When it comes to property management, one of the most frustrating issues to deal with is having problematic tenants. Even though you proceed with a tenant screening, you can still end up with a few bad apples. Here are a few examples:
- Late or Partial-pay
One of the most common situations- tenants that pay after the due date or pay a partial payment. As a business owner, you should make it very clear in the lease signing that your account system is rigid and there is no leeway about late payment penalties. Some landlords simply say that the penalty is “built into the accounting system,” which heads off a lot of pleading and begging phone calls. Above all, it should never occur to tenants that the repercussions of late payments are negotiable. When the tardiness of the rent payment (or partial payment) reaches the point where your lease indicates an action will be taken within a few days, place a call and/or send an email as a polite warning. Then, when the day comes, take the action, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Usually this is a Non Payment of Rent notice, with a specific timetable to either pay up or leave. If a renter down on their luck should turn to family, friends or another source of money rather than their landlord. You’re not their parent or pal, nor are you a bank.
2. Property Damage
First off, always take photos before a renter moves in. In case you have to go to court later down the road for damage done to the property. Also, always have a cash deposit at least $500.00. You should also have one for pets, and make sure to meet the animals to make a judgment call if they are too wild. In the case of damage, you’ll want to first request in writing that the tenant address it, and keep a copy in your records. If it’s something the tenant can’t or won’t handle, you can have your own maintenance person do the job, and then send the tenant the bill. Your lease should plainly give you the right to do this in case of damage beyond normal wear and tear. It’s a good idea to make interim inspections of the property during the lease period. If, for example, you have a strict no-smoking policy but the home smells like an ashtray, you’re going to have trouble renting to the next person, and you need to take action immediately. If the tenant either won’t fix the damage or pay the cost of having it done, you have grounds to kick them out with a “Cure or Quit” notice if your lease allows.
3. Neglectful Pet-owners
When it comes to animals, don’t make compromises. New puppies love to chew on everything, and cat urine is one of the worst things to clean. Even if you do allow pets, you’ll want to make periodic checks on the property to ensure there’s no damage happening. If you don’t allow them, but find evidence of them anyway, you’ll want to invoke consequences before the tenants have packed up and left and everything becomes more complicated. These days a lot of tenants own exotic pets, so be ready to answer whether it’s okay to have, say, a couple of Fenix Foxes living in the home. Also make sure you actually meet the animals before the signing of the lease. You want to make sure the animals are behaved. Make sure they aren’t barking every time someone opens the door, jumping and scratching, or worse yet, growling or biting. Not only will these behaviors be a problem for the landlord, but also the neighbors or anyone else around the home.
There is always those tenants that decide to break the law when living in one of your properties. Those that deal drugs out of the property, abusing drugs or alcohol, or domestic abuse. When you come across these scenarios, eviction is almost always the smart move. Calling the police is the only choice in cases of things like drug sales or violence. Tenants willing to break the law are far more likely than others to eventually cause you problems. That’s the whole reason screening services check criminal records in addition to financial ones. But keep in mind that even arrest does not change the tenant’s right to occupy the property they’ve legally rented from you, so consult an attorney about the eviction first.
Even though it is nice to have renters who are hospitable to others, it can be too much. They are the ones that are nice and let that one friend stay for a night on the sofa, but that night turns into a week, turning into a month. The more specific the language in your lease, the more leverage you have to deal with “unexpected guests” as you see fit. If you’ve left the door wide open (pun intended), you can expect your tenants to argue that as they’re paying their rent, they should be free to have whomever they wish stay with them.
Know that an eviction is advisable only in cases where you have 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. Luckily there are ways to handle these scenarios. 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.”, and specify the number of days the tenant has to comply. 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 five 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. Always remember, make sure you go with your gut feeling when it comes to tenants, it is your property!