Quality Tenant That Refuses to Communicate

23 Replies

Hello! We invest in single-family homes in Southwest Washington (State), and the SFH I'm writing about is located in Vancouver, Washington.

We have a tenant (a mother and two high school age children) that have been excellent during their 1 yr lease.  That lease ran from 08/01/2020 - 07/31/2021 for $2900 per month.  They pay all utilities and have done a good job maintaining the property.  

The issue we are having is that she refuses to communicate with us about her plans when the lease ends on 07/31/2021... which is this coming Saturday!

The original lease specifically states that the lease would NOT convert to a month-to-month at the end of the lease.  I can see in our property management software that a payment for $2900 has been scheduled for August 2nd.   

Normally, I'm pretty confident in handling real estate matters but right now am at a bit of a loss on how to handle this situation. I have approached her on four occasions about signing a new lease and/or simply having a conversation about her plans.  She refuses to communicate or respond.   

To be perfectly candid, I do not enjoy the feeling of not being in control of the situation. That said, it really doesn't seem right to take drastic action against a quality tenant.  

My wife and I are also concerned that not having a formal lease or rental agreement increases our risk in the event there are issues.  

Please do not hesitate to weigh in! 

Thank you,


Josh Tschirgi

Thank you Tim.  I appreciate your response and have a couple of follow-up questions.  

It sounds to me like your approach to this situation would be to be very firm. 


Are you suggesting that if she does not sign a new agreement in that period... 100% she has to go? If so, why would you take this approach?  Is there risk to allowing her to stay without an agreement in place? 

The situation is baffling ... she has been an excellent tenant up to this point.  

Hi Josh, let me ask you this, did you run this by the tenant at least a month ago? Looks like she isn't planning to leave either. Either way, I hope that the tenant communicates with you. Have you sent her a text? Email? 

That has to be unnerving, hopefully, her contact information has not changed. If she is a single mom, she may be avoiding her ex and has changed her phone number or her email which could have been the contact information given to you when she was leaving him. I would hope that this particular possibility has been cleared. I would follow this up with questions. Take a note from Chris Voss's book, never split the difference and ask the question that always gets an answer. "Have you given up on.....?". In this case perhaps ask, "have you given up on continuing to rent XYZ location?" Perhaps those in the forum could more elegantly offer a question more suiting to your situation. This question lets her know that you are prepared to move on with or without her rent.  I have seen this question work magic with renters, aerospace suppliers, and children. The other possibility is someone not responding to your requests is because they have done your property wrong and are leaving you with a mess to clean up and have given up their deposit and moved on. The latter happened to me when I had my last turnover of tenants. As the lease was ending, they would not respond to me when I was inquiring about the lease termination. When I went to the property, it was trashed, the door left open, etc. They knew it, I knew it, and they had given up their deposit for the cleaning and repair of the property. I believe they just wanted to move on and not have to deal with it. 

You have a different definition of "excellent" than I do. Communication is an integral part of an "excellent" rental history.

Stop sweating it. She doesn't want to talk, so just wait until the deadline passes and see what she does. If she still doesn't say anything or turn in keys, go to the property and see what's going on. Maybe she just abandoned it. Maybe she's going to turn into a holdover. Or maybe she's been so busy packing and moving and cleaning that she forgot to update you.

Don't stress over something that hasn't happened yet.

Why can't you drive by the property and knock on the door?

In our experience, you'll discover the tenant is too busy moving to communicate!

Also, why did you include a clause for no Month-to-Month and get yourself in this predicament? Better option would have been a clause that if no new lease signed, auto-converts to MTM with a 10% rent bump.

Send her a new lease with an eviction notice attached - her choice.

Schedule an inspection for July 30th.  That will let you know if you deliver an eviction notice on the first or plan on changing the locks on the first.

She may be avoiding you because she is leaving but she does not want you to show the property while she still is living there.  Some people are weird about that always, but even more are concerned with COVID.

If you don't have an agreement in place, you run into a "no man's land" situation going forward. They could leave on short notice. You really should find out what is going on. Have you gone by the property?

I would send her a month to month agreement inform her of her August rent charges that include her month to month fees. I would make a decision on how you want to handle the lease after that. Your options would be to non-renew the tenants or send them a lease. GIVE THE LEASE EXECUTION A DEADLINE. If the lease as not signed by the deadline then issue a non-renewal and post the property for rent based on the make ready date. 

In my opinion, I do not think this is a great renter. If they choose to not communicate, then I cannot help them. We have a procedure to follow (i.e. either sign a lease, send it to the owner, charge renewal fees to the owner, etc. OR send move out instructions, notify the owner, market the property, etc.). You cannot allow someone else to run your business. This will happen here and there but you've got to be in control. Have you posted a notice to enter and inspected the property? Moving forward, I would enforce the notice period requirements a little more and nip this in the bud a little sooner. 

All in all, like I said before, it's not always going to be the perfect scenario but stay consistent with your policies and procedures and communicate them clearly so that when you do issue a non-renewal or increase their rent to month to month rate or whatever your policy requires, it's not a shock to the tenant. At this point, I would inspect and see how the property looks so you can get a better idea of what is going on. Good luck!

@Josh Tschirgi I would lookup current tenant laws and consult an attorney. I believe they have recently changed and since Washington is heavily tenant friendly I heard that leases are being renewed automatically per law for the same amount of time and you are required to give notice 60 days in advance for an increase or a notice for them to move. I can't remember exactly what the date was, but I believe you needed to reach out by a certain date to essentially grandfather your lease in, but it required the tenant to sign again. I was at a presentation about all of this last month at a Meetup in Olympia so it has been a bit of time. I can refer you to the attorney that presented so just shoot me a note if you like.

@Josh Tschirgi if she doesn't communicate with you how are you going to know her intentions. My lease changes to month to month. Yours specifically does not. You might want to see if landlord tenant laws say different. Their might be in statute laws saying an expired lease is month to month. I don't know if Washington has a limit on the % of raise and the timeline to notify the tenant. The tenant is training you not you training the tenant. You have to be firm with your expectations. What if she doesn't notify you of a leaky toilet and it rots the subfloor. Most renters will not have the resources to pay for the repair. 

@Josh Tschirgi my first question is what methods of communication have you tried? We mail and email lease extension documents. We then follow up with text, so they have been contacted three ways about it. 

Our lease stipulates that it goes month-to-month at the end of term, which I think is a better approach. I also think it is a more common approach, so it is what your tenant is expecting to happen. When we send lease renewals, we offer three options:

1. Renew for 1 year at $3000

2. Go month-to-month at $3300 (default option if you do not respond)

3. Give 30 day written notice per lease and move out by July 31st.

These are just example numbers, but the point is to give options. Make your preferred option more financially attractive and define a default option if they do nothing. Worst case they don't respond and you increase rent in their online portal. That may spark a frantic phone call.

You should put your deadline for lease extension one month before the actual lease ends. If the lease ends July 31st, they should be declaring intentions by June 30th at the latest. Your notice of lease renewal should go out in early June. If you sent lease renewal in July, that wasn't proper timing on your part. They should have the lease renewal at least a month ahead of time so they can decide whether to renew or give notice.

It is possible they just forgot to return their lease extension. This happens with my tenants and they just apologize when I follow up. It is also possible that your tenant got a new cell phone number. I am not sure what communication methods you have tried, but if you tried mail, email, text and dialing the phone, the next step is knocking on the door.

Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock :

@Josh Tschirgi my first question is what methods of communication have you tried? We mail and email lease extension documents. We then follow up with text, so they have been contacted three ways about it. 

Our lease stipulates that it goes month-to-month at the end of term, which I think is a better approach. I also think it is a more common approach, so it is what your tenant is expecting to happen. When we send lease renewals, we offer three options:

1. Renew for 1 year at $3000

2. Go month-to-month at $3300 (default option if you do not respond)

3. Give 30 day written notice per lease and move out by July 31st.

These are just example numbers, but the point is to give options. Make your preferred option more financially attractive and define a default option if they do nothing. Worst case they don't respond and you increase rent in their online portal. That may spark a frantic phone call.

You should put your deadline for lease extension one month before the actual lease ends. If the lease ends July 31st, they should be declaring intentions by June 30th at the latest. Your notice of lease renewal should go out in early June. If you sent lease renewal in July, that wasn't proper timing on your part. They should have the lease renewal at least a month ahead of time so they can decide whether to renew or give notice.

It is possible they just forgot to return their lease extension. This happens with my tenants and they just apologize when I follow up. It is also possible that your tenant got a new cell phone number. I am not sure what communication methods you have tried, but if you tried mail, email, text and dialing the phone, the next step is knocking on the door.

 Joe has great advice here. There absolutely needs to be default options in these situations. A tenant not making a choice needs to have a consequence. If not, what's the point?

Originally posted by @Mike Hern :

If you don't have an agreement in place, you run into a "no man's land" situation going forward. They could leave on short notice. You really should find out what is going on. Have you gone by the property?

Hi Mike, thank you for the response.  That is my concern as well.  I have not gone by the property at this point.  

To be fair, the tenant has communicated via text.  She has said twice that she is out of town and will call me next Thursday.  Obviously that has not happened. 

In my original post, I should have stated that the tenant is communicating at times but refuses to communicate about her intention for the property.  I have sent her a new lease via DocuSign which did not get opened.  

I did schedule an annual maintenance and repairs walk through for August 5th. 

This is why you have holdover tenancy wording in your lease. 

This lease ends 7/31/21. Unless a new lease is executed prior to the 7/31/21 lease end, it shall become a month-to-month tenancy at the monthly rate of (150% of current rent) with the same terms.

Originally posted by @Greg M. :

This is why you have holdover tenancy wording in your lease. 

This lease ends 7/31/21. Unless a new lease is executed prior to the 7/31/21 lease end, it shall become a month-to-month tenancy at the monthly rate of (150% of current rent) with the same terms.


I love this option.  It appears that my error is in not defining this scenario in my original lease.  

Thank you Greg! 

 She may be under the impression that she MUST move (because of the wording of your lease) but unable to find a new place. She can't tell you what she doesn't know-- when will she be moving? When she finds a place. You are good through the end of the month though.

Quite frankly, I ONLY do month-to-month. Happy tenants tend to stay until they have to leave for some reason (ie job change), and if there are problem tenants I don't have to wait until the end of a lease. 

@Josh Tschirgi , I will wait till lease is expired. I will then send them a renewal. We see different tenants with different personalities. If they pay on time, but a little slow in responses, I would pass it

@Josh Tschirgi Ok so let me get this straight. You have a tenant that pays as agreed, even through COVID, they take care of the property and their lease is up tomorrow. And you have a problem because they haven't signed a new lease?

Everything I've read says it doesn't matter, if you accept the payment on August 2nd that is scheduled, then it is assumed that you are in a MTM. A signed lease is not a requirement.

But if you really would rather be done with them, jack their rent up, don't forget your 45-day notice if in county or 60-day in City of Vanc and then if they don't pay then evict them. Oh and don't forget to set up a payment plan for unpaid rent and remember they have to default on that too before they can be evicted. Thank you Inslee lol - not!

And while you are doing that, give them my number and I will gladly rent to them on a MTM. I don't have the need to feel that I need to be in "control", I just want the rent paid as agreed. I know landlords that have lost tens of thousands from COVID protections and lack of rent payments.

I would not worry about the situation, at all, until the day comes that the lease ends and the tenant does not pay the rent. You say you don't care to be in control, but you really do and I understand your reasoning, but maybe the tenant is up in the air in regards to what she wants to do and maybe she does not want to make a commitment she regrets in the future.

Send her a sweet letter in writing and maybe you want to even praise her for being a nice tenant and paying on time. I will bet some of my money that your tenant will not stiff you. So, don't get anxious and don't do something where you start a fire by 'LORDING' over your tenant just because you can.

Hello, in reviewing the dozens of responses, I noticed there were several different approaches that investors would take.  I thought I would follow-up with an update on the situation.  

The tenant has been in communication and we expect her to sign a 1-yr lease extension today.  However, I'm still waiting for the DocuSign to hit my inbox. 

Also, when we updated the lease we put the following language in to cover the scenario where she becomes a holdover tenant at the end of the lease: 

"If the tenant is occupying the property on August 1st 2022 without a new lease, the tenant will be renting on month-to-month basis and a 20.00% rent increase will be applied. All rules and regulations contained in this lease will apply unless contradicted by Washington State law."

As a result of the BiggerPockets forum, I learned the definition of a "holdover tenant."  We were able to tighten up our lease agreements a little bit with language that outlined what would occur if a tenant became a holdover tenant.   

Thank you to BiggerPockets and everyone that replied with input!

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

You have a different definition of "excellent" than I do. Communication is an integral part of an "excellent" rental history.

Stop sweating it. She doesn't want to talk, so just wait until the deadline passes and see what she does. If she still doesn't say anything or turn in keys, go to the property and see what's going on. Maybe she just abandoned it. Maybe she's going to turn into a holdover. Or maybe she's been so busy packing and moving and cleaning that she forgot to update you.

Don't stress over something that hasn't happened yet.

Originally posted by @Josh Tschirgi :
Hello, in reviewing the dozens of responses, I noticed there were several different approaches that investors would take.  I thought I would follow-up with an update on the situation.  

The tenant has been in communication and we expect her to sign a 1-yr lease extension today.  However, I'm still waiting for the DocuSign to hit my inbox. 

Also, when we updated the lease we put the following language in to cover the scenario where she becomes a holdover tenant at the end of the lease: 

"If the tenant is occupying the property on August 1st 2022 without a new lease, the tenant will be renting on month-to-month basis and a 20.00% rent increase will be applied. All rules and regulations contained in this lease will apply unless contradicted by Washington State law."

As a result of the BiggerPockets forum, I learned the definition of a "holdover tenant."  We were able to tighten up our lease agreements a little bit with language that outlined what would occur if a tenant became a holdover tenant.   

Thank you to BiggerPockets and everyone that replied with input!

Originally posted by @Nathan G.:

You have a different definition of "excellent" than I do. Communication is an integral part of an "excellent" rental history.

Stop sweating it. She doesn't want to talk, so just wait until the deadline passes and see what she does. If she still doesn't say anything or turn in keys, go to the property and see what's going on. Maybe she just abandoned it. Maybe she's going to turn into a holdover. Or maybe she's been so busy packing and moving and cleaning that she forgot to update you.

Don't stress over something that hasn't happened yet.

Josh, glad to hear you appear to have resolution to your situation.  It was informative reading all of the various responses. I particularly liked the comment that your definition of "excellent tenant" didn't fit the other respondents..  I totally agreed with him..  Here's why. 

When I agree to rent to a prospective tenant, I have a conversation with them that goes like this..  "I'm glad you are going to be an excellent tenant, but want to provide our expectations of how we define an excellent tenant.  That really encompasses three vital things..  First, you must pay your rent on time as outlined in the lease agreement.  Second, you must maintain the property as outlined in the lease agreement.  Third, and most importantly, you must communicate with us about any items that you think need attention or should your situation change and also what your intentions are 30 days prior to the end of the lease which is detailed in the lease agreement"..  I also go over with them what being an excellent landlord looks like to them to try to make the point that we want to have an excellent relationship with them and part of that is knowing what is expected and communicating.  I"m repetitive to them about communication is critical to a win/win relationship.

Finally, someone else mentioned doing only month-to-month agreements.. That's an interesting idea that we may have to investigate. We do twelve month agreements up front, but they automatically convert to month-to-month (w/ rent premium) should they not be able to make a long-term commitment.  So, we have a clause that saids they must give us 30-day notice of intent to extend lease or vacate, but it will convert to MTM..  And, as someone else stated, I send them a "friendly reminder" email and text thirty days prior to their thirty day notice being due..  Usually, when I send out the friendly reminder, I get a response pretty quickly and usually it's "we'd like to renew our lease for another year or two".  Then it's just a matter of agreeing on what the new rent will be..

Again, glad you appear to have resolution!