When you’re renting out homes, no matter what you do, avoiding confrontations with your tenants altogether is practically impossible. One way or another, sooner or later, there will come a time when you have a problem with your tenants or they have a problem with you. Luckily, there are usually ways to handle disputes with tenants peacefully, so that both sides are satisfied. If you’re prepared in advance for possible disputes, you will be well-equipped to handle them as smoothly as possible, and you’ll be able to avoid going to court and wasting your time (and money). Here’s what you need to know.
Know the law
There’s more to being a landlord than you might think. First of all, knowing the law that’s relevant to you as a landlord will often enable you to handle disputes with tenants even before they’ve actually begun. For example, your tenant could have unknowingly disregarded the lease agreement. In this situation, it is up to you to point this out. Thus, you need to be aware of the law and know exactly what is written on any legal documents that your tenants will sign.
Simply knowing the law will do you plenty of good, however, if you want to be at the top of your game, you’ll also need to keep track of any changes in housing law that may occur over the years, after you’ve initially gotten the hold of these laws.
Similarly, everything should be documented, from the moment your tenants move in with the help of movers such as the ones working for Verified Movers, up until the final moments they spend being on your property. Keeping a record on each tenant is highly recommended, with a special emphasis on any times they’ve violated the lease agreement or the rules you’ve initially set.
Having such documentation will not only prove to be very useful if, unfortunately, you do go to court, but it could also be a valuable tool that will convince the tenants who are causing trouble that justice is on your side and that they have nothing to gain from trying to settle the dispute in court (if that is the case). Not to mention that knowing the law can bring other advantages as well, such as learning how to save money on your taxes.
Apart from knowing the law, the most important piece of advice that we can give you when it’s time to handle disputes with tenants is – stay calm, cool, and professional. Even if you have justified reason(s) to get angry, screaming in rage and acting emotional won’t do you any good. What’s more, always being professional can also acquire you new customers if you’re renting additional properties. After moving from one city to another in Massachusetts, for example, your possible tenants won’t only be looking for a nice place to stay, but also a place that comes with a highly professional landlord.
Generally speaking, no matter how unreasonable the tenant is, it is always best to try working together in order to find the solution to the problem. In this section, we’ll address a few things to have in mind in this regard.
Listen carefully to all the complaints
Sometimes, some landlords may dismiss their tenants’ complaints even before actually listening and getting to the bottom of the problem. Due to negligence or the lack of respect on the landlords’ side, they may, for example, assume that their tenants are actually overreacting and that the problem doesn’t really exist.
We’ll provide an example to illustrate this point. Let’s say that your tenant is complaining about a leak occurring in their bathroom. And let us also say that you’re already aware that there’s a leak in the bathroom anytime there’s rain. So, it would be natural to assume that this is exactly the leak your tenant is complaining about. However, in reality, this specific leak is actually happening due to the broken pipe in the bathroom, which should be fixed as soon as possible. Without asking additional questions, in this case you’d keep believing that it is another leak your tenant is talking about, thus causing a dispute that will later need to be handled.
Be easily accessible and quick to reply
Another trait of a highly professional landlord is that he/she should be easily accessible during certain times of day (usually from 9 AM to 6 PM), and should also respond to calls or emails in a timely manner.
This doesn’t mean that you should jump to solve any problem as quickly as possible if you already have important obligations to take care of. So, gauge the severity of the problem and act accordingly. Broken front door locks and leaks should be taken care of as soon as possible; faulty cabinet handles can wait for a little while.
Handle disputes with tenants by using legal counseling
If all else fails, you’ll have to handle disputes with tenants by going to court, or at least by hiring lawyers who will help you come to an agreement and settle before actually going to court. Usually, such disputes are handled by the small claims court, which is cheaper than the civil or criminal court.
In some cases, however, there won’t be any other options apart from going to the civil or criminal court. If that happens, make sure to get a lawyer who has experience with such cases and is knowledgeable in terms of the associated housing laws. Also, this is when the documentation we’ve mentioned, which you should be keeping, will prove to be useful (provided that it hasn’t already convinced the tenant to drop the case altogether).