Tenants from Hell : How to deal with them

Though it might be true that being a landlord is a lucrative business, there is a large amount of time you actually need to put in. Just like every other businesses, there are simply no guarantees that you will be able to generate the appropriate revenue (rent out your unit). Worse still, you might end up having a tenant from hell.

Imagine this: your tenant is always late on payment, has poor hygienic practices and has secretly kept a pet in the house. Before you know it, the once clean and sparkle house of yours is now stinky and dirty, with soiled clothes piling up at every corner and claw marks all over the furniture.

But your nightmare does not end here. You also notice that the air-conditioners are suddenly not working, parquet floors in your bedrooms have warped due to poor maintenance, smelling distinctly of animal pee. And don’t even mention about the condition of the bathrooms and kitchen.

Evaluate prospective tenants

Your priority as a landlord is not just about renting out your house but to rent it to a reliable tenant. Therefore, do not be in a hurry to sign the tenancy agreement with the first tenant that agrees to pay you the proposed rent. Get to know the prospective tenant a little more and perform a background check.

Ask your tenant why they are looking for houses around the area. Is it because their office is nearby? If so, ask for their company and google it to fact-check. You can even take it one step further by calling up the company and asking about them. This will ensure that your tenant is indeed working there and making a stable monthly salary, having no problems paying you on time.

If your tenant is a foreigner (which they probably are), find out how long he has been staying in Singapore. If he has been working here for ages, you can be sure that he is here to stay and will not decide to pack up and leave without prior notice, forcing you to quickly find another tenant.

For the “kiasu” landlords, you can also consider getting your prospective tenants to agree on a shorter-term lease at first, such as six month to a year. In this case, you can observe the condition of your house after the “probation period”, then decide whether you want to continue renting for a longer period.

Get insured

Despite doing proper background checks and profiling prospective tenants, there is still no guarantee how they will turn out to be once they move in.

Hence, your best bet is to get a home insurance policy that caters to landlords like yourself, helping you reduce the financial impact of having a bad tenant. There are plenty of such policies available in the market, with some specially tailored to benefit both homeowners and landlords (ideal for those who stay in the rental property together with their tenants).

Once you are insured, you can enjoy a peace of mind, knowing that your home and its contents are covered against losses or damage. Using the earlier scenario and depending on the type of coverage you purchased, you can now claim a certain potion of the repair works done on your parquet floors. Most importantly, the landlord insurance will safeguard you against any loss of rental income in the event your tenant defaults on payment or your property remains untenanted following a murder or suicide event.

There are simply no guarantees that you will be able to generate the appropriate revenue from renting out your unit. Worse still, you might end up having a tenant from hell. Here are more tips which you can follow:

Trust the professionals

While it is ideal to have a friendly relationship with your tenant, certain ground rules need to be established to ensure a pleasant landlord-tenant relationship. Be upfront with your tenant on your expectations. This will give them a clear idea of what is expected of them, and at the same time, providing a platform for both parties to iron out the kinks before signing the agreement.

You should also explicitly state in the contract and made known verbally to the tenant, that all deposits will be used for any upkeep or maintenance that is directly due to the fault of the tenant. This will further safeguard you against inconsiderate tenants who failed to take care of your property.

Kelvin Chu, Marketing Director of ERA, advises landlords to engage licensed real estate agents to represent themselves when dealing with tenants. “It is to their best interests to have agents representing both sides and settle the tenancy agreement professionally with mutually agreed conditions and requirements stated clearly in black and white, minimizing any unhappiness or dispute that could occur,” he explains.

One creative way to protect your investment, and make sure it is in good condition without you physically checking it periodically, is to incorporate the cost of maintenance into the rental. For example, you can ask for a higher rent and engage your regular part-time cleaner to clean the house on days that the tenant is at home. This way, you can be certain that your property is well maintained, and saving your tenant the hassle of doing the cleaning himself.

Be practical and cut losses early

In the most unfortunate event that you have encountered the tenant from hell, take quick measures to understand the situation and cut losses early if needed.

If the tenant has a habit of delaying payments, communicate with him and find out the issue. Is it because of bad financing or simply a lazy attitude? In any case, give him an ultimatum to set things straight. If things still don’t work out, you can either consider charging him more for every late payment or end the lease early by giving him the required notice period as stated in the agreement to vacate. Understand that at the end of the day, you are running a business and not a charity.

Even if your tenant pays the rent promptly, do not simply take things for granted.  Consider arranging with your tenant to inspect the property every quarter or half a year. Once you notice something amiss, take actions and correct it with your tenant on the spot. This will show the tenant that you mean business and not an easy pushover.

Having said that, you should also give proper courtesies and respects to your tenants for they are ultimately your clients as well. Never appear unannounced in the house just to “spot check” on them. Give them the privacy they deserve.

Understand that if you treat your tenant badly, not only is he more likely to leave at the end of his lease, you will also not be able to count on him to take care of your property and be honest with you about things like broken fixtures or leaking pipes.

As Kelvin simply puts it, “being a good landlord is one way to avoid tenants from turning nasty too.”

Article by Praise Poh, Contributing Writer

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