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6 Suggestions on How to Avoid Being Dominated by Your Tenants

by Peter Giardini on July 23, 2011 · 4 comments

  

If I’ve said it once, I’ave said it a million times… the key to being a successful (read profitable) landlord is to select quality tenants and train them to be even better tenants.  If you mess up in either department your life is going to be miserable and your profits are going to suffer.  Guaranteed!

I have been working with a client for the past several weeks who has been in a reactionary role relative to a very dominating tenant.  It has not been a fun experience and my heart goes to this client and the challenges she is dealing with.  You know you are going to have issues when the tenant succeeds in kicking you out of your property but will let the handyman you employed stay to complete the work… and threatens to make your life miserable as a landlord because they can.  OUCH!!  OUCH!!! and triple OUCH!!

While I don’t profess to being in possession of a magic wand, I am almost certain the this situation which has escalated could have been avoided first through proper tenant screening and secondly by training the tenant that as the landlord you are the BOSS not… not them! 

I have written volumes about selecting and managing tenants. Just search through the BiggerPockets Blog to find the many articles dealing with screening and then training tenants.  This isn’t rocket science, and I am not going to repeat everything previously written, but I am going to share with you a few additional insights dealing with tenants who want to control the landlord/tenant relationship placing the landlord in a continuously reactionary role.

How to Avoid Being Dominated by Your Tenants

1.  If you don’t want problem tenants tighten your screening process.  I know it is hard to believe, but spending a couple more weeks selecting the best tenant will actually be more profitable then selecting the first one who walks through the door.

2.  Once a person is lucky enough to be one of your tenants, you have to start TRAINING them immediately.  And, what do I mean by training?  I mean making sure they know the rules (you do have a set of house rules… right?) and that they are abidding by them.  And, if they start to deviate from them or your lease in any way, you must make them aware of what the rules are and what their obligations are under the lease.  Don’t let them slide!

3.  Never let a tenant dictate your actions. To do so transfers all of your power as a landlord to the tenant; your life will be living hell (as my client is experiencing) from that moment forward.

4.  Get out in front of any potential problems.  For instance once my client understood the intent of her tenant and the tenant started complaining about the poor quality of a completely new property (this one was renovated with the intent to sell, but was instead used as a rental), my client requested an out-of-cycle Section 8 inspection.  Yes – there were two issues — a door off its hinges (door jam destroyed) and water from an overflowed tub leaking into the downstairs.  Both issues were caused by the tenant, and repaired immediately by my client.

5.  If you start to loose control of the situation don’t hesitate to conduct routine and formal “safe and clean” inspections (remembers lots of pictures) to ensure you can never be accused of not knowing what the material condition of the property is.  In this case, this client ended up in escrow court for non-issues because the tenant got out in front of her regarding exaggerated maintenance issues (this occured several months after the out-of-cycle inspection).

6.  I shouldn’t even have to mention this, but it appears to me that most landlords execute a lease with their tenants, bring it back to the office and stuff it in a draw somewhere.  This is a huge mistake!  You need to not only use a lease tailored to protect you (there just happens to be a sample lease in the BiggerPockets FilePlace that is landlord focused) but you need to know what your rights and responsibilities are in that lease.  Every action you take must be allowed by the lease, and if you have a well written lease, you will have many, many tools at your disposal.

Here is the bottom line…

Most tenants just want a safe and clean place to live.  Yet a few could care less about safe and clean, but only look at you, as their landlord, as the bad guy, and they are out to make your life miserable.

Don’t let that happen.  Get out in front of bad tenants and protect both your property and your profits.

Best of luck!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Brown July 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Hey Peter — Super advice as always. My heart also goes out to this poor lady. When faced with this same situation back in the 80’s, one of my mentors told me to call my attorney ASAP, and instigate action to give notice to the offending tenant. I didn’t need a reason, just proper notice, which I gave, in person, two days later. I brought a couple ‘two-legged roadblocks’ with me. Also, I gave twice the notice as was required by the contract.

His tone changed quickly, but to no avail. You’re right, Peter. Once they show their colors, get rid of ‘em the same way you remove a nasty splinter.

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Ferdinand Cabrera July 24, 2011 at 7:46 am

nice article and informative thanks…………

Reply

Kristie Jonca July 26, 2011 at 9:54 am

Peter,

A well written lease is KEY! Great article for landlords…Thanks

Reply

Marcus August 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Great article with some really sage advice. Yet another way to avoid being taken advantage of is not to put yourself in the position of landlord at all. You can be a 100% rental property owner who benefits from the associated profits, but without the headache of managing tenants or maintenance. Just look for a turnkey income property investment firm that will do all the work for you.

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