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  • Writer's pictureKeith Wood

8 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Renters

In a perfect world, your tenants would always pay their rent on time, they’d never damage your property, and you’d never get a middle of the night call about a problem. But that’s not the world we live in. You’re going to have to deal with difficult renters. Here are some tips to make working with these tenants more bearable.

Stick to the Rules

You have written policies and rules in your lease agreement. Stick to those rules -- and the consequences for violating those rules. If you choose to make an exception to the rules, put it in writing and set very clear parameters. Some difficult tenants will look for a loophole wherever they can to do what they want.

Stay Professional

Even when a tenant hits all your buttons and makes you want to rip your hair out, stay professional. You’re in a position of authority and have tools at your disposal for dealing with them. If you let yourself become overly angry or aggressive or do things to “retaliate,” you’ll be the one in trouble if it ever gets to court.

Act Quickly

When something comes to your attention -- disruptive tenants, causing damage, late payments, etc. -- act as quickly as you can. Follow the your legal obligations for written notices and timelines, but don’t procrastinate. The longer you put off taking action, the more damage a bad tenant can do. By the time you have no choice but to act, the problem could be even worse.


Sometimes “bad” or “difficult” tenants are confused or uncertain. It’s your job, as the professional, to communicate your expectations. Give them a call or send an email to keep your tenants informed. If you have a problem with something they’re doing, talk to them directly and remind them of the rules and policies in their lease agreement. The silent treatment doesn’t solve anything and makes most problems worse.

Train Your Tenants

No, we don’t mean that you have to hold training classes on “How to be a Good Tenant.” How you respond to people teaches them what to expect from you. Be objective and strict with the rules and show that you’ll follow through. Use late fees, eviction notices, and other consequences available to you when your tenants don’t do what they’re supposed to do.

Document Everything

Make sure you document everything -- with every tenant. Keep copies of all the documents you give or send tenants like the signed lease agreement and any official notices. Also, keep a document showing when payments were made, so you can highlight all late payments. You should also keep notes of the time, date, and details of any conversations with your tenant.

Pre-Screen Tenant Applications

To prevent dealing with difficult tenants, do your best to avoid renting to them in the first place. Having a pre-screening system helps. Talk to their former landlords, perform a background check, and verify their employment. None of this is foolproof but it does lower the chance of renting to people who’ve caused damage or stopped paying rent for other landlords.

Hire a Property Manager

If the idea of dealing with problem tenants gives you more gray hair, maybe it’s time to delegate that task. Work with a property management company who knows how to handle late payments, disruptions, damage, and chronic complainers. You need to know what’s going on, but that doesn’t mean you have to take every drama-filled phone call. The right property management team will find better tenants and stay professional when dealing with difficult renters.

Ready to get help with dealing with both your best tenants or your difficult ones? Work with ERA American Real Estate to find and keep great tenants and reduce your stress with the problem tenants.

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