How to Train Your Tenants

Being a good landlord involves training your tenants to be good tenants. The main thing that will shoot you in the foot is being inconsistent – rules should be set in place and then consistently enforced and consistently enforced on all tenants.

If you are an attentive landlord, are quick to resolve legitimate concerns, keep your properties clean, serviced, and safe, you should have no problem attracting good tenants.

Never Allow Drugs

This may seem obvious, but this applies to the guests of your tenants as well- just because your tenant doesn’t do drugs, doesn’t mean their guests don’t. Your “no drug” policy will deter guests from the unwanted activity. This policy of “no drugs” needs to be enforced even on the nice tenants.

I once had a nice tenant who never had a criminal record, but had a severe drug problem and I had to evict her. You cannot be a bleeding heart and allow a drug addict nice tenant to remain. I will be nice enough to get her telephone numbers for help – but I will not be nice enough to allow her to stay.

Once you allow the drugs it’s like cockroaches, the drug addicts will congregate together and the good tenants will leave. You can never get good tenants with bad tenants entrenched.

How Can you Prevent Drug use in Your Rentals?

Truely, there isn’t any fool proof way; ideally it can be weeded out through proper vetting from a person’s application and criminal records.

Step one is to always check for a criminal record. And step two is to include in your application that the Police Department will be doing Dog Drug training in the building. Include a paragraph or sentence in your rental agreement to that affect. No one who is a drug dealer is going to want to rent from you.

And PS – do contact your police department and see if they want to use your properties as testings (note, this is harder for single family homes – I wouldn’t do that for a single family. For a multiplex it’s no big deal having big dogs doing up and down the stairs etc.).

The number one way to prevent drug use in your rentals is by catching the potential tenants with prior criminal drug convictions before they become your problem. Also, enforce the policy regarding guests, make sure anyone staying longer than 14 days fills out an application – and a criminal background is done.

What Date Should I Make a Rental Due?

Always have the rent due date as the 1st or you will be chasing after rent through out the month. If a tenant starts on any day other than the first still charge them for the entire month then prorate the SECOND month ON THE FIRST for the difference. By the third month they are the same amount and time as everyone else.

Example: rent is $1000 for a month. They start their rental on March 10th. Have them pay the entire $1000, then on April 1st they owe for April for only 20 days worth or $645.16 (1000 dollars divided by 31 days in the month times 20 days left in the month or 1000/31= $32.25 X 20=$645.16. On May 1st they owe $1000 and so on from that time foreward.

What Should I do If a Tenant Locks Themselves Out in the Middle of the Night?

An experienced landlord knows to leave a tenant with important contact numbers. One being a locksmith. Generally, a tenant can be informed to use the same company as the the towing signs you have in your parking lot.

If a tenant locks themselves out in the middle of the night they need to call a locksmith. I let them know it is WAAY cheaper for them to call a 24-hr locksmith than wake me out of bed at 2 AM to unlock their premises. A tenant should know this from the start. If you don’t enforce it, you will get calls.

What are the Requirements for Evicting a Paying Tenant?

There is no set way to get rid of an undesirable paying tenant. The rules, laws, and guidelines as to what reasons a tenant can be evicted, and what steps much be followed, vary from state to state, county and even city. The key is to know your laws before you have tenants, then act within those guidelines.

Always Have a Plan for Handling Troublesome Tenants

Here’s a warning ahead of time; just because a tenant is a paying tenant doesn’t mean they’re a good tenant. If they are causing strife in your apartments you need to have a quick way of dealing with it.

This may seem obvious, but the point is to talk with your lawyer ahead of time so you are well armed and can make quick decisions. You absolutely must know ahead of time what your state, county, and city rules are regarding eviction. Two counties over from me you can only evict for non-payment and criminal activity. In my county I can get rid of anyone with a 30-day notice. Since the remedies vary so greatly it becomes important to know your limitation before you need to consider eviction.

How Can I Get Rid of a Tenant Without Evicting?

Simply put, the Experts know you cannot legally get rid of a tenant unless you follow the letter of the law, to do otherwise puts you in legal and financial jeopardy. What you can do however, it to bribe an undesirable tenant to leave by offering them a monetary incentive to do so.

It may be counter intuitive, but it might be quicker and easier to tell Mr. and Ms. CrappyTenant that you sure do feel for them and understand that this might not be the best place for them to live. And because you’re nice and understand their situation, you can give them a few hundred dollars if they move out by the end of the day on Saturday.

Do not hand them any money until they hand you the keys and all their stuff is packed in their car. It’s a lot cheaper to hand them a few hundred dollars than go through an eviction or lose other tenants.

Can I Disconnect the power to a Non-Paying Tenant?

A landlord should never interrupt any utilties, remove doors, or lock any tenant out of their apartment for non-payment. To do say may make the landlord legally liable for certain reimbursement.

What you should do instead, is start the process from day one when they are legally late (it might be 3 days or 5 days in your city, county, state) but never be late in serving these notices. You can be polite and serve them with a friendly voice “just normal required process”.

What Availability Should a Tenant Have to the Landlord?

A Landlord or manager should be available for calls for only a set time of day. If you have a cell phone screen your calls or set your phone to silence. If it’s a true emergency make sure your tenants know they should call the police or fire department.

The last thing they will want is me running over with my garden hose to extinguish a flame or box a burglar – neither of which will be successful. They can call 911 and give me the juicy details in the morning.

There is one emergency which I want them to call a specialist on – and that’s a broken pipe. A broken pipe, not a dripping faucet. I have a 24- hour plumbing service on call and they know that the tenant covers a plugged toilet not me (I didn’t come and poop in their toilet, thus it’s not my responsibiltiy to unplug). Interview a few plumbing companies and see what they offer.

Should a Landlord Allow Pets?

Most landlords find allowing pets not worth the extra money or worry. Landlords should only allow pets if they are willing to let all their tenants (if it’s a muliplex) have pets and they are willing to deal with the damage.

The advantage to allowing pets is you can charge a little more and have a selling point above your competition. But most landlords, after analyzing the cost versus benefit, will opt to not have pets. Even when requiring a deposit for pets, the deposit rarely covers the damage a pet can cause.


Another thing to think about with pets, particularly if the tenants live on top of each other, is where is the pet going to pee and poop- in the only grassy spot which other tenants let their kids play? And will the pet bark or God forbid, bite someone?

And, I have had situations in which the tenant left me with a pet they couldn’t take with them.

Should a Landlord Accept Cash?

For Safety reasons, landlords should not accept cash. If tenants know you are walking around with large amounts of money, you are a target for a crime. Instead, Speak with your bank about having your tenants make payments on-line and drop a transfer to your business account.

You will need to speak with your bank about setting this up. It will be on the merchant side (not personal side) and they can assist you with the arrangements and tell you how a tenant can pay WITHOUT giving them your bank account number. You can have the tenant set-up autopay – right now the cost to you would be about 1 to 2%.

If you don’t work with a bank that will allow these arrangements your alternative would be for your bank to allow deposits, but your tenant would have to know your bank account number. This is something I would not want but some landlords will give the tenant a payment form of some sort for them to take to the bank and this has your bank account on it – I don’t particularly like this idea – but it’s out there. Another downside, how would you know which tenant paid? Unless you staggered their payment by pennies…one paid $1000 and tenant B pays $1000.01. Weird in my opinion – but that too, is out there.

What if your tenant does not have a bank account, internet, and only has cash? In that case, the only alternative (aside from knowing your bank account) would be a money order and have them mail it to you. Most tenants who only have cash know that they must get a money order.

Don’t surprise tenants – let them know when they sign the lease how you expect payments.

One exception: I do allow cash payment on the first month as they are paying their initial lease. Always give them a receipt – I then directly deposit it to the bank – as in, I don’t walk around with it.

to cash or not to cash

Always Require Cleanliness

It sounds obvious, but if you allow things to slide all other tenants will take note as well. If you are not respecting the property they will not.

This also means you must respond to their needs quickly as well. A well run apartment building will inspire a tenant to treat your property with respect. Don’t allow garbage to build up. If you have a wind storm and you get the brunt of the neighborhood garbage; get it cleaned up immediately.

Have a routine person hired to go around and do basic tiddying-up outside. Some lawn care companies will do garbage sweep up as well. Ask them.

Don’t Allow Residents to Store Items Outside

They should be renting a storage locker if their stuff can’t fit in their rental. This gets back to cleanliness and what you allow will grow. Once one tenant starts storing outside others will. Do not let them store boxes under outside stairwells or make their balconies look unruly. I do allow them to put patio chairs even bikes; but not unsightly boxes.

Cars. Don’t allow car maintenance in the parking lot. Especially changing of oil.

Consider giving away rewards for cleanliness and timely payment. Like a movie rental or a pizza coupon after 6 months of on-time and no cleanliness violations.

How can I Prevent Petty Nuisance Repair Calls from Tenants?

To prevent petty repair calls have in the rental agreement that they must fill out a repair request and a repair person will come by on Fridays (or whatever day you choose). This would be simple things like dripping faucet.

NOTE: when it comes to broken pipes or anything that is dangerous, this is an exception and needs to be dealt with now.

Keep Relationships With Tenants Courteous and Professional

They shouldn’t know your middle name and where you live; and you shouldn’t know their kids birthdays – if you do, then you’re probably too close. It stands to reason, don’t invite them to parties (unless it’s a unit celebration of some sort where all are invited).

You need objectivity in order to run your business approriately; you’re not there to make friends.

Just be nice, be friendly, be business.

What Can I do if a Tenant Violates the HOA Rules

Good landlords will include a provision in their rental agreements regarding the tenants responsibility for maintaining appropriate HOA rules. It should clearly delineate what will happen if they do not comply. In general the cost will be passed to the tenants in the form of subtractions to the deposit.

If you do not include this verbiage in your rental you may or may not have to eat this cost depending on what your jurisdiction feels about it.

Note: things like paint or gutters is your responsibility. I am talking about maintaining the yard and putting the garbage cans where they belong. Those are the two most common HOA complaints – make sure your tenants know what is expected of them and include it in your rental agreement.

Does a Landlord Have to Accept Section 8?

A landlord does not have to accept Section 8. There are no laws that say you must accept a Section 8 tenant. You must, however, once you accept a section 8 Tenant, abide by all rules regarding the treatment of the property and the normal rental rules for tenants.

A person applies for a Section 8 voucher, and then they present the voucher to you the landlord. You are not obligated to accept a new tenant. If your present tenant becomes a Section 8 qualified tenant you do not have to accept – however, it may be to your benefit to accept their voucher. It probably will require you allow an inspection of the property and potentially update as they require. You still, at that point, have the option to reject Section 8.

Also note, if your present tenant now qualifies for Section 8 and you accept it there may be a portion of the rent that is the tenants responsibility to pay; are you willing and trusting that this old tenant will follow through? Or is this an opportunity for the two of you to part ways?

There are pros and cons to allowing Section 8. You will have a guaranteed rental payment while the tenant is under Section 8. But you will are not covered for damages by Section 8.

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