The Pros and Cons of Long-Term Tenants

by Chris on June 25, 2012

Landlords sometimes make the assumption that the ideal tenant is the one who sticks around for a long, long time.  

For instance, a landlord may assume that the long-term tenant guarantees monthly rental income, making the rental a good investment.  It can seem like less work to keep the same tenant and avoid the hassle of finding new ones, and that the tenants who like where they live will take better care of the property.

Unfortunately, these assumptions don’t always ring true. The long-term tenant can, over time,  become the tenant from hell. Take the case of the “ideal” tenant who remained for years, but turned out to be a hoarder, the one who sublet the property for a higher rent and made a monthly profit, or the one who now has so many pets they couldn’t live anywhere else.

There is no such thing as “auto-pilot” when it comes to managing rental properties.  Extending the lease or allowing an existing tenant to remain long-term does not guarantee that the tenant will always pay rent or keep the property clean.

When considering offering a long-term lease — more than one year — to a new tenant, pay special attention to the applicant’s rental history. Have they stayed in one place for a long time in the past?  What incentives does this person have to stay in the property — for instance, do their kids go to school nearby?

When renewing leases for tenants who want to stay, don’t let down your guard just because the first year went well.  Inspect the property before you agree to a renewal.  Ask for an updated rental application and, if your local laws allow, consider running tenant screening reports to see if the tenant has lost their good credit rating or is otherwise unqualified.  Consider the possibility that the tenant wants to renew because they no longer qualify for a new lease somewhere else.

When the same tenant remains in the rental for a long time, it is easy to lose track of needed maintenance on the rental property.   Don’t forget to make a plan for routine upkeep. 

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 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.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Feng Sun June 26, 2012 at 6:33 am

Thanks for the information provided here. It helps me a lot.

Carlos June 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Very good information, did not think about some of these points you raise.

Thank you.

Paulette July 3, 2012 at 8:25 am

There are also the long term tenants who develop a sense of ownership. Somehow they believe the rules don’t apply to them, but rather that they should decide how the building is managed – another nightmare.

Neil July 3, 2012 at 10:17 am

Thanks for some of these tips… Another tip that I may offer is the rent increases.. unfo. your provincial laws may allow you to increase your rent by a measely 2.5% to 3% whereas some of the utilities and taxes have gone much higher than that… With a new lease agreement, you can start fresh with a new rent price that should hopefully cover ALL your costs associated…

Marv July 4, 2012 at 9:06 am

There is nothing wrong with a month to month lease after the initial one year lease. A tenant isn’t going to stay just because he/she has signed a one year lease. Many one year leases are broken/breached and usually there is not much the landlord can do about it. So instead of pressuring the tenant into a one year lease, go with month to month.

I don’t think it really matters to the tenant, but the month to month if tenant is agreeable can certainly alleviate any hassle. Don’t get hung up on a one year lease, is what I’m trying to say. I have two long term tenants now who are on month to month. I believe that they will stay because want to, not because they signed a one year lease.

Laurel July 4, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Totally agree with Paulette!

We had a couple on a long-term lease who decided that they didn’t want us to take out a rotted wrought-iron fence and replace it with a new pool safe barrier wall because it would ‘violate the implied covenant to their right of quiet enjoyment of the property’.

Ugh. It took us two months and lots of lawyer bills and finally a violation notice from the city’s building department to get it through their thick heads that this was a pool/life safety issue that they had no control over.

Plus, although they said they were having a gardener take care of the property (and that was in the lease), all the guy must have done is mow-anbd-blow as the yard was a mess, with overgrown pampas grass, dead flowers, diseased roses, etc.

If there EVER is a next time that we have tenants, we will make sure that our lease is VERY specific and detailed in protecting us as landlords.
No ‘assuming’ that anyone will be reasonable or logical, or proper care will be taken.

The laws seem to protect the tenants FAR more than they do the landlords, and that should be recitified!

Robin July 5, 2012 at 9:01 am

Wish I had read this several years ago. I had what I thought was a good long-term tenant. All started well the first three or four years. The family grew, and the father was fired from his job–by his own father! (Turns out he was into drugs and who knows what else!) Things got worse so gradually, and I didn’t clamp down on the mess being created. Eventually, he stopped paying rent and I had to evict. I was left with a horrible clean-up. He took out his anger (over lost job, ruined life due to drugs, etc.) on my house, including holes in the walls and nails in the garbage disposal. It didn’t matter that I had been helpful and had kept the rent lower than the going rate for several years! It was a hard lesson for this landlord to learn!

Gina October 4, 2014 at 11:21 am

There are dome very good long term tenants. I have one always pays her rent 2 weeks before it is do. Every 4 years she paints her apartment and every 2 years replaces her blinds . She will only ask me to fix or repair things if she can not fix it herself. She has been there 10 years plus and I wish all my tenants treated their places like they owned it!

tyco June 16, 2016 at 2:55 pm

thank you for sharing

Lili May 13, 2017 at 11:40 am

I dont agree with everything you said about long term tenant. It seems that most commenters are landlord and nobody is writing as a tenant, there s always two sides in every story.

I am a long term tenant, my place has had 3 change of ownership, which is not good for me. Each owner has had their own rules!!
I have been treated this place like my own, because I paid for it so it is my home, whether i take care of plants or broken thing, always keep it clean.
But, the landlord has hardly done any repairs at all, for 10 years no paint, no fixing broken window, all the old appliances are the same for 10 years and when I write to them, their response is “well, it is expensive, I can send someone to clean it”, cleaning doesn’t take care of a cracked wall, does it?
The landlord, upgrade after each tenant move out, but they dont want to even paint, change anything in my apartment. I just found it stupid not to even try to keep your long term tenant but prefer to keep looking for a new one and every time upgrade or replace appliances for the new one but not for the one who has been paying you for many years!
As a long term tenant, I think it is not beneficial for tenant to stay in a place for long time, a landlord would treat you like an ATM machine without responsibility.

Jeff Miller May 16, 2017 at 11:06 am

I just want to remind people that there are long term tenants that are actually very caring of the property they rent. Me and my mother have been renting the same apartment for 15 yeas (Since 2002). Please don’t group all of us in a few categories, there are some of us who are what landlords would dream to have.

John Taverns October 12, 2017 at 12:44 pm

I must agree that there are some very good long term tenants. I for one was a tenant of 10 years before I purchased my own home. My wife and I are very clean and are considerate to others. I don’t know what the ratio is of good to bad long term tenants is, but I must say that I just got rid of one that was a very nice person, but a complete pig, and after a while he did start doing things around the place that should have required my permission. So some do start feeling a sense of ownership just because they helped pay the mortgage for such a long time.

Gavin May 5, 2018 at 11:40 am

We are 4 years in and wish to live here the rest of our lives our finacial possition is difficult for number of reasons. But we pay our rent weekly 4 weeks in advance. If there is an interuption we phone our land lord explain what and why and make up payment asap some would see us as a risk but we would never miss apayment with out good reason and would make up payment within the 4 week advance to keep things running the same. Im very handy in property and do all maintanence my self at first my land lord insisted on having people in but after a few cowboys i sat down with him and pleaded he let me just get on with it. So far ive replaced rotten kitchen cupboards cleaned up a very pooly kept back garden replacing a gate that litteraĺly fell to bits. Done loft insulation. Replumed half the house thus far. I simply take pictures of whats wrong and message my land lord he prices up parts agrees with me the material cost and allows me to deduct sed amound after he has inspected completed work. Theres still lots to do but he wins his property is well looked after and constantly being made better. But i fear of his circumstances change our lifes will turn for the worce good landlords and good tenants are as hard to find as each other so if your tenants are good to you please be like my land lord give them respect and treat them once in a while.

Vicki Harvey June 6, 2019 at 8:56 am

I am a long term renter. My roommare and I have rented the house for 29 years and yes as mentioned in other tenants posts the landlord used us as an ATM. We took care of as much as possible. Painting interior and exterior, replaced garbage disposal and broken windows. However he did nothing about the leaky roof x 17 years causing mold, used a wet/dry vacuum on a substancial sewer spill and wanted to put it back down the same broken pipe before it was fixed. Fascia visibly rotting away. Get the picture. We stayed because we loved the house. House finally sold and we met the new owner who was a contractor and promised to fix everything. $700 rent increase. Almost 2 years and a call to code enforcement later we are being evicted. Still nothing is being repaired. Let me say we’re not perfect tenants because in 29 years there were hardships and rent was late on accasion but we were the best we could be. And we will leave the property as clean as possible because we are good people. Moral of the story is…theres good and bad on both sides.

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