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How to deal with difficult tenants

Friday, July 08, 2016

Dealing with difficult tenants, or at least, knowing how to handle difficult tenants, is part and parcel of being a landlord. Even if you had meticulously screened your tenant, sometimes when things change people can respond in ways you do not expect.

Who is a difficult tenant? A troublesome tenant is someone who continues to be an issue for you. You may find yourself spending as much time dealing with this particular tenant as you do on all you other tenants combined. They take up your attention and sap your energy and make you feel as though you are working overtime always for the rent you get in return.

Every landlord needs to have a good action plan in place to identify and deal with problematic tenants. You may not have a bad tenant today but the longer you remain a landlord, the more likely you will encounter one someday. Renting is a people business.  Naturally, most issues do not have a clear cut solution. That said, this list of dos and don’ts will help you start working out your own response plan to difficult tenants.


1. Don’t stereotype difficult tenants

Difficult tenants come in all shapes and sizes. You could get one who is the garden variety party-loving-late-paying-always-has-an-excuse or a type-A-slightly-OCD-ring-you-up-EVERYDAY-to-complain tenant. Either day, a difficult tenant is someone who is continuously an issue for you. Do this quick exercise, say the name of each of your tenants out loud. The names that immediately send you into a spiral of mind-frenzy and dread are likely to be of those who are your difficult tenants. Flag these people as those you need to manage thoughtfully and particularly.

Related article: 10 warning signs of a bad tenant

2. Don’t take it personally

This is a business. It has nothing to do with you. Difficult tenants are just part of landlording. When you encounter one, it is important to take the emotions out of the situation from the beginning. Stick to the facts and decide on a course of action accordingly. You are providing a professional and consistent service to all of your tenants, don’t let one bad egg deviate you from your purpose.

Related article: The best piece of advice you will ever receive as a landlord

3. Do gun for a win-win

Vacancy is a dirty word in a landlord’s dictionary. Tempting as it may sometimes be, do treat termination as a last resort. Ask yourself what are the ways for you and your difficult tenant to achieve an amicable and mutually beneficial outcome. Let that be your starting point.

4. Don’t bury your head in the sand

As tedious as it may be for you to deal with difficult tenants, deal with them. Issues that get neglected have a tendency of snowballing into bigger problems somewhere down the track. Don’t get into the habit of kicking the can down the road.

5. Do always go back to the tenancy agreement and the RTA

Your tenancy agreement read alongside the Residential Tenancies Act forms the majority of the terms governing the tenancy. More often than not you will find something instructive in one or both of these documents that will guide you to a solution. Treat these documents as your starting point when dealing with difficult tenants.

6. Do communicate and negotiate

We’ve mentioned before that renting is a people business. The thing about dealing with people is that, unlike machines, pressing button A multiple times will not always give you response B. Understand that a successful relationship of any kind requires constant and open communication. Sit your tenant down and tackle the issue as a team. Be prepared to negotiate for that win-win outcome.

7. Do hold up your end of the bargain

Once you have agreed on the best way to resolve an issue, make sure you hold up your end of the bargain. When issues arise with difficult tenants, treat them as opportunities for you to improve your relationship with this tenant. Don’t give empty promises you do not intend to keep as that is a surefire way to ruin the tenancy.

8. Do learn from it

Once you have successfully deal with an issue, and both you and your tenant had gone away happy, take some time to analyse the entire situation. What brought it on in the first place. Was it something that you could have prevented? There is no point going through all of this trouble if you are not going to learn from it.

Have you had any experience dealing with difficult tenants?


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