How to Communicate with Problematic Tenants to Maintain Your Legal Advantage in Houston
Nobody expects to end up with problematic tenants, but it happens. Unfortunately, when you have problematic tenants, it’s not easy to evict them. Renters have strong protections that sometimes cover disruptive tenants when little evidence is available.
There are only two roads you can travel with problematic tenants. Although you can sometimes get rid of nightmare tenants without going to court, eviction is usually the best course of action. When you can’t evict, you’ll need to mitigate the situations that are causing their disruptions.
That’s not always easy, especially when a tenant is overstepping their boundaries. However, it’s important to maintain professional communications even with bad tenants. If you file an eviction lawsuit in the future, your communications will come under scrutiny. One wrong communication on your part and you could lose your eviction lawsuit on a technicality.
Don’t risk losing a warranted eviction lawsuit in Houston. Here are some tips to communicate with problematic tenants to maintain your legal advantage in the courtroom.
1. Have all communications in writing
When dealing with problematic tenants in Houston, make sure every communication you make with them is in writing. If you can’t avoid a verbal conversation, at least follow-up by mailing them a letter confirming what took place during the conversation.
Also, it’s wise to request your tenant make all communications in writing. This will eliminate the potential for arguments and bickering, especially if you live on the same property as your tenant.
2. Don’t answer their phone calls
Problematic tenants don’t call their landlords just to say hello. If you’re in the process of evicting a tenant for being disruptive, don’t answer their calls. Wait for them to leave a message and decide whether to call back or not.
Be careful when responding to potential bait messages. When facing eviction, some tenants will try anything to waste their landlord’s time and money. For example, your tenant might complain about needing some urgent repairs that you know are false.
The downside is that if you don’t respond to bogus repair requests, you could lose your eviction lawsuit. The judge won’t know your entire history with your tenant and may not grasp the depth of the situation. They could see your dismissal of their requests as retaliatory.
If you suspect your tenant is lying about needing a repair, send in your property manager or a friend to check it out before calling a repair company. Have them take photos and keep everything on file. If the photos prove no repair was needed, that evidence will be in your favor.
3. Don’t send text messages
For stable tenants, being able to text you is a blessing. It makes communication easier, faster, and creates a permanent record of what was said.
However, text conversations with problematic tenants might turn sour. Avoid sending text messages to problematic tenants. Anything you need to discuss should be discussed over the phone with a follow-up letter sent via certified mail.
Don’t give your tenants anything they can use against you or twist out of context. A seemingly innocent, legal text message might come back to bite you.
4. Pick your battles
With a pending eviction lawsuit, you need to pick your battles. You know all of those minor rules you expect your tenant to follow? Like not having glass bottles sitting on the window sills, not covering their windows with blankets, and not having any inoperable vehicles on the property?
Until you’re in court, trying to get a disruptive tenant to alter their behavior and abide by the rules could turn ugly. It’s common for tenants to destroy the property when their landlord pushes them over the edge.
In a perfect world, tenants would be fully responsible for their behavior; you wouldn’t have to worry about having your property destroyed after holding someone accountable to their lease agreement. However, when you’re dealing with a problematic tenant, all bets are off.
Pick your battles. If a situation isn’t going to hurt you or destroy your property, consider letting it go. Letting go doesn’t mean you’re giving them a free pass. When you’re already pursuing an eviction against your tenant, you can bring up all lease violations in court to support your eviction.
5. Avoid additional actions that might make them angry
As a landlord, you shouldn’t have to avoid exercising your rights just to keep a problematic tenant happy, especially when you’re evicting them from your property. However, if you value your physical property and you want to win your eviction lawsuit, this is a must.
Actions that can make tenants angry include:
- Changing the lease terms frivolously. For example, changing the height limit for weeds, changing their parking space, or revoking access to covered parking.
- Making verbal comments when you see your tenant out in public or walking around the property.
- Posting about your tenant on local Facebook groups if you both might be a member.
- Threatening to report your tenant to the credit bureaus. If you’re going to report them, just do it, don’t tell them.
- Sending your tenant multiple text messages asking them for rent you know they aren’t going to pay.
Rather than thinking of this as a way to appease your tenant, think of it as a long-term strategy. You only need to keep the peace until you get through your eviction lawsuit. Hopefully, you have the grounds to file for an eviction immediately. The process itself can be time-consuming, so don’t wait.
6. Be polite at all times
Although it seems hard to be polite to a tenant causing problems, it’s a requirement if you want to win your eviction lawsuit. No matter what your tenant does or says, maintain control over your emotions and responses.
If you feel like reacting, bite your tongue. Avoid being argumentative. You don’t have to agree with them, just don’t express your frustration or anger.
Need a break from your tenants? Green Residential can help!
Are you exhausted from managing your tenants? Whether they’re great tenants or not, it’s a full-time job being a landlord. If you’re looking for ways to alleviate your workload and still be profitable, call us today and tell us about your properties.
At Green Residential, we help Houston landlords maintain profitable real estate investments by handling all the landlord-tenant responsibilities. We take care of everything, including tenant screening, marketing vacancies, collecting rent, performing walk throughs, scheduling inspections, repairs, maintenance, and more.