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Dealing with difficult tenants
Thought you folks might like to read this article I wrote for KPI.
Dealing with problem tenants
My independent property management business got off to an early start by taking on a difficult block of flats that another property manager had abandoned. Yes that is right she told the various owners of the block of six she was no longer wanted to deal with that end of the market.
I still manage one of those flats, and it has made me thousands of dollars over the years. In case you had not guessed it, generally difficult low-grade properties in bad areas attract difficult problem tenants. I enjoy telling others what I have been up to and soon other landlords handed me their problems also, thus starting on a never ending journey learning to deal with problem tenants.
Now problem tenants can be conveniently divided into two classes. These are rent and behaviour. I have a little saying that I keep muttering to myself when the going gets tough. I can make almost anyone pay me, but I cannot change the way tenants act. If I could I would be a famous political or religious leader.
It is possible to get really good tenants whose only fault is that they do not pay the rent. However this is an exception and generally bad behaving tenants are also bad payers.
Many landlords struggle dealing with difficult tenants because they confuse these two issues. We all need the rent money to pay the mortgage, rates, insurance, maintenance, property manager and hopefully to put a little bit of food on our tables.
It is not necessary to like or love your tenant or have them love you in order collect the rent. Being on good terms is just more pleasant and motivates them more. Usually the natural way to react towards a person who is not nice to you, or does not pay the rent on time is to try and distance your self like not going near the property.
Sometimes it is very easy to respond with a rude answer and this is the beginning of the end. Us landlords have to keep reminding ourselves that we are doing this primarily for the money. Any retaliatory action that enflames the situation, like not repairing things that are broken, or abusing the tenant, will place the flow of rent money at risk and will make things very difficult if you end up in court. The RTA deals fairly well with rent arrears but is very poor with behaviour issues.
With rent it is better to use the RTA processes early rather than late. Delaying making an application to the tribunal till the rent arrears becomes unrecoverable is in neither your nor your tenant’s interest. If they are one of the combined bad behaving and bad paying variety the longer you leave it the more mess you will have to clean up.
So folks issue those section 56 of the RTA 10 day notice to remedy forms when more than one week of rent is missed and follow them up with a tribunal application if need be. It is possible to take someone to the tribunal about rent and still remain on good terms with them if you make a clear distinction between rent and behaviour. I often encourage my bad payers by reminding them the tribunal is not to decide if they are bad only if they owe me some money. Most landlords who try and get the behaviour / care of the property issues dealt with by the court loose out seriously because the central issue of rent gets lost in the squabble. Tenants need to be motivated to pay you. Calling them a slob will not encourage this.
So having sorted all the non-paying problem tenants all I have left to deal with are the criminals, lunatics, paedophiles, rapists, murderers, dog breeders, back yard car wreckers, drug manufactures, collectors of the homeless street kids, and near deaf stereo players.
When you and their neighbours cannot stand them anymore issue them a 90-day notice to terminate their tenancy. Never provide a reason for these notices, this may complicate the issue.
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