Renting Well Blog

Dealing With Difficult Tenants

Difficult tenants are a reality of being a landlord. You’re going to have some. It’s inevitable. Defining “difficult” is easy and can include a variety of things. They don’t pay the rent. They don’t pay the rent on time. They’re noisy. A general lack of reliability with the given expectations. Sometimes they’re even belligerent and unreasonable. With that said, difficult tenants can also be time consumers. Tenants who complain incessantly about the most frivolous of things, are unreasonably sensitive, contact you constantly about the smallest of items, or even people who are combative with other tenants in your property for no good reason. Here’s a few tips for dealing with those that make managing your property difficult.

  • Define expectations: I do this all the time when renting to new people. Call it the old “I made it clear” kind of approach. I’m not talking about clearing up when you expect the rent. That’s a given (but a good idea to let them know nonetheless – i.e. a written lease). Let a prospective tenant know about your expectations with respect to noise, civility with other tenants (if you have a multi-unit), property routines like garbage removal and laundry schedules, and your expectations when it comes to issues and resolving them together. I once had a tenant who considered himself to be the Wyatt Earp of a fourplex I own. Besides constantly calling people out on every little thing, he didn’t seem to understand me when I explained to him that I didn’t need a superintendent, and that he was to report an issue that he was having to me directly.
  • Have A Proactive, Reasonable, and Responsive Attitude: Most tenants will tell you, an unresponsive and defensive owner is the main ingredient in what can be a resentful relationship between landlord and leasee. Imagine if you were paying someone rent, and they were constantly unavailable, nowhere to be found, and defensive when it came to addressing a problem that you considered fundamental in your home. As an owner, you have an obligation to be attuned to the needs, within reason, of your tenants. Things happen when you are a property owner, and most tenants will understand that. If you show a keen interest in working with those who rent from you, and are committed to finding a solution, you’ll find your tenants will respond – and this is one of the most effective ways to avoid having difficult tenants in the first place. It is after all, their home. Secondly – always be reasonable. Expect a reasonable attitude from the tenant as well. Be mindful of what you’re saying and how you’re dealing with an issue with a tenant.
  • Learn The Landlord and Tenant Act: Visit the Landlord and Tenant Board, or the equivalent entity or body in your municipality or province. Know your rights, learn and understand the rights of your tenants, and learn the protocols and processes that are associated with incidents and situations – including the non payment of rent and rental deliquency. Follow the rules. Be prepared for a difficult tenant to become a bad tenant.
  • Avoid the board if you can: It’s inevitable that you’ll probably end up attending a hearing at the provincial board. Hence the importance of knowing the act in your province. With that said – avoid the board if possible. Also – I find a lot of landlords I speak with use the “board card” or the threat of court way to early in any dialogue. If you pull that out the wrong way, you can turn what is a resolvable situation into a full fledged problem. You’ll be fronting the costs to resolve an issue or evict a tenant formally and it’s not fun. I’m a big believer that you should be serving notices and following process only in the worst of situations – like refusal to pay rent, habitual late payment, unruly behaviour or damage, or even with someone who is impossible to communicate with. if it’s possible to work out issues in a productive way without being in front of an arbitrator, do it.

Share your thoughts about how to deal with a difficult tenant.

Author: Chris Saracino

Chris is a co-founder of Renting Well and heads up our marketing and communication efforts. He's also the landlord of two buildings and 8 units in Ottawa, Ontario.

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