By Property Management Systems
PORTLAND, OR. – It doesn’t matter how long you’ve owned rental properties in Portland Oregon, or elsewhere in the United States, there may be one day where you will be faced with dealing with a problem tenant.
What exactly is a problem tenant? A problem tenant is someone who doesn’t pay their rent on time, causes trouble for other tenants, doesn’t follow your rules, and generally makes your life more difficult on a regular basis.
Thankfully, problem tenants don’t last forever and you can professionally deal with them yourself if you understand the types of problem tenants out there and the ways you can deal with them.
Types Of Problem Tenants
Late or partial-paying payers
We’ll start with the most common problem – late or partial rent payments. If you’re wise you make it very clear at the lease signing (in a friendly way) that your accounting system is rigid and there is no leeway about late payment penalties – that the accountant must account for the late fees in the cash flow at year’s end. Along these lines, some landlords simply say that the penalty is “built into the accounting system,” which heads off a lot of pleading and begging phone calls. Above all, it should never occur to tenants that the repercussions of late payments are negotiable. If you give an inch, you can bet they’ll take a mile at some point.
But no matter how well you’ve protected yourself, you’ll still always have to deal with payments that arrive late – or in part – or not at all.
The best advice for dealing with late payers is to be firm, no matter how nice a person you (or they) are. Otherwise you’re inviting future trouble: five days late will be three weeks next time. If you didn’t advise them that late fees are irrevocable (the so-called “good cop/bad cop” technique, with the accounting system being the bad cop), now’s a good time to do it.
When the tardiness of the rent payment (or partial payment) reaches the point where your lease indicates an action will be taken within a few days, place a call and/or send an email as a polite warning. Then, when the day comes, take the action, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Usually this is a Non Payment of Rent notice, with a specific timetable to either pay up or leave
Obviously if you’re the manager and not the owner, it’s easier to be strict: you just tell them it’s the owner, not you, who sets the rules. But even if you do own the property, this isn’t a good occasion to be a softie. Look at it this way: a renter down on their luck should turn to family, friends or another source of money rather than their landlord. You’re not their parent or pal, nor are you a bank.
- Wrecking balls
On the list of most common problems with renters, property damage comes right after late rent.
If you’re not already using a mobile inspection app consider pitching the clipboard and using one. They not only cut inspection time by over half – they also let you take photos with your cell phone and imbed them right into the inspection report, so if there’s damage later you have the “before” photos right there in the report as evidence.
Things can get a little tricky when there’s debate about an unapproved “improvement” (such as painting or shelving) that you feel is actually a detraction. You’ll have to judge these on a case by case basis, but your lease probably does spell out that the property must be left in the condition it was in before move-in, and if the new paint is neon pink, it’s their job to re-paint before leaving or cover the cost with their damage deposit.
In the case of damage, you’ll want to first request in writing that the tenant address it, and keep a copy in your records. If it’s something the tenant can’t or won’t handle, you can have your own maintenance people do the job, and then send the tenant the bill. Your lease should plainly give you the right to do this in case of damage beyond normal wear and tear.
It’s a good idea to make interim inspections of the property during the lease period. If, for example, you have a strict no-smoking policy but the home smells like an ashtray, you’re going to have trouble renting to the next person, and you need to take action immediately.
If the tenant either won’t fix the damage or pay the cost of having it done, you have grounds to kick them out with a “Cure or Quit” notice if your lease allows.
- Hosts to all
Some renters will sublet part or all of the property without bothering to check whether you allow it. And now, in the age of Airbnb, some have been booking short-term vacation rentals on the sly. In some areas it’s against the law. At the very least, it’s a lot different having a parade of strangers occupying the property than having the people you screened and approved there. Neighbors tend to look askance at the practice as well.
Then there are houseguests – from a friend crashing on the sofa for a weekend (no problem) to a death metal band moving in for a month-long party binge (likely a problem). The more specific the language in your lease, the more latitude you have to deal with “unexpected guests” as you see fit. If you’ve left the door wide open (pun intended), you can expect your tenants to argue that as they’re paying their rent, they should be free to have whomever they wish stay with them.
Some renters you hardly hear from. Others call constantly, making one unreasonable request after another: The AC doesn’t seem to be working quite right (though it’s been checked out twice); there’s not enough hot water; a door is sticking – and so on. There are calls even about minor things you’d expect them to simply handle themselve or the lease requires they do.
Don’t be a sucker for whiny tenants; you have enough real issues to take care of. The fact is that you are not obligated legally or otherwise to jump into action every time they call.
Get Property Management Here
Tired of dealing with problem tenants yourself?
Do you want more time to enjoy your life again while having peace of mind that your rental properties are being professionally managed?
Contact Property Management Systems today by calling us at (503) 515-3170 or click here to connect with us online.