Learn The Best Approach To Dealing With Difficult Tenants.
One of the most difficult things about owning rental property is that you often have responsibility but limited authority. It’s a conundrum because you are responsible for the mortgage, taxes, insurance, water, sewer, safety, security, building codes, zoning laws, and beyond. With all these responsibilities it seems impossible that there would be a time where you aren’t in full control. Well, think again! Owning rental property is a battle of the brain. There will be a devil on your shoulder telling you to do one thing, and an angel on the other saying to try a different way. The most successful property owners listen to both the devil + angel and then decide to move forward. What we are going to cover in this article is how you handle pesky tenants who violate their lease! It happens more frequently than you may expect. Let’s talk about it and discuss the best approach for you to be successful as a landlord!
Identify The Problem Behaviors.
The most common complaints we receive regarding tenant behavior are the following:
- Smoking inside the property
- Loud music after hours
- Undocumented residents moving in
- Parking more than the allotted vehicle amount specified in lease
- Sneak in pets
Now, these are all minor offenses in our opinion. Yes, they are certainly lease violations that contribute to the overall decline in enjoyment for other residents, and, in many cases, will cost the property owner money! The question is how should you handle this? Most of the property owners we see would be desolate without our advice and buffering abilities. If the tenants heard what the property owners were saying and thinking there would be fireworks for sure. What we do is explain the information we have (what the tenant is doing wrong) and go through the ways to handle/deal with those violations and work up the best approach with the owner. I can honestly say that there isn’t a week that goes by without myself giving some type of positive advice to owner on how to handle a dilemma.
Let’s take a recent example I personally had to deal with. I purchased a property in Woonsocket, Rhode Island that had a tenant on the first floor who would smoke in the property, play loud music, be confrontational with other tenants, sell drugs, have pets, and more! Not only was he damaging the property and costing me money in his domain he was also causing other tenants to move out! This guy was a piece of work. So, when these issues first came to my attention, I thought about how to proceed with a remedy.
Set The Terms & Inform.
It certainly was a laundry list to deal with all at one time. Step 1 is that I decided that the best approach was to send a new month to month lease agreement along with a nicely worded letter of all the violations. The letter would go over how these actions may have been permitted with the old owner, but moving forward there needed to be cooperation from all tenants to ensure the property is peaceful and comfortable for all residents.
After 1 week went by from him receiving the notice the issues persisted. They actually got worse! He started to leave furniture and mattresses by the trash container, started using the garage for his personal items, and even parked additional cars in the lot. At this point he was dismissing our peaceful attempt at a resolution and trying to show us he was the one who controlled the property.
Prepare For Potential Legal Response.
So, step 2 in this situation was to have our attorney draft a notice of non-compliance for all the lease violations. The non-compliance notice is formal, stern, and threatens eviction if the violations (all of them) are not remedied in 20 days. After the 20 days were up, we saw that nothing had changed. The tenant had continued to disobey the new ground rules and continued down a path of misbehavior.
Step 3 is now to either file an eviction based on the lease violations or to send a lease termination notice. I chose to send a lease termination notice because it’s free to send the notice, and I would have a greater chance of being paid the rent up until the date he had to officially vacate. His date to vacate by March 1st, 2020. He did not, however, pay February rent. So, the termination notice specifically states that you must continue to pay rent up until your termination (vacating) date. He did not so I filed the eviction case on February 23rd. He was served in person by the State Constable and chose to vacate before court even happened. This turned out to be a success even though I lost out on February rent. The apartment was now vacant, and he was gone with the wind.
NOT SO FAST! Alert, alert, the tenant moved in with the neighbor in the same property! NOW WHAT! Well, there are 2 options. The first is you go to the police with the court paperwork showing he was evicted + cannot be there, and then attempt to get a no-trespassing order against him. This would ban him from being on the property altogether. The 2nd option is to evict the tenant he is currently staying with. I have chosen to do both concurrently.
This is a situation as a property owner you can expect to deal with at some point or another. Not specifically this scenario exactly, but ones that have many twists and turns, heartache, upset feelings, and stress that you don’t need. The hard truth is that this is what you signed up for. Persevere through the battles and you will always win the war. Let me know if you have any questions on how to handle your tenant dilemmas, and, as always, don’t even reign with your emotion because that means your emotion has reign over you!
Gregory Rice is the Vice President of franchise sales for Nexus Property Management™.
Nexus Property Management™ is a National Property Management Franchise that manages all types of rental property from single family homes or condos to large apartment buildings and complexes.
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