Landlord's Learning Center- Firm But Fair- A Practical Guide to Tenant/Landlord Relations

Property Manager with Investors Choice Property Management CAL BRE LIC# 01124954

We signed up a new client this weekend, a very nice woman with a problem tenant in her unit. When I asked her to describe the situation, I was not very surprised, having heard the story a hundred times before over the past 16 years as a Sacramento property manager.

The tenant said they'd pay last week, but they did not. The story keeps changing, and now they were 1.5 months behind on the rent. This was the reason she was signing up for property management. She was hoping that we could get her tenant back on track. I hated to be the bearer of bad news, but I believe in being perfectly honest.

We cannot make bad tenants into good tenants, I explained. The best we can do is to remove them from your property as soon as possible. However, if there was a chance that the tenant might pay the past due rent, it was because the Landlord had finally resorted to hiring a professional property manager.

You see, once a Landlord has established a precedent of being flexible, or "soft" on the tenant, it can be very difficult to adjust that tenant's behavior. The Landlord loses some control, as the tenant does not take the rental due date as seriously as they should. Furthermore, if the Landlord makes a habit of not enforcing the rental due date, it can make it more difficult in court, as the tenant can claim a precedent had been set (they always let me pay on the 15th before, and now they are evicting me).

As property managers, we form relationships with our tenants based on professional courtesy, respect, and fair dealing. In return, we hold the tenant to the terms of the lease agreement. This means enforcing the lease on a monthly basis, charging a late fee if the rent is a day late, or serving notice on a tenant that is not caring for the lawn as agreed.

A bad tenant (or one close to going bad) will work every angle possible with a kind hearted Landlord, but they realize very quickly that such tactics are futile against a seasoned property manager. Many would say that we are paid to be "the bad guy", but we do not see it that way. We are here to have the hard conversations that must be had to maintain a solid landlord/tenant relationship. Once a tenant knows exactly where they stand and just how we enforce the rental agreement, we learn exactly what kind of tenant we are dealing with.

Unfortunately, the odds of collecting back rent for more than a month are not good, which is why we recommend legal action on any unpaid balance older than 20 days. In our experience, Landlords have the best chance of recouping all or a portion of their lost rent when action is started swiftly, within the month that is unpaid.

A firm but fair approach will keep your good tenants good, and your bad tenants packing.

Investors Choice Property Management (ICPM) manages 100 single-family units with the care and diligence our Landlord clients deserve, in a manner that has them referring their friends, co-workers and family members. With over 16 years professional property management experience, our business is 95% word-of-mouth referral, we do NO Sales, and pay among the highest referral fees in the industry for management accounts. Visit our website at today for more details, and find out what we mean when we say:

“Experience Property Management the Way it Should Be.”


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Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Thomas, this is great information.  You're right!  No Mr. Softee when it comes to dealing with tenants.

Nov 03, 2008 12:28 AM #1
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Thomas R. Martin Broker/Owner ICPM

Property Management the way it SHOULD be.
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