Landlord 101-Tenant Management

August 4th, 2010 · 4 Comments · Landlord & Tenant Board, Property Management, Rental Property

There are more than a few ways to tackle the tricky problem of landlord – tenant relationships. I have more than my share of tenant horror stories because I’ve had so many tenants. I have repeatedly said that most tenants and most landlords are decent people. However it happens that people just don’t get along. Outsiders can clearly see that both sides have valid points but no one is backing down.

What About The Landlord & Tenant Board?

I talk a lot about the Landlord & Tenant Board but the facts are that they are not the first or best recourse when dealing with issues. They are great for non-payment of rent issues because that is very straightforward. There are lots of what I’ll call “soft” problems that have no business there. Yet it is these particular problems that can drive a landlord batty.

Case Study #1

The tenant moved in April. His son has a health problem and the main floor has the controls for the Air Conditioning. The main floor tenant won’t run the central air. The downstairs tenant is complaining that they’re dying of heat. The landlord is working on his other property next door and has used water from the backyard which the tenant pays for. Blah blah blah! Finally the landlord after speaking to the tenant numerous times about the AC wrote the tenant a letter. The tenant wrote the landlord a letter stating they’ll take him to the Landlord & Tenant Board and that he’s trespassing and using his water.The tenant wants out of his lease and the landlord wants to be reimbursed for his costs in renting the apartment when he leaves.

As you can see the relationship has broken down. There is no real upside to this. Everyone hates the other side and each has valid points. Is the Landlord & Tenant Board able to help here? One tenant has the right to air conditioning services and the other has the right to not run the AC. The landlord took water from the backyard. He took about 5 gallons and owes the tenant 5 cents at most. It’s not trespassing because the landlord is responsible for yard maintenance.

I’m in the middle of this thing to help out the landlord and we’ll see what happens. I wrote the lawyer an email and I’m waiting for a reply. My goal is to move the tenant out and every one wins. If the tenant files with the Board it’ll be a long drawn out stressful ordeal for everyone. Because of the way the Adjudicator processes orders it’ll be rescheduled numerous times before being dealt with.

Case Study #2

The tenant is renting a room but the landlord and him are not seeing eye to eye. The tenant plays music the landlord doesn’t like. The tenant is a pain.

This is a personality problem, most of us have encountered this before with a friend. You get on well for a while then it just doesn’t work out. The relationship dissolves.

My advice was just to be direct and tell the tenant that things have not worked out and it’s time to part ways.  Give the tenant a month or two and they’ll probably be just as glad to see the back of you as you are to be rid of them.

Keep Your Eye on The Prize

Before discussing the problem with the tenant, it’s wise to figure out what you want. Then be direct. Asking for what you want is amazingly effective, as long as what you want is reasonable.

I want you to pack up yourself and your wife and 4 kids and get out of here by the end of the week isn’t going to get you where you want to go. It’ll get you to the Landlord & Tenant Board. Yes, I know the kids destroyed your perennial garden but it’s not grounds for eviction.

You need to decide what you want, how far you are prepared to go to get what you want and then you need to ask directly without bringing up all “tenant’s crimes”

You Can Use Money… To Sweeten The Deal

I have very rarely recommended to owners that a tenant should be paid to leave. One such tenant had an incontinent Rottweiler in a basement apartment. The smell was so bad that all the other tenants moved out. It was revolting. At the time I didn’t know about Landlord & Tenant Boards and how they work. It’s a case I’d be reluctant to pursue even today. It’s hard to prove a smell.

Some tenants have limited means so even if they want to move it may be very difficult to pay for movers. The important thing to remember is to be very reluctant to part with any money before they move. If they need a UHaul pay for it yourself.

Use an Outsider

Sometimes when you are emotionally involved with the situation, it’s best to just stay away. If the relationship is strained and hateful, the situation needs to be deescalated. Using a calm friend to try to resolve the issues and possibly dissolve the tenancy is worth a try before the Landlord & Tenant Board.

I Had A Situation

In my youth, I had a nice apartment above the landlord. The landlord continually accused me of rolling a bowling ball across the floor. Obviously I wasn’t. Then I had a preset radio alarm and I went out overnight. The landlord shut off the breaker to the alarm clock which also controlled the fridge. I came back to discover that my food had defrosted. I don’t consider myself to be a loud person and of course the preset alarm clock was irritating (it takes 2 hours to shut off). Had I thought of it I would have shut it off.

Only one month later I was ready to move, I was sick of being accused of rolling a bowling ball across the floor when I had no idea what he was talking about. Every day I would hear about the bowling ball. I was racking my brain trying to figure out what he was talking about. We both agreed I would move. I said something like he should get someone dead to rent the place so they could be quiet enough for him. During the process of moving, I was packing some stuff and a friend opened the front door, my cat jumped off the bed and ran across the floor. It was only then that I figured out what the “bowling ball” was. Whenever my cat heard someone open the outside door, he would jump off his perch and rush to greet me at the front door of the apartment. The thumps and running sounded very loud on the hardwood floor.

By the time I figured it out the relationship was too far gone to be fixed, I had a new place and we were both glad to part ways. Who’s fault? Well, the place could obviously have used a lot more soundproofing. I screwed up by forgetting my alarm, the landlord defrosted all my food and so on. There’s lots of blame for everyone.

The point is we were both fairly reasonable, we parted ways without using the Landlord & Tenant Board and everyone was happier as a result.

Reasonable People Don’t Like Courts

Most people would rather avoid the courts if they can. They also want to feel at home in their home. They don’t want to creep around like a mouse. If they have kids they want them to be able to play in their backyard. At times it is a lifestyle issue, the guy who works nights won’t appreciate a bunch or running children above his head when he’s trying to sleep. It’s not really anyone’s fault but it can be absolutely unlivable for the people involved.

As a landlord you’ll want to match your tenants as much as you can when you’re renting. If you live in the house, it’s even more important. Despite your best efforts if everyone involved is unhappy then let one of the parties involved move on to a better spot for them.

Know Your Own Management Style and Personality

This may be hard for my readers to understand because I’m so wonderful and charming but I do not get along with everyone. No one does. Do not take this personally, the trick is to find the tenants that you do get along with. If you’re the average bear, there’s a wide variety of people you will be able to have good relationships with. You also need to have the right property for your management style. A person who is very meticulous might be better off with commercial property or higher end residential. An easier going landlord might be happier with a mid-range type of property. It takes a very special kind of landlord who specializes in low income renting.  Trying to match your comfort zone with your target customer is something to consider when you acquire the property.

Every landlord will have conflicts, that is just a part of life. It’s how you deal with these problems that matters. Try to keep things in perspective, in 100 years no one will care if your tenant rolled a bowling ball across their floor everyday.

Happy Resolving!

Don’t Forget to sign up for Free RSS or email subscription… just for today I’m offering a resolution spell to my readers. Crafted under the streetlight in an old Tim Horton’s coffee can using the remnants of tenant garbage thrown off the 13th floor balcony stirred with landlord tears and tenant turmoil, this powerful spell will end any potential lawsuit against you before it even starts! You deserve it because you’re amazing.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Julie Broad

    These are really great stories! I can’t believe I haven’t found your blog until now. You’ve got some really great advice here. I am very excited to find you!!

    We’ve only ever had to take one tenant to court and she was trouble from Day 1. In fact, there were red flags before we rented to her and shouldn’t have had her in the property in the first place.

    You’re right on when you say that most people are reasonable and will work with you to resolve the issues.

    Good tenant screening goes a long way to preventing issues as well.

    It’s almost always worth it in the long run to take a vacant month than put in a bad tenant just to avoid having a vacancy.

    • Rachelle

      I just started blogging about 3 months ago, that’s why it was hard to find me before 🙂

      I think it’s always worth it to wait unless of course it’s a building that’s vacant and you have 80 units to fill. Then you have to take a chance.

  • mike

    Nice site. Often we as landlords need to look for an outsider’s opinion on matters as we can get emotionally involved. It is our investment after all.
    Regarding, case study #1, I don’t see why the landlord would enter the tenants yard and use her water. Even though its a small amount, it can cause a trust breakdown and is not the way to act a professional landlord. This isn’t your brother’s property but, a tenant’s who you have a professional relationship with.

    About the the rotty smell, you’re correct. It is very hard to prove this. I had a tenant with numerous cats who never changed the litter causing the other tenant to complain. Very difficult to prove this as
    she cleaned the litter whenever threatened and then just repeated the process. It was a nightmare. Now I screen for potential situations like these beforehand. We learn from experience.

    • Rachelle

      I actually read a case very recently and I forget where now otherwise I’d provide a link. In Ontario the Adjudicator actually went to the house and smelled it and the tenant was evicted. This was for cats as well.

      In my Rottweiler situation the smell was so bad the 2 other tenants left. When I complained to the tenant she would pour bleach on the area. The problem was that it was a basement with a subfloor and everything was collecting under there. Words cannot describe the noxious fumes. I don’t think I’ve smelled anything as foul as that since.

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