Landlord 101 – Tenant Relationships

October 19th, 2010 · 6 Comments · Buying or Selling Your Property, Rental Property

Most tenants are good to deal with. Does that surprise you after everything I’ve said about bad tenants on this blog? It’s the truth. Otherwise this entire business would be utterly impossible.

Landlords often call or email me about problem tenants. They often want to know how the law works in their situation. Just because a tenant can be a problem, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are “bad”. It’s often a personality clash or another issue. Here’s a sampling.

Landlord Wants To Evict Tenant to Renovate Before Selling

Good Afternoon,

My Father and I own a luxury 3 bedroom townhouse.  The tenants have resided at the house for about 3 years, they had initialy signed a one year lease, and are on a month to month tenancy.  The house looks worn on the inside. We want to sell the house.

The plan is to do some renovations on the house and put it for sale. We are planning to put hardwood on the 1st floor, put in a granite kitchen counter top and backsplash in the kitchen, change the carpet on the stairs, patch wall and re paint all walls and trim and put in larger baseboards etc.  After we have completed the renovation we will sell through an agent.  Without the renovation I speak of, we will not get the price we want ,as the house is looking tired (as a result of the tenants cleaning habits etc) and it might not even sell if the renovation are not done.

Since the tenants are on a month to month lease now, is it legal to give them 60 days notice to vacate because we have renovations we want to undertake and that we are selling the property.

Thanks for your advice.

My Response

Clearly these tenants are good, they may not clean as well as the landlord wants but, that’s not a reason to get kicked out and they’ve paid the rent for 3 years. Unfortunately for them, the landlords’ situation has changed and the landlord needs to sell.  Yet the landlord has absolutely no legal recourse in this situation. Once the house is sold the landlord could serve that the new owner needs the house and evict the tenants out that way, but to preemptively evict to perform renovations there is no legal option. Does this mean the landlord cannot accomplish their goal? Of course not! Clearly these tenants are decent. Here are the steps…

  1. Start early, the landlord in this case would like to renovate in late winter. He should sit down with his tenants and tell them his plans now.
  2. Be Very Clear, during his sit down, it is not an option to not sell the property. Do not falter.
  3. Give Time – Of course the tenants aren’t happy.  Would you be happy if someone walked into your house and told you you have to move? Give them some space to digest the information. A week or so should be good. Then  follow up.
  4. Be Honest – You need to sell the house because of your changing situation. Tell them you need to renovate to sell.
  5. Give Incentives – I suggested an incentive of $1000 to get the tenant to move out and help pay for moving expenses. Believe me it’s far cheaper than a paralegal. Timing is everything, so my suggestion was for the tenant to move out by February to get the incentive.
  6. Give Options – I suggested that if the tenants could find a fantastic place sooner…they could move out when they needed to without penalty and still get the incentive.

I always recommend that the landlord start with a candid conversation with the tenants. In this case, the tenants will be moving in any scenario. If they stay, they will be considerably inconvenienced by the selling process. If they move they have lots of time to find a place, considerable leeway plus a financial incentive. I have no idea how they will react, but for the landlord this is the best way to approach it.

Landlord with Hoarder tenant

This next landlord has a tenant who is a hoarder, and wants to know what to do about it. The tenant has been there for five years and pays her rent well enough. The tenant will not allow access to the landlord, there is always an excuse for the landlord so the landlord can’t go in. This is because the tenant is ashamed of her hoarding habits. On some level she’s aware that what she’s doing is bizarre.

Hoarding is a mental illness

To this landlord, I suggested that she talk to the tenant person to person and express her concern about her living conditions. On the Landlord & Tenant Board form that you give with new leases, it states that the tenant must keep the unit clean, up to the standard that most people would consider ordinary or normal cleanliness. There is no easy route for the landlord to enforce this provision unfortunately. The only way for this landlord to try to resolve this situation is to pressure the tenant into action. Hoarders create situations that are very unsafe mostly from a fire safety perspective. So now you’re a social worker.

Don’t Use a Sledgehammer When You Need a Finishing Hammer

Finesse and people skills go a long way towards resolving landlord & tenant disputes. 43% of all cases at the Landlord & Tenant board are actually mediated. In my opinion, you can in some cases (especially the ones that are extremely difficult to win) resolve these situations just by negotiating. The Landlord & Tenant Board is supposed to be the last resort, not your first knee jerk reaction. We are supposed to be the professionals.

Sometimes our fear or projecting of outcomes before we even speak to the tenant causes us to react emotionally to what they say and escalate the situation. In such cases, an apology for our bad behavior may be in order. I have had many tenants who have had outbursts come back after cooling off and apologize to me. Every single person on this planet has bad days, and sometimes these outbursts have nothing to do with us. Dealing with people is very difficult in general, but even more so when dealing with people’s homes or investments.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • sell this domain at sedo

    Good post, useful blog, thank you for your work, keep on, guys!

  • Kristin Ward

    Criminals, people with bad credit or have done property damage are things you can find with a decent tenant screening service with a company like Horders, and people with cleaning issues aren’t something that tends to show up in a screening. Sometimes contacting their last landlords isn’t enough and you will end up with these kind of tenants.

    • Rachelle

      We can’t do criminal checks here in Canada…

    • Marsha

      I really appreciate hearing how you handle issues. I wish my landlord could be as grounded as you. I understand she is going through cnncerns about illness in the family and so she is stressed out. I too have just left a marriage where I was sexaully and physically abused and then left a job that had a human rights law suit against them and their behaviour did not improve so under doctors orders I had to leave the job. I have been unemployed for just over a year trying to regenerate and now after 20 months of living complaint free in my apt a new tenant has harassed me about making noise and reported me to the landlord and I am mystified at how to stop these things. I suppose I need to go live in the bush for awhile. My therapist says I have to fight back but I agree with you I think it is better to learn ways to deescalate situations. i have not had to do this before so I guess this will be a valuable new learning for me. I look forward to talking with you from the Landlord side one day. Thanks for a great resource. The facilitation of this forum is a valuable resource.

      • Rachelle


        I would focus on what I can do to resolve the problem.

        Step One would be don’t slam the door
        Step Two Record your harasser
        Step Three declutter your place

  • Dianne

    I Have a tenant that miss led my husband and I when he applied for the 1 bedroom basement apartment in my home. He never mentioned kids I brought it on the interview he said he had kids by never said how many at that time (4) kids I asked him when did you think you were going to have the kids staying over night and he replied every 2 weeks. We said yes because we new he was in bind but remember we did not no how many kids he had at that time. Anyway when he moved in there were kids staying every night of the week and every week end. I want him out