June 24, 2019

In a perfect world, you’d only rent property to pleasant people who you got along famously with. You’d never argue, never have to deal with nightmare tenants, and never have to seek legal representation. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. As such, here’s some advice on navigating a dispute with your renters.

Eventually, there’s a good chance that you as a landlord will wind up in a dispute with one of your tenants. It’s an inevitability of renting a property. The important thing is that you approach the situation with diplomacy, calm, and caution - because if you go in guns blazing, there’s a good chance you’ll just make a bad situation worse.

To that end, we’ve compiled a checklist you can follow to help you understand, negotiate, and resolve your woes - including determining which party is at fault.

Making Sense of The Issue

  • Who is bringing up the issue?
    • Myself
    • My Tenant
  • What does the issue pertain to?        
    • Rent
    • Lease
    • Maintenance/Repair
    • Security
    • Privacy
    • Damage to the property
    • Violation of policy
  • Can you honestly say you have done all of the following to the best of your ability?
    • Carried out basic maintenance and repair so as to ensure the home is both sanitary and safe. This includes plumbing, electrical work, smoke alarms, etc.
    • Installed window latches, locks, security bars, and deadbolts.
    • Clearly established when rent is due.
    • Clearly established pet policies, visitor policies, and insurance requirements
  • Has the tenant followed all of the following agreements and policies?
    • Pets
    • Visitors
    • Insurance
    • Subletting
  • Do any of the following circumstances apply?
    • I entered the tenant’s suite without giving prior notice
    • The tenant has been drafted into military service
    • The tenant has been targeted by stalking or sexual assault
    • I have violated the tenant’s privacy rights in some way.
  • Did you obtain both written and documented proof of the property’s condition prior to your tenant’s move-in date?
    • Yes
    • No

The Meeting

  • I have ensured that I am able to clearly and logically articulate my position to my tenant.
  • I know what laws, if any, apply to our dispute.
  • I have reached out to the tenant to determine a suitable time when the two of us may meet.
  • I have gotten a good night’s rest before meeting with the tenant.
  • Prior to our meeting, I have gathered the rental agreement and any other documents relevant to our dispute.
  • I remained calm when explaining my position to the tenant, avoiding hostile or accusatory language, but also being careful not to directly admit fault.
  • I listened to the tenant’s side of the story, and made an effort to see things from their perspective.
  • The tenant and I have come to an agreement on how to move forward.

Next Steps

  • If have spoken to an attorney to determine the best course of action.
  • If relevant, I have given the tenant notice that their lease has been terminated/they are being evicted.

Closing Thoughts

In a perfect world, you’d never wind up in a dispute with your tenants. Sadly, we do not live in a perfect world. Keep the above checklist close at hand next time a problem arises, and you should be able to navigate through any disagreements that come your way.

About the Author: Ryan B. Bormaster is the managing attorney at Bormaster Law. The law firm practices in a number of areas but specializes in 18 Wheeler Accidents, Accidents with Commercial Vehicles such as Work Trucks and Catastrophic Injuries of all kinds.

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