Even with the most comprehensive screening process, if you’re a landlord, you are at some point going to run into problem tenants. Whether they pay rent late or stop paying entirely, cause property damage or become engaged in illegal activities, you are going to need to address the problem quickly and professionally. Here are some pointers to consider before you begin the process of mitigation.
1. Document Everything
It is absolutely vital that you keep written records of all your interactions with tenants, both good and bad, before any problems begin to manifest. Keeping accurate, detailed records prevents any confusion or a tenant disputing a charge with you. Some examples of things to document are phone calls, texts and emails, late rent payments, notices and warnings served, complaints, maintenance requests and your requests to enter the property. As well as writing these things down, it’s also a great idea to take pictures and videos with a timestamp where possible. Keeping good records is your best defense against problem tenants.
2. Understand your rental agreement
Firstly, make sure your rules, regulations and policies are clearly stated in your rental agreements, and provide your tenants with an electronic copy when they sign, plus a hard copy if they request it. Your lease agreement needs to cover the amount of rent, when to pay it, and the consequences of late payments. It should also include what is and isn’t allowed on your property (for example, pets, smoking, damage) and rules about noise and conflict with neighbors. When your tenants sign this lease agreement, they are entering into a legally binding agreement with you. That means that you need to be ready to enforce this agreement exactly as you agreed to from the outset.
3. Communicate Effectively
A direct, respectful conversation with your problem tenants can put an end to trouble before an issue becomes serious. Some landlords start threatening legal action at the first sign of trouble. It’s much better to negotiate and give tenants a fair chance to get back on track. Make sure that you know the terms of your rental agreement and are able to communicate clearly without being vague: for example, rather than saying, “Make sure you don’t bring any more animals on to the property,” say, “Per our agreement, there is to be one 150 pound yellow labrador on the property and if there are any other animals found we will serve a 3 day notice.” One important thing to avoid is getting emotional or making things personal, even when tenants become aggressive or tearful. Stick to your exact agreement, remain respectful and calm, and avoid discussing sensitive information with anyone other that the person whose name is on the rental agreement.
4. Know the law
Every state and municipality has distinct laws and regulations regarding landlord rights and responsibilities and the exact process of eviction. You need to know exactly what these rules mean for you. If negotiation fails and you need to pursue legal action, make sure to choose a good attorney and to only sue based on clear, proven offenses such as failure to pay rent or failure to leave the property after the lease term ends.
5. Safety first, always.
If your have reason to believe that a situation puts someone’s safety in danger or that illegal activities are taking place, call the police. These situations should always be dealt with by law enforcement, rather than by landlords. Being respectful and understanding should never come at the expense of safety and security. The eviction process is separate to any criminal proceedings and can take place after the authorities have handled the situation.
If you have questions about property management or want to find out whether a professional property manager could be right for you, we would love to hear from you! Please contact Trisha at email@example.com or call Peebles Property Management on (530) 370-9188.