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10 Difficult Tenants That Strain the Landlord-Tenant Relationship

Difficult Landlord-Tenant Relationship

Landlords face many challenges as part of running a rental property business. However, one of the biggest challenges is dealing with all kinds of problem tenants. Trying to handle these difficult tenants can put landlords to the test. So, it is vital to recognize issues early and know how to prevent them from getting out of hand. Below we walk you through the top 10 types of difficult tenants, how to handle them t o maintain a good landlord-tenant relationship, and most importantly, how to avoid them!

10 Types of Difficult Tenants and How to Handle the Landlord-Tenant Relationship

Ideally, you will never know the struggle of handling problem tenants. But, just in case, check out these ten types of common difficult occupants below that can wreak havoc on your rental property business and a healthy landlord-tenant relationship.

Difficult Tenants And How To Handle Them

  1. Non-payers
  2. The Skipper
  3. Overstays Their Welcome
  4. Wrecking Balls
  5. The Open Door
  6. Endless Contention
  7. Litigious or “Sue Happy”
  8. Unruly Pet Owners
  9. Party Central
  10. Lawbreakers



Tenants may not pay rent for various reasons such as financial hardship, dissatisfaction with repairs, or simple forgetfulness. That said, your financial wellbeing and profits depend on consistent rental income from your tenants. Additionally, patterns of non-payment require landlords to pursue costly eviction proceedings.

How to Handle and Avoid Non-paying Tenants

  • Tenant Screening – The number one way to avoid non-paying tenants is with a thorough applicant screening process. Verifying the prospect’s income is a critical factor to an approval or denial. So, request at least the last two or three pay stubs or other documents that show a verifiable income source. Additionally, ensure that the rental rate is no more than one-third of the applicant’s total income. Thus, the tenant will be able to afford both the rent and their other financial obligations.
  • Online Rent Payments – Landlords often hear the excuse “the check is in the mail.” So, how can you avoid this while providing convenience and maintaining a good landlord-tenant relationship? Accepting online rent payments is a service that many tenants have come to expect. Most software also allows landlords to send rent reminders, collect various payment types, and automatically apply late fees and allow tenants to set reoccurring payments.
  • Solid Rental Agreements – The lease is the most important document for landlords and tenants. Therefore, it should have clear language outlining the rental amount, due date, and consequences if the rent is not paid.
  • Follow Through on Late Fees – There is no question that late fees should have a place in your rental agreement. Generally, rent is due on the first of the month with a five-day grace period. So, once that grace period has expired, landlords must follow through with charging fees. In turn, this will discourage the behavior in the future.
  • Court Filings – When all else fails, and the tenant cannot or will not pay, seeking eviction is your best option. Although no landlord wants the hassle of a court filing, you are losing money while the tenant could be further damaging your investment property.

Helpful Tip: Looking for information on how to write a legal lease? Check out our blog.

The Skipper

When a tenant up and bolts from town without ever notifying their landlord, it is known as abandonment. While it may seem like landlords can simply take back possession of the property, they cannot. So, property owners are left with possible possessions left behind, no forwarding address, no contact from the tenant, and no rent coming in.

How to Deal with Tenants Who Skip Out on the Lease

The best defense against tenants who skip town is a legal lease agreement. In fact, this is the only thing that will help give landlords some recourse for lease abandonment. However, dealing with a tenant once they have skipped town is tricky. In some cases, landlords must store tenant items left behind for a certain time period and issue written notice.

Check with your local jurisdiction for any pertinent laws or requirements. Whatever you do, do not dispose of anything until you have fulfilled your obligations under the law.

Overstays Their Welcome

Anyone who resides in your rental property is subject to a rental agreement. Once that agreement expires, some tenants choose to stay. Thus, these overstaying residents become “squatters,” and much to a landlord’s dismay; they do have rights. Someone in a rental while not paying rent and potentially causing damage is terrible news for any property owner.

How to Handle and Avoid Someone Who Overstays Their Lease

Clearly, the tenant does not want to leave for whatever reason, making removing them a challenge. Typically, squatters require forceable eviction through a court order. Sometimes this is a situation that landlords are unable to predict. However, investigating an applicant’s rental history may offer some clues. If a tenant has been evicted in their past, be sure to ask lots of questions.

Wrecking Balls

Damage caused by tenants beyond expected wear and tear is costly for landlords. These types of tenants have little regard for the landlord-tenant relationship, your property, or their upkeep obligations per the lease. Common issues these tenants cause include broken appliances, stained flooring, and holes in walls.

How to Handle and Avoid Wrecking Ball Tenants

Screening tenants shed light on a multitude of potential risk factors if completed the right way. After all, a proper landlord-tenant relationship is built on trust. When it comes to damages, asking for references and speaking to previous landlords is a must. So, when you do speak to any previous landlords, ask some pointed questions such as the ones below:

  • How well did the tenant take care of their rental property?
  • Did they report maintenance issues promptly?
  • Was the unit left in good clean condition?
  • Would you rent to these tenants again, why, or why not?

Another essential tip for overcoming tenant damage or wear and tear disputes is to conduct inspections. Therefore, for every new tenant, a thorough move in and move out inspection is essential. Also, be sure to take photos to document the property’s condition in addition to notes and a checklist. Periodic inspections throughout the lease term are also recommended. If the tenants are found not to be caring for the unit, take action immediately.

Helpful Tip: Looking for information on conducting tenant screening? Check out our blog.

The Open Door

Houseguests are expected, but a tenant who sublets is a whole different story. When a tenant sublets a lease without permission from the landlord, the consequences can prove disastrous. Also, beware of the tenant trying to repurpose your rental property as an Airbnb. Sadly, these sites make it very easy to list a property as a short-term rental with little verification.

Additionally, as part of a respectful landlord-tenant relationship, occupants should notify their landlord of any long-term guests they intend to have at the property. Local laws and leases define long-term guests differently, so be sure your lease outlines expectations clearly. Landlords want to avoid any instances of an unverified and unscreened occupant in their investment property.

How to Handle Tenants That Sublet

Landlords must mount a defense against unexpected, long-term, and sublet occupants with a strong and clearly worded lease. So, use the rental agreement to set forth restrictions and definitions relating to your guest policy. Also, under no circumstances should landlords allow tenants to sublet.

Endless Contention

When everything is a fight, how can a landlord win? Unfortunately, you cannot make everyone happy, and some tenants will be difficult to work with. Despite your best efforts, they may complain about repairs, neighbors, or rental agreement verbiage.

Endless Contention

How to Handle Someone Who Creates an Argument Out of Everything

Handling a complaining or argumentative tenant puts excessive strain on the landlord-tenant relationship, and landlords must weigh their options. If the tenant has other strikes against them, such as non-payment or non-compliance, consider non-renewing their lease. Otherwise, the best you can do is always remain professional and courteous through any interactions you have. We realize this is tough, but the last thing you want to do is add fuel to the fire with your own emotions.

Litigious or “Sue Happy”

Nowadays, the threat of lawsuits is a genuine one for landlords. Therefore, thousands of cases get filed each year pertaining to landlord-tenant disputes of all kinds. A lawsuit drains time and resources for business owners you cannot otherwise invest back into your business. So, whenever possible, avoid any interactions that may result in a tenant filing in court.

How to Handle and Avoid Litigious Tenants

A landlord’s best defense for litigious tenants is not to give them any reason to sue. That said, always remain professional, follow Fair Housing Laws, perform maintenance promptly, keep detailed records, and maintain respectful communications.

Unruly Pet Owners

Over 50% of renters own a pet. So, it is in the property owner’s best interest to accept pets in their rental even with some restrictions. That said, an owner who lets their pet run wild and cause damage with little regard for the property is a problem. Pets can quickly cause costly damage such as tearing up the yard, scratching floors, and staining carpeting.

How to Deal with Tenants Who Let Their Pets Run Wild

When considering and accepting an applicant who has pets, ensure the lease has the following stipulations in place to limit liability:

  • Require a pet security deposit
  • Set limits to the type, breed, or number of pets allowed
  • Request vet documentation to ensure the pet is appropriately vaccinated
  • Create a pet addendum outlining additional cleaning and damage responsibilities
  • Consider charging a monthly pet rent
  • Periodically inspect the property throughout the lease term to assess potential damage
  • Require the tenant to carry renter’s insurance – which is a great idea with or without pets

Party Central

Tenants are indeed entitled to have guests and even entertain a crowd now and then. However, this becomes a problem when gatherings exceed an appropriate guest count or violate noise levels. Tenants that push the limits on partying end up as a liability for landlords. Not only can guests cause damage to the unit, but landlords may need to deal with complaints from neighbors, the HOA, or even police citations in extreme cases.

Party Central

How to Handle and Avoid Partying Tenants

Landlords need to set expectations on gatherings early on when all tenants are signing the lease. Make sure the rental agreement sets proper limits to the number of guests. Also, ensure it holds the tenant responsible for any guest damage or fines related to complaints of any kind.


It may go without saying, but a tenant that breaks the law is a huge issue for property owners. Most commonly, rental properties find themselves at the center of drug offenses. However, landlords should not tolerate any criminal and subsequent police activity in the home. Tenants with little regard for the law will likely not follow the terms of the lease either.

How to Handle and Avoid Tenants Who Break the Law

Criminal background checks are an essential part of a thorough tenant screening process. Thus, this is your opportunity to get a complete picture of any potential future tenant. So, if someone shows a pattern or history of run-ins with the law, landlords need to consider denial. Ultimately, a property owner must use the screening process to decide on the likelihood of the applicant being a great tenant. Therefore, if factors point to the contrary, beware!


Final Thoughts

One of the most important jobs a property owner has is maintaining a great landlord-tenant relationship. Doing so successfully can avoid a multitude of potential troubles. Are you a landlord concerned with making the right tenant choice? Bay Property Management Group offers owners the benefit of a rock-solid lease and time-tested screening methods that place quality tenants into your rental property. Our dedicated staff handles all tenant contact for the property owner, which relieves stress and ensures professional and documented communication. Give us a call today to learn more about the benefits of working with an experienced property management company.