How to deal with problem tenants

Handling difficult tenants can be awkward and unfamiliar territory for private landlords, especially if they are new to property letting or only let one property. Use this guide to help you manage the landlord-tenant relationship effectively and develop techniques to deal with problems as they arise.

    how to deal with problem tenantsBe professional

    An important general rule for all dealings with your tenant is to be consistently courteous and professional – even if they don't behave the same way. Remember, this is your business and you need to you treat it as such.

    Be aware

    Visit your rental property occasionally to keep abreast of any maintenance or neighbour-related issues as they arise. Consider creating a maintenance schedule at the beginning of the lease. Remember, if you plan to enter the property you are required to give reasonable notice to your tenant before doing so – usually 24 hours.

    Talk to the neighbours to gauge your tenant's conduct. Are they having loud parties every night? Are they continually disturbing the neighbours, and have the police ever been called? Don't assume that everything is fine – be proactive and stay informed.

    Keep accurate records

    Keep a detailed account of any legal or financial transactions with your tenant, as well as formal and informal correspondence. It's important to have a paper trail of any maintenance issues you've dealt with, as well as warnings or requests you've issued, so that you can refer to them should the need arise in future. Keep copies of all emails or letters to and from your tenant, and write down the dates and details of any telephone conversations you have.

    Maintain good relations

    Try to cultivate a relationship of mutual respect from the beginning. If and when repairs on the property are needed, listen to your tenant, respond quickly and fix the problem properly the first time. Delays that seem unnecessary, as well as recurring plumbing or electrical issues, will only breed resentment and distrust.

    Get the right insurance

    Protect yourself – and your wallet – by ensuring you take out the right policy when you insure your investment property. Key things to think about include buildings insurance, contents insurance, emergency assistance and accidental damage.

    Minimise the possibility for damage

    Consider the living environment you've created in your rental property. You can minimise the possibility of damage by using hard-wearing, durable materials including washable eggshell paint, stain-protected carpet in a dark colour or pattern, good quality vinyl or ceramic tiles and multiple smoke detectors.

    Techniques for resolving problems

    For matters such as property damage and unreasonable dirtiness, usually a polite verbal or written request – or mild warning – will achieve a positive resolution.

    If a tenant's behaviour has violated the law, for instance if the matter involves parking or noise infringements, refer the matter to the police, who will probably issue a fine or warning.

    If your tenant fails to pay his or her rent, and the rent remains unpaid for 14 days or more, you are within your rights to repossess the property. Consider contacting a tenant eviction service to aid you in the process.

    Avoid problem tenants altogether

    The best defence is a good offence. Screen your tenants thoroughly in the beginning and you'll help avoid issues later on. You may be anxious to let your property quickly, but in the long run you will save yourself time, money and distress by ensuring you get the right person from the start.

    Make the effort to be acutely aware of your tenant's rental, employment and credit history before you enter an agreement with them. Any prospective tenant should be able to provide solid references.

    You can undertake your own background check with firms that specialise in collecting the kind of information you need, including criminal records. It's vital to get a clear picture of the person to whom you are entrusting your investment property. You also have a moral obligation to consider the safety of your new tenant's neighbours, especially if you have other tenants in the same building.

    If it all seems a bit much, you might consider engaging the services of a property management agent, who will take care of these matters for you for a fee.