6 Tips for Handling Difficult Tenants

If you are in the landlord game any length of time it is simply an unavoidable happenstance of renting property — sooner or later you rent to a tenant that is difficult to deal with.  Maybe they are difficult to deal with — or maybe you are difficult to deal with!  Either way, the communication usually comes to a grinding halt, and the situation goes into a tailspin.

Maybe they haven’t paid the rent like they should.  Maybe they are making it super difficult to get into the unit and make repairs.  Maybe they are simply being belligerent.

Fear not.  There are strategies you can employ to extract yourself from the situation with the minimal amount of damage to either party.  Here are some tips to help.

  1. Treat the tenants with respect.  Yes, I know they don’t deserve it.  But aggravating them won’t make the situation any better and get you any closer to your ultimate goal of resolving the situation.  Don’t make the matter worse.  Refuse to participate in any slander or arguments.  Keep it civil.
  2. Be clear.  Don’t be wishy-washy.  Be very careful of what you say and how you say it.  There is an excellent chance that it will get misinterpreted anyway.  So be very clear in your communication.  When you and the tenant agree on something, write it down and show it to them for their approval.  Poor communication is most likely what got you in the mess in the first place.
  3. Agree to disagree.  It is OK.  Let the tenant know early on that you will do everything possible to come to agreeable terms, but if you cannot then that is OK.  Let the tenant know that they may not get everything they want — just like you may not get everything you want.  Prep them that there may have to be some give-and-take.
  4. Be consistent.  Don’t change the terms unless you are compromising on something and getting something in return.  Compromise is a fantastic avenue for resolving differences.  So embrace it.  Just make sure to be consistent.  And rather than try to tackle ALL of the issues in front of you at once, focus on just one.  Get that resolved before moving on to the next.
  5. Try to be as helpful as possible.  Look, the tenants aren’t happy about the situation either.  So try to take your eyes off yourself and place them on helping the tenants.  It doesn’t have to be a win-lose scenario.  You might be able to help them in such a way that it also helps you!  So start from that perspective as that is usually the best solution to a win-win scenario.
  6. Give choices; avoid ultimatums.  No one likes to be painted into a corner.  Give the tenants choices.  For instance, when the tenant owes us money we give them a couple of choices.  They can either pay the late rent and fees within the next couple of weeks on an agreed upon date, or we will proceed with eviction.  We don’t threaten them with eviction — it is just a natural consequence of following through on what we agree to.

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