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INVESTING 101 EDUCATION

How to Deal With 3 Common Tenant Issues

Our first advice to landlords is to always use a property manager. When you have a property manager in place for your rentals, you never need to directly deal with your tenants at all. Even if the situation ends up in court for an eviction, your property manager can appear as your proxy to represent your interests. However, many landlords choose not to have a property manager. In that case, they will need to deal with every situation personally, including when there are tenant issues. Here are some helpful ways to deal with a variety of situations if you choose not to hire a property manager.

1.Your Tenant Isn’t Paying the Rent on Time

Every now and then a tenant may pay their rent late. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. In Texas, the eviction laws favor the landlord. You only have to give your tenant three days’ notice before you can serve them with a notice to vacate. You don’t even have to give the tenant an option to come up with the back rent if you don’t want. If they aren’t out in three days, you can move on to the eviction phase.

Now, this is very good if the tenant has been problematic and you just want them out. But sometimes you have what you thought was a good tenant who all of a sudden isn’t paying rent on time. What should you do then?

You can start with a phone call. Talk to the tenant and find out what’s going on. Were they injured and can’t work? Did they get fired? If the situation is temporary, you can make the decision of whether to give them some leniency to catch up on rent payments. If they got fired and can no longer afford to pay your rent, your best bet is probably to give them a more generous move-out schedule, such as 15 days, so they can find a more affordable living arrangement. What you shouldn’t do is take a “wait and see” approach. You either need to move to eviction or come up with a definitive time frame for the situation to get resolved. Don’t become one of those landlords who is carrying the mortgage indefinitely until the tenant finds a new job. Remember, you’re a landlord to make money, not make interest-free loans.

2. Your Tenant Was Injured on Your Property

Tenant injuries aren’t common when a landlord is responsible and maintains the property. However, tenant injuries do occur. When that happens, an inexperienced landlord may panic and worry about losing personal assets in a lawsuit. As long as you have been responsible and kept up with maintenance issues on the property, you have little to worry about. Obviously, you should have property and liability insurance on any rental property that you own, too. Your liability insurance will kick in and cover any expenses that the tenant claims, so you don’t need to worry about losing personal assets.

The caveat is if you didn’t keep up with maintenance. Was there a loose front step that the tenant told you about and you didn’t get it fixed? Were there any tenant communications about problems in the property that you ignored? If so, even if you have liability insurance, you might be facing a bigger problem.

If you opt not to hire a property manager, you need to make sure that you carefully handle all tenant reports of problems on the property. If a tenant injury does occur, talk to the tenant and find out exactly what happened and what injuries were incurred. No matter what the situation is, you should get your lawyer involved as soon as possible to advise you on the best ways to protect yourself.

3. Your Tenant is Damaging Your Property

Without a property manager in place, it’s more challenging to keep tabs on your property. Careless or bad tenants could be damaging the building or its contents. However, if you make a visit to the property to collect rent or fix something that needs to be repaired, you may find that damage is being done. Tenants may not be reporting leaks, may purposely be damaging things or may be careless and damaging appliances, walls and other property. They may even be damaging your landscaping by not caring for it as they should. So what recourse do you have?

You could speak to your tenant about taking better care of your property. This probably won’t work, though. Any tenant who blatantly damages property isn’t going to change just because you asked them nicely. This situation is likely going to require legal action. As long as you have a damage clause in your lease, you can send tenants a warning notice that they need to vacate the premises in three days. Again, Texas laws are on your side. If the tenant refuses to vacate you can begin eviction proceedings or even bring a sheriff to the property if they tenant ignores the court’s eviction ruling. The point is, you don’t have to sit idly by while a tenant damages your property.

These are three of the most common serious issues that landlords face with their rentals. As mentioned, having a property manager in place will really help to make your life more peaceful as a landlord. In the first instance, you wouldn’t have to appear in court. In the second instance, your property manager can ensure that all needed repairs are taken care of before injuries have a chance to occur. In the third instance, a property manager can be your eyes and ears inside the property, helping to catch signs of carelessness and property damage before the tenant destroys your rental entirely.