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Multifamily Properties: Protecting Yourself Against Problem Renters

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The nighttime howls cut the evening sky and the stars with it. Stampeding cloven hooves pack the earth tight beneath them, anything else unfortunate enough to be standing in the wrong place when the horde moves by being unceremoniously trampled. Steam spouts forth from the nostrils of the forerunner in exhalation, hot against the cold night air. Its muscled body ripples in the faint light, all sinewy arms and thick, scaly skin. Tilting its chin back, its ram's horns reaching towards the moon, it sniffs the air. Having caught the scent it was looking for, it begins to screech, a signal to move forward. Prey has been spotted.

Yes, you guessed it. I have just described to you the Tenants from Hell. If you haven't encountered them yet, tremble in fear, for you will. These tenants are never on time with the rent, they damage property, they let their villainous offspring turn the walkways into a bizarre rendition of one of Pollock's canvases, and lie like it's going out of style. Oh, and don't worry, they'll argue with you on all of these points too. For hours, if need be. And their horns really do a number on the walls.

Okay, maybe the bit about the horns wasn't entirely accurate. The point still stands. Every landlord has their share of the tenants from hell, but as any that's worth his salt will tell you, what decides how many of them you get is not pure luck, but how you deal with them.

Tip 1 - Screen, Don't Scream

Seriously. The best way to avoid dealing with the tenants from hell is to just not deal with them. Don't admit them! Make sure your screening process is stringent and effective. A good screening includes:

- Running a background check

- Running a credit check

- Calling their references

- Calling ALL previous landlords

- Driving by their current residence

- Verifying their income

Above all, don't be afraid to say "no." It's better to never have the renters move in than to have to kick them out later.

Tip 2 - Have a Written Policy

Following the rules can prove hard, even impossible, if one doesn't know what they are. Be sure to give your tenants a list of do's and don'ts when they move in. If the rent is due on the 1st, then have that in writing and have the tenant sign that writing. Don't just expect a deal to work on nothing but a handshake.

Tip 3 - Be Strict and Carry a Big Stick

Don't let your tenants get away with things they shouldn't be doing! Seriously, if you let a negative action slip by without some form of punishment, it does nothing but permit the action. Make your rules felt and enforce them. It is better to be feared.

Tip 4 - Don't be the Landlord

Present yourself as the property manager. If you don't like confrontation, as the property manager, you could always defer to the old "I need to ask the landlord" routine when a tenant asks a question you would have a tough time answering. This way, the enemy is not you, but the shadowy figure of the landlord, ever-present, never seen - like Santa. And no, this isn't dishonest. You should be holding the property in your name, so you technically are the property manager. If you're not holding the property in your name, you're just setting yourself up for legal trouble.

Tip 5 - Don't be Afraid to Remove the Problem

If all else fails, just kick the tenant out. Well, I mean, you don't have to evict them. You could pay them to leave, and it might actually end up being cheaper and less stressful than an eviction. But if you do have to evict them, do it fast, like pulling off a band-aid. Hire a qualified real estate lawyer, get it done fast, and move on.

Dealing with your own tenants from hell or hoping never to have the experience? Get in touch with the experienced real estate and business attorneys at The Law Office of Retz & Aldover LLP.

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Retz & Aldover LLP

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Retz & Aldover LLP
2550 Vía Tejon
Suite 3A
Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274

Phone: 424-282-3467
Phone: 310-540-9800
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