It always costs too much, and takes too long to evict a problem tenant. Given the odds that a bad renter will be able to delay the eviction process for weeks or even months, it’s best to take a proactive approach and reduce the risks:
1. The top way to avoid the costs of an eviction is to choose tenants carefully. It will always be cheaper to hold a unit open for a few more days while you take the time to carefully screen your tenants.
Tenant credit is an important factor in qualifying your next renter, but it is not the only one. Even wealthy tenants get evicted for non-payment of rent or damage to the property. Take the time to look at how this rental applicant has behaved in other rentals before you make up your mind.
2. Explain major terms in the lease agreement and house rules to the tenant before they commit to the rental, and again before they sign the lease. Make sure the tenant has a copy of the lease, or better, a summary of the rules that they can keep in a handy place. Some property managers provide these forms on a website for easy access. Many tenants would choose to follow the rules, but forget the details. Make it easy for them to do the right thing.
3. A common landlord mistake is to forget about the tenants once they’ve signed the lease. Keep in touch with tenants on a regular basis, if for no other reason than to prove that you are still around and will enforce the rules. Bad tenants complain that the landlord is too “in their face”, while good tenants complain that their landlord is never around. Don’t let your well-chosen tenant become a problem tenant because they think you are not watching.
4. Be decisive when problems arise. For example, when a tenant pays late, one option is to apply a late fee. When it happens again, apply another late fee. Pretty soon, the tenant will have paid rent late 6 months in a row and owe a hefty fee. But will you ever see that money? Is this tenant also ignoring other rules, like harboring a pet, an unauthorized guest, or damaging the property?
The better strategy is to let the tenant know the very first time they pay late or break the rules that it won’t be tolerated. No one wants to evict a tenant, but allowing a bad one to stay until the situation is out of control is not the solution.
5. Cut your damages right away by allowing a bad tenant out of the lease voluntarily. Holding the tenant to the letter of the lease agreement isn’t always the most economical approach. Even if your lease agreement is ironclad, if you have a problem tenant, you will still be obligated to evict them, patch up the damage and find a new tenant as soon as possible. That’s the law.
Negotiating an early termination is definitely worth considering if the bad tenant is being disruptive and could chase away others, or when the tenant simply doesn’t have the money to continue to perform under the lease. Sure, they technically will owe you for your losses until the property is re-rented — but will you be able to collect?
American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for all your property management needs. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.