Nobody gets into real estate thinking it’s going to be easy money. It’s pretty clear that you have to work hard for a certain period of time before you’ll become profitable. In the meantime, you’ll be dealing with tenants, some of which will be great, while others may cause you trouble.
If you’ve hired a property manager, you’ll be in a better position since they’ll vet all prospective tenants and use their industry experience to select the best options to fill your vacancies.
When you own rental property, conflicts will inevitably arise, so it’s best to have a plan for managing the situations most likely to occur. To help you face the unavoidable, here are some of the most challenging situations landlords deal with regularly, along with some solutions.
1. Bad excuses for late rent
Almost every tenant who pays rent late has an excuse, but some are worse than others. It’s understandable when a tenant needs a few extra days to pay the rent because their paycheck schedule clashes with the due date. It’s equally understandable if something unexpected happens and they have to pay you a week or two later. However, tenants with really bad excuses or those who are frequently late without explanation are a liability.
Nip this issue in the bud by implementing late fees every time a tenant is late with the rent and never let them slide. The first time someone pays late, let them know immediately and use your judgment to discern whether or not you need to evict them.
Once you give someone a free pass, like skipping a late fee, they will expect to be treated that way all the time. The problem is that once they expect this treatment, they’ll feel resentful when they don’t get it again, which can cause further problems.
2. Pets in a no-pet property
There’s always someone who doesn’t see a problem with keeping pets in a property that has a ‘no pets’ policy. Sometimes it’s caged animals like hamsters or rabbits, but some tenants are bold enough to get a dog or a cat.
If you suspect a tenant is keeping a pet against their lease, get photos for proof if you can, and then talk to them. Be direct and ask them if they have a pet on the property. If they admit to it, remind them it’s a lease violation and give them an official notice to remedy the situation. If they tell you it’s a service animal or emotional support animal (ESA), you can legally ask them to provide you with verification from a healthcare professional that they need the animal for their disability. Just be sure not to ask them about their disability specifically because that would violate fair housing laws. Housing providers are legally required to allow ESAs and service animals in a no-pets property.
3. Feuding tenants
When you own a multi-family property, there’s a chance that some of your tenants might get into a feud with each other. Not all neighbors will get along with each other just because they share the same common areas.
If you receive a complaint, take the time to hear all parties out before making any decisions. You might be able to resolve the situation in a meeting, and if not, you’ll have more information to decide if you need to evict someone.
Sometimes, tenants get into arguments with each other over small things, like ugly planters, misplaced belongings, and failure to remove clothing from the dryer on time on busy laundry days. You can’t stop these types of disputes, but you can step in and hold each party accountable so they know bickering won’t be tolerated. Your other neighbors will thank you for this.
A more serious dispute you might find yourself handling is one involving security cameras. Now that Wi-Fi cameras are affordable, they have become popular, even for apartment dwellers. These cameras are excellent security devices. The problem is that often, a tenant’s camera ends up pointing toward – and recording – another tenant’s front door. This creates privacy and legal concerns.
Speak with an attorney about this matter so you know what to do if this situation affects tenants in your rental property. The more you know ahead of time, the easier it will be to create peace between neighbors and outline the rules according to the law.
4. Piles of garbage
Commonly, tenants will pile their trash outside their door because they can’t get to the trash bin right away. This usually happens when the dumpster or incinerator is further away on the property and the tenant has to walk a ways to get there. Although it’s convenient for them, it looks bad and if forgotten about or left for hours, those piles of trash can become a magnet for flies, rodents, and dogs.
It’s best to include a clause in your lease that prohibits tenants from stashing bags of trash outside their door or anywhere else on the property, even for ten minutes. Ten minutes can easily turn into an hour, three hours, or overnight.
Require your tenants to take their trash directly to the designated dumpster immediately. If the tenant is disabled and relies on someone else to take out their trash, it’s their responsibility to figure out how to contain it prior to that time.
Tenants who can’t take their trash out when it’s full can get a standard-sized trash can with a lid and store their garbage in that until their assistant arrives. Don’t hesitate to make this suggestion if garbage becomes a problem on your property.
Garbage piles are a problem and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to evict a tenant who won’t follow the rules. However, if your tenant is a hoarder, you’ll need to approach the situation carefully because hoarding is considered a protected disability under the law.
Set clear expectations from the start (and follow through)
The easiest way to avoid major issues is to be clear with your requirements and rules upfront and not let tenants slide on lease violations. It doesn’t matter how small the issue is; if you don’t take action, tenants will take advantage of you.