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Eight Tips for Dealing with Evil Tenants

Brandon Turner
5 min read

Beware! Evil tenants are real!

If you read my post from last week, entitled “Seven Tenants I’d Never Rent To” – you know the kind I’m talking about. We can do everything in our power to screen for these tenants, but in the end – they sometimes slip through the cracks. (Speaking of “screening” – have you read my Ultimate Guide to Tenant Screening yet?)

If you haven’t yet experienced an “evil tenant” yet- consider yourself very lucky. The truth is, nearly every landlord has or will encounter one. If you are wondering how you should deal with these “vile creatures-” then this post is for you. This goes out to all the landlords who have tenants who drive you crazy with their late payments, nitpicking, neediness, tendency to disturb other tenants, violence, and all around “evilness.”

If that’s you – or ever will be you – here are eight tips for dealing with them.

1. Be Objective

Evil tenants may be well-versed in deceiving people, and will try appealing to your emotions. Try to be as objective as possible. Set strict ground rules and stick to the policies you create. Enforce those policies fairly but strictly. Perhaps you can modify a thing or two with the payment, if absolutely necessary, but don’t fall for their stories easily without a degree of suspicion. Once you give in, they’ll not stop until they get you under their control.

2. Train Them

They say that you can “train people” on how to treat you in every day life – and this also works with your tenants. Show to them that you’re the one in control. Be empathetic, but objective and strict when giving options. Let them feel that you are a good friend when they are good to you, but you are as strict as a school master when they act evil as well.

What’s the best way to train them? The same way as a pet or a child: with rewards and punishments. While you can’t simply make them stay in their room all afternoon- there are easy ways to punish tenants, including late fees, eviction, or simply returning phone calls at 8:00 am when you start work after a late night of them drunk dialing you all night (true story.)

3. Write Everything Down

When setting agreements or dealing with problematic tenants, always write everything down. An airtight agreement protects you from any damages and liabilities evil tenants may do in the future. When you lay the ground rules out on paper, the tenant will be more inclined to follow the rules. To make it legal, both of you should sign the agreement and the form should be reviewed prior to signing by a qualified attorney. Of course, they’ll think twice when messing around since you made them understand the conditions and the legal ramifications if they get out of line. Somehow, – when something is written down, it has a way of sticking in people’s minds.

In addition, when a tenant is out of line – serve them with an official “notice to comply” immediately to show them you mean business. A paper taped to their door certainly is more convincing than a phone call or text. In my state, I issue a “10 Day Notice to Comply” form, requiring the tenant to comply with whatever part of their lease they are breaking. Most of the time, this official notices fixes any contract breaches immediately.

It’s also wise to record any late payments from the tenants as well as any conversations with the tenant so that you can track their late payments and use your documentation as proof, should you need to pursue legal action (see #8.)

4. Make a Connection

Open communication is the key to every relationship, so be sure you don’t let them feel disconnected and on their own. When dealing with “evil tenants” it’s easy to want to avoid talking with them, but this can actually be a greater hinderance in the long run. Respond to phone calls or emails promptly, no matter how tiresome the tenant becomes. This could soften the hearts of the needy and evil tenants – and even turn them into great tenants from there on.

5. Take Action Immediately

Sometimes, evil tenants don’t start out evil, but they develop this characteristic once they realize they can do whatever they want in your property. It comes down to the whole “if you give a mouse a cookie” thing! This is why taking action immediately is very important. When they have delays in payment or when they have disobeyed tenant rules, then reprimand immediately. Don’t let time pass – be decisive and move quick!

6. Hire Property Management

I often refer to one of my properties as my “cursed house.” I’ve had five bad tenants in a row – and I can’t seem to get anyone to stay (or keep it clean.) I have wracked my brain over and over as to why I have such problems with this house… and I’ve come up with nothing.

So, to fix the problem, I’m simply going to hand the property over to a property management company.

You see, I often think I can handle everything myself… but the fact is, I’m simply too busy. This one “cursed house” gives me more trouble than all my other houses combined! So, yes- it may cost me a little bit of cash to have a property manager look after it… but the decrease in stress and extra time will more than make up for the fee.

7.) Ask Them To Leave

This is one of the most important steps that I personally take when dealing with difficult tenants: I simply ask them to leave. Granted, if you have a long lease, they may not leave until the end of their lease but it doesn’t hurt to ask. This is also why I only sign month-to-month leases with my tenants: so I can easily ask tenants to move anytime with just a 30 day notice.

If you ask a tenant to leave, and they don’t (whether they have a lease or not) you can always try “cash for keys” in which you pay the tenant to leave. If you do this strategy, however, be sure to make it clear that you will only hand over the cash once they have 100% vacated the home and left it in broom-clean condition. Often times, paying a few hundred dollars to an evil tenant is a much cheaper option than step eight…

8. Legal Action

Finally using legal action may be your only option when dealing with evil tenants, especially when the problem is from non-payment or illegal activities. If you followed the tips above, you may already resolve the issue – but if you are still having major problems (as I had last month) an eviction might be necessary (and very costly.) Be sure to hire a qualified attorney to help you with your eviction and follow every rule required to make the eviction go smooth. Don’t do anything stupid (like turn off their power or remove their windows!) and let the courts settle the matter.

Conclusion

Evil tenants are not fun, but as a landlord – dealing with them is probably going to be inevitable. However, by following the eight tips in this post, your experience with evil tenants doesn’t need to cause undue stress and strain on your life. Continue to treat your business as a business, don’t take things personally, and follow your policy and your evil tenant will soon be a thing of the past.

Have you dealt with evil tenants before? What happened? How did you respond? Share your experiences in dealing with problem tenants in the comments below!

Photo: Farrukh

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.