How to handle difficult tenants

Dealing with difficult tenants can be one of the most daunting tasks for property managers. From late rent payments to property damage, noise complaints, or even legal disputes, the challenges presented by troublesome tenants can disrupt the harmony of any rental property and create significant headaches for those responsible for its management. However, with the right strategies and property management software, it’s possible to navigate these situations effectively and maintain a positive landlord-tenant relationship.

In this article, we explore effective strategies to deal with these tenants, plus how you can avoid them.

The signs of a difficult tenant

Dealing with a difficult tenant before they cause significant issues is crucial for landlords and property managers to maintain the integrity and profitability of their rental properties. If your residents exhibit any of the following qualities, it may be time to open a discussion with them to address any outstanding concerns before they grow into major problems.

Consistently missed or late payments

Consistently missed or late payments can disrupt rental property finances and place additional pressures on a property manager. From a property manager’s viewpoint, rent payment reporting systems can help to manage late payments. Effective strategies to encourage timely payments and maintain a positive landlord-tenant relationship include:

  1. Late fee policy: Clearly communicating a late fee policy in the lease agreement can help deter late payments. Ensure tenants understand the full scope of what can happen in the event of one or several late payments.
  2. Rent reminders: Send timely rent reminders, including late rent notices, providing detailed information about due dates, past-due amounts, late fees, and deadlines to avoid further issues.
  3. Automated rent payment service: Offering tenants the convenience of an automated rent payment service can help residents and property managers put the rent payment/collection process on autopilot.
  4. Multiple payment methods: Many payment providers that enable automatic rent payments can also allow residents to pay rent their way without adding to the admin burden on property managers.
  5. Open communication: Maintain open lines of communication with tenants and encourage them to reach out if they face difficulties with rent payments. This kind of open communication shows residents that they are valued members of the community, which can help improve tenant satisfaction.
  6. Alternative payment plans: Discuss alternative payment plans with tenants experiencing financial hardship, such as setting up payment schedules or temporarily adjusting rent due dates.

Violations of lease terms

Residents found in violation of lease terms can cause problems for both them and their property managers. Residents face consequences as severe as eviction, financial ramifications, or legal action, but landlords and property staff are often left picking up the pieces. You should ensure that your property has a clear, actionable, and equitable plan in place for dealing with the following lease term violations.

  1. Consistent late payment of rent: Habitual late rent payments disrupt cash flow and financial planning, potentially impacting property budgets and maintenance expenses.
  2. Long-term guests or unofficial tenants: Allowing individuals not listed on the lease to reside in the property without approval can lead to overcrowding, increased wear and tear, and liability issues for the landlord.
  3. Unauthorised pets: Violating pet policies, such as having pets in a no-pet property or failing to pay required pet rent, can cause property damage, disturb neighbors, and pose health hazards.
  4. Unsanitary conditions: Neglecting to maintain the rental property in a clean and sanitary condition poses health risks and may violate local housing codes, potentially leading to pest infestations, mold growth, and other issues.
  5. Illegal activities: Engaging in illegal activities like subletting without permission, drug-related offenses, or theft could violate the lease agreement, jeopardise tenant safety, and lead to legal consequences.

Property damages

Dealing with property damage can be trickier than other lease violations. Misuse of common areas like pools, courtyards, or leasing offices can pose financial and reputational difficulties, but addressing damage incurred in private units can be more difficult to address in a timely manner. To stay ahead of the curve and minimise the financial risks associated with property damages, landlords can implement these key strategies:

  1. Thorough initial inspection: Conduct a comprehensive inspection of the property before the tenant moves in, documenting its condition.
  2. Documentation and agreement: Provide tenants with photographic evidence of the property’s condition at the outset and ensure they sign this documentation as part of the lease agreement.
  3. Require renters insurance: Ensuring that all your residents are covered by an adequate insurance policy can help you protect renters, staff, and your business.

Excessive complaints

Excessive complaints from tenants can frustrate property managers, particularly if they’re unfounded or used to avoid rent payments. While addressing legitimate maintenance issues promptly is crucial for a positive landlord-tenant relationship, landlords must also understand their legal obligations and prioritise essential repairs for property safety.

Maintaining a balance between addressing genuine concerns and managing unreasonable requests is key. Lease contracts should clearly outline who is responsible for the general maintenance of a unit, such as changing light bulbs or HVAC filters. Reminding tenants of these obligations helps manage expectations and reduces unnecessary complaints.


When faced with unresponsive tenants, landlords must take proactive steps to address the situation effectively. Here are key strategies to consider:

  1. Keep extensive records of all attempts to contact the tenant, including emails, letters, and phone calls.
  2. When sending important correspondence, such as letters regarding late or missed rent payments, use certified mail with a return receipt requested.
  3. If attempting to address late or missed rent payments, you may want to formally notify the tenant of the overdue rent, provide a specified timeframe for payment, and outline clearly what further action will be taken if the deadline is not met.
  4. If seeking access to the property for maintenance or repairs, send a formal letter and email to the tenant explaining the purpose of the visit and outline exactly what deterioration of the property may result from the tenant’s failure to grant access.

How to deal with difficult tenants

Dealing with difficult tenants requires patience, diplomacy, and effective communication skills. From late rent payments and property damage to constant complaints and unresponsiveness, managing challenging tenants is essential for maintaining the harmony of rental properties and safeguarding the landlord’s investment.

Address their concerns promptly

When tenants raise concerns or issues, landlords should respond promptly and acknowledge their communication. Even if immediate resolution isn’t feasible, informing tenants of awareness reassures them and shows commitment to their needs. Keep tenants informed with updates on repair status, or actions taken to address their concerns.

Educate tenants on property rules and management expectations

To ensure tenant understanding and cooperation, landlords should:

  • Detail all terms, rules, policies, and maintenance expectations comprehensively.
  • Furnish a comprehensive manual covering property rules, emergency procedures, appliance usage instructions, and common maintenance issues.
  • Offer guidance on proper appliance, utility, and amenity use, along with preventive measures and procedures for addressing common issues like leaks, pests, or noise disturbances.
  • Ensure the lease agreement and tenant manual include contact information for the property management company or landlord.

Keep detailed records

To effectively manage properties and resolve disputes, landlords should:

  • Keep meticulous records of rent payments, deposits, and all financial transactions related to the property.
  • Record all maintenance issues reported by tenants, including repair or improvement requests. Note the date, nature of the issue, and actions taken to address it.
  • Keep records of all communication with tenants, including emails, phone calls, and in-person conversations. Document any agreements, instructions, or concerns raised by either party.

Remain professional

To manage conflicts with difficult tenants effectively, professionalism is paramount.

  • Despite any frustration, maintain a composed and calm demeanor during interactions.
  • When tenants express frustration, reassure them that their concerns are heard and commitment exists to find a resolution.
  • Emphasise factual assessment over emotional reactions. Approach discussions with a rational mindset, objectively evaluating the situation and working towards a practical solution.

Start the eviction process

Initiating the eviction process is a serious step that landlords should approach with caution.

  1. Understand legal requirements: Landlords must acquaint themselves with state-specific eviction laws and procedures. Knowledge of eviction protocols is crucial. Landlords must have legitimate grounds for eviction and must follow all applicable state and federal housing regulations.
  2. Serve notice to quit: Before eviction proceedings, landlords usually issue a Notice to Quit, outlining the reason for eviction and steps to avoid it. The notice format and content may vary per local regulations.
  3. Explore alternatives: Prior to eviction, landlords should explore alternative solutions like mediation or payment plans to resolve disputes. Eviction should be a last resort after exhausting all viable options.

FAQs about dealing with difficult tenants

What is the best method to protect your property against difficult tenants?
What is the best way to respond to a disrespectful tenant?

Whiteboard Wednesday – 15 – MRI Callmax for Maintenance Page-outs

With automated page-outs, your maintenance staff will be automatically alerted to emergency issues and your office staff will be made aware of non-emergencies for follow up. As with all Callmax products, these communications are automated with built-in resident auto-responses.

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