From the outside looking in, being a landlord is easy-breezy. You buy a property, find a tenant, charge a bunch of rent, use that money to pay your mortgage, and pocket the rest. Then do it over again…rinse and repeat in perpetuity.
But as anyone on this side of the equation knows, it’s not that easy. Being a real estate investor and landlord isn’t as passive as people like to make it out to be. Yes, there are passive parts when you have the correct pieces in place. However, there are also plenty of challenges.
One of the biggest friction points involves tenant relations. There are good tenants – easy tenants, if you will. And then there are challenging tenants who will make your life difficult if you don’t have a plan for how to deal with them.
In this article, we’re going to explore some of the keys to handling difficult tenants so that you can get the most out of your real estate investments.
Main Types of Difficult Tenants
Every tenant is different, but here are some common types of difficult tenants you’ll encounter as a landlord.
- Late Payers: These tenants consistently pay their rent late, causing financial strain and administrative headaches. By the time they do pay, it’s already time for the following month’s rent. This creates a never-ending cycle.
- Non-Payers: Even more challenging than late payers, these tenants stop paying rent altogether, often requiring legal action to resolve. Many of them understand how the system works. They know that it takes months for the eviction process to play out, so they’ll “milk” it before eventually moving onto another property.
- Property Damagers: These tenants cause significant damage to the property, beyond normal wear and tear. This could include anything from unapproved alterations to outright destruction.
- Rule Breakers: These tenants consistently break the rules outlined in the lease agreement. This could include having pets when they’re not allowed, smoking in a non-smoking building, or violating parking rules. If there’s a restriction, you can bet they’re going to try and slide by it.
- Uncooperative Tenants: These tenants are difficult to communicate with and uncooperative when it comes to necessary activities like property inspections or maintenance work. If you need some sort of work done, they’ll make your life incredibly difficult and require you to jump through a bunch of extra “hoops” to do what you need to do.
- Overly Demanding Tenants: While it’s a landlord’s duty to maintain their properties, these tenants demand excessive or unreasonable repairs and improvements, often expecting immediate response for non-emergency issues.
- Illegal Activity Tenants: These tenants use the property for illegal activities, which can cause serious legal issues for landlords. This may include drug activity.
- Constant Complainers: We all know this type. If you’ve been in the game long enough, you’ve had your fair share of constant complainers. These tenants are never satisfied and complain about everything – like absolutely everything. Whether it’s a dishwasher that’s too loud or a couple of weeds growing in a flowerbed, they’re going to let you have it.
- Unauthorized Occupants: These tenants allow others to live in the property without the landlord’s permission, which can lead to overcrowding and additional wear and tear. This includes illegal subletting and/or letting multiple people live on the property whose names aren’t on the lease.
3 Tips for Dealing With Difficult Tenants
There’s no copy-and-paste solution to handling difficult tenants. For example, there’s a difference between a late-payer, a non-payer, and an overly demanding tenant. Each requires a finessed approach.
Having said that, here are three overarching tips that will generally help in all situations.
1. Prioritize Good Communication
Stop waiting for problems to emerge before you say something. Be proactive, clear, and concise with your communication. Speak to potential issues before they arise so you can set the proper expectations.
Likewise, it’s important to have open lines of communication. Make it as easy as possible for tenants to contact you via a variety of avenues. This lessens the risk that they don’t speak up when they should.
When a tenant does reach out, do your best to respond in a timely manner. If you’re unable to respond quickly, you may need to hire an assistant or property manager to act on your behalf. There are also plenty of tools and technologies that can streamline this.
2. Hold Tenants Accountable
It’s not enough to set good expectations – you also have to follow through. If you don’t hold your tenants accountable for violating terms or not living up to expectations, they’ll continue to run all over you and make life difficult.
Holding difficult tenants accountable involves a combination of clear communication, enforcement of lease terms, and legal action when necessary.
Make sure you keep a record of all interactions with your tenants. This includes any complaints, notices given, and actions taken. This documentation can be crucial if legal action becomes necessary.
If a tenant is breaking the terms you’ve outlined in your lease, be quick to remind them of what they’ve signed. You don’t have to be a jerk about it – just bring it to their attention. In some cases, they may have simply forgotten. In other situations, the nudge will remind them that they can’t get away with what they’re doing.
Now, if the tenant chooses not to do anything about the violation after receiving a notice, that’s when you have to become firmer (and potentially move towards an eviction process, depending on the rules, laws, and regulations in your area).
3. Be Kind But Firm
You don’t have to be rude or aggressive to be a successful landlord. (But you also don’t want to be a pushover.) The key is to balance a kind but firm approach that commands respect without making people feel frustrated.
Kindness doesn’t cost anything. If that sounds like a cliche, it is. But it’s also true. If you can consistently layer a kind approach into your management style, you’re going to get much better results.
Let Green Residential Help
At Green Residential, we understand that managing tenant relationships can be challenging. That’s why we aim to remove the burden from your shoulders by streamlining your entire property management process, from finding tenants to collecting rent.