Working with tough tenants is a fact of life for almost every landlord, so learning how to deal with tough tenants is crucial for success. While eviction is a final step to formally removing difficult tenants from your property, there are other strategies for resolving issues with your tenants in a productive manner.
What Makes a Tough Tenant
Not all tenants are perfect. Sometimes even background checks and other methods to screen for tough tenants fail, and you’re left having to manage challenging individuals. Difficult tenants might do substantial damage to your property, not pay rent on time or at all, or consistently receive complaints from other tenants in the same building.
Dealing With Tough Tenants as a Landlord
Whether you’re conflict avoidant or burned by negative experiences in the past, challenging tenants are a fact of life. All landlords have, at some point, housed tough tenants. Even the luckiest landlord has dealt with property damage and tenants who avoid paying rent.
Part of doing business involves taking proactive measures to limit the occurrence of these troubling incidents. When your proactive measures fail, productively resolving these issues as they arise is key.
Easier said than done, right?
What is a landlord to do when dealing with a tough tenant? It can be overwhelming when trying to rectify situations where your property or the comfort of your other tenants is at stake.
Whether you’re conflict avoidant, new to renting, or have had negative experiences in the past, rest assured that there are multiple ways of working with all manner of difficult tenants.
Avoiding eviction is best for all parties, but when all else fails, finding a competent eviction attorney will ensure your property is vacated. Still, there are several preventive measures you can take before this becomes an option.
Open a Conversation with Your Tenants
Successfully resolving issues with difficult tenants involves effective communication. Being clear and concise in your requirements will help lay out the steps your tenant must take. Remaining professional and avoiding the temptation to let anger color your words will also lead to a more productive experience.
Establishing two-way communication from the moment they sign the lease is ideal as it standardizes contact. If communicating is a regular occurrence early on, even if it’s just a quick email wishing them a happy holiday, it makes moments requiring you to reach out to difficult tenants less stressful.
Ask your tenants how they prefer to be contacted. If you’re primarily calling tenants and they don’t answer, it might just be because they prefer another method. You might get a faster response through email or by texting your tenant. As the workforce has become hybrid, additional communication channels, such as Zoom, became an option you can utilize as well.
Communicating with your tenants doesn’t have to rely on one channel. You’ll likely have much of the contact information for your tenant, but there are other ways to expand your reach.
Consider establishing a Microsoft Teams page or a website for people renting in your units. Sites such as WordPress can help you build a website for little to no cost. Upkeep is relatively simple for all skill levels.
When all else fails, eviction lawyers will ensure information reaches the tenants in question. They will work with local authorities or process servers to make sure your tenants are properly (and formally) served with the paperwork necessary to begin the eviction process.
Remind Tenants of Lease Terms
Utilizing your communication channels is especially important when reminding your tenants of the terms of their lease. Taking a moment to reiterate the terms to tenants is particularly important when any have been violated or are close to being violated.
When going over the terms of the lease with your tenants, you might want to take a more formal approach. Consider holding a Zoom meeting or an in-person appointment to see if your tenants have any questions. If you approach this situation with an open mind and avoid accusatory language, your results will improve.
Mailing a copy of the signed lease is another option. Sending the signed lease with a note about any violations can also remind difficult tenants of their obligations as renters.
Again, when left with no other options, a landlord-tenant authority in your area can begin the formal process of notifying your tenants of their eviction.
Pursue Legal Action If Needed
As a last resort, legal action, including eviction, may be required when dealing with difficult tenants. It’s in the best interest of everyone involved to resolve the issue before that becomes necessary, but eviction is part of the job.
Be proactive. Do research early on to discover the right landlord-tenant lawyer for you and your situation. Be aware that different states require different processes leading up to eviction. An Orlando eviction attorney, for example, will be able to provide you with guidance on their state.
When working with an eviction attorney, come prepared. Bring pertinent documents to your meeting. The more details you have, the better. They will be able to guide you through any legal steps they see fit. Eviction might be the answer, but your attorney should be able to tell you whether it’s the right time to pursue it.
Pursuing Legal Action Against a Tenant
You’ve tried communication, you’ve reminded tenants of your lease terms, and you’ve taken other measures to resolve your issue with your difficult tenants, but the problem continues. Your next step might be to pursue legal action.
When the situation warrants legal intervention, there are a few actions landlords can take.
Do Research on Your State’s Eviction Laws
You’re a landlord, not an attorney, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t familiarize yourself with your state’s eviction process. A basic understanding of how the law works in your state will make the process less mysterious, especially when selecting an eviction attorney.
Knowledge is power. Knowing your rights as an attorney will help you plan for the best and prepare for the worst.
Research Eviction Attorneys in Your Area
Finding the right eviction lawyer for you is an essential part of the process. When selecting your attorney, find someone you trust to meet your needs. Attorneys come in all shapes and sizes, and finding the right match for your personality and approach is key to successfully navigating the legal process.
Consider reading reviews of local attorneys or law offices in your area. Many landlord-tenant attorneys will offer a free consultation to begin the process. This can be a helpful first step toward establishing a working relationship with your lawyer.
Gather (and Organize) Your Records
Being prepared when meeting with your eviction attorney will help speed things along and foster a positive relationship with your legal counsel.
Bring a copy of your lease and any records you might have of your attempts to contact your tenants, as well as any evidence of lease violations. If you have these organized in a structured timeline, it will be easy for your eviction attorney to document the facts of the case.
Try to avoid showing up to your attorney’s office with random collections of incomplete information or, worse, nothing at all. Your lawyer’s job is to help you navigate the legal process, and putting in a good-faith effort to make their job easier will win you some points.
When dealing with difficult tenants, tensions often run high. You might be worried about the condition of your property. You might rely on rent checks to pay the mortgage on the rental unit. You might also worry about the continuing discomfort of your less-problematic renters. Still, patience is key.
Evictions, like any legal process, take time. Depending on your state, formal steps must be taken to give your tenants time to respond to the eviction or rectify their actions. Legal documents also have to be served, and if you’re having trouble locating your tenants, it might also take time for a process service to begin the process.
Remember, your landlord-tenant lawyer is on your side. They are there to help you deal with your challenging tenants. Open a dialogue with your attorney to establish expectations.
Questions to ask your landlord-tenant attorney include:
- How long does the process take? What steps need to occur, and in what order?
- Is eviction the only option?
- How can I help facilitate this process? What do you need from me?
- How often should I expect movement in my case or communications from your office?
Summary of Dealing with Tough Tenants as a Landlord
Managing properties as a landlord can be stressful, especially when dealing with difficult tenants. Still, there are strategies to minimize conflict with your renters. Communication early and often through the medium your tenants prefer is one way to establish a professional and open relationship with your clients.
When communication fails, it might be time to seek legal counsel. By doing your research, organizing your records, and coming prepared for your consultation or appointment, you will be well on your way to resolving issues with even the most difficult tenant.