HELP....I HAVE THE TENANT FROM HELL!

89 Replies

Thanks Bryan... My lease says the same thing but the tenant is refusing to crate the dog or agree to my coming in the house when she isn't there. I know exactly how to handle my tenants when they cooperate... I didn't know quiet how to handle this one. I'm not going in with an aggressive dog in the house that is not crated. I think Mike gave me the right answer. If she says the dog is aggressive, I'll evict her. If she says the dog is not aggressive, I'll go in the house for the scheduled inspection. Of course I will have someone with me because I am frightened of dogs ... aggressive or not.  

I actually have a portion in my rental agreement as to what constitutes an "emergency" & how those & other "non-emergency" repairs will be handled, by whom & when. 

Most states allow access to the property with 24 hours' notice, regardless of the tenant's availability. (Check yours, of course!). 

If you have it in writing, with valid signatures from the tenant, STICK TO IT! 

If you don't have it in writing, add it to your next agreement & learn from it.

I completely agree. It is not easy to stay calm, especially when you watch a @#$% mess up what you worked so hard for, pay for, maintain, etc.

If you lease has kenneling the animal in there, and she has texted or emailed (get it in written form!) that she will not kennel, then move forward with the eviction with that documented breach of the agreement. If your lease says kenneled and she says it is not aggressive and not kenneled, I would still go ahead and evict. No matter the dog disposition, the lease says kenneled and she refuses. Get the headache out so you can enjoy life again.

@Sharon C Hartless, I empathize with your situation, but sooner or later this happens to a landlord who initially has the good fortune of finding and keeping good tenants by "winging it."  And then they get the PITA or worse, a deadbeat tenant who makes the landlord wish they never got into the rental business. As a professional landlord, you need to treat all your potential tenants as if they are PITAS - or are going to be. Once you learn this, you can press the reset button and start over with a new strategy for dealing with any tenant. Here's an outline for the plan:

-Learn the landlord-tenant laws of your state and city. You need to know your rights - when you can access your occupied rental and for what reasons, for example. You should be able to get most of this information from your professional housing association or agency, your state's Consumer Affairs Department (landlord/tenant rights) or your local real estate association. Yes, consulting an attorney about these matters is recommended, but expensive to have him explain all the laws to you. Instead, educate yourself and use your attorney for the following: drafting a lease that is compliant with state and Fair Housing laws; reviewing your written rental criteria for any Fair Housing violations, and representing you in court in cases of eviction proceedings. It's always a good idea to take a Fair Housing class for landlords offered in your city or town.

- Create your written rental criteria  ( minimum credit score, income requirements, rental history requirements, pet policy, etc), and have your attorney review it. Provide a copy of this to every applicant and have somewhere on your application stating that the tenant has received it and has reviewed it with a signed consent. Your attorney can word it for you. 

- Create a checklist for your background checks to verify employment and income (pay stubs with employment verification form filled out by HR or supervisor), and rental history (current and prior landlord; ask them two questions: Were they late with the rent and what dates and were any three day notices given and for what reason?. Don't skip any of these steps - ever, no matter how "nice" the person is applying. Always check the prior landlord because the current landlord may tell you anything to get the tenant out; the prior landlord has nothing to lose by telling you the truth.

- Never negotiate rent or security deposit. If your rental is clean, in good repair and competitively priced, you will find a great tenant who appreciates it. Consider using a month-to-month with all tenants and if you wish, graduate to a lease. A month to month protects a landlord from PITA and deadbeat tenants because they can be quickly booted out. If tenants like a property and it is close to work, school, etc, they'll stay, no matter what agreement you choose. Take the time to go over your lease carefully with the tenant, emphasizing all the important stuff: rent, due date, notices, what's an emergency, etc. I would also include in the lease the need for bi-annual inspections of the unit (I call them safety inspections to check smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors are working, for example).

- Resolve to always act like the professional you are. Do not let any tenant bait you into sinking to their level. You should decide who is better at relations in these matters (you or your husband?)

You will certainly have more PITAs, but you now will have a plan in place to deal with them.

Good luck! 

Originally posted by @Sharon C Hartless:

Today he told her that since she takes her dog to "doggie Care" on Tuesdays he would go over today to check it out.  She informed him that she doesn't feel comfortable with either of us in the house without her being present.  I'm at the end of my patience with this woman.  I'm considering burning the house down!!! (just kidding).... HELP?????

I'm not entirely sure what the problem is.

You brought her into compliance with the request for pets forms which is great. The whole "vicious to humans", well, it's a dog in it's home - it ain't ever gonna be pleased to see a stranger in the house. Let yourself in my house - see how pleased my bulldog will be to see you. (Hint, he won't be).

And the one problem is the fridge, which as Sue says, put one in that doesn't have an ice maker. Problem solved. (I think you can remove the ice maker in some fridges).

If a tenant refuses to allow you to make a repair, eg they want to be there, then book a time. I'm really not seeing what the fuss is about. There isn't much more you can do.

Once fridge is fixed, see how you feel.

Everyone on BP gets so evicty evicty at the slightest problem.

I saw nothing rude in Bryan's advice, I'd bet Bryan doesn't have the problems you are having and he's offering you free advice to help you move forward in this situation and avoid these problems in the future.

The biggest problem you have in all of this is your personality. You're a bit too nice, nothing wrong with nice, it works out just fine when the other parties play nice, but this tenant you have is a user and abuser, she takes advantage of nice and will continue to until you train her otherwise.  And don't even consider that nonsense of 'cash for keys' garbage. You've got a professional user here and everytime a lazy/dumb landlord passes her down the line, especially rewarding her in the process you're just screwing the next person, just like her previous landlord did to you. 

1) You have to take back control. Doing so means an about face on much of how you're interacting with this tenant. Stop texting her at once. Use controlling communications not convenient ones.  

2) I'd have a face to face meeting with her and outline how things are going to be from now on, I'd go as far as calling the sheriff and explain to them you're having trouble with a tenant with an aggressive dog, that you need them to come with you to the meeting, they will get animal control involved. Then show up at her door with a deputy and animal control, putting her on notice that the BS is over with.

At this meeting lay down the rules, take out your lease and start reading the parts that cover access to her unit. Explain how access will go, what the notification is and what expectations are for her to have her dog crated or whatever you decide. As far as access,  there is no part of this where she gets to be there because she wants to be unless she wants to be there when you schedule it, not the other way around, it's your property. Inform her that if she can't comply then she is in violation of the lease and have the paperwork with you to hand to her to terminate the lease and start the process of her vacating the unit.

3) You don't send HVAC techs to a rental 4 times. After the 1st time you send them and she contacts you again about the same problem you put the tenant on notice that you will be happy to send the HVAC tech back out and if there is a problem found you will have it taken care of, but if they determine that there is still no problem you will pass along the bill to her. This is how you control a tenant like this, you are not there to comply with her every whim.

4) Stop taking it personally with her, this is business, she is in the wrong, you're in the right, play it by the book with no emotional involvement, I'm sure she feels she is playing you like a fiddle because she's a professional at this, you need to cut that game off by not falling for it anymore and keep things profession. STOP texting her in any way. 

5) If you keep her as a tenant establish communication procedures and responses to her requests. No texts. Have her email you or call you whatever you decide, give her procedures and expectations for addressing her concerns and problems based on non-emergency and emergencies. Non-emergencies get responded to within 72 hours not the next day, and resolutions to non emergencies get scheduled at your convenience after the 72 hour window to respond. Take back control.

Stop communicating with her by text, text is an instantaneous communication system, it has no place with tenants/landlords, slow her down, take back control.

6) Mold comments - I'd seriously start thinking very hard about moving this forward to her leaving your rental. 'Mold' is the professional tenants Ace up the sleeve card to play, it's a professional like her's trump card, they all know it and use it. Once a tenant utters the mold word you pretty much know what you have paying you rent and that alone paints her to me as someone you made a mistake renting to no matter how nicely she decides to play in the short-term. You're going to be so much better off in the long run getting her out and replacing her with another good tenant.

"If she says the dog is aggressive, I'll evict her. If she says the dog is not aggressive, I'll go in the house for the scheduled inspection. Of course I will have someone with me because I am frightened of dogs ... aggressive or not."

She is going to LIE or not respond at all. Then when you go in for the inspection you have a problem on your hands that is a lot more serious than a jerk tenant. You stated earlier the dog "barked/growled at me like he would have me for lunch" what's changed why would you push your luck?  

Mike F. @Mike F. 1) You have to take back control. Doing so means an about face on much of how you're interacting with this tenant. Stop texting her at once. Use controlling communications not convenient ones. 

Please tell me what you consider controlling communications? I find that text messages, as much as I hate them, provide a written record of conversations where sending a letter gets no response or a phone call that ends up as he said she said if it comes down to that. 

For some reason this tenant really pushes your buttons, and she's successfully sucked you into nanner nanner arguing mode.  I am half French and half Irish and you can flip a coin to decide which genes gave me the hot temper I have.

What I had to learn was to avoid at all costs, responding or making a decision when someone gets in my face - whether that's in person or not.

So, just to address your issues with temper and this tenant, these are some things that work for me:

1) Avoid any face-to-face contact with an argumentative tenant, as much as possible.

2) Never answer their calls.  Let them go to voicemail.  Listen to the rant when you're ready.  Wait to respond until you believe you can do so as if you are a calm lawyer.  This is the role model you want to have in your mind.  What would a calm lawyer do in any situation?

3) Only deal with them in writing, as much as possible - and that does not include texts from your end.  If they text you, you respond with an email that summarizes their text, and gives your response.  Again, never respond right away.  Stop.  Be calm.  Think about how a calm lawyer would respond.  If you're not sure, then wait.  When in Doubt - Don't, is a good phrase to keep in mind.

4) Always refer to the lease.  While figuring out how to get rid of her, if that's what your calm lawyer mental mentor would advise, use the lease.  If she is not allowing you into the rental, that should be a breach of your lease.  You can give her a 3 day notice to comply or quit (or whatever it is where you live).  

5) Never engage in an argument.  Say what the calm lawyer would say, then hang up or walk away.  You never have to respond to someone.  You can ignore them.

6) Never do anything that can make you look like a crazy person in court.  Imagine everything that you say, write and do ending up discussed in front of a judge.  Let the other person be the only beoch in the room, so that it's easy to determine the other person must be at fault.

I must always buy time when I'm upset.  If this means I just turn around and walk away from you mid-sentence, then so be it.  Nobody can ever sue me because I walked away from them and didn't respond.  Or if it took me 24 hours to respond.

And really, if you just get calm, her requests are not that crazy.  An ice maker that floods the floor is a valid complaint.  Lots of tenants don't want people to come into their units when they aren't there, and will want to try to arrange a time convenient for them.  Those things are not unusual or weird.  We love tenants who let us go in when they're not there, but I happen to be a tenant who doesn't like to do that.  Why?  Because I've known nosy maintenance people and landlords who literally go through people's drawers, etc.  Not me, lol, my boss for one.  And, I wouldn't want to leave my dog in her crate all day, so she can't get out when you open the door.

For her to take it to the next level and not figure out a time that will work, is not reasonable and not allowed in the lease.  That's where you can use your lease to get her to comply or move.

And I can only assume that her manner is really obnoxious for her to push your buttons the way she has.  But, arguing with her only gives her what she wants.

So, stay calm, be the calm lawyer-type and stop engaging.  Act like a lawyer and let the lease be your hammer, if needed. 

As far as the dog being aggressive or not, there's nothing you can do about that now, unless the dog does something.  But, honestly, it doesn't matter.  Filter what's happening into one sentence - that helps, too.  What is the underlying issue or problem?  You want to get into the unit, and she's not being cooperative.  So, getting into the unit is the goal.  

And picture everything ending up in front of a judge.  What would a judge think would be a reasonable thing for you to do?  How about, sending her a letter with a couple of appointment options to choose from in the next week.  But, that if you don't hear back from her with an approval of one of those dates or another date that will work for you, as well, by a certain day or time (in writing), that this is when you will be entering, and she is responsible for restraining her dog.

Then, if she's not cooperative, you've put her in a position to be in noncompliance of her lease.  You can then give her a notice to comply or quit.  Try to picture this as a chess game that you will win.  She is used to crashing through life like a bull in a china shop.  That is not a successful way to win at chess.  She's not using strategy.  And she won't realize that the reason you all of a sudden calmed down, is because you are using strategy. She'll think she's "winning," but won't be, because you will be documenting and setting yourself up to look like a reasonable landlord who has tried to work things out with a bad tenant.

Remember, picture everything ending up in front of a judge, and act like a calm lawyer, and delay doing anything when you're upset.

And if you have to go to court, subpoena her last landlord LOL!  Yep, you can do that, even if he's a hostile witness and even if it's just small claims court.  That's how you'll get back at that jerk.

I have spoken :-)

... And so eloquently... Thank you so much for giving me your time and thoughts in such a calming, solution oriented plan... 

I'll read it again before I go to sleep so hopefully it will sink in. 

Originally posted by @Thomas B.:

 I find that text messages, as much as I hate them, provide a written record of conversations

So does email.  As does a form on your website for a service request.

Texting is too informal and too immediate a medium to use with tenants.

Tenant:"hi my hot H2O heater iz broken, i nEd U 2 fix it fst so dat cats don't hav 2 tAk a showR n cold water!"

How do you carry on a professional business communication with a tenant when the contact starts like that?

Originally posted by @Mike F.:
Originally posted by @Thomas B.:

 I find that text messages, as much as I hate them, provide a written record of conversations

So does email.  As does a form on your website for a service request.

Texting is too informal and too immediate a medium to use with tenants.

Tenant:"hi my hot H2O heater iz broken, i nEd U 2 fix it fst so dat cats don't hav 2 tAk a showR n cold water!"

How do you carry on a professional business communication with a tenant when the contact starts like that?

 I hate email. Tenants can use text. I like the fact it's fast and comes straight to me. If they are annoying me I'll ignore them for a bit,

And for the record, I've never had a tenant use text speak at me. If they did, they'd get a stern warning as I don't have the patience for txt spk. (And yes, friends who try it have got a dressing down from me about it).

I don't have a problem with texts as long as it doesn't go overboard. An email could be typed out in text speak too, so how would I carry on a professional business communication with a tenant when the email/text starts like that? I simply respond in proper English with a professional tone. 

However, text does not replace certain types of communication such as official notices and such.

@Sharon C Hartless That's too bad that the previous landlord lied to you, unfortunately though I think it is pretty common.  We always call the landlord before their current one when screening potential tenants, if possible, for that reason.

This is awesome advice @Greg S. I'm a newbie that's in the phase of meeting with potential mentors, partners, management companies etc. I am also reading a lot and become a p

I am organized, diligent, type-A, worked in administration and totally agree that transactions shouldn't be emotion-led. It's business. There's a contract and rules. 

Curious to see what people think are the most important guidelines/points in a lease contract?

Do you generally have your lawyer look at it first, or is that a wasted expense? (Instead, just look up the laws, find a good template, and do your homework to create one). 

I really like the idea of a M2M lease at first. Do you generally do that for 3 months, then offer an additional 9? 
Thanks again for taking the time out of your day to post. 
-Jen

Originally posted by @Account Closed:

This is awesome advice @Greg S. I'm a newbie that's in the phase of meeting with potential mentors, partners, management companies etc. I am also reading a lot and become a p

I am organized, diligent, type-A, worked in administration and totally agree that transactions shouldn't be emotion-led. It's business. There's a contract and rules. 

Curious to see what people think are the most important guidelines/points in a lease contract?

Do you generally have your lawyer look at it first, or is that a wasted expense? (Instead, just look up the laws, find a good template, and do your homework to create one). 

I really like the idea of a M2M lease at first. Do you generally do that for 3 months, then offer an additional 9? 
Thanks again for taking the time out of your day to post. 
-Jen

 As far as contracts and leases - the most important thing is that they are easy to understand and cover what you are agreeing to.  They can be very short and in plain English.  This is why I really love the Nolo contracts and forms.  They're written by lawyers who can actually write simple, clear agreements without a bunch of additional fluff that nobody understands but lawyers.  And not all lawyers even understand them, which is why they end up argued in court lol.

Most lawyers will make it more confusing and convoluted.  Not their fault. That's how everything was written that they had to read in law school lol.  But, there's really no need to pay a lawyer to write you a contract. Worst case scenario, just write in a clause that says, "The makers of this contract intend for the contract to comply with all local laws.  If any section of this contract conflicts with any local laws, the local laws that govern that section will prevail."

Or something like that. 

A contract, in and of itself, will not keep you out of court.  A contract is only there so that if there is a disagreement, and you end up in court, you can show the court what you agreed to.  So, all you need is a written document that says what your agreement is.  

Originally posted by @Account Closed:

I really like the idea of a M2M lease at first. Do you generally do that for 3 months, then offer an additional 9? 

Do enough initial m2m leases with the thoughts that you will dump all the devils and convert all the angels to long term and I'll show you a landlord who has higher turnover due to tenants squawking and walking for going to long term who's expectations were short-term.

The best scenario is long term leases because they create more profits. Proper screening coupled with LARGE security deposits equal less turn-over due to longer lease terms. Nobody gets in a unit without a 1 year lease. Nobody stays after the first year without moving into a 24 month lease.   All good tenants want the longer lease which always has a financial incentive to take it.

Sharon,

In my personal opinion.

First thing first, resolve Ice-maker issue by removing the water line from the back of the freeze and offer her one-time $20-50 off for inconvenient (usually you don’t want to give incentive, else they will complain more often). Also ask her that you are concern about her health/safety and therefore you must inspect the Ice-maker ASAP before mold start to progress.

Once this issue is resolved. Check your local law about pets and vaccination (call your county to find out). Consult an attorney to see if you can kick her out ASAP. I think it might be worth having an attorney draft the letter with their address and send it to her.

Another option is to offer her one month free rent if she moves out by X date. I have done this once where I am glad it’s over.

Next time – have $50 per month incentive for no service call. Also like what Jake said include 30 or 60 days’ termination clause (check your local laws).

Good luck!

@Sharon C Hartless I'd recommend you get a PM to handle this situation. I think you are  acting too emotionally like others have said. it's probably since you're such a nice person and do good business, that when someone does you wrong you feel extra offended.

I would also add that even though it is YOUR house, she leases it so it's HERS right now. You have the right to enter based on the terms of the lease, and that's it. Don't let her walk all over you, but be polite and play it by the books.  Sorry you have to deal with this, I'm sure it's a learning experience!

Originally posted by @Mike F.:
Originally posted by @Aleen Bobal:

I really like the idea of a M2M lease at first. Do you generally do that for 3 months, then offer an additional 9? 

Do enough initial m2m leases with the thoughts that you will dump all the devils and convert all the angels to long term and I'll show you a landlord who has higher turnover due to tenants squawking and walking for going to long term who's expectations were short-term.

The best scenario is long term leases because they create more profits. Proper screening coupled with LARGE security deposits equal less turn-over due to longer lease terms. Nobody gets in a unit without a 1 year lease. Nobody stays after the first year without moving into a 24 month lease.   All good tenants want the longer lease which always has a financial incentive to take it.

 And when you get stuck with a bad tenant for 24 months?

And really, prove a tenant will stay for 24 months if they want to break the lease after 6.

This is only good in theory, but is not based in reality.  In my opinion.

Originally posted by @Mike F.:

I saw nothing rude in Bryan's advice, I'd bet Bryan doesn't have the problems you are having and he's offering you free advice to help you move forward in this situation and avoid these problems in the future.

The biggest problem you have in all of this is your personality. You're a bit too nice, nothing wrong with nice, it works out just fine when the other parties play nice, but this tenant you have is a user and abuser, she takes advantage of nice and will continue to until you train her otherwise.  And don't even consider that nonsense of 'cash for keys' garbage. You've got a professional user here and everytime a lazy/dumb landlord passes her down the line, especially rewarding her in the process you're just screwing the next person, just like her previous landlord did to you. 

1) You have to take back control. Doing so means an about face on much of how you're interacting with this tenant. Stop texting her at once. Use controlling communications not convenient ones.  

2) I'd have a face to face meeting with her and outline how things are going to be from now on, I'd go as far as calling the sheriff and explain to them you're having trouble with a tenant with an aggressive dog, that you need them to come with you to the meeting, they will get animal control involved. Then show up at her door with a deputy and animal control, putting her on notice that the BS is over with.

At this meeting lay down the rules, take out your lease and start reading the parts that cover access to her unit. Explain how access will go, what the notification is and what expectations are for her to have her dog crated or whatever you decide. As far as access,  there is no part of this where she gets to be there because she wants to be unless she wants to be there when you schedule it, not the other way around, it's your property. Inform her that if she can't comply then she is in violation of the lease and have the paperwork with you to hand to her to terminate the lease and start the process of her vacating the unit.

3) You don't send HVAC techs to a rental 4 times. After the 1st time you send them and she contacts you again about the same problem you put the tenant on notice that you will be happy to send the HVAC tech back out and if there is a problem found you will have it taken care of, but if they determine that there is still no problem you will pass along the bill to her. This is how you control a tenant like this, you are not there to comply with her every whim.

4) Stop taking it personally with her, this is business, she is in the wrong, you're in the right, play it by the book with no emotional involvement, I'm sure she feels she is playing you like a fiddle because she's a professional at this, you need to cut that game off by not falling for it anymore and keep things profession. STOP texting her in any way. 

5) If you keep her as a tenant establish communication procedures and responses to her requests. No texts. Have her email you or call you whatever you decide, give her procedures and expectations for addressing her concerns and problems based on non-emergency and emergencies. Non-emergencies get responded to within 72 hours not the next day, and resolutions to non emergencies get scheduled at your convenience after the 72 hour window to respond. Take back control.

Stop communicating with her by text, text is an instantaneous communication system, it has no place with tenants/landlords, slow her down, take back control.

6) Mold comments - I'd seriously start thinking very hard about moving this forward to her leaving your rental. 'Mold' is the professional tenants Ace up the sleeve card to play, it's a professional like her's trump card, they all know it and use it. Once a tenant utters the mold word you pretty much know what you have paying you rent and that alone paints her to me as someone you made a mistake renting to no matter how nicely she decides to play in the short-term. You're going to be so much better off in the long run getting her out and replacing her with another good tenant.

 I agree with this almost entirely with one exception. I think texts are a good form of communication because you have record of everything said. You just have to control yourself and choose your words carefully. 

I had a difficult tenant with an aggressive dog and handled it somewhat differently than most.

I posted a 24 hr. notice to enter knowing the tenant did not want me in the unit. I instructed the tenant to kennel the dog and knew he would not in a effort to keep me out.

Surprisingly when I went to enter I was startled by the dog being lose and backed away suddenly leaving the door open :). The dog got out and the dog catcher was called. The owner paid a fine for having the dog at large.

I continued that practice along with several other landlord rights pressure tactics and he finally decided to move.