Owning rental property comes with some big challenges, and dealing with troublesome tenants is one of the most important things to get under control. Some tenants are perpetually late with the rent and refuse to pay late fees. However, the worst is when a tenant damages your property. It would be great if they followed the lease agreement and treated your property like their own, but that doesn’t always happen.
Problem tenants aren’t easy to deal with, but there are ways to handle situations before things get worse. Whether you’re up against an issue now, or you want to be prepared for the future, here are some practical tips for managing issues with troublesome tenants.
1. Solidify your lease with an attorney
A strong lease will be your best defense against a tenant who decides to sue you for one reason or another. Some tenants file lawsuits against their landlord even when they haven’t done anything wrong, and all the judge can do is look at the law and your lease agreement.
If anything is ambiguous about your rental contract, they’re most likely going to side with your tenant if it aligns with landlord-tenant law. If you lose the case, you might have to pay a judgment to them and pay for their legal fees.
Before you even think about advertising a rental, connect with a local attorney to solidify your lease agreement. Downloading a template online isn’t good enough. You need a lease that is legally enforceable and only an attorney can guarantee you have that.
2. Conduct routine inspections
Tenants don’t like routine inspections, but don’t let that deter you from performing them. It’s advised to perform inspections at least once every six months to look for potential issues that need to be addressed, like a leaky roof, tree limbs on the roof, or a leaking pipe. Some tenants just don’t care and will either turn your property into a mess, or they’ll ignore the need for repairs for years.
Regular inspections will give you a heads up about necessary repairs before they become a major problem. You can also address issues with your tenant if they aren’t maintaining the property in good shape.
Don’t wait until a tenant moves out to discover missing closet doors, holes in the wall, water damage, or destroyed/burned carpet.
3. Be thorough with your move-in inspections
Always take thorough photos and video of your property, inside and out, before a new tenant moves in. Document your property’s condition in detail. This will be the only leverage you have if you need to justify your use of their deposit in a court of law. Even if the damages were only $300, you’d be surprised to know how many tenants will file a lawsuit and try to win that back.
Many tenants know that in most states, winning a lawsuit over an improperly withheld deposit can net them double or triple their whole deposit, so don’t skip this one. If you end up renting to a vengeful tenant, this will help you win.
4. Evict early and fast
It sounds harsh, but don’t give tenants a second chance for lease violations. The second you become aware of the violation, serve them a notice to remedy the situation or vacate. Don’t try to work things out with them in a conversation like you would a friend. Most tenants won’t change their behavior based on a conversation, but they will take a notice of impending eviction seriously.
Unless it’s someone who has proven themselves to be reliable and they really do need a break, don’t let a tenant slide on a lease violation. In most states, you have to give your tenants the opportunity to correct a violation before you can evict. However, you can’t evict unless you properly serve them a notice to correct the violation. The sooner you give them notice, the sooner you can file an eviction lawsuit if needed.
Don’t wait until months have passed and you’re still waiting for them to correct their behavior. By that time, they might damage your property in retaliation and you’ll have to wait even longer to evict them.
5. Never argue with a tenant
Engaging in arguments with troublesome tenants will never get you anywhere. It’s an argument you can’t win because they always think they’re right. You can cite the law all you want, but they always think they know better.
Arguments also tend to escalate situations, even if you argue calmly while they’re yelling. Avoid verbally conversing with an angry tenant. From the moment they become upset, require all communication to be made in writing. Written communications will give you a paper trail in case you get sued, and it will prevent them from getting you to say something you might regret later.
6. Create clear and specific lease terms
Sometimes tenants become troublesome because they treat lease terms like optional guidelines. If your lease isn’t specific about prohibited behavior, this could become an issue.
For instance, if you don’t want them to sublet the property, but don’t specifically prohibit subleasing, there’s a chance they might rent a room to someone without your knowledge.
Your rental lease needs to explicitly state what is and is not allowed. Do you want to allow smoking? Pets? Hanging plants from the balcony? Do you want to prohibit tenants from putting nails in the walls or painting? Be specific because tenants need boundaries.
Don’t just ask a tenant to read and initial each page of the lease and bring it back to you – they won’t read it on their own. Go over the lease with your tenant in person and verbalize the terms on every page. Some tenants aren’t looking to break their lease, but if they don’t read the contract, they’ll just live their life the way they normally do and that might include doing things you don’t allow. For instance, they might own a ferret and not realize you only allow cats and dogs.
You won’t deter every tenant from breaking the rules, but if you explicitly state what is and isn’t allowed, and go over the lease in person, most tenants won’t press their luck.
Get a better handle on your rental with a property manager
If you love owning property, but don’t want to be a landlord, hiring a property manager is the best approach. At Green Residential, we have decades of experience providing full-service property management for real estate investors in the greater Houston area.
Whether you need help with a few things, like screening tenants and marketing vacancies, or you need a full package, contact us today to get a free rental analysis. We’d love to hear from you!