dealing with difficult tenants

Knowing how to deal with difficult tenants correctly and effectively is key. Whether a tenant is in rent arrears, subletting your property, refusing to vacate the property or displaying antisocial behaviour, it can sometimes be overwhelming as a landlord if your tenants aren’t cooperative.

We’ve brought together all you need to know about dealing with difficult tenants, including some of the problems that landlords can have with their tenants and how best to deal with them.

What problems can landlords have with tenants?

Before we talk about dealing with a difficult tenant, it’s important to establish what kind of problems can arise between landlord and tenant. Whether you’re a seasoned landlord or it is your first time as a landlord, uncooperative tenants are difficult for everyone. 

1. Antisocial behaviour & noise complaints

Sometimes landlords may receive complaints about the behaviour of their tenants or be alerted to issues from the wider community. Examples of antisocial behaviour include: trespassing, unlicensed drinking in public spaces, inappropriate use of fireworks, inappropriate use of vehicles, littering, being too noisy and amongst other things, animal problems such as uncontrolled pets. 

If a tenant is displaying antisocial behaviour, it can fall into three main categories

  • Personal antisocial behaviour, where a specific person or group is targeted.
  • Nuisance antisocial behaviour, where a tenant causes trouble in the local community.
  • Environmental antisocial behaviour, where the wider environment is impacted, such as in public spaces.

Landlords will want tenants to act respectfully and be active members of the local community.

2. Not paying rent

Problems often arise if a tenant gets into rent arrears by not paying their rent on time. The money owed by tenants – their rent arrears – is classed as a priority debt as landlords have the power to evict tenants for not paying. 

If a landlord did choose to evict a tenant who is in rent arrears, they are required to give a minimum of two weeks notice to the tenant. If the tenant refuses to leave, the landlord can apply for a court-ordered eviction. 

3. Property damage

There is always debate about fair wear and tear versus property damage, but when a tenant has damaged a landlord’s asset – the property or its contents – either deliberately or as a result of neglect, problems can quickly arise between landlord and tenant. 

It’s important for landlords to keep up-to-date inventory lists for their properties stating the condition of each item. This can help them to resolve disputes about the condition of any damaged items before a tenant had moved in and be compensated by the tenant for the damage.

4. Subletting

If a tenant sublets the property without the express written permission from the landlord that it is fine to do so, then not only is it likely a breach of the tenancy agreement, but it will cause upset between both parties. 

Tenants should always be open and honest with their landlord when it comes to subletting as they do not own the property and are risking damaging the relationship between landlord and tenant. 

5. Refusing to vacate the property

At the end of a tenancy, it is expected that tenants vacate the property, leaving it in the same state – aside from reasonable wear and tear – that it was in when the tenancy started. However, sometimes tenants refuse to vacate the property, causing problems when it is time for new tenants to move in. 

6. Unreasonable requests

Many landlords receive unreasonable requests from their tenants – from lock changes for lost sets of keys to pest control for cockroach infestations. 

While landlords are responsible for making sure that the overall property is well-maintained, some requests aren’t covered by this. Problems arising in the property that are a result of the tenants’ actions (or inaction) are not the landlord’s responsibility to fix.



How to deal with difficult tenants

Whether you’re dealing with a difficult tenant at the moment or want to know what to do in case the situation arises in the future, here are our top tips.

1. Remain professional and polite

First thing’s first, it is essential to keep all interactions with a problematic tenant courteous and professional. Letting your frustrations get the better of you doesn’t help anyone – and will likely discourage the tenant even more from being cooperative. 

Be friendly and polite when you are discussing the problems you are having with your tenant, and make time to hear their side of the story. 

2. Keep records of everything

Being organised and keeping detailed records of everything to do with your property is important anyway, but even more so if issues arise such as property damage. By having detailed inspection reports, inventory lists and accounts of work done to the property, you can better state your case. 

Records can also be used to keep track of reports of antisocial behaviour or requests for work to be done – providing you with a better view of the tenancy as a whole. 

3. Know your stuff

When it comes to being a landlord, you absolutely need to know what the law says about private rentals and the rights that your tenants will have while living in your property. Landlords have responsibilities to their tenants, so you need to make sure you are providing the service your tenants can reasonably expect.

4. Get ahead of the game

One of the easiest ways to deal with problematic and difficult tenants is to avoid them in the first place. We’ve previously covered everything you need to know about finding good tenants – it could save you a lot of hassle! 

5. Use a fully managed letting service

If you don’t have the time or simply don’t want to be the person who has to deal with inspections, legal admin and maintenance, then fully managed letting services are a great option. 

This helps you to keep on top of repairs and maintenance at a property, helping to build a good landlord-tenant relationship. With a better professional relationship between the two parties, you can expect less problems from your tenants. 

Find out more about our landlord services at Stanfords.