Jerry never wanted to be a problem.
He had three small kids, worked from home, and did a lot of work to fix up the house he was renting. He never had an issue with paying rent and every inspection was passed with flying colors.
Then one fateful afternoon, Jerry felt weaker than normal. He started getting a headache and his vision blurred.
After a series of tests, Jerry found himself diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
He was given medication that made him feel tired all of the time.
He took time away from work, spent as much time as we could with the kids, but the house began to get worn down.
The next rental inspection he had, the landlord noticed that there were two dozen trash bags in the garage, broken doors, and plugged up plumbing.
For his landlord, Jerry had become a problem tenant. This scenario plays out a lot for other landlords every day. How do you handle the situation?
Always Keep It About the Business At Hand
Jerry's landlord was sympathetic, but had an investment to protect.
“I loved Jerry and I loved his kids,” said Suzanne, who represented the property for the owner. “He said that he would find a way to make it right and I believed him. I still needed to make sure the paperwork was in place in case he couldn't find a way to make it right.”
The landlord issued Jerry a 60 day compliance notice. It gave Jerry time to get the property fixed up and back into compliance without facing an eviction notice for being in violation of his lease.
Suzanne went back out once a week to check on Jerry's progress. Sure enough, little by little, the violations began to go away.
“If I'd served Jerry with a Notice to Quit, which I could have done, it wouldn't have done any of us any good,” said Suzanne. “We would have had to pay for the eviction costs. Jerry and his kids would have the repair costs and the problem of finding a new home. In this scenario, everyone came out ahead. The problems got fixed. The house was improved in value for the owner. Jerry still has an affordable place to live.”
Even though it might seem personal at times, it must always be business first. What is good for business? That's how to best handle a tenant problem.
What About Other Situations That Are More Difficult?
Sometimes a tenant is a problem on purpose. Illegal drugs, loud parties, and destructive habits that won't be fixed are problems that need to be handled right away.
For Suzanne, that's when she'd immediately serve a Notice to Quit.
“Destructive habits aren't usually going to change,” she said. “You've got to be firm and let tenants know in this kind of situation that their behavior is not acceptable and it is in violation of the leasing agreement.”
Once that notice is served, the eviction process can begin if the notice isn't resolved.
It also needs to provide a remedy to the situation so the notice can be removed if necessary.
“Sometimes being a landlord is a judgment call,” said Suzanne. “Take the emotions away and think about more than what happens in the short-term.”
“If you've got a consistently good tenant who becomes a problem, there's a reason for that,” Suzanne said in conclusion. “Work with them and you'll likely get them being good tenants again. If you've got a bad tenant, however, you've got to get them out as fast as possible using whatever legal means you have at your disposal.”
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