Heard any scary tenant stories lately?
While nightmare tenancies are rare, each time one occurs it sends shock waves throughout the landlord community. No one can completely prevent tenants from hell — and the blame rests solely with the bad tenant — but there do appear to be some common predictors that foreshadow a problem tenancy:
The landlord selects a tenant without all the facts.
Renting on Christmas Eve might sound charitable, but as one landlord later discovered, that should have set off alarms.
Bad tenants use all sorts of ploys to garner an emotional response — like asking for help at Christmas — to get out of a tenant background check that could reveal a horrible rental history. Landlords cannot afford to make judgements based on emotion.
Prequalify applicants before showing them the property. At the very least, determine why the tenant is moving. This is especially important when the tenant is coming in at a strange time, like the middle of a month or earlier than a standard six-month or one-year lease. Speak with the current landlord and find out if the tenant provided adequate notice or is behind on the rent and in the process of being evicted. Never rent on the spot to a tenant who needs help or seems charming. That is a recipe for disaster.
Don’t choose a tenant until all the facts are in. Remain skeptical, even when there’s an emotional tug.
The landlord fails to manage.
If a landlord leaves a management void, the tenant will fill it — and push the landlord out.
Landlords must know their rights and responsibilities, and then educate tenants on theirs. It’s important to lead. Otherwise, the consequences can be dire.
Once a tenant is in the property, follow procedures for day-to-day concerns like repair requests and noise complaints, and hold tenants accountable when they violate the terms of the tenancy agreement.
It’s also important to remain professional. There is no place for emotion in property management. Whether it’s nitpicking minor issues or disappearing altogether, bad communication can turn even the best tenants into monsters. Once that happens, it’s hard to salvage the tenancy.
The landlord botches the eviction.
Eviction is a highly-adversarial and complicated legal matter. A landlord cannot simply wing it and hope for a good outcome.
One common mistake with nightmare tenants is trying to be conciliatory. Everyone hopes to avoid an eviction filing, but when it comes to dealing with problem tenants, the landlord must remain in a position of power. For instance, some landlords will file for eviction first, then listen to the tenant who wants to try to settle. In that case, there is little to lose by negotiating. But allowing concessions to a tenant who is disrespectful — like a chronic late-payer or someone who is trashing the property — will only embolden a bad tenant. Eviction delays are costly and are to be expected. Starting early may be the only way to minimize income loss.
Tenants generally have access to free or low-cost legal advice. Landlords don’t. The tenant’s attorney will be combing through the eviction filing searching for any technical mistakes. That can sink the eviction. Don’t fall prey to the system. Get legal help and do it right the first time.
Landlord and tenant boards are notoriously pro-tenant, and tenants seldom admit any wrongdoing. Landlords need to be prepared to show every item of damage and prove every infraction of the tenancy agreement. Landlords also may be called upon to discuss their property management policies. With good, contemporaneous documentation, it is possible to prove that the tenant is lying and bolster the landlord’s credibility at the same time. That gets results.
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).
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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.