Handling Sticky Landlord Situations

It would be nice if your only responsibility as a landlord was finding tenants, securing signed leases, and collecting rent. In reality, there’s so much more to the job.

Some tenants are difficult and demanding.

Property-related problems can and will arise.

The landlord life will throw you curve balls. Handling them gracefully will go a long way toward keeping your tenants happy.


1. Communication is Key in Resolving Disputes
If you find yourself in a sticky situation with your tenant, try talking it out calmly and rationally. It's better to communicate in good faith, showing respect and trying to work things out as opposed to getting upset and escalating the issue.


If you discuss an important issue with your tenant, document it.

Verbal conversations always require a follow-up email or letter restating the conversation.

Send a copy to your tenant and keep yours in a safe place.

Of course, you hope the conflict will be resolved agreeably, but it doesn't, detailed records are invaluable.


2. Address Repairs Expediently
Nothing can break down a landlord/tenant relationship faster than repair disputes.

Landlords have a legal obligation to fix any issue that will negatively impact the tenant's quality of life or safety.

Follow these steps to resolve repair issues quickly and legally.

  1. Initiate face-to-face contact and ask for the repair.
  2. Send written follow-up to the original request. If there's a dispute over who caused the problem, documentation and pictures are essential.
  3. Contact the city or county building inspection department and request an inspector visit to document whether a building or safety code violation exists. Get a copy of the report the inspector gives your tenant.
  4. Your tenant may take you to small claims court. If there's a dispute, bring along evidence and documentation.


3. Insects and Vermin Affect Tenants' Quality of Life
Infestations of insects and vermin are legally considered to affect a tenant's quality of life, and should be dealt with quickly.

The most frequent cause of such disputes are bedbugs.

Tenants must immediately report bed bugs to housing officials.

An investigator will decide if there's an infestation.

Responsibility for this cleanup depends on who introduced the bedbugs to the premises.

If proven the tenant infested the apartment, it's on them.

Otherwise, repairs are your responsibility.


4. Investigate Noise Complaints Independently
Noise or annoyance complaints made between tenants are another frequent tenant/landlord conflict.

Don't take the word of any complainant as gospel.

Interview other tenants and see if any acrimony existed before the complaint.

After you investigate, advise both sides of your findings.


5. When Your Needs Collide With Privacy Rights
Tenants have a legal right to privacy, and, as a landlord, you likely want your tenants to feel safe from intrusion.

Sometimes, though, you need to enter your occupied rental unit to make repairs, assess its condition or show it to a potential renter.

In any of these cases, provide at least 24 hours notice to the tenant before entering.


You can't avoid all sticky situations, but you can control how you respond.

Issues with tenants may test your patience and cost you, but exercising diplomacy, tact and empathy will ultimately help keep you and your tenants happy.

Above all, keep the lines of communication open.

Posted on Jul 23, 2015

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