Professional renter. Need advice/perspective...

9 Replies

I am looking for different perspectives on this issue.  I’ve had a tenant for just over a year. She hasn’t been easy to deal with.  I was getting the rent late every month.  But the markings on the envelope showed it was postmarked prior to the due date.  Thus I could not enforce the late fee.  At one point, I finally received the rent on the 18th of the month.  I’m assuming she had a meter at work.  She would post mark the envelope, and then mail when she felt like it.

I turned her over to a PM.  Things are smooth for a bit.I got a couple of work orders for the rental.  No big deal.  Lease is up and the PM advises me that if I fix a couple things she will sign a New Year long lease.  I fix the requested items; she did not sign the lease.  I received notification that she had not paid the water bill most of the year.  Bill was $1200.00, which will be added to my property taxes causing me another 10% penalty if not paid by 11-04-14.  Because tenant would not communicate with PM, I paid the bill on 11-02-14, only to find out tenant entered into a payment plan with Water Company.  Long story short, I paid $37 for a stop payment fee and the check did not go through.

Last month, her rent was late.  She told PM she would not pay the late fee.  I advised PM to add the late fee to next month.  She was late this month as well.  Total bill for rent and two late fees was $1250.  Tenant attempted to pay the $1150 but PM’s software does not allow partial payments.  She advised PM that she was not going to pay the late fee and would discuss the matter with me.  I have an inspection and meeting scheduled with her on 12-15-14.  I told PM to drop the late fees and try to collect $1150 rent.  I told PM to strongly advise her that it needs to be paid today.  I have not been advised if she has paid.

Via text, I advised tenant that I wanted to change the furnace filter and get her input on PM.This meeting is scheduled for 12-15-14.

I am open to all suggestions, but my thinking is along these lines:

  • A.  Hear her out and present her with a bill for the fees (the two late fees and the $37 fee for the stop payment of the check).  This bill would be served with a five day pay or quit.
  • B.  Just serve her with a 28 day notice to vacate.

My hesitancy is this.It’s cold here and the market for tenants is slow.Especially on an $1150/month unit in this neighborhood.  She has a good enough (14 year) job history, that if need be, I can get monies through court later.

She has so much attitude that my PM doesn’t even want to deal with her anymore.  I know, I know, this all stems from my screening process.  She really is my only difficult tenant.  According to PM she is making excuses and nothing is ever her fault.  Also looking for advice on how my converdation with her should go.  I always try to treat my tenants as "customers".  I'm probably too nice.  Sound off and Cheers.

Personally, I would cut my losses and headaches and serve her notice to vacate.  (Just my opinion.)  This is a business, not a support group where you are required to try and help her.  I understand being nice and I never like the idea of conflict, but enough is enough.

If you mention the $37 will she figure out that you were going to pick up the water bill?

$100 in late fees and $37.  You are out $37 really cause the late fee is above and beyond her normal rent and she pays $1150.  Why not just get her gone when it is easy to get another tenant.

Plus you said you can probably collect in court.

Seems like she is more irritating - but you are still getting $$s

Nationwide Real Estate Lender
Grow Your Real Estate Business–No Doc Lender with No Upfront Fees
Fast & Reliable Financing for Fix&Flip, Rental, New Construction & MultiFamily Properties Nationwide
Learn more

@Kirk R. is onto something about alerting her to your earlier intention to pay the water bill. I would forget the $37, it is the least of your problems.

This tenant is bad news and a constant headache. You are lucky that you are in a jurisdiction where you can just give 28 days notice. Lots of landlords would be stuck with this problem, you are not. I would take advantage of your rights as landlord and get her out of there. Leasing the property cannot be so hard as dealing with this ongoing irritant. This is a business, and your scarce management time is best spent developing your business and finding new opportunities, not dealing with problem tenants. I would chalk this one up to experience, get her out ASAP and resolve not to let things get so far next time.

David and Kristin Burkart what a story! You have been very patient and cooperative, but some people take this goes the wrong way. Instead of appreciating an accomodating landlord they just sense weakness and keep expanding the boundaries. I have had my share of this and had to learn to act and respond more like a business and not like ... I owe my tenants something for being willing to rent from me?? It seems like we have to go through a few bad tenants before we learn how to toughen up a bit and become more professional.

Read Mike Butler's book about landlording, probably the best read on the subject. He is talking about treating your tenants not like your customers, but rather like your employees. It's interesting and makes perfect sense to me. You start with an application and an interview, next you enter an agreement. The next step should be an orientation, but this is where most of us fall short. Have you ever told your tenant what happens if she does not pay? 

I my case I actually have to front the payment out of my pocket to pay the bank, insurance and taxes. I have told that a tenant once and they were shocked. They seem to think that because you are a landlord you are sitting on piles of money and you get to keep 100% of the rent.

Finally it comes down to enforcing your policies. The most important one is probably paying rent on time, every time. There are a lot of different ways how to encourage this behaviour and its a matter of preference. I have all my tenanats enrolled in autopay, so they dont have to think about writing a check and mailing it and I don't have to go to the bank to deposit them. All I do is checking my bank account on the 5th and updating my books.

I would not worry too much about not extending the contract. I am just a couple miles south of you and chances are we rent in the same neighborhood. I have no problems finding great tenants, even at higher rents and at this time of the year. Granted winter is not the best time to move, but there are always people moving for a number of very different reasons and there are only so many SF's available. Actually right now almost nothing if you look on craigslist. What I have started doing is to adjust the length of the lease so it expires in spring, for example 14 months instead of 12. Tenants have no problem with that, because they don't want to move either in Jannuary.

Hope I was able to give you some perspective as you were looking for and good luck!

And this is why I prefer month to month leases.

You say:

Especially on an $1150/month unit in this neighborhood.

And this is why I tell new investors you need to be priced  at or below the neighborhood rents.  If you're high, which this statement implies, you get crummy tenants who will put up with your expensive rent because nobody else will rent to them.

My lease says money received can be applied to fees and other charges, first, then rent.  My lease also addresses partial payments and I've had this reviewed with a loan attorney.  So, I would accept the partial payment, apply it to the water and late fees, then tell the tenant the rent is late and they must pay or leave.

You also need to get a landlord agreement with your utility companies so you are notified when they are behind on them.
If a former tenant has a solid job I turn their outstanding - unpaid - bills over to collections and get what they owe.

Once you have property management in place, I assume you vetted them pretty extensively.  Why the need to follow up with the tenant to see how they liked the PM company?  What does it matter what they think?

I know this is easier said than done, but if you are not going to have month-to-month leases like has been suggested then get that notice to quit out the day after they are late.  If not, the tenant will continue to be later and later every month. It's just the way it goes.