Problem Tenants

Landlords: How to Deal with Problem Tenants

Tenants that break the law or violate your lease can put a serious dent in your profits and trying to resolve disputes on your own can be incredibly frustrating. Having access to a Provider Attorney with a Small Business Legal Plan or Home Business Supplement from LegalShield to support you, or even deal with the tenant directly, can reduce stress and increase the success of your rental business.

Understanding the Law, Your Rights and Obligations as a Landlord

If you’re reading this page, you are likely dealing with one or more of the following common tenant problems.

  • Late or partial rent 
  • Property damage
  • Illegal activity 
  • Excessive complaining
  • Unapproved guests/subletters
  • Pet problems

The the first step to resolving issues with problem tenants is to understand your rights, responsibilities and options. The second step may be to contact an attorney to get legal advice and the support you need to handle the situation quickly and effectively. 

Dealing with late rent and partial-payers

When dealing with a tenant that is late with the rent or has paid only part of the total fee, you should consider your options carefully. No matter how convincing a tenant may be, making exceptions could set you up for future late or unpaid rent. 

Making it crystal clear at the beginning of the relationship that rent is due on the first of the month and there are no exceptions can help avoid problems in the first place. However, if tenants are still unable or unwilling to pay rent on time, the laws in your state may provide you with a variety of options.  
 

Notice to Pay or Quit

Most states allow landlords to send a notice to quit one day after the rent was due while others provide tenants with a short grace period. Follow the law in your state and make sure your notice letter is in the proper format.

Proper Service

Do the laws in your state allow you to serve the notice in person or are you allowed to send it by mail? Getting service correct is critical to making sure eviction would be enforceable.

Eviction

If you’ve communicated with the tenant, served the proper notice and still don’t have the full rent, it may be time to start the formal eviction process.

Choosing the course of action which best meets your needs depends on the specific circumstances of the situation, the terms of the lease, and the law in your state. A LegalShield plan lets you speak to an attorney familiar with the laws in your state. Your provider attorney can also review lease documents at no additional charge. Legal support, advice and document review can go a long way when trying to recover unpaid rent. 

Dealing with illegal or disruptive behavior

Tenants that break laws or are otherwise a nuisance to neighbors can not only create business headaches for landlords but can cause significant legal liability, too. 

Did you know neighbors can sue landlords and that local, state and federal authorities can levy big fines if a landlord does not properly address a tenant that is dealing drugs out of their rental unit or breaking other laws? Also, landlords can be personally responsible if a property manager they’ve hired handles the situation improperly. 

While calling the police may be the right first move, calling an attorney to help you understand your rights and responsibilities can be just as important. An attorney can help you take steps to address your potential liability, and should it be necessary, remove the tenant permanently. 

Don’t stress and guess. Join LegalShield and for a small monthly fee you can contact a Provider Attorney any time you need legal advice. Legal plans include consultation on an unlimited number of legal matters at no additional charge.  

Dealing with property damage and excessive repair requests
  • Are you unsure if you are responsible for a specific repair or what to do about a tenant that calls to complain about something every week? Landlords are legally required to provide a safe and habitable rental unit. A landlord is not, however, required to respond to excessive and unreasonable repair requests.
  • If you find damage to your rental unit after a tenant has moved out, you may have a right to withhold part or all of the security deposit you collected. Do you know which types of damages qualify? The terms of the lease and laws of the state can dictate how a request for return of the deposit must be made, the obligations of a landlord if they are not going to return all or part of the deposit, the deadlines of the parties, and what deductions can be made to cover repairs or monies owed. Also, each state has different laws that dictate how you have to communicate your intention to use security deposit funds to repair damage. Some states require you to provide detailed invoices and receipts to prove the amount of damages you can deduct.  
  • When you become aware that a tenant may be damaging your property, you may need to investigate the situation before you can determine the appropriate response. Did the tenant actually damage something or was it just loud noise coming from the property? Do they plan to fix the damage or do you need to pursue eviction? You may not be able to answer these questions without speaking to the tenant or entering the property and documenting the situation through pictures and video. Before you enter the property, it may be worthwhile to speak with an attorney to make sure you don’t violate a tenant’s rights.
Dealing with unapproved guests (people and pets)

What is the best way to handle a tenant that is allowing a friend to live in the property for an extended period of time? What should you do if a tenant formally subleases your rental unit in violation of your lease? Do you have to handle a pet problem differently if your lease expressly prohibits pets versus working under a lease that does not mention pets? 

Whether you need to terminate the lease with your original tenant, call the cops or start a formal eviction process depends on the specific circumstances. While the laws are different in every state, guests may be considered permanent tenants if they have been staying in the property for more than a few weeks with no intention of leaving. Having keys to access the unit may be another factor courts consider. 

The lease should address these issues. Also, be prepared to take the proper steps to handle the situation. Document the facts and then contact an attorney if needed to help you determine the legal status of the guest. From there, a Provider Attorney can recommend the appropriate course of action to minimize financial damage and resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

Get Legal Support to Resolve Problems with Tenants
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