Some tenants are an absolute joy — they pay their rent on time, friendly, maintain your property well, and are easy to talk to. Then, there are the others. Some people are just harder to communicate with than others, taking offense at anything you say or not hearing your requests. These are difficult tenants.
There are countless households in the United States that rent rather than buy, and the number has increased significantly in the last 50 years or so. Since the average real estate investor has more than a single rental property to manage, dealing with difficult tenants can eat into resources.
Even screening new applicants before renting takes up precious time. Figuring out how to better communicate with your difficult renters helps both them and you.
If you find that you and a renter aren’t communicating well, it could be a listening problem. You can’t control what the other person does, but you can make sure you hear them out fully and think through their concerns before responding.
When you have multiple units to maintain and different personalities to deal with, it is easy to get in a rush. Give the tenant your full attention and try to hear their concerns, even if you feel they are being unreasonable. Respond professionally at all times.
2. Enlist a Mediator
Some personalities simply don’t mesh. Perhaps you and your tenant rub each other the wrong way, and the thought of dealing with them for the remainder of your contract gives you a headache. It might be time to enlist the help of a mediator or a property manager to handle that particular person.
If you have several renters, a property manager may take some of the day-to-day tasks off your hands and help you with screening potential new tenants so you don’t run into a similar problem in the future.
3. Hone In on the Main Issue
Do you have a tenant who complains incessantly about anything and everything — usually about the time the rent check is due? From a dripping faucet to flowers they claim to be allergic to in the landscaping, it can be exhausting dealing with some people.
Instead of trying to fix every minor thing they come up with, try to get them to narrow things down to a main concern or two. If the garbage disposal in the kitchen isn’t working, that is a valid concern and something you can easily fix.
If they don’t like your landscaping because they think it is ugly, then you may want to tell them it isn’t in the budget to redo the exterior right now. Some renters forget they don’t own the rental property, but that’s also a positive because they’re more likely to take better care of your real estate. Once you understand the concern, repeat it back to them and let them know how you plan to fix the problem.
4. Put It in Writing
Do you have a difficult tenant who says one thing and then changes it the next week? For example, you agree to reduce their rent $50 if they paint the bedroom. They insist you said you’d lower the rent and there was nothing about painting in the agreement.
For a person who conveniently forgets what was agreed upon, insist on putting everything in writing. Both of you should initial it. That way, if they come back later and say that wasn’t the agreement, you have proof it was. Maybe they forget the conversation, or perhaps it was intentional, but the written word makes it clearer.
5. Evict Only If Necessary
Some tenants are more than just annoying. They might create situations where you get fined by the city because they don’t maintain the yard or they throw loud parties. They don’t pay their rent on time — or at all — and they put holes in walls or crack windows, damaging your real estate investment.
When things get bad and they aren’t receptive to your requests, it might be necessary to begin eviction proceedings. Don’t expect an improvement in your tenants’ communication skills just because you’re evicting them, but know you only have to deal with them a short while longer.
Eviction is a challenging process involving a complex system of local and federal regulations. If you want to cover your bases, seek legal representation and explore your options to save yourself the most time and hassle.
Prescreen Trouble Away
Your first step to avoiding difficult tenants is a rigorous screening process. Insist on background checks, credit reports, and references. While a few more difficult people might slip through, you’ll at least have tenants who likely pay their rent on time and don’t destroy your rental investment property.
For those few who do make it through your checks and are still hard to handle, try the techniques above and know there will come a day when your contract ends and you can both move on.
This article has been contributed by Holly Welles.