Landlord's Guide to Handling Difficult Tenants with Ease - Article Banner

As professional High Desert property managers, we manage more than commercial space. We are also managing the tenants who occupy those spaces. We’re often called upon to resolve conflicts and mediate disputes. It’s not always the best use of our time, and we try to set boundaries that keep difficult tenants from taking advantage of our time. However, we also understand our obligation to provide great rental experiences for those tenants. 

We’re creative problem solvers and solution managers. That helps us deal with difficult tenants. We’re pretty good at establishing relationships, even with those tenants who are full of complaints and eager to make trouble.  

In order to have a pleasant and profitable investment experience, it’s important to minimize unhappy tenants. 

Take a look at some of our tips on handling those tenants who might be difficult or disaffected or simply impossible to please. 

Here’s what we can tell you.

Identifying Those Difficult High Desert Commercial Tenants 

Tenants can take up a lot of time. When you’re renting out a commercial space, you’re renting to people who are running businesses. They have a lot of their own pressures and stresses, and sometimes, they might take those things out on you. While you’re responsible for dealing with difficult tenants as the property owner, you’re not in any way required to accept abuse and mistreatment. 

Set boundaries. Show your tenants that you’re willing to listen and respond, but you expect respect. 

Our experience as property managers has shown us what difficult tenants look like. 

  • They pay rent late – always with an excuse.
  • They violate your lease agreement and never seem interested in coming into compliance.
  • They refuse to answer your calls or communicate.
  • They cause damage to your property and refuse to take accountability.
  • They engage in threatening or abusive behavior and escalate even minor disagreements.   

The best way to deal with difficult tenants is to avoid difficult tenants. Try not to rent your property to them. Weed out difficult renters with strict background checks and a thorough screening process.  

Not all tenants who complain can be defined as difficult. If there’s a legitimate issue that needs your attention, a good tenant will work with you. A tenant who is complaining because their air conditioning has not been working for weeks is not necessarily difficult; they’re rightfully asking for you to fix a problem. 

Unhappy tenants need your complete attention. You want to provide a great rental experience and motivate your residents to renew their lease agreements

Difficult tenants are different. They’re more work.

Communication and Compromise is Necessary

You cannot make everyone happy all the time. But, you can compromise and find effective solutions that get everybody as close as possible to happiness. 

Sometimes, tenants in your building will have problems with each other. 

If one tenant is disrupting another tenant, they might expect you to get involved. We’d recommend you refer both parties to the lease agreement for what is expected and how those situations should be handled. 

Sometimes, we’ll have tenants complaining about things we cannot control. This requires us to communicate proactively. 

Communication begins with listening. You might find that your most difficult tenants just want to be heard. Sometimes, it’s that simple. Listen with empathy and compassion. Pay attention. Ask questions. Provide support and, if you have them, ideas. 

Make sure there’s always dialogue when you’re dealing with difficult tenants. Remain professional, calm, and respectful. Escalating the situation will not help.

Enforcing Your Commercial Lease Agreement 

Your lease agreement is your immediate go-to resource, especially when you’re working with tenants who are difficult. A strong lease is key in making sure you are able to manage your investments and also deal with the various personalities who will be renting from you. If a tenant is not taking care of the property as the lease requires, or if they’re becoming a nuisance to other tenants and businesses, or not paying rent on time, your lease will give you the authority to deal with that tenant in an appropriate way.

Continue to use your lease agreement when tenants try to push back. You can always provide them with a copy of the lease, highlighting the area or terms that are relevant to whatever problem you’re having. 

Every lease agreement is different when we talk about commercial properties. When you’re deciding what kind of lease to sign, keep in mind the authority you want to have over your tenants and how they behave. 

Balancing Landlord Needs with Tenant Needs

For a High Desert property management company, a lot of times, difficult tenants come with the territory. We’ve also found that solving problems really comes down to balancing the needs of our clients (the property owners) with the needs of their clients (the tenants). 

We want you, as an owner we work with, to be happy. We work hard to plan and implement full-service leasing and management plans that will help our investors and landlords meet their goals and have a good rental experience. 

Without satisfied tenants, however, there will be no rental experience. We count on our tenants to pay rent on time, help take care of the property, and follow the lease agreements. Taking care of the problems our commercial tenants bring to our attention is a part of our job. 

Balancing the needs of all of our owners with those of all of our tenants (especially the difficult tenants) requires a lot of experience. Luckily, we have that. 

Document Everything Pertaining to Difficult Tenants 

Protect yourself. Make sure you document every encounter you have with a tenant, especially if they’re difficult. When they call to complain about senseless things, make a note of it. When they are displeased that a repair is taking too long, write it down. Keeping good notes will protect you against any potential claims, threats, or lawsuits. 

Attach a time and date stamp onto every note you make about phone calls. Save emails and texts. Create a timeline of things your tenant has done to disrupt other tenants, avoid paying rent, or rage about maintenance. 

What You Don’t Want to Do

Remaining professional isn’t always easy, especially when you feel you’ve done everything you can to help your tenant and you’re still getting a lack of cooperation and communication. 

To protect your own reputation and to protect your property, be mindful of:

  • Not sending text or email messages to your tenant when you’re mad. These may come off as threatening and can be used against you in court later.
  • Not leaving angry voicemails for your tenant for the same reason.
  • Any complaints you have should be put in writing so your correspondence is documented and you’ve had time to think through what you want to say.  
  • Enforcing your lease within the regulations of the law. You cannot change the locks or turn off the utilities or show up insisting your tenants leave. Follow the law and get professional help.

It’s easy to feel paralyzed as a landlord and not understand the right steps to take. Be strategic, intentional, and professional. You have a rental contract in place, and you can trust that contract to give you direction and boundaries when you are dealing with difficult tenants. 

Each situation is unique, but don’t become emotional. Don’t say or do things you will later regret. Ask for advice – from lawyers, property managers, and even other investors. 

High Desert Property Management Provides a Buffer

Property ManagerHigh Desert property managers provide a buffer between you and your difficult tenants. If you’re not already working with a professional management company, there has never been a better time to reach out. Renting out a commercial property is risky. There are a lot of legal, regulatory, and professional issues to navigate, but there’s also the personal part – dealing with actual human beings who may have a different set of priorities than you. 

It’s worth remembering that you don’t have to deal with tenants at all when you partner with a High Desert property management company. When you have a smart and talented commercial property manager on your side, you don’t have to worry about any of your tenant’s petty complaints or incessant stories that explain why rent is late. 

Your management company is entirely responsible for that relationship. 

You can count on your management partner to develop and maintain tenant relationships, enforce the lease agreement, and collect rent on time. Your property manager can listen to tenant complaints and mediate tenant disputes so you don’t have to. 

It’s rare for us to have to deal with difficult tenants. We take our time screening, and we work hard to make sure that each tenant is a good match for the commercial property they want to rent. We look for High Desert commercial tenants who understand our expectations, communicate transparently, and act responsibly in accordance with the rental contract.

If you’d like to hear more, please contact us at Preston-Lee Management Company. We’ve been providing property management services in the High Desert for more than 30 years.