One of the hardest parts of being a Montgomery County landlord or property manager is dealing with difficult tenants. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory and is bound to happen at some point. Follow these useful tips below geared to help you deal with difficult tenants.
What is a Difficult Tenant?
A difficult tenant is exactly what it sounds like, a tenant that causes issues. There are a few common types of difficult tenants we will discuss below.
- Nonpayer: A tenant that flat out misses rent completely every month and doesn’t pay late fees. This tenant will likely end up being evicted.
- Late payer: A tenant that pays rent, but always pays late is a problem as well. There are some options apart from eviction for these tenants, we will discuss more in the tips section below.
- Damager: This is the tenant that damages your property. These tenants typically will argue the damage with you at move-out as well. This tenant should be encouraged to move out when the lease is up while not getting their security deposit returned (assuming the amount of damages exceeds or is equal to the deposit).
- Lease breaker: This individual may pay rent in full and on time, but they break other clauses of the lease such as key policies, unauthorized tenants living with them or in their unit, etc.
- Arguer: This is the tenant that will argue everything big or small. Some tenants want to always be right, even when they aren’t.
- Criminal: This is a more extreme lease breaker case. If the tenant is using or selling drugs on the property, having cops called for domestic violence, etc. they are trouble for your property.
Tips for Dealing with a Difficult Tenant in Montgomery County
Now that you know about difficult tenants, how do you deal with them? Start with following the tips below!
- Well-written lease: Always have a legally binding and well/written lease. This may require hiring a property management company or real estate lawyer to look over or write the lease for you. Always include clauses that will allow for fees and eviction including court costs if a tenant is to break any part of the lease.
- Don’t reason: Do not reason with trouble tenants. Doing so will give you a reputation as a pushover and the word will get around the other tenants. Stick to your guns. Provide a letter with the lease violation and a fine. Be clear that if they do not change their behavior and pay any fines, eviction is the next step.
- Be stern: Use a stern but professional tone. This adds to the bullet point above. Being respectful is important, but not reasoning with tenants and being serious about the consequences is also important.
- Do not harass: Never use a form of harassment with trouble tenants. It doesn’t matter what they did, as soon as you as the landlord threaten, harass, or bully them, you become subject to court action. If a tenant is getting violent or verbally abusive, call the local authorities, but never fight back.
- Eviction: Hopefully eviction is rare at your property. However, in some cases, it is the only way to remove a troubled tenant. Follow the laws to evict properly, or you will suffer in the end. The process includes serving the tenant with a Notice to Quit letter and taking them to eviction court if they don’t pay fees, rent, or continue to break the lease. If the court ruled in your favor and they still do not leave, call the local sheriff. Never attempt to self-evict and/or use harassment and fear to encourage a tenant to move.
How to Use Screening to Ensure Good Tenants
Tenant screening is a tedious but necessary part of the property management industry. Having a solid tenant screening process and software will help ensure good tenants. Of course, there will still be trouble tenants as they are unavoidable, but they will be a lot less frequent with good screening
Screening: Screening tenants is usually done with a real estate background checker like Experian. A landlord/property manager needs this screening to check the following:
- Income verification
- Criminal background check
- Prior evictions
- Prior rental history
- Credit check
When to Deny a Potential Tenant
- If a prospective tenant has a criminal background in the past 7 years
- The tenant is a felon and/or has a background of domestic violence
- Income cannot be verified or is not accurate
- They’ve been evicted or have a rental reputation of late payments (can be learned by calling past landlords)
- The tenant has a credit score of less than 600
Special Circumstances: If a tenant is right under the credit requirement or income requirement, you may want to allow them to move on the property but with restrictions.
Require a co-signer or guarantor to make them meet income requirements (with a guarantor, you can require they make up to 5 months’ rent monthly between the tenant and guarantor).
Require a higher security deposit or several months’ rent paid upfront. Doing so will give you something to fall back on if they don’t end up paying rent on time.
Looking for help running your Montgomery County rental properties including screening, collecting rent, eviction, and dealing with troubled tenants? A Montgomery County property management firm can help! Bay Property Management Group Montgomery County offers services in and around Rockville, Bethesda, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Silver Spring, and more!