In property management, problem tenants are an unpleasant but sometimes inevitable part of life. While a strong tenant screening solution helps to sift out bad applicants and protect your business, some troublemakers will still find their way to your properties. Someone who is screening shows to have always been a reliable rent payer might hit hard times and begin paying late. A despondent tenant might decide the right therapy is to paint the walls neon pink and get a pet potbelly pig. And no screening system yet can detect the chronic complainers who will drive you insane with their demands.
In a perfect world, every tenant you deal with will pay rent promptly, avoid damaging the property, conduct himself or herself as a responsible neighbour, and make your job easy and rewarding. After conducting a thorough reference check, pulling an excellent credit report and hearing the right answers while interviewing your prospect, you decide to enter into a rental agreement. Then he and his co-tenant become a problem. Tenants have responsibilities (which should be defined in your lease) that can be expected. However, circumstances may alter an occupant’s behaviour, or a history of poor behaviour may have been hidden during your screening process. Changes in personal relationships, job loss, medical needs, poor business performance, and loss of a loved one can affect a tenant’s personality, and the ability to perform according to your agreement. Some renters, despite good job history and the ability to pay, turn out to be problematic.
There are many roles landlords must play before and during an individual’s tenancy. Landlords are interviewers, groundskeepers, problem-solvers, and more. Sometimes they also have to add mediator to their list of job titles. Acting as a mediator might come up when a landlord’s tenants are at odds with each other. Looking for dual occupancy? Look no further! MJS Construction Group has you covered.
Regardless of how well you may screen tenants, some people are destined to argue. Even if you clearly outline the expectations of your tenants in a Lease Agreement, arguments are sometimes inevitable.
In this post, we’ll discuss some tactics you can use to help prevent conflict between tenants. We will also offer some steps you can take to help defuse confrontations between the warring renters.
What Are The Potential Problems With Tenants?
Even if you’ve done everything possible to prevent it, problems with tenants can still arise. Understanding common problems which may occur can help you spot any early warning signs. Typical difficulties with tenants can include:
- Damage to your property or furnishings. While general wear and tear can be expected during any tenancy, sometimes this can become the destruction of the property. Establishing boundaries early on about certain policies, including whether pets are allowed and if you’ll allow certain home improvements (like painting walls or hanging pictures) can help. Also, carry out regular inspections of the property to ensure you can take action where necessary.
- Noise complaints and problems with neighbours. No one wants a noisy or disruptive neighbour, and if you’re the landlord complaints can often fall to you to handle. Talking to the tenants and explain the situation is a good place to start in these instances.
- Rent arrears If you’re dealing with a tenant whose rent has fallen into arrears things can be difficult. Start by keeping a record of when rent payments are due and when they are paid and sending receipts to your tenants after payment to avoid any confusion. If after several days the rent hasn’t been paid, try calling your tenant before making a formal request in writing.
- Refusal to vacate the property once the tenancy has ended. Tenant unreliability can often cause problems if you have a new tenant ready to move in. Legally, the tenant is entitled to stay until they are evicted, so begin taking steps to start the eviction process rather than changing the locks.
- Renters are subletting without checking whether it’s allowed. Not only is this illegal in some areas but can also cause problems with the neighbours and threaten the safety of your property. To prevent your tenants from playing host to all, be specific about house guests in your lease.
- Unreasonable requests. While you’re obligated as a landlord to ensure that the property is well maintained, occasionally you might be issued with a request which you feel is unreasonable. Again, being clear in your lease agreement about your responsibilities as a landlord can help prevent this problem from occurring.
- Tenants who are willing to break the law are more likely to cause you problems eventually than others. If you come across tenants engaging in illegal activities, eviction and informing the police are your best options.
When The Going Gets Rough, And You Want Them To Get Going.
So you’ve decided enough is enough and you’re not going to take it anymore. As you probably know, you can’t just kick someone out if they have a valid lease. You also can’t take action to drive them out, such as turning off the water, changing the locks or threatening them.
An eviction is advisable only in cases where you’ve tried hard to work things out and can’t, or the tenant has engaged in illegal activities; in either case, you must go through legal channels to execute it.
How To Take Action With Problem Tenants
First, you’ll need to serve notice based on your area regulations. Use Certified Mail to avoid the age-old excuse that “we never got the letter.” Specify the number of days the tenant has to comply. Renters who otherwise show civility can become desperate or enraged over an eviction, and there are plenty of horror stories out there of evictions gone wrong.
The eviction itself must be done in cooperation with the courts. The small claims court is not appropriate for evictions, so contact an attorney specializing in evictions and let them guide the proceedings through the regular court system. By now, you should have accumulated as much evidence as possible of the reasons for the eviction, as you might have to present these to the court.
The chances are that if you’ve been in the business for a while, you’ve experienced all or most of the six troublesome renter types above, and have been through at least one eviction. While dealing with these situations is no fun, it comes with the territory. But remember that thousands of property managers have been through the same thing, and there’s plenty of good advice out there for handling the problems.
Avoiding Bad Tenants
Can you completely avoid a bad tenant from renting your space? No. There are ways, however, to minimize the likelihood of renting space to a “tenant from hell.” By having a standard rental policy and screening process, you will not only streamline your operations but may also prevent claims of discrimination. Include the following in your screening activities.
Note prospects’ appearance
Are the applicants’ dressed neatly (hopefully appropriate for the type of space you are renting)? Do they appear clean and kept up? How do their children look? Appearance can indicate the level of concern they will have about your property.
Ask direct questions that require a detailed response.
Do your questions require more than a yes or no answer? Will the responses show the character, attitude, and perspective of the applicant? If you find inconsistencies or hear “red flag” elements in responses, ask the applicant to elaborate on his response. Look for movement or mannerisms that may indicate a lack of honesty or forthrightness. Also, question all parties who will occupy the rental; evaluate each person to see how he will affect the tenancy.
Examine the application.
Is there missing information? Are there gaps in detail? Look for consistent job history and references who you can verify, such as former property managers, employers, or professional associates. Any questionable details should be brought up during the interview. At MJS Construction Group, we offer a wide range of duplex build.
Conduct a thorough screening process.
What and where is the applicant’s current job? What is her history of financial obligations? What do others say about her? Perform a criminal background check, credit report request, job history examination, and interview and verify listed references. Do as much as you can to understand the applicant’s character before you agree to rent.
Your job is to manage your property that includes the people within it. If you scrutinize your prospects well enough, your job will be that much easier.
Do they appear clean and kept up? Even the best screening process does not rule out every potential problem renter, so you have to develop methods of handling issues.
Tips for Handling Tenant Complaints Peacefully
As a landlord, you are a business owner, and therefore, must remain professional in all of your interactions. Regardless of what a tenant is complaining about, you should not change the manner in which you, the landlord, respond to the complaint.
Being understanding, calm and professional will have a huge impact on your ability to resolve the issue successfully. While you may have to adjust your response slightly depending on the type of complaint, there are certain steps you should always take.
Listen to the Complaint
One of the best skills anyone can have is to listen. You need to listen to what your tenant is telling you and not assume they are overreacting. Being respectful and understanding of the tenant’s issue may help to keep the tenant calm and will help you to be more receptive to their problem.
For example, you may be aware of a small roof leak that occurs in the bathroom when there is heavy rain. If the tenant calls to tell you there is a leak in their bathroom, you may dismiss it as the leak you are already aware of.
However, if you do not ask questions as to the exact location of the leak and the strength of the water flow, you will fail to realize that this is not the leak you are already aware of, it is a burst pipe that needs to be fixed immediately. So, you should always:
- Listen calmly to the tenant’s exact complaint
- Ask to follow up questions, so you know exactly what is going on.
If a tenant feels they can never reach you, they will be easily frustrated. This isn’t to say that a tenant should be able to reach you 24 hours a day, every day of the week.
You should have normal business hours when a tenant can contact you, for example from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. on weekdays. During these hours, you should readily respond to tenant phone calls or emails.
You should make it known that tenants should not contact you outside of these hours unless it is an emergency. Be sure to have an emergency plan in place at your property so your tenants know what is considered a real emergency and what can wait until normal business hours.
Address Complaints in a Timely Manner
Another important factor is how quickly you respond to a tenant’s issue. Depending on the severity of their complaint, you do not necessarily have to drop everything to remedy it. Still, you do need to fix the issue within a reasonable amount of time. A leak or broken front door lock needs to be fixed immediately, while things like a broken kitchen cabinet handle or cracked tile can wait a few days.
Show Genuine Concern
Dismissing a tenant’s concern is a quick way to create hostility. Regardless of how you feel about how valid their complaint is, you must always make them feel that their complaint is important and that you will do everything in your power to fix it as soon as possible. You want the tenant to feel that you are on their side, rather than being their evil landlord nemesis.
You must always professionally conduct yourself. This is your business, and you cannot allow emotions to cloud your judgment.
If a tenant is screaming, never scream back. Do not curse. Do not put yourself in legal jeopardy by threatening or resorting to tactics like ignoring maintenance requests or fiddling with a tenant’s utilities. Acts of retaliation are illegal, and it is your responsibility to keep your cool at all times.
Preventing Tenant Conflict Before It Occurs
The most common issues that arise between tenants are related to noise and clashing personalities. Sometimes these issues erupt between neighbours near. Tenants who are next-door neighbours, or directly above, below, or next to one another often encounter issues.
Theoretically, prevention can be quite simple. It starts with outlining clear expectations of your tenants in your Residential Lease Agreement.
For example, in a lease, you can specify how you expect tenants to maintain a safe and peaceful environment for all residents. You can include provisions about inappropriate behaviours. For example, you can ask tenants to refrain from being overly loud in common areas, threatening other tenants, or engaging in physical altercations. Check out our range of dual occupancy builder for your dream house.
You can also remind tenants that they have the right to peaceful or quiet enjoyment in accordance with state law. This means they can expect to live in their home free of unreasonable or recurring disturbances from other tenants and the landlord.
Some sources recommend creating a move-in package for new tenants to welcome them to a building. In a package, it’s not uncommon for landlords to include a guide to living on the property. A guide may include tips on how to interact with other tenants and good conduct practices in common areas. Expectations related to sharing a laundry room or foyer can be helpful for new tenants. You can also include any other helpful information, like where visitors can park, in a move-in package.
You could also use this guide to notify new tenants of your low tolerance for disruptive behaviours. Doing so could prevent future confrontations between residents.
How to Mediate Conflict Between Tenants
In the event of a conflict between your tenants, the ideal scenario is to have them sort out their issues themselves. But if they do not attempt to resolve an issue, or they insist on involving you, you can follow these steps:
- Listen to the complaint and try to show genuine concern. A tenant with a problem wants to be heard and taken seriously.
- Contact the offending party, and inform them of the complaint filed against them. It’s often discouraged that you name the tenant who filed the complaint, but odds are the offender will know who it was (especially if the tenants have already tried to resolve the issue themselves).
- If the offending party has a defence, hear them out. You can also take this time to discuss having a potential meeting between both tenants where you’ll act as a mediator.
- Should a meeting become necessary, let both parties air their grievances. Encourage them to present their points calmly and respectfully, and, together, you should offer each other solutions.
- For example, if the issue is related to noise, you can remind the offending tenant about the terms of the Lease Agreement they signed. You can also request they keep louder noise to weekends within reasonable hours.
- If you feel it is necessary, you can also serve them with a Notice of Lease Violation (which threatens eviction if they don’t change their behaviour).
- Document your meetings. It’s wise to send a letter or email to both parties confirming the conversations you’ve all had together. Documentation is important, especially if the situation later escalates into a formal legal matter.
- Follow up with your tenants. Check-in with both parties at a later date to see if there have been any changes (positive or negative).
If the issue continues, you can serve the offending tenant with an official Eviction Notice. If they try to dispute the eviction, the documentation of your meetings will be especially useful. Documentation shows that a tenant has been given fair warning and was provided with the opportunity to change their behaviour.
It should be noted that if a tenant is threatening other residents, getting physical with them, or you feel like they are putting you or the residents in danger, you should contact the police.
Actively Working on Resolutions Is Key
When your tenants aren’t getting along, it can negatively impact the other residents on your property. Therefore, resolving the conflict quickly and proactively is essential.
Prevention doesn’t always work. You can’t always predict how personalities and lifestyles might clash. However, once tenants have a conflict, you need to find a solution on time.
By hearing your tenants’ complaints and following a resolution process, you can help ease the conflict between them.
It’s also important to keep in mind that, as a landlord, you have obligations to your tenants to help keep them safe, and you have specific rights that allow you to end someone’s tenancy for the betterment of all residents.