What To Do When Your Long-term Tenant Becomes Your Problem Tenant

by | Nov 14, 2011 | Rental Property Management Tips

Q: I rent out a 2 bedroom carriage house. The same tenant has lived there for 4 years. I renovated the unit prior to her moving in and it was in mint condition. I have not increased the rent in four years.

Now, the place has become a disaster. She does not even bring her recycling to a recycling bin close by. I have spoken to her about it for a second time and pointed out fire safety issues or a possible pest infestation. I am also trying to sell my property, and this does not present well to a potential buyer.

I could cry with frustration and disappointment. What should I do if she refuses to clean up her act? – TVS Landlord

A: The trouble may be that you are trying to be nice.

There are two issues that jump out in the situation you describe. First, you have not increased the rent in four years. Additionally, you mention that you are now giving the tenant a second warning.

Getting stuck with a problem renter can be especially frustrating when a landlord is going overboard to please the tenant. But those concessions can be perceived as a lack of authority over your rental property–and that only emboldens a problem tenant.

You need to stay at all times in the role of landlord. That means being clear on the rules, knowing and following the law, and acting fairly.  Above all, landlords need to take a “wish for the best but expect the worst” attitude with tenants.

It helps to have a plan of action in place before the problem arises:

Find out–preferably before you lease to a tenant, what rights you have a landlord when it comes to evicting a tenant. Make it clear to the tenant from the very beginning what will not be tolerated.

Make sure your lease agreement includes those provisions so you will have the right to evict a problem tenant as soon as the problem arises.

Educate your tenants about their responsibilities regarding the property.  Take a look at www.tenantsinfo.com for specifics.

Inspect your property on a regular basis–every 6-8 weeks is a good measure. This allows you to resolve problems very early on, helps you educate tenants about what is expected of them, and can minimize damage caused by a problem tenant.   It also puts you in front of the tenant on a regular basis, and that can reinforce the landlord-tenant relationship.

Respond to your tenant right away if they have questions or concerns so they know you are interested in the property.

Be prepared to act immediately if there is a problem. Indecisiveness can make a bad situation even worse. For instance, decide ahead of time if you would file an eviction yourself or hire an expert if such a situation were to arise.

In this case, the tenant may be hoarding, or at the very least is too messy. This is probably a violation of the local fire code, and puts everyone–the tenant herself, other tenants, and you, at risk. It may be a lease violation if proper maintenance is covered there. If you are not sure whether you have the right to evict her, then seek legal counsel immediately to find out.

Offer the tenant one warning, and allow a reasonable time for her to fix the problem.

If she does not comply, and you have determined that you have the right to evict her, file the eviction paperwork as soon as possible. Don’t be sentimental that she’s been there four years. A problem tenant is a problem tenant, and you–and your property, would be better off without her.

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.

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