Are you managing tenants that are problematic or refuse to honor their lease terms? Most property owners try to work with tenants who show good faith and effort. But property owners need to have a plan of action for those tenants who fail to cooperate with others and refuse to meet the agreed-upon terms of the lease agreement.
And while the legal processes to start and complete an eviction are expensive, a problem tenant can become a tenant-nightmare in only a short while. Consider these suggestions to protect the investment and the property owner –
1. Each Problem Tenant Interaction Should Be Fully Documented
Each interaction or observation regarding a tenant causing problems should be recorded. Even interactions that seem insignificant must be documented if you are to be prepared for a potential, unfounded lawsuit filed by a disgruntled tenant. A fully documented defense can be quite helpful when trying to reveal to the judge the true nature (and hidden agenda) of the tenant.
A loss in court could result in a landlord or property owner paying out significant money to a tenant/plaintiff, or perhaps, worse; a judge may rule that the tenant has the right to remain in the rental unit.
2. Maintain a Record of 911 Calls/Transcripts
Tenants that cause ongoing issues are not typically forthright. They think nothing about lying to 911 operators and first responders who respond to an emergency call. But even if a tenant is a lousy liar, you will still need proof, which is why transcripts are so important.
Obtaining a transcript of 911 calls (and related police reports, if any) can be helpful for defending one’s position regarding these problem-tenant incidents -
- Domestic violence calls to the police
- Suspicious persons and activities
- Property damage
- Violations of a protection order
- Police activities involving other tenants where the problem tenant is a witness to the event
The reality is that the lies told by the tenant can be used as a defense should you face a lawsuit filed by the tenant. Documenting a falsehood will challenge a tenant’s credibility. Ask for a copy of the transcripts soon after the incident to avoid forgetting.
3. Always Obtain Transcripts and Videos from Court Proceedings
Like obtaining 911 transcripts, court records/videos can be used to document the tenant’s questionable nature and motives. Statements made under oath that are contradicted at a future hearing are an excellent way to damage a tenant’s credibility and, thus, their chances of succeeding in a frivolous lawsuit. Speak with the office of the court reporter as you leave the courtroom to ensure you remember.
4. Know the Relevant Law
To appropriately deal with problem tenants, it is essential to be familiar with federal and state law. Statutes are modified permanently or, at times (like the COVID pandemic), be temporary.
Problem tenants are difficult; problem tenants who understand their legal rights are downright challenging. The best defense is being on the offensive, which is preparing for problem tenants who manipulate situations to gain legal advantages under false pretenses.
Remember, if you don’t know the law, the odds are against you, and you might just make a costly yet unavoidable mistake.