Common Tenant Problems

10 Replies

I'm developing a class on dealing with difficult tenants.  What are the most common tenant problems you encounter?  I need some examples for the class (beyond my own bad experiences) but I'm sure everyone will share advice if you share your stories.  No tenant names, please!

HI @Denise Evans

 I don't have these problems anymore but:

1 -  tenants arrears is something that always comes up. Do you set up payment plans or give them the boot - it's always a risk.

2 - noise between apartments. This can break out into a war if not skillfully handled.

3- crime in the neighborhood makes tenants want to flee

Difficult tenants..... (some less common than others)

1. Sociopaths. Research indicates one out of every 25 people is a sociopath. Sociopaths have no conscience and do what they want to do without remorse. They are often skillful manipulators. Some do evil things. I just read a book titled "The Sociopath Next Door" written by a clinical psychologist. After reading it, I realized that two of our most difficult tenants in the past were most likely sociopaths.

2. Hoarders. They fill their homes with stuff to the extreme. Often leading to sanitation issues and safety issues, including poor egress and fire hazards. This is a mental health disorder, and not a matter of just being messy. They often don't see how bad their living situation really is.

3. Sneaks. They sneak in unauthorized occupants. They sneak in unauthorized pets. They  sneak in toking and smoking, even though smoking is not allowed anywhere on the premises. Not only do they break rules, they try to hide it.

4. Rule Breakers. Rule breakers are rule breakers. Hard to reform. When a tenant breaks one rule, we often find they are breaking another rule. We must keep closer tabs on them and also do more inspections. Often we need to serve the "Notice to Comply" to get them back on track. Often we end up letting them know we need to end the tenancy, as it doesn't work out.

5. Liars. If we catch them lying during the application process, we don't rent to them. If we catch them lying after they are already a tenant, we can't trust them. Many liars are sneaks and rule breakers, some are sociopaths. Don't even think of lying to me, because I will likely find you out and the result won't be good for you!

I would add a growing issue we are seeing is tenants that have a pet, then decide that it is a "Service Animal" and get a certification online showing the animal is a service dog. Now the tenant wants their added pet fee waived because the law views a service animal completely different with a different set of rules and laws.

@Denise Evans - you asked for input and received some good info. Now it's your turn to share some of YOUR problem tenants :)

@Steve Babiak Here are some of my most commen problems:

Collections.  Slow pays with a different story each month. Don't waste my time with your stories. I'm making money on your late fees. Abandoned personal property. Not wanting to "bother" me with repair requests that result in more expensive repairs.  Bonding with my employees against the common enemy--me.  Leaving HVAC on with all windows open. Sure, the tenant pays the power bill, but I have the added hours on my HVAC unit. Negotiating petty squabbles among tenants and between roommates.  Late fee negotiation (Them: "But I mailed it on the last day for a timely payment. Under the mailbox rule, that counts."  Me: No, the mailbox rule deals with offer and acceptance of contracts, not late fees. If I don't have the money, you are late.")  Rules negotiations. In fact, negotiations over things that are clearly not negotiable is my biggest headache, because it eats up the most time.  For rural properties, it's the septic tank and failure to take care of it.

Oh, another one.

6. Providers of Food for Stray Animals and Wildlife. Aren't the racoons cute? Hey they like dog food, I'll put a bowl out for them. Oh that cat? It's not mine, that's the neighborhood cat _________(named).  Sure I feed him. I feel sorry for him and wouldn't want him to go hungry.

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :

Difficult tenants..... (some less common than others)

5. Liars. If we catch them lying during the application process, we don't rent to them. If we catch them lying after they are already a tenant, we can't trust them. Many liars are sneaks and rule breakers, some are sociopaths. Don't even think of lying to me, because I will likely find you out and the result won't be good for you!

Yes indeed! I usually find them out with the first phone call about the property. I always ask their name, first and last. Sometimes while I have them on the phone, I'll look them up on the county court web site, and ask "Do you have any evictions, judgments, criminal history?" 

It's always, nope, my background is clean. Me: Then why do I see 4 evictions in your name dating back to 2000? And they still deny it! It's not me, nope. Same thing when the formal background check comes in.

File this one under sociopathic liars: A tenant and his family that painted the property, stained the cabinets, installed a backsplash (all poorly done and without permission), removed a light fixture, spray painted the patio, damaged the new appliances, ruined the carpeting, and more.

Our fault for not inspecting regularly, but the kicker was when I told the tenant I had before and after photos and would be pursuing legal action, the tenant actually said that all that damage was there when they moved in, and all they did was paint! Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Then there are tenants that won't cooperate with access to the property, even with proper notice. We don't tolerate that, but it's still unpleasant.

Originally posted by Aly NA:
Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard:

Difficult tenants..... (some less common than others)

5. Liars. If we catch them lying during the application process, we don't rent to them. If we catch them lying after they are already a tenant, we can't trust them. Many liars are sneaks and rule breakers, some are sociopaths. Don't even think of lying to me, because I will likely find you out and the result won't be good for you!

Yes indeed! I usually find them out with the first phone call about the property. I always ask their name, first and last. Sometimes while I have them on the phone, I'll look them up on the county court web site, and ask "Do you have any evictions, judgments, criminal history?" 

It's always, nope, my background is clean. Me: Then why do I see 4 evictions in your name dating back to 2000? And they still deny it! It's not me, nope. Same thing when the formal background check comes in.

File this one under sociopathic liars: A tenant and his family that painted the property, stained the cabinets, installed a backsplash (all poorly done and without permission), removed a light fixture, spray painted the patio, damaged the new appliances, ruined the carpeting, and more.

Our fault for not inspecting regularly, but the kicker was when I told the tenant I had before and after photos and would be pursuing legal action, the tenant actually said that all that damage was there when they moved in, and all they did was paint! Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Then there are tenants that won't cooperate with access to the property, even with proper notice. We don't tolerate that, but it's still unpleasant.

Good point.  We come across that a lot and while we always win that battle- it is certainly unpleasant.  

I would just say that inconsiderate or mean tenants are the biggest issue.  It causes all sorts of problems and can make the entire experience miserable.  The worst part is, it is not something that you can really screen for.  They can be pleasant throughout the initial process and as long as they get a good rental reference(landlord may want them gone) they will check out.  Maybe they fall under the sociopath category.  

Absolutely @Chris D., add that to the list. I had a tenant that was approved, but hadn't signed the lease, and she was so unpleasant on the phone when we were going over the lease - insulting the property, making snide comments about some lease items - I decided she'd be a nightmare tenant. 

This was the only property where we used a realtor, so I just told her to tell the tenant to go away ;)

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.