Dealing with the Nitpicker Tenant

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We all know the nitpicker type.  The nitpicker is someone who never seems satisfied and is always finding something wrong.  Nitpickers can drive you crazy.  With most situations in life you can avoid them.  But what if one wants to or becomes your tenant?

You are most likely in for an unpleasant experience.  Once in your property, the nitpicker will immediately start finding things wrong and insisting that you fix them.  The first list of problems is followed by another list, and then another until you do not even want to look at your phone out of fear of another request from the nitpicker.

Do not get me wrong.  We make repairs all the time.  If your heat is not working, if your sink is dripping or the roof is leaking, we will fix it quick.  We may even accommodate some special requests upon move in.  But the small scuff mark on the wood floor?  The barely perceptible crack above the doorway or asking to replace mini-blinds because they are not all the same shade of white is carrying things a bit far.  So what to do?

Sometimes these nitpicking qualities will show themselves early.  If they nitpick during a showing make a note and beware, they are going to nitpick even more once they get in.  Remember nitpickers are not a protected class.

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Nitpicking Tenants

But what if they do not show their true colors until after you give them the keys?  What then?  Here are three things to do.

  1. Use a move in/move out check list.  Such a check list will allow your tenant to check off and note everything they find “wrong” with the property.  Let them know they will not be charged for anything on the list when they move out.  Sometimes this works.  Of course if they find something that truly needs to be repaired, like a broken light fixture, fix it.  But otherwise sometimes just allowing them to check things off the list solves the problem.
  2. Tell them to get with the program.  Sometimes the nitpicker will not stop.  This is the time for you to be professional and firm.  Let them know that you take care of your properties.  That you will fix things that break, and what a true emergency is.  But also let them know that you will not be at their beck and call.  Remind them that they viewed the unit in its current condition and they choose to rent it in that condition.  Sometimes it just takes a firm stand.
  3. If all else fails, let them go.  Let them know you will be happy to let them out of their lease so they can find a place that better meets their needs.  It is just not going to be worth it to keep them.  Give them the talk above and tell them they are welcome to stay under your terms and conditions.  If they cannot live with that then they are free to go.  Hopefully they will go, if not, you may just have to wait until the end of their lease.

We work hard to provide quality rental properties and a quality living experience.  But, some people are just never satisfied.  Don’t let the nitpicker in your property in the first place.  But if one slips through, try the above techniques.  After all, we have enough to deal with as landlords without getting nitpicked at all the time.

BP landlords, have you ever had a nitpicker in one of your properties?  How did you deal with them?  Share your stories with a comment.

Photo: Rafael Anderson Gonzales

About Author

Kevin Perk

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.


  1. Cheryl Carrier on

    Hi Kevin! Nice post! Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a “settling in” period for new tenants; as a general rule. They tend to drive you nuts for the first month or two with a lot of minor nonsense. I usually “fix” little nusance stuff (whether it needs a fix or not) during the first month or so – but I tell them that I am doing this in the interest of making them happy and (if this is the case) it’s really not a LL responsibility. I do firmly put my foot down if this behavior persists. For example, I just had a tenant contact me about a burned-out light bulb (yes, it’s true! many tenants cannot change a light bulb!). She claimed to have gotten a shock when attempting to change a different bulb and wanted “maintenance(?)” to come over to change the new bulb. Well, long and short, she didn’t know how to remove the glass to change the bulb.

    I’ve had others that don’t know how to operate a dishwasher or a garbage disposal; one with no heat (I had to take my coat off when I entered the apt.) due to a severely clogged filter – when I had left 6 new ones there for their convenience. Dryer won’t dry? Lint trap??? I am going away for 6 wks, can you send “John” over to turn-off the water? As if “john” costs me nothing.

    You just have to put your foot down early on; but I do anticpate a call or two in the first month.

    • Kevin Perk


      I think you are on to something here. There is a settling in period. We get that as well and yes it usually declines after a few weeks.

      It is the one who never stop however. Who never settle in, so to speak.

      Also, I am always amazed at what tenants do not know! Like you said, just empty the lint trap, or switch on the tripped breaker.

      You made some great points. Thanks for reading and commenting,


  2. Cheryl Carrier on

    A follow-up. I have had the “it seems you are not happy here” conversation and it usually results in a “I LOVE IT HERE” response. I’ll gladly let a “bad” tenant leave.

  3. Steve Johnson on

    Currently in my lease for where I’m renting there is a clause about how I can be charged a $50 service fee for any repairs. At first I was put off by it thinking how annoying it is, but from the landlords side its a great way to motivate renters not to nitpick, and more importantly to take care of small things themselves. A renter doesn’t want to put out $50 for someone to unclog the garbage disposal.

    • Kevin Perk


      I know several landlords who do something similar. Mostly those who rent out single family homes. I however do not think I would be able to put such a clause in my lease in my market. Just the way it is. But I can certainly see the benefit.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


  4. Elizabeth Gray on

    A good Lease Agreement has helped me to mitigate problems with nitpicky tenants. In my Lease Agreement it states that the Tenant has inspected the premises and accepts it AS-IS provided that the Landlord _________. I put N/A in the blank unless I’ve agreed to something otherwise.

    I also specifically delineate in the Agreement the process for handling repair requests and as well make the Tenant responsible for certain items (e.g., changing filters and light bulbs, paying extermination costs, maintaining the yard, repairing damage caused by the Tenant or his guests, repairing damage to doors, windows, or screens, etc.).

    I do strive to fix everything up front and provide the “best product at the best price” and thus minimize calls from my Tenants after they move in.

    When they’re moving in, we go through the Lease Agreement in detail so that expectations are set up front. Sometimes they still start to nitpick, especially in the initial weeks of the Lease. But my experience has been that if I stick to the Lease Agreement, the nitpicking will stop.

    • Kevin Perk

      Thanks for the helpful tips Elizabeth!

      Of course your lease can say many things, but getting the tenants to follow it is another matter entirely. But you are right, the best thing to do is to keep referring back to the lease.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


  5. There are 2 sides to this issue.
    1. You have the person that complains early and often. This is usually someone with little or no experience as a renter. My experience has been either younger single professional or someone that moved out of their own house and for whatever reason are now renters.
    2. The other side is the tenant that never says anything and you have a water leak that is either damaging your floors or costing you $ on the water bill.

    I’m in the “settling-in” period on two of the #1’s above and they can really make you question whether it is worth it. Oddly enough, the people that complain more are the ones that are late or later on their rent too.

    • Kevin Perk


      I have had both. The first usually need a bit of “education,” and then they usually calm down.

      The second can be a problem, which is why we try to inspect our properties every once in a while.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment,


  6. We’re talking a lot about the tenants nitpicking, but we should also mention the unfair landlord or management company. I remember back in the day when I rented, filling out a move in checklist where I was instructed to only check off or mention things that were truly broken, only to get money taken out of my security deposit for scuff marks or tiny things that were present before I moved in. So it can go both ways. Let the tenants use the checklist to protect themselves, too.

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