Managing expectations for outgoing tenants

Few people enjoy moving. Whether it involves a rental or a home you own, moving can be an expensive hassle.

The same is true for your leased properties.

The turnover process can be a fraught time, with conflict, confusion and surprise expenses.

It doesn’t have to be, though.

With a bit of planning and lots of communication, you will be able to have a smooth turnover process with your outgoing tenants.

Communicate Early and Often
As with many aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship, communication is key.

As part your workflow as a landlord, you should regularly be in touch with your tenants.

This will help you stay on top of issues with the property and identify any problems with the tenants should they arise.

Discussing the tenant will be staying past the end of the lease should be a part of these conversations as the lease comes to a close.

Remind Tenants About the Terms of the Lease
What that communication looks like will depend on the terms of the lease.

Your lease should contain a clause establishing terms for providing notice.

Whether it’s 30, 60, or 90 days, you should remind the tenant about those terms.

Many tenants will have forgotten, or not have read them in the first place.

You should also remind your tenant about what the options are as the lease comes to an end.

Does the lease automatically shift to month-to-month? Does it have to be renewed for a full year? Will you be increasing the monthly rent?

These are all things that should be clear to all parties involved in the rental agreement, and should be made clear well in advance of any deadlines.

Establish and Confirm Move Out Logistics
If your tenant will be moving out, firmly establish a move out date.

Establishing this expectation early will make sure you have time to turnover the apartment before the next tenant arrives to take over.

Your current tenant might not start his or her next lease until the 1st of the next month, so if your lease ends on the last day of the previous one, you will want to make sure he or she is aware of that and plans the move accordingly.

Set Clear Expectations for Conditions
It is also important that all your tenants are aware of your expectations for what the property will look like when they leave.

The lease is your friend here. Remind the tenant of what was already agreed upon in terms of the condition of the property, and explain what that means for you.

Set the tenant up for success by explaining in detail what you will be looking for in your inspection.

Your tenant wants the security deposit back and will do whatever is necessary to get it.

If the tenant puts in the work to have the rental in good shape, it will save you cleaning time or money for a cleaning crew.

Be Prompt with the Security Deposit
As part of building your reputation as a landlord, it is critical to be fair and prompt with the security deposit.

If there are issues, be objective and transparent in how you calculate the docking of the deposit.

Regardless, send them the amount of the deposit they are owed within a reasonable and agreed upon amount of time.

Both of these practices will go a long way in establishing your professional reputation.

Following these tips will set you and your tenants up for success in the turnover process.

How To Ask a Tenant to Move Out

Some tenants are just problematic.

Others are great people, but there comes a time when change becomes necessary, and even the best tenants need to be asked to move out.

This can be a tricky process, especially if the rental arrangement has been a multi-year relationship.

The easiest way to start this process is to meet the tenant in a neutral location.

Offer to buy them some coffee or maybe even lunch.

Discuss your situation and why you need to have them move out of the property.

With enough notice, most tenants will move – though they won’t be happy about the need to move.

My Tenants Are Nice, But They’re Stubborn

If there is still a leasing agreement in place, landlords often need a legitimate reason to ask tenants to move.

If there isn’t one, then the lease stays in place until it expires.

Some tenants are stubborn and want to stay until the end of their lease.

Providing them with an incentive, such as a portion of their moving costs or agreeing to return the entire security deposit unless there is extensive damage, can help to prompt a move.

My Tenants Have Small Children

Kids or pets, for that matter, can make moving on short notice problematic.

There may be daycare concerns, a lack of available housing, and other issues which make finding an affordable rental next to impossible to achieve for certain families.

If you know in advance that your tenants need to move and they have kids, pets, or both, then reach out to other landlords about other rentals.

Being able to provide a housing alternative when asking tenants to leave can help relieve the anxiousness that many families have about moving.

Sometimes the Legal Process Must be Followed

Tenants may decide that they don’t want to move.

They might even decide to stop paying their rent.

You can keep asking them to move out, but ultimately it takes a court order to make that happen.

Make sure you are familiar with the entire eviction process to ensure no errors are made that can cause a tenant to have a prolonged amount of free rent.

Waiting just prolongs this process.

It is better to ask now and work with your tenants to get them moved out than to go through the costly eviction process.

How to Verify That a Renter Is Trustworthy When They Have No Credit History

If you’re only renting units or homes to tenants with an excellent credit history, you might be waiting a while before you get an acceptable application.

While it’s true that a good credit history normally equals timely payments, that’s not always the case.

There are many potential renters out there who haven’t yet had the opportunity to boost their credit score; they’re simply too young or too financially inexperienced to have any credit history worth mentioning.

Others may have flaws on their credit, but they’ve managed to bounce back from a rough patch and will be ideal renters in the future.

But how can you tell these renters apart from the troublesome ones?

There are a few ways to check a person’s trustworthiness, even without a credit history.

1. Ask for old payment records.
Oftentimes, even if a person has no credit history to speak of, they still have some form of past financial obligations that can vouch for their reliability.

You can ask them to provide these records as proof of their timely payment history.

It’s best, of course, to ask for old rent payment history from past landlords, but that’s not always an option.

In that case, any bill payment records will work.

Even a utility bill record will give you a good indication of a potential tenant’s past.

2. Ask for a large down payment.
If you’re still worried about the tenant paying on time each month, ask them for a larger down payment up front.

Because it’s difficult to rent without a credit history, most tenants will gladly put extra money down to secure a rental.

Many landlords use this money as a security deposit or apply it to the last month’s rent in the lease agreement.

Be sure and check local law regarding a large down payment.

3. Ask for references from past employers.
Regardless of credit history, you should always make sure your tenant has verifiable income.

You should verify employment with his or her current company, and you should also ask for references from past employers.

Legally, the questions you may ask employers may be limited, but you can usually ask if the applicant is eligible for rehire, which will give you a good indication of his or her prior work performance.

You don’t want a renter who is fired repeatedly from different jobs.

4. Ask for character references.
Since employers can’t give out much information about the tenant’s character, ask applicants for additional references to vouch for their dependability.

These shouldn’t be family members, though.

If possible, it’s best if references are honest people whose names you recognize in the community.

If that’s not possible, friends, past or present coworkers, teachers, or other professional acquaintances are always good options.

5. Verify their income.
There are several ways to verify a tenant’s income, and you should pursue at least one of them.

You can ask for past pay stubs or old tax records, such as W-2s or 1099s.

You can also request bank statement records.

Of course, their employer can also verify their income through an employment verification request.

Once you’re satisfied that the prospective tenant is honest and reliable, there’s nothing holding you back from extending a lease agreement offer to them.

As long as you verify their history, income and character, you’ll likely have an excellent renter with little to no problems in the future.

How To Get Tenants to Pay Rent on Time

One of the biggest problems that landlords face is getting tenants to pay their rent on time.

You can speak with them every month about making late payments and it doesn’t do any good.

If you’re tired of having your words go in one ear and out the other, then here is how to get a tenant to pay rent on time in a more proactive, strategic manner.

1. Create a Rental Discount.

If you are having tenants consistently pay their rent late, then maybe it’s time to develop a new leasing agreement.

Add $50-$100 to the amount of rent that you plan to charge.

If the tenants pay their rent before the due date or on time, then they get to have this additional amount discounted from their monthly rent.

If they pay late, then they are subjected to this higher rent.

Some landlord/tenant laws require this additional amount to be a late fee, so make sure you structure your leases according to local regulations.

2. Lower Rental Amounts For Renewals.

This might hurt your bottom line a little, but it can also help to promote more on-time payments and better tenants.

Many markets have high rent levels that are a struggle for households to afford.

Consider adding an addendum to your leasing agreements which creates a lower rent after 12 consecutive on-time or early payments.

You’ll keep vacancy rates lower over time as the changes filter on down and though you might have a lower margin, you may wind up with more overall profits.

3. Setup ACH Rental Payments.

Lenders are using automatic payments as a way to guarantee payments and finding great success with it.

You might be able to do this with your tenants as well.

Create a time when the amount for rent will be withdrawn from the tenant’s bank account every month.

If problematic tenants are willing to sign up for this service, consider giving them a 5-10% discount on their rent since they’re doing you a favor.

This will give you a better chance of making sure you get paid.

Now ACH payments are only as good as the amount of money that happens to be in the bank account.

Not every tenant will have the needed rent payment available at the time of withdrawal.

Make sure you have a clear and precise return payment or rejected payment policy so that you can begin the eviction process immediately and have a way to recover the fees that may come when a full payment cannot be made.

4. Offer To Build Up Their Credit Score.

Many renters are in a place where they could use a boost in their credit.

They might be renting because of a foreclosure, a bankruptcy, or because of prolonged unemployment.

Landlords have access to services that will report on-time rental payments to the major credit bureaus and increase a credit score over time.

This also works in the opposite way as well.

You’ll also be reporting payments that were not paid on time and that can negatively affect a tenant’s credit score.

5. Hand Out a Holiday Bonus.

Do you think you can take out $5-$10 from the rent that is getting paid every month?

If you can, then consider putting this cash into an interest bearing account.

When an on-time payment is made, put the amount into this account. You might even consider matching the funds.

At the $10 rate and if you decided to match the funds that are in the account, then up to $240 could be given to a tenant at the end of the year.

They’ll have some extra cash for the holidays and you’ll be getting more on-time payments.

If you don’t want to cut tenants a check, you could put the amount onto a gift card as well.

6. Consider Different Rental Payment Arrangements.

Maybe your tenants struggle to pay their rent on the first of the month.

Some self-employed or contract workers might not know when their outstanding invoices will be filled.

By being flexible with the rental date, you may find tenants are better able to meet their contractual obligations.

That doesn’t mean you should have a floating payment date every month because that would make evictions nearly impossible.

It does mean that your due date doesn’t have to be the 1st of the month.

7. Make It Easier To Pay.

Do you have a slot for tenants to pay with a check at your office?

Is there a website you have that can process payments after hours?

If you can expand your collection areas, methods, and types of payment accepted, then you’ve got a chance to improve the number of on-time payments that you could receive.

If you have a grace period for rental payments, then a tenant isn’t late on rent until that grace period expires.

You can say rent is due on the 1st of the month, but if you have a fee-free grace period up until the 5th of the month, then rent isn’t legally due until then.

If you’re tired of tracking down tenants month after month, then consider removing any grace periods and implementing these ideas to create a proactive environment instead.

It could help you improve the profitability of your rental properties.

Tenants with Disabilities

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 61 million adults in the US live with some type of disability. This can cover a wide range of both visible and invisible conditions including issues with mobility, vision or hearing impairments, cognitive disabilities, and more. Whatever kind of disability an individual copes with, they will be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, if they’re applying for your rental, they’ll be considered a Protected Class under the Fair Housing Act. You will need to make sure that you understand what is expected of you as a landlord or property manager to ensure that you’re following the law.

Let’s start with the basics.

The Do’s and Don’ts

Odds are that you won’t actively try to discriminate against an individual with disabilities that is applying for your rental property, but that doesn’t mean that your actions can’t be viewed as discriminatory in the eyes of the law. The best way to make sure that everything is being handled fairly is to brush up on the do’s and the don’ts of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act as they pertain to both rental applicants and current tenants.

In general, you’ll treat a tenant with disabilities as you would any able-bodied tenant. The exception to that could be if they put in a request for special accommodations. If they do, here are a few things that you, as the landlord or property manager, may do to cover yourself: 

1. If the tenant’s disability is not clear, ask for proof.

There are times when you may find that your new tenant’s disability is not readily visible, and in those cases you can verify the disability in a couple of ways: 

  • Proof of supplemental security income or social security disability insurance
  • Information or a statement by a doctor, medical professional, peer support group, or a reliable third party

If the disability is obvious (such as an individual using a wheelchair for mobility issues), you should not ask for proof. 

2. If your tenant intends to make physical alterations to the rental, make sure that they know to provide you with proper notice.

3. Ask for the required permits (if needed) to be obtained for any alterations made and that any construction should be performed by a licensed and bonded professional.

Here are a couple of things you shouldn’t do while working with tenants that have disabilities:

  1. Ask someone details about their disability. 

While you may need to request certain documentation or verify if something is there to help with the tenant’s disability (don’t worry, more on this later!), you should never ask for details about the individual’s disability. Not only can your curiosity come off as rude, it can easily be flagged as discriminatory if the tenant chooses to pursue that.

2. Deny someone or alter the terms of the lease because of their disability.

A tenant is allowed to make reasonable requests for accommodating their disability. If they are otherwise qualified for your rental you cannot deny them based on that request. We’ll go over what is considered a reasonable request below.

What is Considered a Reasonable Accommodation?

The kind of requests that you may receive from a tenant with disabilities could range from a slight adjustment in your policies to physically altering your rental property and everything in between. In general, a reasonable accommodation should be something that doesn’t cause a financial burden to the landlord.

Here are a few examples of requests that you may see:

  1. Preferred parking and/or a ground floor apartment in a multi-family property –

Tenants with mobility issues may require closer parking, parking spots that can accommodate a wheelchair, or ground floor access to their rental home. As long as you have these options available without kicking another tenant out of their spot, these are requests that would be considered reasonable in most cases, as they shouldn’t put a financial burden on you. 

An example of an unreasonable request would be to ask that you remove another tenant from a ground floor rental so that they may rent the unit or ask that you install a private elevator so that they can access a top floor unit.

  1. The ability to mail their rent payment –

A variety of disabilities may make it cumbersome for a tenant to get to an office and physically hand you their rent check every month. With the increased ease of accepting rent through online portals or having your tenant mail the check in each month, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to find an option that works for all parties involved.

An example of an unreasonable request would be if your tenant asked you to accept only part of the rent. As with any other tenant that has signed a lease for your rental property, a tenant with disabilities is not exempt from full, on-time rent payments.

  1. Allowing a service animal into a rental that otherwise wouldn’t allow animals.

A service animal (we have more on this subject below) is not considered a pet and should not be treated as such. Even if you have a no pet policy for your rental, you will need to allow an exception for a service animal.

An example of an unreasonable request would be if your tenant’s service animal caused damage to the rental or has a proven track record of violence. 

A more complicated request will be if a tenant asks to physically alter your rental. What they are wanting to alter will go a long way in deciding who is responsible for the alterations and how to proceed with the request. A few examples of what a request like this may include would be:

  • adding railings throughout the home to help with mobility
  • installing ramps to provide wheelchair access 
  • lowering cabinets to provide better access

You will want to check your local laws to see if there are any details for your specific situation, but in general the tenant will be responsible for more expensive alterations. In many cases, they may need to put money into an interest-building escrow account so that the rental may be returned to its original state when they move out.

An example of an unreasonable request would be if a tenant had a temporary disability such as a broken leg and asked to make major modifications to the property. 

Service Animals

Many individuals living with a disability are assisted by a service animal. These animals are treated as a medical aid and their use is protected under the law. It’s important to understand that a true service animal is not a pet and should not be treated as one. This means that you cannot deny a qualified tenant with a service animal because of a no pet policy in your rental. You also will not be able to charge any fees such as a pet deposit or pet rent to cover the animal’s stay.

A growing concern among landlords has been if the tenant’s animal is truly a service animal or what is often called a support animal. Support animals can also be called therapy, comfort, or companion animals, and there are differences between the two classifications.

A service animal (typically a dog) is protected by the ADA and is defined as “trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.” This training may be done through a professional organization or at home, but training is a key requirement for a service animal. Examples of tasks they may have been trained to do are:

  • Assist a visually impared individual (often referred to as a seeing eye dog)
  • Detect ailments such as low/high blood sugar, seizures, panic attacks, etc etc…
  • Remind an individual to take medication

A support, therapy, comfort, or companion animal is not considered the same as a service animal under the ADA. While they may help an individual with a disability, the key difference between them and a protected service animal is that the support animal has not received training. They provide help by simply being there for the person rather than performing specific tasks. 

While these types of animals are not protected by federal law, you will want to check your local laws before denying a tenant with a support animal outright. If you are uncertain about an animal that a tenant claims should be allowed into the rental without fee under the ADA, you may ask two questions to confirm that it is a service animal:

  1. Is the service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the service animal been trained to perform?

That’s it. You should not request to see documentation for the animal, ask to see the animal perform a specific task, or question the individual about their disability. 

A few additional things to be aware of on the topic of service animals:

  • Any breed of dog may be trained as a service animal. You may not deny an applicant based on the breed of their service animal. The animal must have a proven record of aggressive or dangerous behavior to deny them.
  • Service animals are not protected by the ADA until they have been fully trained.
  • While service animals often wear a vest or other identifying marker, the ADA does not require that they do so.
  • The ADA does not require documentation that the dog has been trained as a service animal.
  • The ADA does not exempt service animals from required vaccinations. 

Conclusion

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed if you haven’t had prior experience with the Americans with Disabilities Act or its corresponding sections of the Fair Housing Act. It’s important to remember that these laws were designed to allow individuals with a variety of disabilities the same access as their able-bodied neighbors, not to trip you up as a landlord or property manager. 

Make sure you follow the above recommendations and that you stay current on changes to both local and federal laws so that you may adjust your policies as needed. If in doubt, seek legal advice. It will always be better to verify rather than find yourself on the wrong side of a discrimination lawsuit. 

Explanation of Tenant’s Rights and Bed Bugs

Bed bugs can be a huge problem in any home.

It is particularly bothersome when they’re found in a rental.

It happens to even the best of rental properties because those pesky bugs can hitch a ride on virtually anything to enter the building.

As a tenant, you must report bed bugs right away.

An inspector will then come into the home to determine if an infestation has occurred.

 

Who Pays For The Bed Bug Removal?

This depends on how the bed bugs were introduced into property in the first place.

If the tenant has brought in the bed bugs, even unintentionally, then the cost of their removal will be their responsibility.

Otherwise landlords are required to provide habitable accommodations and that would make it their responsibility.

Does An Insurance Policy Cover Bed Bug Removal?

Sometimes landlord insurance will cover the cost of bed bug removal.

Although this limits the costs in the short-term to restore the property, any claims on an insurance policy will typically raise the rates of the next premium.

What Kind Of Rental Property Is It?

If tenants are renting a single family home and have been doing so for at least 6 months, then there’s a good chance that it will be the tenant responsibility to remove the bed bug infestation.

It can be more difficult to prove a specific tenant brought in bed bugs in an apartment complex, so in that circumstance it is more likely that the landlord will be stuck with the overall cost.

Can Tenant’s Withhold Rent For a Bed Bug Issue?

The answer to this depends on what the landlord/tenant laws happen to be.

In most instances, you’ll still need to pay rent as a tenant until the landlord has been notified in writing of the problem.

If the problem remains unresolved after a specific amount of time, then the cost of extermination can be paid by the tenant and then the amount of that bill can be deducted from the rent.

In most circumstances, the party responsible for the bed bug infestation is the one that will need to pay for the removal of them.

Make sure you know your rights and responsibilities under your landlord/tenant laws and what your leasing agreement says.

That way you’ll know what steps need to be taken to remove this pest for good.

Are Tenants Protected Against Owner Move-In Evictions

Depending on where you live, you may terminate a lease if you or a family member needs to move into one of your rental properties.

Laws governing these evictions will vary by city, making it pertinent that you check your local regulations.

Read on to learn in which circumstances you may perform an owner move-in eviction (OMI).

Individuals Protected From OMI Evictions
Only certain cities, usually those with rent-controlled apartments, allow for OMI evictions.

Pay close attention to the wording of the law.

Even when these evictions are allowed, there are certain individuals who are protected against them.

One of the primary populations protected against OMI evictions are the elderly.

In most instances, individuals over the age of 60—who have lived in a residence for a certain period—cannot be OMI evicted.

In New York City, for example, an individual over the age of 62 cannot face this type of eviction.

The same holds true for disabled people and those who have been in the apartment for over 20 years.

These rules also usually true for disabled or terminally ill tenants.

Additionally, tenants with children who have lived in a rental property for a set amount of time are also afforded protections.

Looking at San Francisco, families with children who have been in a residence for at least a year are protected.

Always double check your local laws to see the necessary qualifications of protected individuals.

Exceptions
Although the elderly, disabled, and families with young children are often protected, these rules have exceptions in certain circumstances.

For example, San Francisco landlords are allowed to evict families with children as long as the school year has passed.

Again looking at San Francisco, an OMI eviction is permitted against a family with a child if the owner—or their family member—plans on moving in with a child.

This exemption exists for elderly occupants as well. In essence, the party that’s moving in must meet the same requirements that protect the current inhabitants.

These protections are often linked to how long tenants have lived in the rental property.

While an elderly renter may be exempt from OMI evictions after living in a unit for several years, it’s not likely they will have the same protections if they had moved in six months ago.

When OMI Evictions Aren’t Legal
There are also instances where a landlord simply won’t be provided the option to begin an OMI eviction.

In most cases, the landlord must have no other property in which their family member or themselves could move. If the landlord does have another empty rental unit, they must use that one instead of the property that’s occupied.

This is true even if the occupied unit doesn’t have individuals who fall under a protected status.

Additionally, the law often dictates that you must live in the same building as your family member.

If you live in Topeka, for instance, and you’re trying to do an OMI eviction at a property in California, it’s unlikely that the law is on your side.

Undertaking an owner move-in eviction is a difficult process.

When these situations arise, however, there’s a good chance that you or your family member will have a place to stay, so long as you’re undertaking the eviction in good faith.

Can You Deny Prospective Tenants Based on Their Jobs?

Landlords can reject applications for all kinds of reasons.

At the same time, they are not allowed to discriminate based on certain criteria.

These two statements leave a lot of gray area for landlords when it comes time to review the applications of prospective tenants.

Requiring an Applicant to Have a Job
A landlord can require tenants to have jobs and to disclose their employment information.

You are allowed to ensure that the people you rent to can afford to make the monthly rent payments and pay for utilities.

In addition, you can require a minimum income to ensure that your tenants have sufficient funds for renting the apartment.

While a landlord can set the rules, the general rule of thumb is that the rent payment should be no more than one-third of the tenant’s monthly income.

While this isn’t technically the same as turning down an applicant because of their job, it does impact the kind of jobs a tenant can have.

For instance, a landlord who charges $1,000 a month in rent for an apartment wouldn’t accept a person making only $900 per month unless he or she would have a roommate.

This is just common business sense, and won’t get you in trouble.

Another issue that goes back to affordability is job stability.

If the job is seasonal or the person switches jobs often, you may not feel that they are a good risk as a tenant, and you would be within your rights to turn him or her down.

Other Reasons Not to Rent to a Tenant Because of a Job
Other than a lack of sufficient income, you may have other reasons you don’t want to rent to someone because of his or her job.

For example, you may not want the unit to be unoccupied because someone travels for work a lot.

Maybe he or she works odd hours and would disrupt the rest of your tenants when returning home.

Whatever reason you have for not wanting to rent to a tenant because of his or her job must be applied to all applicants. In basic terms, landlords have the right to refuse to rent to anyone as long as they don’t discriminate against someone because of a protected class.

A job doesn’t technically fall into that category, but you have to be careful in case it can be linked to one of those protected criteria.

If you were to turn down an applicant because of his or her job and it had anything to do with their age, color, race, religion, or other protected criteria, the applicant could claim discrimination.

A simple example would be to reject the application of a preacher, priest, or rabbi.

The key to protecting yourself and your property when screening applicants is to set your requirements in writing.

Follow those standards when interviewing all applicants, so that you may be fair in your reasons for rejecting applications. It is also a good idea to show your stated minimum requirements to an attorney who specializes in this area to ensure that you are not breaking any state or federal laws.

Landlords have the right to feel good about the people they rent to.

And they shouldn’t have to worry about their tenants being able to afford the rent.

At the same time, they want to make sure they aren’t breaking any laws and practicing illegal discrimination in rejecting an applicant based on his or her job.

 

How to Handle Threats from Tenants

Bad tenants are a fact of landlord life.

You do what you can to minimize the risk of bad tenants through credit checks and screening services, but a great tenant on paper may be a nightmare to deal with in person.

Tenants may threaten you for several reasons, such as attempting to avoid an eviction, stopping you from realizing they’re breaking their lease clauses, and attempting to intimidate you.

How you handle threats from tenants depends on the situation and the consequences for taking action.

Violent Threats
If a tenant is physically threatening you, you have a few judgment calls to make.

Your safety and well-being are your top priority in any situation.

If you’re in the same physical location with the tenant while he’s making these threats and you’re unable to defuse the situation, leave the property.

The tenant may need some time and space to cool off after you delivered an eviction notice, is having a bad day in general, or has anger management issues.

By removing yourself from the situation, you reduce the risk of physical harm to yourself.

You do run the risk of your property being damaged, so consider involving the police department if the tenant seems likely to take his anger out on your rental unit, or he has tried to physically harm you.

If the tenant is making threats over the phone, make a record of what he said to start a paper trail.

Save emails or texts if the tenant communicates with you through those channels.

Documentation is important if you have to take your tenant to court due to the threats.

Legal Threats
Tenants may make legal threats for discrimination, eviction protection, or constructive eviction.

If a tenant is threatening legal action and states she’s involving a lawyer, cease the conversation unless it’s through a lawyer.

If the tenant is bluffing, you stopped the conversation from continuing in an unproductive fashion.

If the tenant isn’t bluffing, you have a heads up to prepare for a potential court case and retain your own legal counsel if necessary.

You want to be prepared in case your tenant goes through with a legal threat and takes you to court.

Threats Against Other Tenants
A tenant may threaten other tenants instead of communicating calmly about problems.

While it’s ideal when tenants can work out internal disputes with each other, especially those sharing rental units or common areas, the conversations don’t always work out nicely.

You don’t want a tenant feeling unsafe due to an angry tenant, so it’s important to mediate if the conversation goes badly.

A tenant who is creating an unsafe environment for your other tenants may need to be evicted from the property, or may need a strong conversation on how to properly communicate issues with other tenants.

While stress and anger can lead to harsh words, there’s a difference between a tenant having a bad day and one who is making your other tenants feel unsafe.

Bad tenants who threaten you or other tenants need dealt with appropriately.

In some situations, you can let the tenant cool down before addressing the problem.

In other cases, you need to involve a lawyer or the police.

Knowing when to use each option is important for handling a threatening situation appropriately.

What Extra Measures Can You Take to Make Sure You Are Not Liable for Your Tenants’ Pets?

Many people like to get cats, dogs, or even exotic pets to live in their apartment or other rental.

Some landlords allow these pets to entice more applicants to their properties.

However, you must protect yourself from the liability that comes with animals.

1. Tenant Liability
In most cases, the tenant is responsible for the pet they choose to keep.

For example, you have a tenant with a medium-sized dog named Fluffy. Fluffy is usually friendly and wags her tail at everyone who comes by. One day, Fluffy bites a visitor for seemingly no reason.

The tenant is responsible to pay for any medical costs from the incident and the landlord isn’t likely to be held liable.

2. When the Landlord Becomes Responsible
If Fluffy had been a breed considered dangerous and had a history of aggression, the landlord could be held liable if they knew about it.

If the landlord allows a dog breed banned by a city ordinance, he or she could be liable if an incident occurs.

A landlord could be held responsible if they receive complaints about a dog and no action is taken.

While any pet can be a problem, dogs are most often the animal that causes problems for other tenants or outsiders.

If the renter keeps the pet and it creates an incident while in their care, they could be held responsible.

3. How to Protect Yourself
State laws vary based on what they interpret as a landlord’s responsibility.

It can be helpful to review previous cases involving dogs to learn how they were resolved and who was held responsible.

You can also check with on a potential tenant who has a dog to see if any previous cases have been made against the owner for the animal.

If you find a civil or criminal case involving the dog, you have grounds to refuse the application.

Another way to protect yourself is to require certain paperwork.

You can ask for tag numbers, proof of vaccination and rental insurance that covers dog bites.

By having this information in the tenant’s file, it shows you took reasonable action to ensure the safety of other tenants when you accepted a dog on the property.

If you have a tenant with a dog that has proven to be viscous, unsociable, and a possible menace, you can require the tenant to get rid of the dog or evict the tenant.

Your ability to take this step will depend on local and state laws, so check with an attorney or another expert before taking drastic measures.

You may not want to move right to eviction if you can find other methods of protecting yourself and others.

You can build a fence around the property—either bearing the cost or sharing it with the tenant.

You can post signs warning passersby and visitors of a dog on property.

 

The decision to allow tenants to keep a dog in their rental units can be a difficult one.

There are many aspects to consider, not the least of which is whether the landlord will be held liable if an incident happens with the dog.

Make sure you know your level of responsibility and take any extra measures to protect yourself.