The trickiest part of working in property management—by far—is navigating the choppy waters of your renters’ issues. You do your best to screen for low-maintenance people, but now and again you can come up with a real humdinger. That’s why you need these practical tips for dealing with problem tenants.
A “problem tenant” could be a chronic complainer, an overenthusiastic party-thrower, or someone who thinks he’s a reptilian alien who’s activated by the full moon. Which is to say that there are degrees to everything. These ideas will be useful in some situations more than others. There may be times when you need to begin the long eviction process. But if you can decrease the drama, you can find some peaceful solutions.
Once you’ve decided on a tenant, it’s essential that you have them sign a lease that’s specific about standards—and the consequences for any violations. Also key? Making sure they’ve read it. It can’t hurt to go over some of the points and ask them to initial each paragraph. Let them know what you expect, and what they can expect you to do for them in return.
Be honest with yourself about what you consider acceptable tenant behavior, and enforce it across the board. You can’t play favorites with tenants, because if they compare notes, you could be facing a discrimination lawsuit. Be fair to everyone and treat them with respect and transparency.
Keep It Professional
In most cases, there’s no “bad guy”—just a misunderstanding, a complication, an unforeseen situation, a knot to untangle. If the tenant is unhappy, don’t take it personally. And make it clear that you’re not attacking them, either. Stay calm, watch your tone, and be deliberate with your words. Document everything so that there’s a digital equivalent of a paper trail.
As a landlord or property manager, you can allow exceptions at your discretion. But beware when you’re setting a precedent. They can always point to it and push for more. If you decide to be flexible about something, tell your tenants up-front what the conditions are, whether it’s for a specific length of time or if you’re issuing one warning.
When an issue comes up, there’s nothing wrong with just speaking directly to a tenant about what’s going on. You might be able to work through the problem in one discussion. Try to understand what’s going on from their point of view. Be sure not to make any vague promises you’re not going to be able to keep. Be as direct as possible; placating a tenant by telling them what they want to hear just prolongs any unpleasantness.
At R. Russell Properties, we’ve seen it all. One of our most practical tips for dealing with problem tenants: listen to them. Sometimes they just want to be heard, and that’s part of the job, too. If you want to learn about property management in Oviedo, Florida, we can tell you more. Contact us for information.