- “We’ve been renting for X years. We’re only Y months behind. You know we’re good for it.” Oh no! Sure, some tenants may be going through a temporary, and one-off, rough time. A change in employment, an unexpected medical emergency, an expensive car repair… and they may well be good for it. If it becomes a pattern, however, proceed with caution. Giving someone a break once and allowing them to pay late may be perfectly acceptable if you have a long-term relationship with them. You do not want to set a precedent, however, for late rents.
- “It’s your fault; we can’t pay because you won’t accept partial rent.” Some people will blame anyone but themselves for their inability to pay. If your lease clearly states that you do not accept partial rents, then, no, it is not your fault. Just as you are obligated to adhere to the laws regarding owning and renting a building, they are obligated to pay according to the terms of their agreement.
- “We’re not going to pay - and you can’t afford the lawyer to evict us!” A catch-22. Evicting someone can be a lengthy and expensive process - especially if they are determined to stay essentially rent-free. Getting legal help can be very expensive. In a lot of cases, a professional property management company can handle the eviction process for you without getting expensive attorneys involved. The cost of hiring a professional management company is worth it when you think of months without rental income as you maneuver through the eviction process on your own.
- “Times are tough; I need the money a lot more than you do.” Believe it or not, many landlords hear this. While it may bring out your sympathies, your rental property is your livelihood. It is a business. Times may be tough for you, too - and you cannot put your ability to cover expenses (and thus provide a safe home for other tenants) on the back burner.
- “I have a new service animal. It’s a turkey/ostrich/wolf… [insert random animal here].” Yet another absurd excuse you may hear in your time as a landlord! “Service animals” are dogs or miniature horses that have been specially trained. An “emotional support” animal can be, quite literally, anything from a ferret to a dolphin. You are obligated to allow service animals, and you may not ask about the person’s disability or require proof.
If you are unsure about the legal definitions in your specific area, contact an attorney for answers. It can save you from legal action on the one hand - and having a turkey as a resident on the other.
Protect Yourself - and Your Investment Property
Regardless of the creative excuses, your tenants may offer, how can you protect yourself from issues like non-payment and property destruction?
- Make sure the language in your lease is clear and unambiguous. If there is any wiggle room or any loopholes in your lease, you can be sure there will be tenants who will find them - and try to exploit them. Have an attorney review your lease (don’t go with a boilerplate you found on the internet) to ensure it is tightly constructed and legally enforceable.
- Thoroughly screen potential tenants. Don’t skip this essential step. From background and credit checks to interviews and references, take the time to vet each applicant thoroughly.
- Partner with a professional property manager. Being a landlord may just be one of the many hats you’re wearing. If you have other investments and/or other employment, you may want to consider taking one hat off. Engaging a professional property manager can save you untold time and effort. They’ll handle screening, rent collection, tenant interactions and disputes, and other less desirable parts of the job.
There are many sentences, phrases, and excuses you never want to hear from tenants. When you do your homework, carefully select tenants, hold to the terms of the lease, and work with a property manager, you can avoid many of them.