How to Deal with Problem Tenants

Keeping on top of problems is the best way to deal with difficult commercial tenants.

In any professional letting situation, be it in the residential or commercial sector, there are problems and issues that can arise. 

Unpaid rent, withheld fees or clients causing noise and sanitary issues are just a few of the problems that can rear their heads throughout the period of tenancy.

For any landlord it's vital to know how to deal with issues at the earliest point in order to lower the chance of loss and a reduced return on investment.

Prepare a strong lease agreement

This is more about preparation than actually dealing with someone who turns out to be a problem, but having a strong lease with well-defined terms will be a God-send if things do take a turn for the worse.

Getting the lease and the terms of a tenancy written up by a professional such as a lawyer or a lettings agency will make sure it is as in-depth and stringent as possible.

It will also help to sit down with the tenant before they sign the lease and go through all of the points. This way they cannot claim that they were unaware of certain terms when they signed up.

Be personable

When it comes down to it, both tenants and landlords are people. In the modern age, there is such time pressure on people that email has become a favoured form of communication.

However, there is no substitute for actual human contact and meeting face-to-face, especially when issues arise. 

Landlords should strive to visit their properties whenever possible in order to make contact with tenants.

It serves to create something of a relationship, and it will be far more likely that tenants will feel comfortable getting in contact if they should have a grievance.

Let it be known from the very start that your door is always open. Giving your tenant freedom to come to you with issues will help you deal with problems before they become serious.

Remain professional

As much as the personal approach can be favoured, there are times when the softly-softly approach will not be good enough - some tenants might even feel like they can walk all over a landlord who takes a friendly approach.

In order to make this less of an issue, you should always keep a professional mannerism when speaking with tenants. Log all conversations and chats, for example.

Being professional will also mean keeping up your end of the deal, though. If a tenant feels they are being short-changed, they may become difficult to work with. 

Always deal with any issues they raise over maintenance and repairs straight away - not only will this help to create a stronger bond between tenant and landlord, but it will also give them less grounds for complaint if they should become difficult.

Keep tabs on the situation

Part of being a professional landlord is keeping on top of all incoming payments. Obviously, you will have checked out the financial credentials of your leaseholder before they signed, but are they keeping up with payments?

Keep records of when rent is paid in relation to the due date each month, and if it starts to fall behind, don't be scared to get in contact with the tenant.

There can be any number of reasons a client will fall behind on their payments, such as having a slow month or a particularly large expenditure themselves.

Some will have a tendency to bury their heads in the sand over issues like this, so making sure you approach them as soon as issues start to rear their heads paints you in a pro-active and on-the-ball light. 

Don't be afraid to set out demands if tenants should be unresponsive to your requests as well. For some, a stern approach will be what it takes to shake them into action.

Be prepared to negotiate

Unpaid rent is one of the biggest problems that can exist between landlords and tenants. 

For example, if an issue such as a power outage or a burst water pipe has occurred, tenants will often try to get a discount on their rent for a particular month. Obviously, this is not preferable for the landlord, but coming to an agreement can be difficult.

To work this out, try setting up a meeting at a neutral venue to give you both some room to breathe and talk the issue out as clearly as possible.

If the issue is the difference between keeping and losing a tenant, then being negotiable will go a long way to helping you retain them.

If they are being particularly difficult, it can even be good to bring in a third-party mediator. They will have less of a biased view, and can subsequently help to present both cases, hopefully resulting in a deal that keeps everyone happy.

Melanie Luff

About the author

Mel wrote for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other global industry publications.


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