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

by Chris on November 14, 2011

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.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne McKenney November 22, 2011 at 7:50 am

For the past 1 1/2 years my tenant has been enduring loud domestic violence and partying from the unit directly above the one we rent to her. I have filed 8 formal complaints with all the details properly documented to the strata council and the property manager. The police have been called on numerous occasions and have attended promptly. The woman upstairs was even taken away in an ambulance on one occasion. The police have told my tenant that they have been called out to this address so many times in the past that they can’t believe that the strata council has not done anything about it. Previously, because of privacy issues, the strata council or property manager would not even tell me if action had been taken let alone what action had been taken. Just recently I found out that fines had been levied and warning letters sent on several occasion but were ignored by the owner/landlord of the offending property. They have asked the landlord to evict the tenant but they have refused. The property manager and the strata council say that they have no other recourse open to them. Is this true? They will not tell me who the tenant or the owner are so I can not deal with it myself. To make it even more frustrating, for security reasons, I can not even get up to the floor above because the stairwell is locked and our key fob only allows access to the floor that our unit is on. I can not believe that my quiet, respectful tenant is going to give me her notice to move when this nuisance gets to stay. Is there really nothing that myself, the strata council or the property manager can do, legally, to force the landlord to evict this disruptive tenant? I feel like my hands are tied.

marv November 30, 2011 at 10:28 am

Joanne…you have a complex problem that no one seems to be able to solve or wants to solve.
If I were in your shoes and nothing has been working to date to resolve the problem this is what I would do.

1.) Get some legal advice on the following questions.
>is there a liability issue that lies with the Strata and with the Owners of the offending rental unit, for failure to provide quiet enjoyment of property under common law and under the tenancy act in your State/Province? Is there a liability to the Strata and the Owner in the event that another tenant in the building is assaulted, if there is damage to the building by these tenants etc. etc.

In my opinion there is a liability issue and the Strata and the Owner of the offending rental unit need to be made aware of that. If I was an Owner in that Strata I would spend a couple (a few) hundred dollars and have a lawyer/attorney write a letter to the the Strata Council and to the Owner of the offending rental advising them of their responsibilities under common law and the tenancy act for your State/Province. Joanne is anyone else in the Strata being negatively impacted by these tenants? If so some of the other Landlords might join you in pointing out the liability issue to the Strata and to the Landlord of the offending rental unit.

I might also be inclined ( I probably would) to sue the Strata and the Owner of the offending rental for loss of your rental income based on the actions of the tenants above ( loss of quiet enjoyment of property) and the inaction of the Strata and the Owner based on the same criteria. Not to mention the stress, the hassle and the costs for being unable to rent your unit because of the noise from above.

Now I am not a legal Expert and this is not legal advice. I am saying what I might do in this circumstance. It would be good to get other perspectives on what a landlord might do in this situation.

People tend to act or react in a more positive light when told that their actions or inaction might hit them in the pocket book.

Let’s hear from some other Landlords…what would you do in this circumstance?

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