Why You Should Absolutely Get Rid of the 20% of Your Tenants Causing 80% of Your Problems

by | BiggerPockets.com

If you have been in the residential rental business for any significant amount of time, eventually you’ll discover that one tenant whose life mission appears to be to send you to an early grave. We’ve all been there, and it is frustrating, believe us. They can do this in ways big and small — and usually in a lot of different ways at once!


Related: How to Get the Best Possible Tenants into Your Rental Property

16 Reasons Your Tenant’s Driving You Crazy

Here are a few examples of ways your tenant might be driving you nuts.

  1. Paying their rent late.
  2. Paying their rent late with an incredible, sad story as to why it’s late. (Tenant: “You see, my great uncle Jimmy passed away, and I had to fly unexpectedly to North Dakota for the funeral. But then when I got there, a massive tornado blew in and took out the whole town. Then my car broke down on my way home.” Landlord: “Didn’t you fly?” Tenant: “Oh, that’s what I meant. After I flew home, my car broke down, and I couldn’t get to work, so I was out of work for three weeks!” Landlord: “Is that the box to a new 60” big screen TV out by your garbage can?” Tenant: “What box? Oh that. That? That’s… not… mine.”)
  3. Or on the flip side, playing ostrich and burying their head when the rent is due.
  4. Smoking in a non-smoking unit.
  5. Smoking out the window in a non-smoking unit. (It’s not “technically” smoking in the unit if their hand is out the window.)
  6. Getting a pit bull in a no-pet unit.
  7. Getting a pet of any kind in a no-pet unit. (But it’s so cute!)
  8. Not taking care of or cleaning up after animals in a pet-friendly unit.
  9. Noise complaints from the neighbors.
  10. Turning the backyard into a vehicle cemetery.
  11. Not mowing the lawn.
  12. Letting their sister and Joe Blow move in.
  13. Changing the oil in the living room. (Yes, this has happened.)
  14. Not reporting maintenance issues that turn into major problems.
  15. Using their decks as a catch-all.
  16. Using Mickey Mouse sheets as curtains (after they broke the blinds).


How the Pareto Principle Applies to Landlording

You get the idea. There is a popular business principle often discussed called “The Pareto Principle,” also known as “The 80/20 Rule” that has been attributed to Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Wikipedia explains it well by saying, “The Pareto Principle… states that for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.” In the world of landlording, this can be applied to mean that 80 percent of your problems (or stress) comes from 20 percent of your tenants. The percentages don’t have to be exact, but it comes down to simply eliminating those problem tenants from your portfolio.

Related: The 7 Most Common Tenant Complaints (& How to Solve Them!)

By firing the tenants in your irritating 20 percent, you will be a happier landlord, your other tenants will be happier, and your business will run much more smoothly. There are a lot of qualified people out there who are great tenants, so why put yourself through the hassle of trying the deal with someone who simply doesn’t care? Life’s too short to rent to people who will shorten your life even further. So, let’s get rid of them, shall we?

[This article is an excerpt from Brandon Turner’s The Book on Managing Rental Property. Check out the full read here!]

What (crazy) things have your worst tenants done?

Share your stories below!

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He began buying rental properties and flipping houses at age 21, discovering he didn’t need to work 40 years at a corporate job to have “the good life.” Today, with nearly 100 rental units and dozens of rehabs under his belt, he continues to invest in real estate while also showing others the power, and impact, of financial freedom. His writings have been featured on Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com, FoxNews.com, Money Magazine, and numerous other publications across the web and in print media. He is the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down, The Book on Rental Property Investing, and co-author of The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which he wrote alongside his wife, Heather, and How to Invest in Real Estate, which he wrote alongside Joshua Dorkin. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.


  1. Nancy Babbitt

    I grew up in the downstairs part of a two-family house my parents owned. We always had tenants, and I never appreciated how really great they all were until I got older.

    The “worst” ones were a pair of unmarried elderly sisters. (The Morrison sisters on The Andy Griffith Show remind me of them a lot!) They’d bicker like teenagers sometimes, and one put a deadbolt on her bedroom door to keep the other one out!

    Every time she locked herSELF out, she’d call my mother who would tell my father who would get the ladder out of the garage, climb up to and through the bedroom window, and unlock the deadbolt from the inside.

    The third (fourth?) time she did it, my mother demanded a copy of the key.

    Otherwise, the “bad” tenants I heard about as a kid did stuff like leave their windows open, allowing rain in and onto hardwood floors.

    (I’m still trying to figure out how they got a car into a living room at all for ANY purpose. Good Lord. What is the stream-of-consciousness behind a thing like that?)

  2. 80% of the tenants are fabulous people who get tormented by bad property managers who move in their friends and blame other tenants for the friends bad behavior. Or, the property managers who use their tenants personal information to fraudulently obtain credit cards after a tenant has moved out using their old address. Also, Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) doesn’t work. It only kills good dogs, like pitt bulls. You should be ashamed of yourselves, just because you own a property doesn’t make your a king or queen who can harass good tenants day, night, and weekends for fun. Control your property managers, treat your tenants with the respect a human being deserves. You are a sad, disgusting lot of people who may have lots of money, but nothing else.

  3. John Teachout

    Most landlords and property managers I know are busy people and haven’t the spare time to harass their good tenants days, nights and weekends. Apparently someone has had some bad experiences and is now painting everyone with the same brush. A look in the mirror may identify the source of the problem.

  4. Stephen Toker

    Ha! I manage residential stand-alone houses and some of my worst times are dealing with crappy landlord/owners. One is owned by two brothers. Brother one is a prince of a guy. The other is a redneck with no concern for anyone else but himself. One tenant lost a leg in an accident recently. Brother two came over and harassed the contractor who was installing a ramp so the poor guy could get into his house. He also enters their property without notice and is generally a pain in the a–. The only reason I haven’t fired him is because the good brother is out of state and I just don’t want to cause him to have to shop a new manager. Part of my management effort these days is to check out the owners as well as I do the tenants.

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