understanding your legal rights concerning entry. Typically, a landlord will be required to provide at least 24 hours’ notice and to have a good reason to come to the property, unless there is an emergency;

Spell out planned visits — like routine property inspections or work that is already scheduled — in the tenancy agreement so the tenants are prepared. Notice still is required at least 24 hours in advance; and,

Make the most of each visit by combining tasks where possible, like conducting a routine inspection (with the tenant’s consent) at the same time that other work is being completed.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, 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 is 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.

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