Noisy tenants, late rent payments and no rent payments at all. Despite the most rigorous screening process, you’re bound to come across your fair share of troublesome tenants in your time as a landlord. Tenant problems come in many forms, but the best way to deal with them is to be professional, communicate clearly and take the steps necessary to maintain a profitable and safe rental – no matter how hard it may be.
The following paragraphs cover some of the most common ways landlords can protect themselves when dealing with problematic renters. It’s recommended you follow a documented and strict course of action, and address your attorney if you are unsure of the action to take. Every state has its own laws and regulations concerning landlord/tenant relationships, and your attorney can help educate you on them.
1. Educate yourself and know the law
Managing a rental property requires more than just paying the mortgage on time and collecting rent. Renter issues arise often and vary in severity, so you must know where you stand in any given situation. Not knowing the law and how it pertains to you and your tenants can leave you open to lawsuits and bankruptcy very quickly. Take the time to educate yourself: take classes, read books, and talk to other more experienced landlords to know and understand the laws in your state. The more you know, the less likely you’ll be to land on the wrong side of a tenant’s legal claim against you.
2. Stick to documented policies no matter what
When a new tenant signs your rental contract, they are agreeing to all the policies and procedures set forth by you in that document. It’s important they understand everything before they sign, and it’s your job to make sure they do. Walk them through the document one section at a time and be sure to answer any questions they may have.
Your rental agreement should include things such as:
· What tenants can and can’t do on the property
· How much rent is
· When rent is due
· How rent can be paid
· Noise restrictions
· Tenant-to-tenant conflict resolution
· Tenant responsibilities
· Landlord responsibilities
· Rules about additional occupants and guests
· Rules on pets
· Rules on smoking
· Property maintenance
· What is considered normal wear and tear
3. Document everything that happens
Good or bad, it’s important that you document everything that happens when in contact with your tenants. Depending on how many units you rent out, this could be time-consuming. Investing in CRM software can help you organize multiple tenants into a spreadsheet or something similar. How you choose to document your interactions with your tenants is up to you; just be sure you do.
Take time to document things such as tenant complaints and how they were handled. Make sure you include every contact with the tenant including phone calls, text messages, etc. If you have to give out warning notices or make an incident report, be sure you document it all with dates and times.
Not all interactions with your tenants will be bad, but it’s just as important to document the mundane and good communications as well. If a tenant requests maintenance, write it down. Include what you did to fix the problem and what the outcome was. You never know when you might have to refer back to a situation sometime down the road, and good notes ensures you always know exactly what happened and when.
4. Take safety precautions
Angry tenants are a real concern for landlords. You can’t please everyone all the time, especially when you’re a rental property owner. Rather than leave anything to chance, use the following tips to protect yourself and your family as much as possible.
· Never give out your home address.
· Make it possible for tenants to pay rent online
· Use a P.O. Box to collect mailed rent payments
· Give tenants a Google Voice phone number to call instead of your own personal number. This eliminates constant phone calls at all hours from needy or angry renters because you control whether the phone rings directly to you or not, and you can check your messages when it’s convenient for you. In addition, Google transcribes your voice messages so it’s easy to document everything.
· Screen potential renters completely. Conduct a background check – both financial and criminal. Don’t be afraid to verify job and previous landlord references as well.
Being a landlord is a tough job wrought with financial and physical risks. Protect yourself using the four tips above for a safe and profitable investment property.