How to deal with difficult tenant?

12 Replies

I just had a difficult tenant move in recently and haven't been able to deal with his rebellious attitude and get him to listen what I asked. I have a 5 bedroom house and I live in one of them. I have 2 car garage and I park on one side and the other side I rented out to one of the tenants who has lived here for a while. I was clear to him that during the tour of the room and house that the parking is street parking, no parking on drive way (as it'll block cars parked in garage), and informing him that which streets he could park. Now he just parks there on driveway behind my car (my car is in garage), without asking or telling me, and refused to not parking there. He would move when I asked but that means every time I leave and back to my house. No where in the lease says garage or parking on driveway is provided or allowed. Even on my "room to rent" advertisement post said it's street parking. He even dared to ask me where in the lease says he can't park on the driveway! (Well, the lease didn't contain parking period. But I didn't have problem until now.) 

He is 19 yrs old (I'll never rent out to teenager again), said the garage and driveway is part of the house, and his lease is for the house and it is shared, while I told him that his lease is only for his bedroom not everything on the premise. 

Without bringing up the lease again and aggravate him even more as he wanted to talk to his attorney (according to what he said/presented he is a kid with rich parents with attorney), what some other ways to minimize the situation (ensuring no random security issue / damages on house and car), get my garage and driveway back, and get him to leave peacefully as soon as possible? Any suggestions on dealing with difficult tenants?    

This is 3 months lease ending end of Oct. And I leave my house 3am in the morning for work. 

I would consider cash for keys. If it will be cost effective (or just worth your personal sanity) then give him some money to clean out his stuff and walk away from the property.

@Katon Pang   So sorry to hear of your tenant is not respectful of you, your rules, or your property.  Here are a few of my thoughts....

1. Renting a room in a house you own and live in yourself allows you more flexibility in setting house rules than renting an entire place where you do not live. In a shared house situation it is extremely important to establish clear communication and rules that everyone will agree to and abide by. In addition to the lease agreement, do you also have a list of house rules? In Washington State you can make an addendum to the lease with 30 days written notice. Consider doing so whenever you need to make a point explicitly clear.

2. It's important not to discriminate on the basis of age, as it's illegal to do so. That said, there is clear evidence (with research to back it up) that the brain of a person age 19 is not fully developed. Be aware of "teen brain" (age 15 - 25). Someone in this age range is more likely to take risks, not foresee consequences, not take responsibility for their actions, and tends to follow peer pressure above that of authority. You need to understand teen mentality. They may not respond to reason and you may need to modify your approach.  Read this:

3. His stating that he will talk to his attorney is nonsense. The key to being a landlord is to know and understand Landlord-Tenant Law better than your tenants. It's also important to establish and maintain your authority. You are the owner of the property, you set the terms of the rental agreement. Even if your lease doesn't explicitly state the tenants may not park in the driveway or block other cars, if this was covered verbally the rule still applies. Don't be intimidated by his idle threats or fear that he will enlist the aid of his parents.

4. Let your tenants know you value respectful, open and honest communication. You will act professionally, politely, and respectfully, even when a tenant doesn't. You will take the high road and not stoop to immature behavior. Stay calm. Be strong.  Now let the this tenant know, regardless of what he wants to believe, the driveway and garage are off limits to him. If he's not okay with that, then he can choose to leave. You will let him out of his lease without penalty. I would not offer cash for keys in this type of situation.

5. With privilege, comes responsibility. How you interact with this wayward tenant will affect your relationship with your other tenant. Discontent in the household will negatively impact all. You may need to let your tenant know.... "This isn't working out for me, and it seems it's not working for you either. That's okay. Not everyone is suited to share housing with another. So, let's talk about a move-out plan." You two can mutually agree to terminate the rental agreement. Take a listen to BP Podcast #83 where I share some landlording tips. Not all will apply to your situation, but some will. With a little moxie and finesse, you should be to turn this around. You may be the saving grace for this wayward youth! He may need some care and discipline in his life. Seek to understand.

6. Document all communications you have with this tenant and his actions.  For your safety and that of your other tenant, if you feel personally threatened in any manner, seek professional help, which may include law enforcement.

We're rooting for you!

@Marcia Maynard gave you a carefully reasoned quality answer, @Katon Pang .

But really, this guy wants to play alpha male in your house, and who knows why. He's going to cause conflict wherever he can to prove to himself what a big shot he is at 19. It's not going to get better. I disagree with Marcia that you have a shot at being his saving grace. The issues here are pretty clear: he thinks he deserves to park in your driveway because he's special although you've already explained to him that he's not paying for that in his lease. This makes him a jerk.

Proceed accordingly and get him out. You are likely doing him a favor in the long run by not enabling this childishness and showing him that this is not how adults behave. You're not his parent. They should have done a better job.

@Jim K. I agree with Jim . More than likely It isn’t going to get any better with this punk . You made a series of poor Choices but you did make one good move in all this and that is you have a short term lease . Try your best to wade through this and issue a non renewal paper when you get 60 days away from renewal date now you wIll know what to add to your lease for next time . I know its frustrating i know the kid is making yoyr life hard but Don’t be discouraged .this is part of the learning process as a landlord .

@Katon Pang   What did you decide to do?  Any update?

The situation will either get worse or get better. Obviously, this has been a disappointment for you and this is not an ideal tenant. What would it take to teach this young man what it takes to be a good tenant?  What does it take to manage property and lead people?

I may be misreading this, but from my experience of human nature and working with teenagers, if you see this young man as a "punk" or "jerk" and treat him like one, he'll fulfill that role. If you let him believe he's the alpha male or big shot, he'll continue to strut his stuff. You can rewrite the script. You can start from a place of possibility instead of defeat. Focus on the tenant behavior, not on labels or the image he's portraying at this time.

I would face this head on in a firm, fair and friendly  manner.  I would re-clarify the terms of the rental agreement and the consequences of not doing what he needs to do. I would be respectful, even if the tenant acts in a way that doesn't deserve it. Ultimately, both landlords and tenants have choices. What the tenant chooses to do will determine what the landlord will do. And vice versa. It's like a chess game. There are likely to be moves and counter-moves. Anticipate that.

I always try to save tenancies first and proceed with that in mind. I don't give up on people or their capabilities that easy. I choose to do what I can to help the situation improve.  It's amazing how many tenants will turn around, especially the inexperienced ones, and learn from their mistakes.  Or they will see the place is not a good match and my management style doesn't suit them and they will voluntarily leave.  You could be his saving grace by giving him a chance to improve and become a good tenant or by clarifying for him that your place is not a good match for what he believes he needs and allow him to quickly move on to another place that's better suited for him.

@Jim K.   and @Dennis M.

I was trying to do this peacefully. I had a meeting with the trouble tenant with a facilitator going through parking limitation and he said he was ok with it. But appearntly not. He kept parked there on Sat Sun and holiday. As I leave early in the morning to go to work, he didn’t park there weeknights. I gave him plenty of chances. 

The situation escalated when he parked on the driveway Wednesday night. I got home from work early as usual, then I left home to do my business and arrived home around 9pm. His car parked on driveway but he was not at home. I had enough. I proceeded to give him a notice on Thursday saying this is a warning and is the only and final notice, stating that he didn’t have permission from homeowner to park on the driveway and if it happens again, the vehicle would be towed in vehicle owner’s expenses. I also said in the notice that from the first house visit he was told that he only had street parking and told where he could park. 

He got back home last night telling me he had done some research that I couldn’t add things to the lease during the lease term. I told him the notice isn’t adding to the lease and it isn’t changing the lease. He said that the lease didn’t say he can’t parking there. And he said that I couldn’t tow his car and he would have his lawyer come to discuss this with me last night. 

Well, I was checking with the impound company Thursday and yesterday that has an account with my HOA, and they were checking with HOA before they were sure they can tow unauthorized vehicle on my driveway. So that's why I haven't had his car towed yet. Just heard back from the towing company this morning that they found the agreement between HOA and them that homeowner can call in to tow unauthorized vehicle parked on homeowner's driveway.

Now I gave him the notice and know the towing company can tow his car. I still wonder do I have the landlord right to do so. In what capacity the served notice be enforceable? How I know I didn’t volate tenant right? 

Should I have his car towed if he refused to move today? 

@Katon Pang Geez this situation is just getting worse . Why are you even giving this kid any chances at all ? He’s proven to be a douche and just making your life hard . Evict already! . Find a way to evict the guy

Sorry, sounds like he has you. Only what is in writing matters. If your lease does not specify that he cannot park in driveway then it is reasonable for one to expect to be able to park in the driveway of the home one rents.
Your move. Tow it and see what happens or simply suck it up and modify your lease when it expires.

Well if you advertised that it's street parking and verbally agreed, then you may probably tow his car for "illegally" parking his car in the drive way. 

Do you have other house-mate tenant that can back up the oral agreement regarding the Parking situation? Like is everyone aware and agree what the Parking situation is?

Also, the laws are bit different when it's owner occupied/shared housing.... but you should check your state and local housing law. Sometimes it's more landlord friendly when the landlord lives with the tenant. Even better, talk to an attorney. The first consultation is usually free and they can guide you on your next step if you plan to take it to the court. It gives you an idea what to do next.

And for future lease agreements and contract, even if it's a small matter... write it down and have them sign the agreements along with the lease term. 

- parking 

-responsibility/roles: cleaning/ trash/ common areas / parties / pets / guest over / noise level / recreational drugs / etc 

There are so many things you need it written down, especially in shared housing with a tenant. It may be fine initially but the problem may come up in the future more frequently and hinder living situation for the landlord and other tenants living in the same house. You never know so it's better to be prepared than not to be prepared. Having rules and enforcing it is also good.

For example, I did shared housing during my college years. I would have my house mate tenants let me know in advance of minimum 1 week if you have guests over and require that they let everyone else in the house know as well. Also it has to be only on Friday and Saturday night on non-working/school night so people can go to sleep soundly. I eventually had to put a cap on number of guests a tenant can bring for future lease term agreements because one of the tenant thought if guests are's totally okay to bring 20 ppl over... NO. That was not okay for everyone else. The tenant's small "kickback" literally became a house party. I literally said I'm calling the cops if they are not gone in 1 hour. Needless to say, things became ugly and the tenant moved out. Never had a problem before until this tenant moved in and made it a problem that required to be written in the contract.

Have you ever wondered why some common sense laws/ rules are even necessary? It's because of THAT one person that made it into a law. 

In addition, if they have a guest over, usually bf/gf sleeps over. I had one tenant that had a bf over for 3 weeks. Extra person means eating up utility costs for shares utility and rent space for the landlord. So I would do weekly pro-rated rent with prior approval of long term guests with maximum stay of 2 weeks. And I would put single occupancy only per room in the contract as well... and then add an admendum of house rules. 

since verbal/oral contract is not really held high in court... if you can't sign the contract write away then use technology such as text message or emails or even voicemails. 

***Oh and save your ad  posting regarding the parking on the street in case if your tenant or you go to the legal route.