Inheriting a tenant with a bad attitude

31 Replies

My husband and I just had an offer accepted on a multi-unit (our first investment ever!). If all goes well, we'll be occupying one side, and the owner JUST got new tenants in a week ago, so we'll be inheriting them. We haven't' seen the lease yet.  While walking through the property, we did meet the new tenants (middle-aged couple and daughter ~15 years old). One of the first thing the man says is, "Now I know it's not completely settled yet, but I have to ask, are we going to be able to paint? Because there are lots of places that need it. I don't care if it's the same color, I'll even do it myself, but I'm picky and some of these walls really need it." 

Now it wasn't rude, but it wasn't nice. I'll say, it felt a TAD bit demanding actually. I really didn't like it. I assume, when he rented from the current owner he was accepting the rental as-is. If we settle on the house, we weren't expecting to do much to the other side until the tenants moved out (with the exception of necessary repairs). We want to "put our foot down" early, but we also want to have a good relationship with our tenants and not start off negatively.

We definitely don't want them to paint, but should we offer to paint? Should we just shut them down and say no way? We are planning on occupying for 1 year, maybe when we move out and paint our side, we'll suggest we can paint theirs too? 

Landlords - do you do any unnecessary updates during tenancy if your tenants request it? Or if say, the carpet starts really wearing down, even though your tenants don't plan to leave?  Thanks in advance!

Get used to it.  Deciding whether or not to paint a unit based on a resident request is low on the list of tough decisions to make.  If the rental rate is consistent with the unit condition, I would recommend not painting and vice versa.  No need to put a foot down, interpret a residents tone or intention, or get any emotions involved.  It's best to follow the lease and treat people with respect and not dedicate too much mind share to each decision or you will burn out.  Congrats on the first investment and well done.

You really shouldn't have signed anything until you saw the lease. It may be for 846 years at $1 per month. 

That would be dumb. 

So is buying a property without reviewing ALL documents. If you aren't knowledgeable, find someone who is, BEFORE you sign.

Most leases allow renters to paint as long as they return it to the same condition when they move. If you tell him he can paint, he may try to get you to pay for it and him for his time.

Look at the lease first.

Hi Ashley,

First, good luck to you and your husband on your first "investment" property. Very exciting! If you stick to it you'll look back on this one day and appreciate the simplicity of having to paint a unit after the fact. You really have to consider the totality of the deal. Sometimes I do things that I don't "have to do" but I do them to go to bed at night and it'll come back to me somewhere. Karma type thing.

The long and short of it is that real estate life gets a lot harder than this. I do however know that money can be tight so I understand the concern. If it were me this wouldn't be the hill I die on.

Good luck Ashley,


Originally posted by @Account Closed :
[Sexist comments removed]


I think you are on the wrong site, Lameesha. She asked for advice about dealing with an inherited tenant, possibly treating her, and her investment poorly, and how to deal with it. 

I think give him the benefit of the doubt. This is his first request and you can tell him you'll discuss once you close and have keys to the property.
The request
For paint is a small one. He may seem cranky but it may just be his personality. Since you don't know him yet, assume the best.
He may have a beef with the previous landlord and this is how he has felt he needs to talk to get his requests acknowledged.
My point is that, and especially for you since you will be living in the same building, show him your good side and extend the first hand to him, this way should he behave badly next time, you can point to how you gave him the benefit of the doubt. Extend the first hand. Clean slate. Some tenants come around when they feel like they are being treated like people
I think not reading too much into how people said something, should be standard protocol as a landlord. Their actions are what should entail appropriate response.
Good luck.

I would first want to see the lease (prior to purchase) and inspect the unit. then make your decision. You could let him paint it with stipulations (workman like quality, color, etc) and a good security deposit.

You know, we've looked at a lot of units and even on a first tour the tenants will tell you all about any problems with the unit. A huge number say their unit needs paint and flooring. 

I do not let tenants paint. Painting is harder than they think. If they don't have experience they'll make a mess and do it poorly. (There will be splatter all over the trim and flooring and the ceilings will need to be redone because the don't know how to edge). Since we look for properties where we can add value and then raise the rent, I tell inherited tenants they can get first shot at remodeled units but the rent is higher. I do not remodel units with a tenant in place--- you'll never hear the end of the whining about how the painters got drips on their heirloom furniture or the carpet layers scratched up the fine furniture. How the new carpet is outgassing and causing them asthma and the paint fumes are giving them migraines for months. Nope. I'm not going there.

They can purchase removable TemPaint wallpaper in any color or pattern they want. (I'll even offer to help them hang it). Or they can hire professional painters to paint the place with temporary colors of their choosing or permanent colors that I approve.

Congratulations on the purchase!

This isn't rude. This is tenant friendly.

Tell him you will be doing a walk through after the closing to assess the apartment, take photos and review it with him so there is an accurate accounting for his security deposit. You will assess it then.

I would ask the seller for the background of the tenants though, I have very little faith in last minute tenants being placed by a seller.

Originally posted by @Eddie Memphis :
Originally posted by @Lameesha Riley:

This is not what Ashley wanted to hear.   We need a differing view here.  Diversity.  Equality.   Kindness.

Could be a bit of Sexism here..................................


I think you are on the wrong site, Lameesha. She asked for advice about dealing with an inherited tenant, possibly treating her, and her investment poorly, and how to deal with it. 

 Eddie, ignore this guy. He's the same guy that has been harassing female posters on the site for 3 days. Every time he gets kicked off the site, he's back in a couple of hours under another pseudonym. 

@Ashley Shearer

Wait till the 15-year-old gets knocked up and the significantly older boyfriend moves in. With his pit bull.

Happened to us.

Here is some early 16th-century wisdom about what I think you're really asking that may help:

"And here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved. "

"For of men it may generally be affirmed, that they are thankless, fickle, false, studious to avoid danger, greedy of gain, devoted to you while you are able to confer benefits upon them, and ready, as I said before, while danger is distant, to shed their blood, and sacrifice their property, their lives, and their children for you; but in the hour of need they turn against you."

"The Prince, therefore, who without otherwise securing himself builds wholly on their professions is undone. For the friendships which we buy with a price, and do not gain by greatness and nobility of character, though they be fairly earned are not made good, but fail us when we have occasion to use them."

-- Niccolò Machiavelli

I am going to sound really classist here, and may get flamed for it, but it is the truth......

Most LLs have either been to college and work in a professional capacity, so we have the disposable income to invest, or have been in the workplace long enough to learn professionalism.  We have mastered "people skills" -- and part of people skills is not letting it show when you think someone is being a jerk or unreasonable.  You may think it to yourself, but that customer friendly smile stays on your face.

Our class B and C tenants do not have the same education or experience.   They have never learned professionalism, they have no people skills.  They may blurt out what they think in a very direct manner, which we intrepret as being rude.  They may not necessarily be trying to be rude, it is just how people with their level of education and social class speak.  Watch how they speak to their children for an example of this.

Try not to be taken aback by their direct approach.  Remind yourself that they have never learned people skills.  Treat them with respect, and you can usually get along.  I learned this while nursing at an inner city hospital.  

That being said, the inherited tenant was probably testing you.  

Wow thanks for all the responses! 

@Eddie Memphis - our purchase is contingent upon approving the lease and tenant.

@William Amiteye - thanks for putting it that way. I appreciate the perspective!

 @Jill F. - we agree, definitely don't want them to paint. Like the wallpaper idea! When it pulls off does it ever leave any damage? 

@Patrick M. - great idea, thanks. We were also worried with them throwing a tenant in there last minute, and even though they just moved in, they decorated nicely. Hopefully a good sign that they just want a nice looking place. 

Account Closed- just learned how to tag! 

@Bettina F.      Exactly. 

Saying nothing and smiling goes a long way. 

@Ashley Shearer This is definitely a test. If they are asking for modifications and they have a lease. I would use that opportunity to get them into your lease.. Preferably a m2m scenario with a new rate reflecting your modifacations.

First impression is important. Since they just moved in and is not happy with its looks, I think I will offer it to make them feel comfortable. Their request seems to be legit. They probably are paying market price so your income is a consideration.

The ones who are not reasonable is wanting newer tiles and paint to be hardwood floors and repaint.  In that case they can find their dream home else where.

Originally posted by @Eddie Memphis :

You really shouldn't have signed anything until you saw the lease. It may be for 846 years at $1 per month. 

That would be dumb. 

So is buying a property without reviewing ALL documents. If you aren't knowledgeable, find someone who is, BEFORE you sign.

Most leases allow renters to paint as long as they return it to the same condition when they move. If you tell him he can paint, he may try to get you to pay for it and him for his time.

Look at the lease first.

The OP and her husband are probably in their "due diligence" time period.  When we bought our building, we did not get leases (and with it personal information on the tenants) until we had an accepted offer.  We could still back out if something were grossly amiss.  The OP is most likely in the same situation.

Your situation is risky. Sellers placing new tenants should always be questioned by the buyer. 9 time in 10 the tenant will not work out due to lack of screening standards consistent with your own.

Whether the tenant is testing or not is irrelevant. You simply inform them that you will need time to settle in and will make a decision in due course. Make sure they are told that in the interim they do not have authorisation to perform any work of any sort.

Give it about a month to assess the tenants demeanor. Make sure you again make it crystal clear that tenants are never permitted to do any work on the unit themselves regardless of their skill set. Tell them that if they still wish to have the place painted you will hire a licenced contractor to do the work, to your specifications (neutral colours), and that it will be at the tenants expense. 

Generally I have a policy of saying no to all tenant requests but will agree to some if the tenant pays and I have all final say on materials and finish. In other words if it is done my way I will allow tenants to pay for it.  

"We want to "put our foot down" early, but we also want to have a good relationship with our tenants and not start off negatively."

That is not possible.  You "put your foot down" with children or dogs, not with other adults involved with you in a mutually-beneficial business relationship.

Does it need to be painted?  If yes, paint it.  If no, say it doesn't need to be painted and it won't be.

@Ashley Shearer ,

I say go check it out, and see if it really does need to be painted.   If it obviously hasn't been painted in 5+ years-- call a painter and get it taken care of ASAP.      If you go there, and it's fine, just not their preference,  we say that we allow them, but require it to be professionally painted back or we will take $150 from their security deposit,  and have them sign something acknowledging this.      If it's perfectly fine, I'd tell them that right now there aren't any plans to paint it, and they aren't allowed to paint it-- but if it's too worrisome or a problem, offer to let them out of their lease.   We stress "we want you to be happy, and this is a 2-way street"  to all our tenants, essentially if you want to  complain-- get out.. in a nice, very PC way!

Another tactic we use, is that each year at renewal, we like to improve the house (up to $200) so this would be a good place where you'd get it done for them, and it's tax deductible!

@Ashley Shearer First, congrats on your first rental and welcome to the roller coaster world of landlording 101! I would not promise anything until you have seen the lease/rental agreement. True, tenants will always tell you about repairs needed or ask for improvements whenever new ownership or property management changes. No need to stress yourself out. Always address health and safety issues that impact tenants first (smoke detectors, electrical or plumbing problems, etc), then items that could compromise the integrity of the building ( dry rot needs repaired, for example) and then tackle cosmetics.

I also would not recommend you allow a tenant to do their own painting. Tenants offer to do this because they think they're being helpful and want to be pro-active, but painting a room requires some skill and is expensive to have a professional come in and re-do. 

Simply tell your new tenant that you have noted these items for consideration in their file and will re-visit them with the signing of a new lease/agreement. In the agreement, this is where you add in a clause regarding repairs/maintenance and what you allow/disallow a tenant to do. I usually don't allow them to do more than changing light bulbs and air filters. For a good lease/agreement, look to your local housing or real estate association. Do not use an internet lease because it may not be specific to your area and local codes and ordinances.

Since you're new to being a landlord, I would put any inherited tenant on a month to month agreement rather than a lease because if it doesn't work out, you both can exit the relationship quickly.

Please let us know how it goes for you. You'll find you have a lot of support here!