The hardest part of being a landlord is having to deal with maladjusted tenants. Such tenants not only make your life hard as a landlord but are also a nuisance to your good tenants. They have a unique talent for causing trouble. When they aren’t blasting out music, they are picking unnecessary fights. When they aren’t breaking everything in their apartment, they’re keeping you tensed with non-payment of rent. And when they’re not making trouble, they’re busy complaining about something and making unrealistic requests. Of course, it’s rare for one tenant to have all these issues, but you get the point. The good thing is that a thorough screening exercise can help you weed out potentially challenging tenants early on and decline their rental applications. But just in case your screening process fails to weed out all of them, here is how you deal with them:
1. Learn the art of staying calm but firm
The challenging tenant, just like everyone else, must have signed a lease agreement that detailed all the rules and policies that guide tenants in the property. When they break the agreed-upon rules, try and stay calm. Avoid losing your cool or making threats; you don’t want to come off as an aggressive and intolerant landlord. The right approach is to ask the tenant the right questions based on the contract they signed. That can help them see their mistakes and probably start taking the right steps toward making amends. If they act stubbornly, counter them with firmness, fairness, and a positive attitude. The lease agreement is your ally, so you have the high ground.
Someone blasting out music in the middle of the night may not be a very reasonable person, but he’s your tenant/customer nonetheless. His neighbors can afford to be mad at him and sometimes call him names, but you cannot do that as the landlord. You must maintain your cool and be fair when reasoning with him, but you must be firm because you have to protect the rights of his neighbors too.
Failure to keep well-documented records gives problematic tenants a loophole that they can exploit to disenfranchise you. For example, a tenant who wants to cheat his way out of a lease contract can falsely claim that you’re negligent. They can claim that you refused to act upon a formal complaint they lodged a while back, which would give them a valid reason to terminate the contract. If you don’t have documented evidence of how and when you acted upon the complaint, the tenant can easily beat you in court.
Bottom line: Keep all records. Tenants will think twice before making false claims if they know you have all the necessary documentation to back up your side of the story.
Use fines to discourage late rent payments
Some tenants will totally disregard rules related to rent payments. To protect your business from rent non-compliance, put a clause within the lease emphasizing the repercussions of late rent payment. You can, for example, impose a penalty of up to 10% of the monthly rent for all late payments. This will discourage deliberate lateness. Also, make tenants pay a solid security deposit as a cushioning just in case someone fails to pay rent and decides to skip town.
If the problem persists longer than you can tolerate, consider kick-starting the eviction process. While you’re at it, remember to stay within the tenets of available laws and regulations.
2. Understand your legal obligation
Some tenants just crave your attention and will make all kinds of complaints and unreasonable requests to get it. If you don’t understand your legal obligation as a landlord, you will find yourself overplaying your role.
Perpetual complainers can easily manipulate you into taking responsibilities that are legally theirs. For example, no matter how hard a tenant complains, you’re not obligated to replace their light bulbs or the HVAC filter. Understanding your (and the tenant’s) responsibilities and legal obligations will save you lots of trouble.
Bring in a professional manager
A rental property is ideally a passive source of income. Difficult tenants can, however, make property ownership feel like a second full-time job. Don’t let that happen to you. Whether you have a regular job or you’re retired, babysitting difficult tenants might not be the best use of your time. You’d rather hire a property manager in NYC to handle the day-to-day property management tasks on your behalf. The professional property management company will screen tenants for you, handle evictions, fulfill your legal obligations, collect rent, handle repair & maintenance, etc. And because they’re professionals, they’re more experienced in the art of handling challenging tenants effectively and professionally.
Managing difficult tenants is not what property owners have in mind when investing in real estate. If you feel like the job is too stressful and time-consuming, your best approach would be to bring in professional help. A property manager will save you from potential conflicts and legal issues.