Rent is current. Tenant wants to renew. I won't. Am I nuts?

54 Replies

This may be the strangest thing I have ever encountered in my time as a landlord. Here's a little background info: This property is managed by my property manager. It is rented at the highest amount it ever has been. The tenant has lived there since Nov. 2013, keeps the home nice, and has never been more than a few days late with the rent. 

The tenant has made several maintenance complaints. Most have been about the orange color of the water. This house has a well, water softener and house filter. The tenant apparently has to be reminded every 3 months or so to change the filter which always solves the problem. The last time this happened they threatened to call a lawyer because it was dangerous for their baby daughter. They have also threatened to report us to the City because the furnace isn't vented to code (it is) and the chimney is falling down (a couple bricks spalled, the chimney is fine.) They complain about this and that. The odd thing is they will no longer let my property manager send his maintenance man over to address anything. They insist on a professional well man, electrician, HVAC so the small complaints can't be addressed. I really don't care. The PM fields the calls, not me.

This one bothered me though. A couple months ago they reported that there was water damage in a back room. This is an enclosed porch that is unheated. That makes it a 3 season room (the home is in Michigan) It is drywalled and carpeted--it is actually pretty nice. Most tenants have used it as a storage room. When they reported the water they were mad because some belongings were damaged. We responded immediately. They let the maintenance man see this--he knew the job was beyond him and we got a contractor out for a quote immediately.

The contractor thinks he knows how to repair this. I authorized the repair. The tenant won't let the contractor in because he doesn't think he is an expert (he kinda is.) The PM has made two more attempts to schedule the repair. The tenant says no.

There is some damage to the drywall and the carpet may need to be replaced but the lease expires at the end of March, 2015. I told the PM to just wait them out. We'll be able to get in there soon.

The PM sent out their standard notice about the lease expiring soon and the tenant responds back that they are renewing. No they are not. I made it clear to the PM that I will not renew the lease if they won't allow me to make repairs. I have never had a situation like this before. I know this is long and I probably should have turned it into a blog (maybe I did) but I thought some of you might be amused. Just wanted to share.

@Jeff Rabinowitz  thanks for posting your story.  I actually read the whole thing!  I have some nitpickers that maintain a clean house and pay on time as well.  I can't wait to not renew their lease this March.  Let them go.  If you are in a no-cause state it shouldn't be a problem.  I would still document everything best I can in case the word retaliation crosses their lips!  Look forward to the peace.  I know I am!

It's your home the tenant can not stop you or your property manger from entering to make repairs with proper notice. I would give them a notice that you will not be renewing their lease and they must vacate on the end date specified in your lease. Furthermore I would document everything and hold them responsible for further damages that occurred as result of them not allowing you access to repair the items.

@Jeff Rabinowitz   It sounds like their behavior is escalating.  Who know where it will lead.  I am sure it is a nice place and should not be a problem to rent quickly.  I would get new tenants.  This is the whole devil you know vs the one you don't scenario.  But if they have already threatened to get lawyers involved I would not keep them around.  Too much of a hassle.  Good luck.

I think you're doing the wise thing. Sounds like the issues are escalating. So it's better for everyone concerned to  get them  out of all those "potentially unsafe conditions" ASAP, right? :)

I am a bit surprised that so many of you are on here on a Friday night and that any of you read through that treatise. I love talking about tenants. My wife is getting a bit irritated that I am still at the computer as we are going out to eat. Thanks for the support. I will check in later.

I have one not quite this bad but they don't want anyone in the house unless they are home.  They talk the repair men to death too. Just give them notice you are not renewing. You need to make repairs and they won't let you.  I did add a clause to my lease because of this couple which basically says all tenants must allow access for certain items regardless of if they are home.  We notify per law but I just can't work around everyones schedule on some items.  And frankly the person in charge of repairs on your house is you...

I would not even think about giving the option to stay if you can complete the repairs. Otherwise...the saga continues.

I also think its hilarious that they think you need their approval on who fixes the problem. "I think its time that you find a situation thats a better fit".

It's always interesting to hear different stories about tenants. Sounds like your doing the right thing here. They will just continue to cause problems and may even look for lawsuits. Good luck with this and let us know how it goes!

@Jeff Rabinowitz  People involved in real estate are party animals, illustrated by spending Friday night on Bigger Pockets. In Kentucky we have 2 notices, one is a 7 Day Pay or Quit, which is typically for non-payment of rent. The second is a 14 Day Notice, for most everything else, including not allowing access for maintenance, although if there is a potentially damaging issue or danger issue to the tenant or property, then you can get access immediately. If it is not an emergency, then it is 2 days notice - the statute is KRS.383.615. The reason I tell you all of this is certainly there are similar types of laws in Michigan.

Also, again this is for Kentucky, we would give 30 day notice prior to the end of the lease via certified mail that we would not be renewing the lease. No reason need be given, just that the lease is ending and would not be renewed, after that if the tenant stayed, we would not accept rent, and file a 14 Day Notice for failure to vacate then go through the eviction process. 

You don't need their permission to enter your house.  Just give them 12 or 24 hours advance notice that you WILL be entering to make repairs as per your lease (hopefully?) and/or state laws.

This situation is like a fish riding a bike.

It makes no sense! Anytime a tenant cries wolf in saying they will call an attorney over some pathetic thing such as iron in the water it is a waste of your managers time, a liability for your property and all around just a pain in the arse. I may ruffle a few feather with this blunt statement but get rid of them.

Getting them out now is cheaper than spending $5,000 on legal aid and attorney fees six months from now when their water goes wrongs again.

They have never actually escalated by calling in other parties and I don't think they will. They just like to complain and think they are in control. They aren't. My property manager and I get some good laughs out of them. What really surprised me about this and prompted me to post is that they indicated they want to renew. My lord, when you read some of their complaints it sounds like they are living in a death trap. This home is nicer than the one I live in. Really. Here is a picture of the kitchen:

I don't have granite counter tops and cherry cabinets in the home I live in.

I would tell them you wouldn't renew! Those types of tenants aren't worth it! I would do non renewal over lease violations!

Good luck! There are bough non-pain in the tush tenants that I would want to deal with annoying ones!

I was sitting in court just the other day on a non-tenant related issue, listening to a tenant / landlord have it out in front of the judge, basically the tenant was complaining of mold, repair people made many attempts to enter & fix, tenant refused all times, but wants to stay - and of course refuses to pay rent due to condition of unit. Obviously looking for a free ride. Landlord had everything documented, as she ran through the dates and events there was a clear escalation and it was quite apparent the tenant was just setting it up for milking out as much free rent as possible. Not saying this is your situation, however, whenever flags go up, grab your opportunity to get them out and run! Especially if your house is quick to rent. A few bucks of higher rent doesn't make up for potential thousands they can cost you in the long run.

That said, I am always really nice to my tenants. In my 15 years of renting, I've not had a bad experience yet (knock on wood). But I always talk to them directly and work around their needs, because a pissed of tenant can do a lot of damage, so I'd rather eat up a $100 or $200. I like them to see their landlord is a cool chick that can relate to them.  So in this case I would go talk to them, assess the damage, and tell them that I'm going to remodel that space to make it more usable and avoid any mishaps in the future (whether the case or not). My spiel would go: "I'm so sorry this happened, I see I'll need to remodel the space, unfortunately, I can't renew your lease, due to remodel, but how can I help ease your transition?" If they mentioned damaged items, I'm sure they are expecting compensation. They could be stalling repairs to tally up more damages on their side. If they say they're ok to stay during remodel, say your insurance won't allow it, or whatever excuse you need (that isn't your/their fault). Try to negotiate with them now in conjunction with terminating their lease. In my experience tenants are much more hostile to PM's than owners.

Currently I need to vacate tenants I inherited though a purchase - ASAP,  I can give them their 30 day notice and be done with it, but instead I offered to give them 1/2 the month free to vacate in 15 days, and return 100% of their deposit plus $400. Why? Because all the foundation work I need to do is in their unit and every day they let the contractor in to do all the exploration work necessary adds up to $$ I would be losing in rents on all the units that are empty until this structural issue is fixed. Tenants are happy and I'm happy. They're begging to come back when its completed and always greet me with a smile. So much easier and cost effective than dealing with hostile tenants.

My .02 for what its worth.

@Joey Middlemiss , I appreciate your comments. Their complaints don't really bother me nor my property manager. They are almost always written and over trivial matters. They did look up my phone number once and left me a voice message complaining about the PM. (The first time that has ever happened.) I didn't respond other than sharing it with my PM. I have a good understanding with my PM. I won't undermine him and if he asks me to approve a tenant placement then they become his adventure. That is what I hire him for.

Part of the issue is that they may have used me (as in I'm going to tell Dad) as a way to control the PM but neither of us are going to play that game. I have been a landlord for quite a while.

Originally posted by @Steve Osowicz :

@Jeff Rabinowitz People involved in real estate are party animals, illustrated by spending Friday night on Bigger Pockets.

It's funny isn't it? I can talk real estate for hours at a time and when I am with other landlords and start talking about stupid tenant tricks...well if that isn't fun I don't know what is. The best part is that we are out spending our tenant's money. I love it.

As far as getting these folks out..I don't expect any problems. They are really pretty decent people. Their lease is expiring and we will serve proper notice. It would be fun to see their face when they realize they haven't been offered an option to renew.

@Jeff Rabinowitz  - when you have been in the rental business long enough, you realize that there are tenants who will make your life easier and tenants that will make your life harder. And you seem to know this - the tone of your posts in this thread is a giveaway. Anyway, IMO it would be nuts to KEEP these tenants that are doing stuff to make your life harder. Go find the other kind when these move on ;)

If your state law doesn't require you to give them a renewal, then I would not.  I like my life simple.  When I've had a tenant like that in the past I've reminded them of their responsibilities in their lease allowing me to make repairs and the consequences of them blocking them.   It's your investment.  You might get a chuckle out of them here and there over things they do and say however it's clear what their MO is and having them as part of your portfolio is poison in my opinion.  People like that also talk to neighbors and do harm in other ways.    Try to part ways with them as amicably as possible.  Consult with your attorney to make sure you're doing everything by the book and move on to happier and less stressful tenants.  

Darren Sager, Real Estate Agent in NJ (#0897533)
862-208-2287

@Darren Sager , are there States that require you to renew a lease? Michigan does not. I thought all leases that were written for a specific term terminated at the end of that term.

@Jeff Rabinowitz  

In the tenancy law where we operate, if a tenant makes a request for repair, they are obligated to allow the landlord or his/her agents (read contractor, PM) access to the property to affect the repair.

I had tenants who behaved in a similar manner to yours - though they always allowed our maintenance and trades people access.  Ninety days prior to the anniversary of their lease, in accordance with the law, we provided them written notification that we would not be renewing their lease agreement.

1(506) 471-4126

@Jeff Rabinowitz  

Perhaps it's just the lawyer in me, but when there are THAT many complaints (written? oral?) I tend to get a little wary that someone is trying to build a record and screw me in the end.  It happens in my day job all the time.

I'm with the others.  Get them out.  Maybe it's nothing.  But what if it isn't?

720-334-8741

@Jeff Rabinowitz yes there are based upon the length of the lease. In NJ for instance, if a tenant has an annual lease they must be offered a renewal. Now there are things you can do to put things in your favor even in those cases. I have in my leases that when I offer a renewal and they don't respond withing X amount of days, not responding means they've not accepted the new lease terms and automatically agree to vacate the premises at the end of the term. Lock box goes on the door, sign out front, listed in the MLS. Most tenants never respond.

Still, you need to make sure what your state dictates on this matter.  If no such law exists in Michigan then just move forward!

Darren Sager, Real Estate Agent in NJ (#0897533)
862-208-2287

I just had my new tenant complain about the heat not coming out of all the vents.  I had to explain to them how a forced air system works.  I pointed out where the cold air returns was and where the heat vents were.

I guess they both grew up with radiators and electric heat.

Originally posted by @Jeff Rabinowitz :

@Darren Sager , are there States that require you to renew a lease? Michigan does not. I thought all leases that were written for a specific term terminated at the end of that term.

 Jeff,

Under our local Residential Tenancies Act, on an annual lease either tenant or landlord are required to provide 3-months notice of termination in advance of the anniversary date, otherwise the lease automatically renews.

There is an exception for "long term tenants" {tenancies of >5 years in duration}.  With a long-term tenant, the lease becomes asymmetric.  From the tenant's perspective it becomes month-to-month and they are only required to provide 30-days notice.  The landlord, must provide 3-months notice {even if the original lease situation was month-to-month and not annual} and can only end the lease in certain situations 

  • if the landlord or his/her immediate family want to live in the rental
  • if the rental will be used for something other than residential premises
  • if the rental will be renovated significantly
  • if the tenant is working for the landlord maintaining or managing the rental, and the job ends.
1(506) 471-4126

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