How to Handle Disputes with Tenants

Unfortunately, landlord-tenant disputes happen. From maintenance issues to leasing agreement confusion, there are lots of problems that can go beyond the realm of minor inconveniences.

To avoid a messy situation with a tenant, it’s important to keep some best practices in mind.

Most Common Disputes

Disputes can happen for any reason at all, but here are some of the most common occurrences:

  • Violation of the neighborhood’s standard code: Oftentimes, landlords find themselves having to confront tenants for certain violations like excessive noise or parking issues. Annoyed neighbors may pick up the phone and call the police if a party across the street is getting a bit rowdy. This will not only cause problems for the tenant, but problems for you too.
  • Noncompliance with the lease: Unfortunately, not all tenants read their leasing agreement carefully, nor do they follow all of the outlined rules. If a tenant is violating the terms of their lease, you will need to take disciplinary action. Common lease violations include having a pet on a property with a “no pets” policy, causing damage to the property, receiving repeated noise complaints, or having a long-term “guest” that is not listed on the lease.
  • Failure to pay rent: Even though paying rent on time is obvious and expected, sometimes tenants don’t do it. Usually, landlords require a late fee if rent is not paid on time. However, if this happens repeatedly or rent is not being paid at all, you may have a case for eviction.

Prevention

It’s essential to do all you can to avoid disputes in the first place. Here are some crucial preventative measures:

  • Write a thorough lease and keep copies on file. A detailed leasing agreement is an operative tool in your rental business. It’s probably a good idea to get an attorney to look it over to ensure everything is legally compliant and concise.
  • Maintain a good line of communication with tenants. Make sure you encourage tenants to update you on any changes or issues that occur in the unit. If they have a maintenance request, they should notify you immediately and you should respond as quickly as possible. It’s imperative to complete maintenance requests in a timely manner. You should also keep records of these interactions to have proof in the future.
  • Be professional. If you’re ever caught in a heated conversation with a tenant, keep your cool. Always maintain a professional demeanor and never engage in aggressive behavior, even if a tenant is being a nuisance.

Confronting the Tenant

When an issue does occur, it’s important to address it immediately. It’s better to hash things out with a conversation, but that’s not always the way things go. Try to follow these strategies in order, but use discretion in case the situation gets out of hand quickly.

  1. Send a notice: If a tenant has violated the terms of the lease, it’s a good idea to send them a notice as a warning. For instance, a tenant who has not paid rent should receive a letter the day after rent is due to notify the tenant of their non-payment. If they do not respond or attempt to resolve the issue, then you may send them an eviction notice.
  2. Set up a meeting: Try to talk to your tenant in person to solve the problem civilly. You can usually find a resolution after hearing each other out. You could even hire a professional mediator to aid in the process (many states now provide property-dispute mediators who are trained to deal with situations that can arise with rental properties). If nothing comes of this, you may have to seek help from an attorney.
  3. Speak to an attorney: You cannot solve everything with a conversation. It may benefit you to talk to an attorney and see what legal action you can take. Evicting the tenant and taking them to small claims court could be your best option. For more help with landlord-tenant law, take a look at these guides.

Jaleesa Bustamante