Good tenants but getting annoying

17 Replies

This is my first "landlord problem" post. Sorry it's long but I'm at my wits end. I realize I could have bigger problems because the tenants take care of the property and pay on time. But, the husband is getting annoying. 

The background is that they moved in 17 months ago (18 month lease) after my first tenant abandoned the house. The current tenants discovered a few repairs were needed because the first tenant hadn't reported problems. My PM was slow to respond and when I finally became aware of this I contacted tenants directly to apologize and then straightened things out including firing the PM. I now self-manage.

I have now paid to have the garbage disposal side of the kitchen sink snaked 4 times, each time giving them verbal and/or written preventative instructions and told them to use it minimally (I've already decided to remove it before my next tenant, if not sooner). After the 3rd time I told them to stop using it and any future problems would be at their expense. I provided mesh screens to catch debris. The 4th time, he was "sure" there was a bigger problem with the plumbing, that the disposal needed to be replaced and there was an odor coming from the drain. I figured I couldn't make them financially responsible since it wasn't in the lease, so I had another plumber out to check for things like a flat line and a problem with the vent pipe. The plumber said, as the others did, they are abusing the disposal. They said they had been "barely" using it but the plumber reported the wife said she had cleaned corn a few days earlier. Who knows how much of that she put down there? He explained the pipes are smaller than what is used these days so a new disposal wouldn't solve the problem.

I relayed this to them and told them not to use the disposal at all. I explained that I live in a condo about the same age as the house (65yrs) and I don't use mine for the same reason. The husband said the drain is still slow sometimes but drains better if they turn on the disposal.They seemed ok with all that and I didn't hear any more about it. Until now.

They told me they want to renew their lease at the end of the month so I emailed the new lease for their signature. And, yes, it makes them financially responsible for drain clogs! I did not increase the rent because the market is stable and all the hassles they went through early on. He sent the following reply:

I was thinking that there will be a change in the Monthly Rents because

- Kitchen sink is not functional and the occasional bad smell,

- Microwave was not the size we met when we came in and now we have to use ours

- During entry, we were told it has double ovens, but we realized it doesn't

The sink is functional because it's only the disposal side that is slow (not clogged). IF anyone told them there was a double oven it was the PM. Also, when I bought the place, it was obvious to me it was a microwave, not an oven. The microwave/oven combo quit and had to be replaced with separate units because the old dimensions were obsolete. The first replacement microwave quit already. It was covered by warranty but that unit wasn't available so was replaced with a slightly smaller one. A few weeks later the tenant told me to pick it up because they bought another, slightly larger one, without complaint at that time.

Am I being unreasonable in some way by not wanting to LOWER the rent? How would you respond to his request?

Thanks in advance for any feedback you may have.

Lower it by 10 dollars a month , and remove the disposal .

Sounds like they're just trying to nickel and dime you.  They're probably trying to test how much they can "get away with" with you.  If I were you I would absolutely remove the garbage disposal before resigning the new lease.  Offer to put back your microwave and if they don't like that one they can choose to use their own, but the terms remain the same.  "During entry, we were told it has double ovens, but we realized it doesn't"  What!?  Then why did they sign the lease 17 months ago if they felt like it wasn't as described.

You might need to be firm with these tenants.  Don't be mean, but don't be a push over either.  If they say they weren't abusing the garbage disposal provide them with paperwork from your plumber that proves otherwise.  I've had tenants like this before, you just gotta kinda approach them differently than you normally would and they'll be fine after they realize you're not going to put up with their shenanigans.  

And I would actually respectfully disagree with @Matthew Paul .  I wouldn't drop the rent at all.  These people sound like the kind that will take a foot if you give them an inch.  If they complain about it you have the proof that the disposal was being misused.

I would not feel pressured to lower the rent. In fact, I would remind them that you are not raising the rent as some landlords do.

 The sink is functional if they used it correctly as instructed.

 As far as the microwave: did they look at the kitchen before signing the lease? Obviously they noticed it was not a double oven. In the new lease I would not include the microwave as they are free to use their own. They either agree to the new lease or they can decide to move somewhere else.

Stand up for yourself and do not feel pressured to do something that is not in your best interest. Your new lease does not need to be the same as the old one. Good luck.

Rewrite lease so that it is very clear who is responsible for what, especially plumbing repair calls.

Remove disposal.

Do not lower rent.

Remind tenant is is customary to raise rent after an 18-month lease expires.

You should look at this as a business decision.  I don't know your property or the area so I can't answer.  Are they currently paying market rent, higher or lower?  if they leave, how quickly or easily would you be able to rent it out? Their reasons are stupid (especially about the oven).  Tell them that times are very tough for you and you can't lower the price right now but maybe revisit in 6 months? No one is going to move before the holidays.

I would not set anything in motion about lowering the rent in six month, this is just asking for trouble. Now would I plead poverty. Just focus on the issues: the garbage disposal is going, the ovens are as they are, that is it. These are on the verge of becoming problem tenants and the relationship could be poisoned. Be firm, fair and professional and don't get caught up in the drama they are inviting you into. If you hold fast they will likely drop these issues over time. But that relies on a calm approach. Do anything dramatic and the situation will become inflamed and you will have tenants who have well and truly become a problem.

I agree with the previous posters. Stand firm, do not lower the rent, remove the disposal and cross your fingers they move.

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...guess what! It's a duck!
I do think too that there is a pattern with such tenants and you have to be careful.
Just because they pay on time, doesn't mean anything. If they don't they will get evicted and they know it.
Do not lower your rent, you will loose control of them and will be looking ahead of more 'bad smell'. You treated them fairly so far, so just call them bluff! I would raise the rent and remove the disposal as some already suggested.
Good luck!

Thanks everyone for the helpful replies!

@Matthew Paul removing the disposal has definitely crossed my mind!

@Arthur Edmund  @Sylvia B. @Randy E @Josh Bakhshi @ Stephen E @Nathan Duncan (the @ feature is only working sporatically?) Thanks for validating my thoughts! Since these are the first unreasonable tenants I've dealt with directly, I admit I lack a little confidence. 

They did view the entire place before signing the first lease, I did provide them with a new microwave and the rent is smack in the middle of market rate. So, I will stick to my guns thanks to your responses. Yea BP!

It's kind of a bummer that your first exposure to tenant relations is with people like these.  Hang in there, you'll get the hang of it!

And don't be afraid of having to find new tenants if these current ones become too disagreeable.  We can help you walk through the process of leasing and it'll be a great learning experience.  I'm honestly shocked at the amount of people that hire PMs, because the job is incredibly easy.

Originally posted by @Matthew Paul :

Lower it by 10 dollars a month , and remove the disposal .

Exactly. Lower by $10 and remove the disposal.

They don't sound like problem tenants to me, drop the rent a tiny amount, keep them happy, keep them paying.

Why go through all the faff and hassle of trying to get rid of them, over nothing, and then turning the apartment around which will take 2-3 weeks. (Apart from the bone of contention that is the disposal unit - which should never ever be in a rental anyway (much like carpet)).

If They are generally good tenants , and they pay on time , and take pretty good care of the place , you know what you are dealing with . If they leave you have a month or 2 of vacancy and its a crapshoot to see who you will get . 

Good tenants are gold, and I work hard to keep them.

Problem tenants are not worth dealing with and shouldn't be indulged. Raise the rent $100. If they move, you can look for a better tenant. If they stay, you're at least getting more compensation for dealing with them.

One thing you could consider in writing the new lease to have it read something like the following.  I have seen this before.  

For simplicity, I will just assume your rent is $750/month.  

Rent (or Market Rent):  $775 (i.e. $750 + $25 increase, or some other amount)

Concession/Discount for Renewal:  $25

Net Rent:  $750.

In summary, you are making it clear that the market rent has gone up, but you are actually giving them a benefit/concession for renewing.  

Net net, there is no change in their out-of-pocket, but the message is clear.  Also, if there should be any issues for another, future renewal, they know that the market rent at the previous lease was at a higher level.

Remove the garbage disposal. Raise the rent.

Get control of your property or these kind if folks will only run you crazy.

There is nothing wrong with the garbage disposal.  Disposals either run or they don't.  If the tenant stops up the sink then you need to charge them for the plumber visit.

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here