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Dealing with Tenants That Refuse to Show House

As a property owner, it can be difficult enough to try to sell/rent a home when there are tenants living there. Potential buyers/renters like to see a home as a blank slate instead of how someone else has decided to use the space.

When tenants won’t give you permission to enter the house to show it, the process becomes even more difficult. Landlords in just about every jurisdiction are able to enter a property to show it for sale upon giving reasonable written notice to the tenants. Having a tenant present who doesn’t want the property to sell, however, can be just as much of a deterrent to a sale as a messy property can be.

If you’re dealing with tenants that refuse to show a house, here are some of the best ways to turn that situation around:

1. Offer Compensation

In the landlord/tenant relationship, if a property is sold to a new owner, there is nothing of value that comes to the tenant. They gain nothing from the transaction. Not only is there the potential of a new owner of whom they know nothing about, but it could mean they’d need to find a new place to live if the new owner no longer wishes to lease the property out.

If a tenant has nothing to gain, then they have no motivation to show the property. Make a deal with the problematic tenant. If the property sells, give them a small percentage of the sale for keeping the property in show condition.

2. Avoid The Eviction Process At All Costs

Evictions can cause three undesirable outcomes.

  1. It creates a risk that a tenant may destroy the property before they are forced to move out of it, making it not ready for sale until extensive repairs occur. This may cost you time and money.
  2. It may turn away a potential investor who wants the rental income from a good tenant.
  3. It creates conditions where the tenant may seek retribution, including claims of theft, that must be resolved before a sales contract will go through. Again, this may cost you time and money.

Think of it like this, even if you just have to wait until the end of a lease before showing the property, the only issue you’ve got is a need for more time. For the tenant, they’ll need a new place to live. Sometimes waiting it out is the best course of action.

3. Know Your Landlord/Tenant Law

For some jurisdictions, a tenant can actually break their lease and move out of a property when it goes up for sale. Others require tenants to maintain a show-level condition at all times when the property is for sale.

Make sure to do your research and know what to expect so that you don’t get an unpleasant surprise with a lease-breaking notice that you can’t do anything about.

4. Avoid Needless Showings

The problem with showing a house to prospective buyers/renters is that it can become quite cumbersome for the tenant. If you are showing the home three times per week, that’s a lot to be asking of the tenant even when they’re being cooperative especially if those showings fall at times when the tenant is at home.

Consider doing a video walkthrough of the property instead. This will give you the chance to let people see the home without having to show it in person as often. You could offer video walkthroughs as a first option and then in-person showings to those who are still interested after they have seen the video.

5. Address Their Concerns

The problem that tenants generally have with a showing is that potential buyers/renters tend to snoop around. They open cabinets, closets and pantry doors because they’re curious about the space. To the tenant, however, this is often seen as a violation of their personal privacy.

Another problem that tenants have with showings is that they often happen in the evenings and at weekends. When the tenant is at work all day, they want the opportunity to relax at home in the evening which isn’t possible when you are showing people around their home.

If you can address their concerns and create limits that can address the issues, such as the time of day you show people the property, the tenant may become more agreeable to showing the house.

6. When All Else Fails, The Eviction Process Still Works

As long as your lease allows you the right to entry with reasonable notice, a tenant who is refusing to cooperate with you is violating the lease. If you’ve tried mediating the issue, offering incentives and nothing seems to be working, then what you’re left with is a formal eviction.

Because this isn’t a non-payment of rent issue, there may be a 7-14 day notice required to explain the violation. Most tenants will let you in to show the property after receiving this notice because it stops the eviction process as they’ve rectified their violation. If, however, they are still refusing to cooperate, you’ll need to file for an unlawful detainer or similar hearing in your jurisdiction over the matter. You’ll need to present your case before a judge if it goes that far, pay for the filing fees and pay a process server to deliver the summons. It works, but it could take more than a month and if the tenant suddenly complies before the court orders them out of the property, you could be out legal fees and wind up starting all over again.

Dealing with tenants that refuse to show a house can be a headache, but these options can help you to be able to address the situation quickly and effectively. As long as you give a tenant some incentive to help you out, you’ll be able to show your house to find a buyer for it without much hassle at all.

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