What to Do If Your Tenant Shuts Off Communication
Not even the best landlord on earth can avoid running into a situation where a tenant refuses to respond to your requests or won't answer the phone or even the door. It can be a very sticky situation for you, especially if the matter that needs to be resolved is not necessarily a breach of the rental agreement that allows you to begin the eviction process. If you find yourself trying to communicate with a tenant who you think is trying to avoid you, try these methods of getting in touch before you start stressing out.
1. Give Them the Benefit of the Doubt
Just because the tenant didn't return yesterday's text or phone message, don't jump to the conclusion that they're avoiding you. They may be on vacation, busy with personal affairs, or even experiencing a medical emergency. If you don't hear back from a tenant after a couple of days, stop by the property or send an employee/official personnel — such as a custodian or property manager — to check on the tenant. If there's still no answer, check to see if the mail has been collected and ask neighbors if they're aware of any travel plans or other things that may be causing the tenant to ignore your attempts at communication.
2. Document Your Calls
It's always a good idea to record any message you leave on voicemail or an answering machine via a method that can time and date stamp it. This provides a record of your attempts to contact the tenant in case a situation arises where you have to take the tenant to court over an issue that they claim they weren't informed about. If the situation leads to an eviction, the fact that you can prove that you tried to contact the client and they didn't respond to you will be favorable for you.
3. Send Registered Mail
If you're sure that your tenant is completely avoiding you but you still need an issue to be resolved — like trash in the yard or a noise complaint — the best way to notify them is by certified or registered mail. This forces them to provide their signature when they receive the piece of mail or package — in this case, your letter informing them about the issue. Give them notice of all lease violations and let them know that the eviction process will start on a specific date if they don't remedy the situation. If the tenant still refuses to accept your communication via registered mail, at least you still have an official record of the event that can later be used in a court of law to prove that you could not contact them by any means.
4. Start the Eviction Process
If the tenant is refusing to correct the issue and will not communicate with you, it may be time to start the eviction process. Make sure that you take steps to publicly notify the tenant, including pasting a copy of the note on their door where it will be obviously visible when they come home. Photograph it with a time and date stamp for your records. Make sure you know the laws and familiarize yourself with the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act before you begin the eviction process.
It can certainly be frustrating to deal with a tenant that simply won't get back to you, but don't let it get your goat. There's a chance that they may be going through a hard time in life and, while that is not an excuse for bad behavior, it is a reminder not to take things personally. Keep all interactions on a business and professional level and chalk up even the bad experiences to learning new things!
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