Every landlord defines “problem tenants” differently, but all can agree they are just not easy to deal with. You might be considered lucky if your problem tenant is just late with the rent or is loud and disruptive at 3 a.m. While some bend the rules, others break your property, causing costly damages. And in extreme cases, tenants threaten harm to others or engage in illegal activity. Problem tenants cause much more than headaches for their landlords. What are your options in dealing with them?
Laws vary by state and even locality, so be sure to check with legal resources before proceeding to any action. Tenants have rights, too. You do not want to be sued for taking illegal action against a problem tenant. If you intend to end the tenancy for a rules violation, you must give the tenant written notice, with time for them to correct the problem. If a tenant is late on rent, you send a notice giving them a number of days to pay or they must vacate the premises. For recurring problems such as late payment, or major damages, you would send an unconditional notice to move, with no time to correct the issue.
When you have exhausted other options, there is often no choice other than to evict. Consistent late rent, severe property damage, illegal activity or non-payment of rent are good reasons to proceed to eviction.
It’s a good practice to communicate regularly with tenants, and to carefully document all communication. If you are claiming damages or lease violations, you must have proof if you end up in court, so make notes, send correspondence by certified mail when necessary, and take photos of all damages.
The best defense against problem tenantsis to prevent them from moving into your property in the first place. Prescreening tenants with reference, background and credit checks is not 100% foolproof, but it’s a good practice to establish. While there are no guarantees, and even the most cautious landlords have their share of bad tenants, prescreening will definitely help you avoid them.
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