How to Prevent Common Misunderstandings with Tenants

Every tenant wants a peaceful home. Likewise, every landlord wants good tenants who will take care of their property. Unfortunately, misunderstandings can undermine the goodwill between tenants and landlords. Misunderstandings can quickly escalate and create uncomfortable situations between both parties, sometimes even damaging the relationship permanently. With that in mind, it’s important to know how common misunderstandings arise and how to prevent them.

Delayed Rent Payments

Most (if not all) landlords have a set date for when they expect to receive rent payment. When a tenant can’t pay their rent on time, it creates understandable tension. In some cases, delayed rent can cause financial burden on the landlord. If this happens repeatedly with the same tenant, it can be very frustrating!

While you have no control over your tenant’s financial health, there are a few things you can do to lessen the chances of late payments. Screening applicants is a great way to find a tenant who has a reliable rental history. Once you’ve selected a tenant, go over your lease agreement with them in person. Make sure they’re aware of all policies, including when rent is due and how much the late fee is. When tenants know there’s a late fee for rent, they’re more likely to pay on time.

Offer several different ways to pay rent, including the ability to pay online. Younger tenants, in particular, are more likely to want (or even expect) to be able to make online payments. Since the process is so convenient, it increases the likelihood that your tenants will pay on time and recurrently. Tenants can also set up reminders for the rent due date and schedule reoccurring payments, further eliminating the risk of forgetting or intentionally delaying payment.

Delayed Repairs

No matter how careful a tenant is, property damage happens. Pipes can burst, doors and windows can become jammed, and major appliances can break. Some things, like a burst pipe, may cause significant damage to the property if it’s not repaired right away. If the landlord takes too long to communicate with the tenant or prolongs repairs entirely, tenants can get understandably angry. They’re living with the damage, so even if it seems like a minor issue, it may be a large problem to them.

If your tenant contacts you about a repair, you should respond to them immediately and try to make the repairs as soon as possible. Repairs that affect the habitability of the property should be handled immediately, as you have a legal responsibility to keep the home habitable. Unnecessarily prolonging such repairs may cause legal issues and the tenant may be within their rights to withhold rent. Some examples of repairs that affect habitability include:

Misunderstanding With Tenants
  • Structural repairs, such as severe damage to the walls, ceiling, or floor
  • Electrical system repairs
  • Plumbing system repairs
  • Pest extermination

The type of repairs that are considered habitability issues can vary from state to state, so it’s a good idea to read up on your local laws to make sure you understand which repairs should be handled immediately. If the repair doesn’t affect the habitability of the property, they should still be completed as soon as possible. This ensures the safety of the property and allows you to maintain a good relationship with the tenant – and maintain a good reputation as a landlord.

Recurrent Problems with Neighbors

No matter how well a landlord screens their tenants, there are no assurances that tenants living in a multifamily unit will get along with each other. Some people are just bound to butt heads. While it’s fair to allow tenants to resolve the issue themselves, some tenants may want the landlord to get involved. This can cause misunderstandings or tension on the part of both tenants. It can also get messy if the landlord decides to evict the problematic tenant.

You can’t make tenants get along with each other, but you can outline community expectations within your lease. Include provisions about maintaining a peaceful and safe environment for all residents. This can include strict intolerance of harassment or other provisions like being loud in the common areas. In many cases, having an outline of expected behavior will prevent problems, but there may still be times where you’ll need to step in. Read more about the steps you should take to resolve tenant disputes here.

Security Deposits

Security deposits are one of the most common causes of misunderstandings between tenants and landlords. This can occur because tenants don’t understand the purpose of a security deposit or because the landlord uses the deposit for something other than what they’re allowed to use it for. Misunderstandings can also arise over when the security deposit is returned to the tenant.

To prevent problems with security deposits, make sure that you understand exactly what the security deposit can be used for. Then, make sure that this is clearly outlined in your lease and understood by the tenant. Again, going over your lease in person will give the tenant a chance to ask questions on anything they’re unclear about and prevent misunderstandings. Although state laws vary, landlords can typically withhold part or all of the deposit to pay for:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Repairing damage to the property that goes beyond normal wear and tear
  • Excessive cleaning required to return the rental to the level of cleanliness at the beginning of the tenancy
  • Restoring or replacing property that was taken by the tenant (such as appliances or furnishings)

If you do need to keep part or all of the security deposit, we recommend using a security deposit deposition form explaining how much of the deposit is being held and what it will be used for. This documentation will help you avoid miscommunication. Most states require landlords to refund security deposits within a specified time frame after the tenancy ends. Check your state’s laws and make sure to return the remaining security deposit promptly to avoid misunderstandings or legal issues.

Clear Communication and a Well-written Lease

Both tenants and landlords want to have a peaceful business relationship throughout the tenant’s occupancy. Most misunderstandings can be prevented with clear communication and an understanding of both party’s expectations. A detailed lease allows you to start the relationship off right and prevent many issues before they start.

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