Top Strategies for Handling Problem Tenants

by Chris on November 9, 2015

Eventually, every landlord has to handle a problem tenant. Anticipate it, and you will sail through the process with minimal stress or income loss.

Here are some top strategies to guide you:

Absentee Landlords Have More Problems

Absentee landlords — those who live far away or leave tenants to manage alone — are most susceptible to problem tenants, including property damage, disturbances and even criminal activity in their properties. There is a simple reason why: lack of communication.

tenant screeningWithout ongoing landlord-tenant interaction, it is virtually impossible to establish rapport with tenants, and to gain their respect.

As a result, tenants may take matters into their own hands, whether that’s making their own repairs or fighting with the neighbours.

You don’t have to be at the property 24/7 in order to have a successful tenancy, but you do have to be “present” in the minds of your tenants. Create that impression by showing your professionalism when you first advertise, during tenant screening and leasing, and regularly throughout the tenancy.

Routine property inspections, periodic communications like rent receipts or newsletters — even signs posted around the unit or property — are good ways to create that presence.

Respond as Soon as Possible

The next step to successfully quelling a problem is a quick response. Whether you have discovered the problem yourself or you have received a complaint, immediacy is a landlord’s best friend.

Allowing a problem to linger only makes things worse. It’s far easier to resolve a dispute while the trail is still fresh. Also, tenants soon will learn whether their landlord is responsive — and responsible. Teach by example, and tenants will be more trusting, and far less likely to overreact.

It is in your best interests to have tenants call you when there is a problem, and preferably, to call you first. Don’t discourage those calls by ignoring your tenants. Next time, they may call someone else, like the police or building department, or try to handle it themselves, which can lead to income loss. Take for example the tenant who took it upon himself to spray dangerous pesticides throughout the building to eradicate a pest problem. Landlords cannot endure that level of liability.

Don’t Fan the Flames

Be careful not to come on too strong too quickly. Escalating a conflict is something that landlords cannot afford to do. Sure, you’re annoyed that this problem arose, but this is a part of the landlord business. Keep it in perspective.

If the situation can be resolved through friendly communication, like an explanation as to why the tenant cannot continue the activity, then by all means keep it civil. Don’t turn a tenant against you by immediately going on the attack if a simple nudge could suffice. As the problem escalates, so should your response, but keep it commensurate. If possible, allow the tenant a chance to do the right thing, salvage the tenancy, and keep the property profitable.

Follow Through

Whether it’s damage to the unit or a dispute with other tenants, once you believe you’ve solved the problem, be sure to check back in with all tenants involved. This is your opportunity to gauge if smoldering issues or hard feelings remain. At the same time, if tenants are satisfied that you care and will handle other situations as professionally, they’ll look to you for guidance in the future, rather than becoming disgruntled or taking matters into their own hands. Responsiveness is a critically important trait for a landlord.

Learn to Spot Good Tenants

Have a lot of tenant problems? Maybe you should take a hard look at your tenant screening policies. If you focus on applicants who demonstrate financial responsibility, you are well on your way to finding good renters. Likewise, if you learn to eliminate applicants with a bad rental history, especially protracted evictions, you further hedge your bets. Along with running tenants screening reports, check in with current and previous landlords to get a sense of whether your applicant was someone else’s problem tenant.

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 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.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna A Gunia November 24, 2015 at 11:36 am

I have a tenant who is disabled (non verbal)…PS I also have a daughter who is the same way. This tenant had a history of harrassment and we gave her a chance only to find that she is constantly sending nasty messages, talking down to owner, harrassing, intimidating and bullying owner and owners family. Got any good advice? We have verbally nicely asked her to stop and sent her appropriate reply to her texts etc but she won’t stop so we are preparing to not renew her lease in March. Suggestions? EXample it snowed she sent text demanding 1st snow removal which we did in 3 minutes and then she starte lying and claiming we were swearing at her etc…and then she threatened falling and suing etc. We just can’t believe this over and over again?

Ben January 31, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Sounds like your Ego got itself in the wringer. “Talking down to owner”? “Bullying owner and owners family”? This is something that is very tricky to prove, as it is he said, she said.
As you well know, not renewing a lease based on these items would constitute retaliation, which is illegal, and trumping up small petty additional reasons will cost you in the big picture.

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