Inherited Tenants Don't Speak Much English

16 Replies

Just purchased my first investment property (a 4-plex) and need some advice. 

I've dropped off two notices that all tenants will need to sign a new lease before their current lease ends, or they would be expected to vacate. I've had open communication with 2 of the units and don't have any contact info for another. I just called the last unit to see if they had considered the new lease, and turns out they speak almost no English!

The notices I delivered have obviously all been in English, so I imagine they just dropped them in the trash. When I asked them if they had considered staying and signing a new lease or if they were going to move at the end of their term, I got a "No Thanks".

I'm planning on attempting a notice in Spanish, trying to get a time where I can go over in person and use Google Translate to speak back and forth (my spoken Spanish won't be any good for explaining the terms of a Lease). 

Has anyone else dealt with something like this? 

EDIT: I should also note that if I allow them to sign a new lease, it is an extremely small chance that they will report maintenance issues. Of the 4 units, there's had a decent amount of damage, trash on the ground, and was the dirtiest unit by far. 

Yes.

Proceed as usual as you would with any other tenant.  I assure you they are fully aware of the rental process.  You may wish to translate in writing but aren't obligated to.  

We inherited such a situation and they have been stellar tenants. 

@Mark Radford - thanks! Unfortunately I don't think this group will turn out to be stellar tenants based on how the unit has been treated so far...

@Michael S. I guess at this point your at a cross road and you have to decide if you let them go or try to keep them. If you decide to keep them I would suggest looking into any non profit organization that may be able to help you with the translation and communication with them. If not I would just let them go. I don't know if you attend any of the local real estate group you may find someone that maybe able to help you
Communicate with your tenants. Best of luck with what ever you decide to do.

I would then notify them their tenancy is ending at the expiration of the lease. Rehab, and keep it pushing. 

*However*

Our situation was similar in that tenants had been there nearly ten years. Prior owner did nothing to unit - happy getting checks with no headaches. Place was in rough shape from years of deferred maintenance and he charged under-market rent in exchange for no phone calls.

We told them unit is badly in need of rehab and if they'd be willing to live through it we'd deliver them a place proud to call home. If not, they had to leave and were welcome to re-apply when we were done. 

Naturally rents would increase but they had no issues with that. The location was walking distance to work and they really didnt want to move. Rents went up 40% and covered the cost of rehab. 

Going forward if they stay or leave we don't care. Unit is up to speed and they paid for it, so to speak.


With inherited tenants I would recommend not signing a Y2Y right away. If their lease expires, let them rent M2M. You need to confirm their pay pattern and find out if they are tenants that you would like to keep long-term before signing another Y2Y lease. There might be a chance you might want to rehab one or two of the units to get the rent up. 

There's an app for that, assuming they have a smartphone.

3waytalk phone translator

55 cents a minute

Thanks @Kurt K. - We're keeping all of our new tenants on M2M, thanks to the suggestions by everyone on BP. Their pay pattern seems at least partially decent for the rent rolls the previous landlord actually kept up with, but it appears to be in cash, which is against our policies. 

The thought of conveying to these tenants the policies I expect them to follow using a translator or Google Translate every time is causing lots of anxiety.

Additionally, the thought of having an additional vacant unit (already have 1 confirmed and 1 potential vacancy in the next month) is also causing lots of anxiety. 

Originally posted by @Michael S. :

Just purchased my first investment property (a 4-plex) and need some advice. 

I've dropped off two notices that all tenants will need to sign a new lease before their current lease ends, or they would be expected to vacate. I've had open communication with 2 of the units and don't have any contact info for another. I just called the last unit to see if they had considered the new lease, and turns out they speak almost no English!

The notices I delivered have obviously all been in English, so I imagine they just dropped them in the trash. When I asked them if they had considered staying and signing a new lease or if they were going to move at the end of their term, I got a "No Thanks".

I'm planning on attempting a notice in Spanish, trying to get a time where I can go over in person and use Google Translate to speak back and forth (my spoken Spanish won't be any good for explaining the terms of a Lease). 

Has anyone else dealt with something like this? 

EDIT: I should also note that if I allow them to sign a new lease, it is an extremely small chance that they will report maintenance issues. Of the 4 units, there's had a decent amount of damage, trash on the ground, and was the dirtiest unit by far. 

 Yes I have dealt with tenants that speak only Spanish. Of course I am fluent in the language, which surprised them because they assumed that a Black guy wouldn't be able to speak to them.

I would probably give them notice because you say they're unit is filthy and it sounds like it's going to be difficult to deal with them as communication will be stressful. I personally take alot of pride in my units so I want them to look their best with a good tenant who is caring for their unit, doesn't sound like they are.

Maybe they kept the unit dirty and untidy during walk-through to deter a sale? Not every tenant wants to have a new landlord. 

Give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the previous landlord did nothing and so they didn't feel compelled to do anything. 

Maybe they're undocumented, which would make it difficult for them to find another place. Once you explain certain things to them through a translator, they might be more than happy to work with you, so that they don't lose their place to live.

Dealt with this before.  You just have to spend a little extra time having them understand you.  It works out fine.

Language issue aside I would terminate them and find new tenants. Your description of the unit clearly indicates there are not tenants worth keeping.

Have all tenants on M2M for greater control over the property. New tenants should always be started on M2M. If they work out and earn the right you could offer them a term lease but the likely hood is they will not care once you have built up a good relationship and explain the benefits of a M2M.

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I agree with @Account Closed , usually you can't descriminate based on origin and language would be part of that. 

Even if you don't like the way they keep the unit, you will have to give you notice and the ability to clean it up and can't just start an eviction and destroy their ability to find another home.

Michaela - I'd never discriminate for them not speaking English, hence why I'm asking for advice on how to communicate with them. Nor would I evict them when their lease ends in December. I think I've decided to let them stay on month-to-month and see how they handle my new policies. So far they have several "defaults" under their current lease (they never turned on gas, they leave beer bottles and garbage in the yard, they do not report maintenance concerns, all of these are conditions in their current lease). But as you suggested, I think I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. If they're willing to communicate, that is. I left a notice in Spanish, but if I can't get in touch with them to get them to sign a new lease agreement, it really doesn't leave me with many options. They have to be willing to communicate with me, even if it takes more work from both of us, in order for this arrangement to work out. 

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