Skip to Content

Recognizing and Dealing With Bad Tenants

You may be the fairest and most accommodating property owner conceivable, but that doesn’t guarantee you won’t run into bad tenants. No matter what you do, it seems impossible to make everyone happy all of the time. Recognizing and dealing with problematic tenants is not only unpleasant, but it is also a stressor that can affect your health and your profits.  

Luckily, you are in good hands with Real Property Management Consultants. We have 30 plus years of experience managing residential rental properties, which provides us some unique insight into handling issues that may arise. In this article, we go over some points on dealing with difficult tenants to head off issues before they become unmanageable.

Note: Do not use this article as a substitute for legal advice.  

Communicating With Difficult or Bad Tenants

It’s normal to want to respond in the same way when someone approaches you with an aggressive tone. However, matching your bad tenant’s conduct is not in your best interests. Instead, begin by staying as calm and patient as possible, regardless of how a tenant behaves.


  • When they’ve calmed down, they’ll appreciate that you listened to their complaints.
  • Listening to understand your tenant’s issue vs. listening to respond will change the situation’s dynamic and help diffuse a heated situation.
  • Always be open to compromise: this does not imply that you would bend the rules or enable them to break lease terms. Instead, you’re looking at everything through the eyes of your tenant.
  • You may come upon a circumstance in which you don’t understand your tenant’s rationale. Despite this, there are ways to collaborate and work through issues with your tenant.
  • If your tenant is regularly late with payments, sit down with them to see if a different time of the month would make paying rent easier for them.  It may be an issue of when they get paid.  If you agree, consider adjusting the rent due date from the 1st to the 15th of each month.   


Set Boundaries for Your Tenants

Some tenants want to be friends with everyone they meet, including the landlord. However, befriending tenants may become difficult, especially if they have complaints or raise concerns frequently. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be kind and courteous to individuals who live in your rentals, either! Maintaining professional ties helps to keep matters from ‘becoming personal’ or enabling emotions to enter the picture. Keeping professional boundaries also entails not renting to friends and relatives.


Renting to friends and relatives may be counterproductive for the following reasons:


  • They may take advantage of their friendship with you by regularly being late on rent.
  • They may not take good care of your property.
  • If conflicts arise, rental agreements may cause problems in your relationship.
  • It is challenging to settle lease violations when the perpetrator is a friend or family member.
  • Friends and family members may expect preferential treatment when it comes to repairs or requests.
tenant agreement with the landlord

Document Everything Thoroughly

When receiving work orders, always use an issue tracking system. When a work order ticket is complete, document the date and time of the work, who performed the work, and whether or not the tenant was present. It’s a mistake to let go of this documentation if you don’t have time to manage it. Keep a record of every communication. When phone calls come in, record calls and keep all email communication. If a resident calls you with a complaint or a problem, follow up with a formal letter detailing how you handled or intend to resolve the matter.

Keep track of:

  • Complaints received and how they were received (on the phone, through email, or in-person)
  • Every encounter you have with a resident, especially those that are tense, is recorded.
  • Interactions between residents and property managers
  • All payments you receive and when they are received.
  • Keep an eye out for serial squatters.

Recognizing a Challenging or Bad Tenant

Applicant screening is a great way to filter out bad tenants who may become a problem in the future. However, it does not consider changes in a tenant’s financial status, mental state, or personal circumstances. Below are some typical problem renter scenarios to help you identify them and deal with potential issues as early as possible.  

Hurricane Katrina

Property damage is a significant issue for landlords, not to mention a costly one. Unfortunately, some renters may not take adequate care of the property, while others opt to make unlawful “improvements.” Therefore, landlords need to take precautionary measures to avoid these bad renters. Consider the following to help reduce the possibility of property damage.


  • A Well-written Lease: Carefully layout maintenance requirements before the renters take possession of the house.
  • Perform a thorough move-in inspection: Take photographs and meticulously document the property’s condition. Proper documentation will provide you with something to compare against once the renter has left, legally allowing you to bill for damages.
  • Conduct Regular Inspections: This is something you should do for every rental property. Inspect the property at least twice a year for any maintenance issues. If you see the renter is not taking care of the property, attempt to address it as soon as possible.

Late for Everything

It should not surprise you that late or non-paying renters are at the top of the list of bad tenants. Late payments, missed payments, or partial payments can all harm a landlord’s financial situation. You will likely encounter late payments from time to time. However, to reduce the likelihood of such events, use the following strategies to persuade tenants to pay on time:


  • Strict Policies: Leases must specify precisely how to make rent payments and what happens if a tenant fails to pay on time. Inform the renter that this is a strict policy that you plan to enforce.
  • Everyone’s the Same: Regardless of their circumstances, all renters must adhere to the same standards and norms. Make this explicit from the outset to avoid some of the tenants’ pleas or bargaining attempts.
  • Create Reminders: If your contract includes a grace period, consider setting up an automatic rent reminder for tenants who fail to pay on time. Accidents sometimes happen, and a reminder might help to avoid a possible problem.
past due rent

Laws are Only Guidelines

Some people think the rules do not apply to them. Unfortunately, tenants commonly violate the law in various ways, ranging from the unlawful sale or harboring of narcotics to violent crimes and noise complaints. If a renter in your property becomes criminally active, you should seek legal counsel. Arrests in many states do not affect the tenant’s ability to inhabit the residence. However, the below suggestions may be helpful:


  • Screening: Prior criminal background will show up during the pre-screening process. Scrutinize this in light of other criteria. For example, someone with a bit of blemish 15 years ago might be a great renter, but keep an eye out for current criminal conduct or a pattern of behavior. If you see that, stay away!
  • Regular Inspections: Periodic house inspections may uncover indicators of unlawful activity or prospective concerns, particularly drug-related ones.

Constant Complainers

Every landlord adores the renter that does everything correctly and only contacts you when there is a real problem. However, property owners must also cope with a fair number of constant complainers. They constantly call, at all hours of the day and night, for anything, even ridiculous requests.


  • How to Handle Disgruntled Tenants Always be aware of your legal obligations: Landlords are obligated to perform necessary repairs for the home’s habitability or safety. However, this does not mean complying with every minor request from renters; recognizing the difference will save you time, money, and frustration.
  • Remind Them of the Lease: A lease should outline who is accountable for what when it comes to upkeep. For example, is the light bulb out? Is it time to change the HVAC filter? A detailed set of rental policies will alleviate these types of issues.
tenant complaints

Strangers in Your Rental Properties

Tenants who attempt to sublease your property or have many prolonged visitors going in and out can cause issues and liabilities. If someone is in your house who is not on the written lease, it indicates the lease conditions do not apply to them. Depending on the conditions, getting them out might be a lengthy and costly legal struggle. Consider the measures below to avoid this at all costs:


  • You don’t want anyone in your house which you haven’t carefully vetted. Make this explicit in the leasing agreement and maintain open channels of communication. For example, if the tenants need to be out of town for a lengthy period, they must know whether you allow subletting.  
  • Inspections: If you uncover any unauthorized tenants, notify the renter immediately and refer to the rental agreement and policies.
  • Guests are Welcome: A renter has the right to have visitors come over or perhaps remain for a few days. If your policy is that guests may only stay for a set amount of time and you find an extended stay guest, your renter must obtain permission. Refer your tenants to your rental agreement and policies.  
tenants subletting rental

Hire a Property Management Company

Some renters are just difficult to deal with, no matter how hard you try to please them. When this occurs, it’s in your best interest to hire an experienced residential property manager. Consider how much free time you would gain, not to mention how much stress you could eliminate from your day-to-day life. Choosing the appropriate property management for your rental property is critical and, in most cases, well worth the cost for landlords.


Tenant screening is the first and most significant line of defense against bad tenants. However, if you’re having more trouble than usual with your tenants, your screening process may be lacking some essential checks. At Real Property Management Consultants, we are here to help! We’ll take care of the screening process for you, providing peace of mind that your property is in good hands. We proudly provide residential property management services in Jackson County, MO, Cass County, MO, Clay County, MO, and Johnson County, KS! If you are ready to get started with our residential property management services, contact us today!  

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

The Neighborly Done Right Promise

The Neighborly Done Right Promise ® delivered by Real Property Management, a proud Neighborly company

When it comes to finding the right property manager for your investment property, you want to know that they stand behind their work and get the job done right – the first time. At Real Property Management we have the expertise, technology, and systems to manage your property the right way. We work hard to optimize your return on investment while preserving your asset and giving you peace of mind. Our highly trained and skilled team works hard so you can be sure your property's management will be Done Right.

Canada excluded. Services performed by independently owned and operated franchises.

See Full Details