The Secrets of Dealing with Difficult Tenants

Published: 30/01/2012 By Peter Barry

If you’ve been a landlord for a while, chances are you’ve come across difficult tenants in the past. You will no doubt have learnt from your mistakes but there’s no real way of knowing how someone is going to treat your property, or deal with rental payments, until they’ve actually moved in. A prospective tenant might look great on paper, but they could prove to be a nightmare once they have the keys in their hand. So, just how do you go about dealing with difficult tenants?

Fools rush in

If your property has been on the rental market for a while, you might decide to take on the first tenants who make an offer. The temptation is to get the property rented out and paying for itself as soon as possible. However, this can be a false economy. You need to be as picky about your tenants as they are about your property. 
Choose your tenants carefully

If your prospective tenants aren’t able to provide references or start making demands before the contract is signed then alarm bells should ring. If you do thorough checks in the first instance, you should be able to screen your tenants fairly well. Obviously, there are no guarantees that someone with a great credit rating will make a great tenant, but it will certainly help.

Looks can be deceiving

It’s always good to trust your instincts but people can put on a good front when it comes to securing a property. Just because someone is eloquent, holds down a decent job and presents themselves well, doesn’t mean they’re going to pay the rent on time. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go a little on first impressions – they can count for a lot. That’s why it’s important to personally meet any new tenants before they move in.
Promising the world

Don’t make rash promises about new furniture, fresh décor or extra appliances, just to secure a good tenant. If you have agreed to fix, change or add anything to the property as a condition of the tenants signing the contract, you are obliged to carry out those requests. So, only make promises you know you can – and will – keep.

Keep calm and stay focused

Never lose your temper in front of your tenants. If problems arise, try and deal with them rationally and calmly. Don’t give your tenants any reason to discredit you, your professionalism, or to justify late or non-payment of rent. If you remain civil and approachable, you are more likely to get the result you want. Confrontation or threats will simply give tenants an excuse for withholding rent or treating the property disrespectfully.

Don’t be a stranger

If you’re having problems with your tenants, the temptation is to keep your distance and let them get on with it. However, the reverse is actually true: if you make a point of visiting the property for regular inspections, you can keep on top of problems as and when they arise. It’s easier to delay or avoid rent if you have no face-to-face contact, so arrange visits and try talking to your tenants about finance problems, or any issues relating to the property. Remember, if you do intend to visit the property, you need to give your tenants notice – as per the terms of your rental agreement.

Terminate the contract

If your tenants make a habit of paying their rent late, or miss payments altogether, and you have exhausted all avenues of negotiation, then you are best advised to give them notice of the termination of the rental agreement. The situation is unlikely to improve, and you might be better off finding new tenants for the property. You can waste a lot of time and effort chasing up payments, following up complaints from neighbours and resolving issues.

Choosing the right tenants will make all the difference to the success of your property business. Choose well and you could let the same property to the same tenants for years without any hassle; choose badly and you could end up with rental arrears, costly repairs to the property and irate neighbours. So, take your time and choose wisely.

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