Best Practices for Dealing with Problem Tenants

Posted By: Tiffany Van Buren Housing Provider Tips,

As rental housing providers, we do our absolute best to only execute leases with solid, responsible, and reasonable applicants. Unfortunately, even the most intensive tenant screenings cannot predict changes in a seemingly perfect tenant’s behavior. It can be difficult not to react to problems from an emotional standpoint when a tenant causes disruptions, becomes neglectful of their responsibilities, or is being uncooperative -- but it’s important to put your feelings aside and react in a tactful, professional manner. Here are some Best Practices to help you deal with problem tenants.

  1. Immediate Action. Don’t wait for problems to compound or escalate. The minute you’re aware of a problem, address it, in writing, with the appropriate party or parties.  
  2. Stay Professional. Remain calm and objective. This is a tenant with whom you have a business relationship. Leave emotion out of your response. Reacting out of anger or spite could land you in court. Proofread your response and ask yourself if you’d speak to a colleague the same way.
  3. Keep Written Records and Documentation. Keeping a written account of every interaction you have with a tenant, positive or negative, is one of the most valuable steps you can take to protect yourself as a landlord. Keep all emails, notices, even text conversations. Don’t forget to document your actions as well!
  4. Treat Tenants How You’d Want to Be Treated. Remember, your behavior sets the tone for your business relationship! Listen effectively and communicate clearly. Having a good attitude could positively impact how your tenant responds to you during conflicts and interactions in general. If the complaint or problem warrants an inspection, give proper notice, and show up on time to scheduled appointments.
  5. Refer to the Lease. Many of the most common conflicts between landlords and tenants, such as late fees, violations of the guest policy, and right to access (parking, storage, laundry) can be avoided when both parties have a clear understanding of the lease agreement. Direct your tenant to the section of the lease that corresponds to the problem at hand. Remind them that they signed a legally binding contract and agreed to abide by the rules and regulations within it. If they say they don’t have or can’t find their lease, provide a copy.
  6. How to Deal with Inter-Tenant Disputes. When there is conflict between tenants, encourage them to work it out between themselves. Most commonly this happens with noise complaints. “My upstairs neighbor wears heels in the house that make a loud clicking sound in my apartment! She gets home late at night when I’m sleeping, and it wakes me up!” If they’ve come running to you, expecting you to deal with it, you might say, “I can see where that could be an issue. What did they say when you asked them about it?” Chances are, they haven’t talked to their neighbor, so suggest they have a conversation, or even just leave a note on their door. Most tenants are considerate of their neighbors and are simply unaware that what they are doing is affecting others. If they cannot resolve an issue between themselves, you might suggest mediation.
  7. Safety First. Don’t potentially put yourself in harm’s way. If a tenant poses a danger to you or others on the property, is engaging in illegal activity, or is behaving in any way that feels unsafe, call the police! Once they have handled the situation, request a copy of the report.