How Do Landlords Manage Problem Tenants?
It’s a common problem among property managers and landlords alike: What’s the best way to deal with problem tenants? You’ve bought landlord insurance, and done everything else right — or at least you thought you did. You screened your tenants, took a security deposit and have a solid lease. But despite your best efforts things, can go wrong, like having a tenant fail to pay their rent or damaging the property. So what to do now?
Take a look at these important tips for landlords and property management companies to learn about smart ways to manage — and resolve — issues with difficult tenants.
What You Should Do When a Tenant Fails to Pay or Partially Pays the Rent
While you don’t have to be an attorney specializing in landlord/tenant law, it’s essential to become familiar with the rules that govern the actions you can take legally. State laws and municipal codes need to be observed and written into your landlord/tenant lease agreement, so it’s important to research your specific area and include these items.
Deliver a written documents to the tenant. Your lease agreement should specify that any disputes first need to be formally addressed through a signed, dated document delivered to and signed for the tenant. Here’s where it’s really important to be sure you follow the letter of the law. Write out the nature of the problem, and identify how this tenant-caused issue has breached the terms of your lease agreement.
State a remedy to the problem. In your initial note, identify the steps necessary to resolve the issue. If your tenant must pay a fine in addition to the rent, reference that section of your agreement in the note you give to the tenant.
Set a date for compliance. State the terms required for the tenant to be in compliance with the agreement. And identify a date by which the overdue funds and/or fines need to be delivered in order to remedy the situation.
Site the terms for eviction. Difficult as this may be, landlords have a mortgage to pay regardless if the tenant pays rent. If the tenant’s not going to pay the rent, you’re going to have to force them out and find an alternative tenant. Again, reference the rental agreement’s terms by which you as a landlord are legally within your rights to evict. Remember to mention the tenant’s potential loss of the security deposit as well. Hopefully this will push the tenant into action.
What Are the Reasons a Landlord May Have to Evict a Tenant?
There are many ways that a tenant can impact the real estate value of your rental property. Bad tenants can sometimes damage your property or cause such a disturbance that the authorities may have been involved. Here are some common tenant-related issues that can force an eviction:
Rent payment(s) are overdue. If the tenant does not pay their rent, and hasn’t complied to phone calls requests and formally delivered requests for payment, it may be time to start the eviction process.
Destruction of property. Here’s where photo documentation of the property is key, if you or your tenant should decide to take the case to court. Normal wear and tear happens, but excessive wear and tear becomes a problem when tenants are deliberately damaging property. Install an inspection app like zInspector or SnapInspect on your smartphone and tour the property, taking photos of damage as you go.
Breach of contract. This is where all those provisions in your rental/lease agreement come into play. If your tenant’s subletting out the space in violation of the terms of the lease, get the eviction process underway. If they’re disturbing neighbors and refuse to let up, after you’ve met your obligations stated in the lease, it may be time to move towards eviction.
Illegal activities. Tenants sometimes do things in and around rental property that are illegal. Public intoxication and selling, producing or storing illegal drugs is cause for you to consider starting an eviction process.
How Does a Landlord Evict a Tenant?
A word of caution here: don’t try to self-evict the tenant by changing the locks or throwing out the tenant’s property. This won’t help your case and may delay their departure. More importantly, it can actually increase the amount of time it takes for you to re-rent the unit and begin collecting rent again. It’s also a good idea to get in touch with your American Family Insurance agent and verify that your business insurance is up to date at this time. Here are a few tips to consider when an eviction is eminent:
Ask them to leave. Simple as this sounds, don’t underestimate the power of requesting that the tenant vacate your property. If things aren’t working out, it’s less expensive and offers a quicker time to resolution than dealing with the courts and lawyers too. If your tenant’s reasonable, they’re going to see that keeping their name out of a legal filing is a good thing. If they agree, build an amendment to your tenant’s lease that terminates the agreement early. Be sure to get your lawyer to look it over before getting it to your tenant.
Start the eviction process. Follow the protocol outlined in your lease agreement and verify it’s in compliance with state and local codes. Again, you’ll usually have to give advanced, written notice to your tenants of your decision to evict. Calling on an attorney who specializes in these actions can help smooth the process and move it along more quickly.
Stay compliant after a judgement is made against your tenant. If you’re successful in court, you’ll need to have the tenant properly served with a notice to vacate the premises. Following the legal procedure after a court decision is just as important as following it before and you may benefit from an attorney’s assistance to be sure you’re complying with state and local laws on the eviction process.
Each situation is different and having a reliable team of experts that includes an attorney can help you take the right steps to a happy resolution. Our Landlord Toolbox also has great advice and information to help make your rental business a success.
We’re here to help take some of the stress out of the job of managing your property by offering peace of mind that only comes with being carefully insured. And it just might pay off by getting you a discount or two. So, contact your agent to review ways that you can also hold on to a few extra bucks by bundling your insurance. It’s one of the easiest ways to save. Landlording can be tough at times but your insurance doesn’t have to be.