New landlord problems, tenant that thinks they're in charge

53 Replies

Just bought my first property in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, it's a four-unit built in 1850 my family and I plan to do an owner occupied unit with tenants in the other 3 units. The previous landlord seemed to have forgotten about the place. There's a lot of deferred maintenance and my favorite thing was the inherited tenant. Upon meeting him he talked a lot about how long things took to get repaired and how the current owner/landlord was unreachable. He then went on about all of his future plans and how fire department/ town enforcement and landlord will do nothing. He even stated that what they don't see won't kill them and he has made/ currently making upgrades in his own unit. He was very open about his plans to expand his porch, and remove all the trees on the property to expand the parking lot, mind you both these things require permits to do. With all that being said, he is on the other landlords lease for a while longer, he is a yearly contract. Any ideas of how to handle that kind of tenant?

@Matthew Anderson monitor him closely once you take over, and make sure the lease has a way to evict him if he starts making improvements to the property. Also, speak to a local attorney who handles evictions and make sure you understand and budget appropriately for the process. You may not need to do this, but you may have to if he is serious. Also, remember that he may be all talk. He is a tenant who has lived in a poorly run property, and there is a good chance he is full of hot air. 

Yes, tell him to stop everything he's doing immediately. You open yourself up to risk if you knowingly allow the Tenant to make repairs or improvements that result in someone's injury.

Meet the tenant and do a detailed walk-through of the property. Determine what is necessary to repair and what is not. Determine what you are willing to improve and what will remain as is. Then YOU hire a licensed, insured, professional contractor to make the improvements so your tenant is safe.

I suspect the tenant is renting below market which is why he's willing to put up with a substandard living arrangement. Look at what it would take to clean the property up and then bring it to market rate. This tenant can choose to pay market rate for an improved unit or - more likely - move on so you can place someone new.

Inherited tenants are rarely a plus because they may never have been subjected to a screening or verification process, but that is another conversation altogether.  Your situation is simple.  Tell them any modifications must receive owner approval (this should be in any lease, hopefully even his existing one), so any plans he may have won't be pursued unless you sign-off on them.  If this isn't the kind of conversations you're comfortable handling, you'll have to bring on a good property manager, which would be rather moot as the tenant knows you're the owner, you live onsite and they are likely to approach you with any inquiries regardless of whether you have a property manager or not.

@Matthew Anderson One of the easiest ways to show inherited tenants that you are going to be a better/more hands-on landlord is to walk in and make a quick and easy improvement (exterior landscaping cleanup, paint the common areas, fix obviously broken items such as mailboxes, windows, doors, etc.). Do one of these items and make it abundantly clear with the tenant that he is NOT allowed to make any changes to the building or the property. Blame the lease (if he has one and you can), if not, blame the town, the insurance company, whoever - but be extremely firm and stay on him.

@Brandon Roof thank you I'm planing on taking the BP lease template and bring it to a lawyer to go over so when is time to re up I'm in a better position as of right now I don't have the old lease but will update everyone when I do. I'm uncomfortable with the conversation but this is a skill set I need to bud because even if I have a property manager I'm going to have them.

@Axel Ragnarsson thank you I like the idea of having the lease or insurance company to blame till I have a better relationship or a better tentent. Love the idea the mail boxes and yard are a mess so that would be a cost effective way to handle it.

@Matthew Anderson why not just talk to him? Once the place is yours, have a chat and let him know that you are now in charge, that anything that needs repairs will need to be done by you etc 

Sell it like you are helping him by taking on that responsibility etc. thank him for taking care of the place over time , etc  make him feel good so it goes well  

It is always better to keep tenants so unless he isnt paying rent IMO try to work in out 

Open, honest dialog is key 

Btw, this whole idea that inherited tenants are terrible should be taken with a grain of salt. Some may be. But unless you are planning on doubling their rent most tenants will just want to live their lives. In fact in commercial multi family you cant get loans unless the units are rented. 

I suggest folks look at each tenant as an individual and remember that the biggest loss to landlords is vacancy 

@Mary Mitchell thank you I hope to build a relationship that will show him that he can relax and enjoy his family. He seems like he feels like if he doesn't do it that it won't get done or get done cheaply. I like your pont of view of treating him as a person first. It can be tricky but of it works out it will be for the best.

@Mary Mitchell great point there I have been so worried by the horror stories that I forgot that these are my costumers and if I treat them fair help them where I can in the way of improvements or repairs. I can turn them into long term tentents.

@Matthew Anderson

They are not your customers ! They are your employees . You can do what Mary suggests .. have a nat king cole fireside chat , bake the fella some fresh toll house cookies and let him feel the love or you could do what Nathan wisely said and regain control of the situation the right way . Do not cater to these people they will steam roll right over you if they sense weakness .

I’ll be da()$&ed if I put up all the money time risk and resources to get the property and some random tenant tells me how it’s going to be and what renovations he will be doing !

@Matthew Anderson  

Remind him that there is a NEW SHERIFF in town! 

I have seen this in the past with one of our properties. 

Some tenants develop this Owner Complex especially when the Landlord has been incognito for a long time. 

Best way to address it is head-on. 

It has been mentioned above, and I'll mention it again. Consult with a local attorney who specializes in this kind of law. This already sounds like a situation that can turn into trouble. Give him notice that he is to cease all actions. Don't let him walk over you. 

And when he told about about his plans to extend the deck, knock down trees, etc.. did you say anything to him, especially when he said the landlord don't do anything? 

So did he know you were the new owner when he spilled his guts about all his plans?

I'm with Nathan...... you review the lease and make sure its in good shape and then have a conversation with ALL the tenants that the lease will be fully enforced..... and that includes no changes to the unit without the landlord consent. Doing so will be grounds for termination of the lease and eviction.

When it comes time to renew, you can decide on keeping tenants and put your own lease in place.

You are in the position where the tenants have probably gotten away with LOTS of stuff that is not cool..... and if you go in all soft, they will steam roll you. You dnt have to be a d*ck about it, but you need to make it perfectly clear that you are now in charge and its your way or the highway.....

I have a tenant who perceives herself as the owner. I invited her & her boytoy for coffee and found out she believes herself to be sick with OCD, COP, menopause, severe anxiety, I dont know what else. (She works as a private nurse so she sees people with these conditions & mimics them--Munchhausen?) So i said how im sorry she is ill but the lease she signed is our only way of relating to each other. She agreed but said she thinks i have gone thru their drawers & looked at their underwear. When i said that is ridiculous she backed off & said i remind her of a landlord who did that at another rental. Her live-in man friend was also insulting to me but I kept thinking of how they pay on time. I don't think they know the impact of what they are saying. I sent her an email about an attractive storage unit and she said i was trying to ask her to pay rent, which she then admitted I never have done. So i am no longer emailing her, i email her boyfriend he seems more reasonable and just accepts what i write without blowing it up into something else. Cant wait to see the last of them on June 30. One thing I like about her, she said housework calms her down. So the house will probably be pretty clean when they vacate.

@Jane S.

When A tenant thinks they have ownership of the building you need to get a tax bill ,an insurance bill a the mortgage statement .etc then Hand them that big stack of bills and instruct them to pay up .When they say “what’s all this for ? “ Inform them if they want ownership of your property ,then they can pay all your bills for the property !

@Matthew Anderson

I’ve bought many properties with inherited tenants. To combat the way the previous landlord ran things what I do is use my in house property management company to send a introductory letter. Informing them we have taken the property over and here is how we handle rents, late fees, repair requests etc. This letter sets the ground work that a new sheriff is in town. If you are moving in DONT tell them you are the owner. If you have then just make sure you have read up on the do’s and donts of your RE laws.

Get going on fixing items you found wrong in your walk through. Work on simple things like paint, wood rot showing tenants you are serious and want them to be respectful of their units.

Unless the guy is in construction and you want to hire him to help out don’t let him do any modifications.

Congrats on the purchase and best of luck

Originally posted by @Mary Mitchell :


I suggest folks look at each tenant as an individual and remember that the biggest loss to landlords is vacancy 

Pure gold. 

@Anthony Rosa at the time I said little uneasy still in the faze if doing my due diligence so I wasn't the owner yet. My goal was to let him talk till he felt he had said his peace. I found that you can get more from listening but I see how being firm there would have help as well.

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