There are likely to be some problems in any situation where people need to spend time together and work through change. As a Northern Virginia real estate investor, a few renter problems can be anticipated—but that doesn’t make them easy to deal with when they do occur.
As your Fairfax property management company, our team works closely with investors to both minimize and manage these high-risk situations to ease the complications they create. That saves you money and improves the likelihood that the outcome between you and your renter will improve.
Note: This blog post does not act as a substitute for legal counsel. When in doubt, consult with your trusted attorney or the Fairfax property management experts at Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA for real-time assistance.
What Are the Most Common Challenges?
As Fairfax property management professionals, we’ve seen a lot of ups and downs for real estate portfolios (and the industry in general) over the years. However, there are very effective strategies available for dealing with some of the most common problems. Here’s our take.
#1: Nonpayment of Rent
'Life issues' happen to everyone, including your renters. That said, there is a limit to how much leeway investors can give on rental payments and payment plans.
The best way to avoid this potential roadblock is to properly screen your renters before agreeing to the lease terms. Still, when it does happen, you need to know what to do. Here are a few strategies:
- Use a clear policy: When is the rent due, when is it late, and what’s the fee paid when it is late? Outline this clearly.
- Don’t make exceptions for fees: Late fees help to deter a person from being late repeatedly.
- Use proper notifications: Send out automated notices when a payment is due and when it is late.
- Agree to some leniency—when it works but be specific: For example, during a 12-month lease, perhaps just one time, you’ll accept a payment plan to get caught up.
During the pandemic, payment plans have become increasingly popular (and occasionally enforced) for investors looking to recoup rent when renters are struggling. This is an excellent option over evictions for now, as it looks like we will soon be facing another lockdown on evictions.
#2: Damages and Covering Damage Costs
Leases also need to clearly outline what damages are, how they are assessed, and that the renter is responsible for the costs associated with damages above and beyond normal wear and tear. If the renter damages anything, it is their responsibility to pay for those damages. It’s that simple.
The key to making this work is through documentation. That requires great property walkthroughs on move-in day and on move-out day (or during routine inspections) that can capture your property's initial condition to make comparisons when damage has been done. Either you or your Fairfax property management partner should:
- Use photos and video to document what happened.
- Use your management software to record the details so you can follow up.
- If you plan to do the repairs yourself, ensure they are done properly, according to your schedule, and documented.
#3: Addressing Complaints Professionally
Not all renters are easy to please. There are some situations when they have the right to complain, as well. However, you need to know that excessive complaints may indicate that you should not renew the lease. There are some situations where you may even need to terminate the lease. Know your rights in these areas or work with your attorney or Fairfax property management company when you need help with rental law.
On the other hand, there are some situations in which a property investor should let a renter out of their lease if they request it. You may even be able to apply fees to the expense of a lease ending early. The key is to make sure your original lease agreement outlines this.
If a renter seems to complain endlessly, consider these tips:
- If they request a response for maintenance issues, send a team out each time and document the work.
- Consider a fee for excessive trips—especially if the trip turns out to be nothing.
- Ensure that any lease violations are documented (you may need this later).
#4: Accusatory Renters
Some property owners worry about this common issue. It occurs when the renter makes claims against investors in an ongoing battle. This is a worrisome situation, but it is important to be fair, accurate, and transparent—especially if you might have a 'Professional Tenant' on your hands.
- You'll need to take care that your approach does nothing that may come across as discriminating against your renters.
- Professional Tenants are often unofficial experts in rental housing law—and they will use this against you if you misstep.
- If you feel at risk, turn to an attorney. It may be necessary to ensure you protect your rights and minimize liability risks.
Your Fairfax property management company—if you have one—can also help.
#5: Their Problems Become Yours
From divorce and relationship issues to being accused of lacking empathy for their situation, there are many ways that renters can make their problems your problem.
What’s most important is to stick to your contract and agreements. As long as your lease provides specific steps to be taken to handle problems, such as late payments, that’s what your rights are. You set rules that are within the letter of the law and then enforce them—and that's your right as a property owner.
These can be challenging problems. The best way to avoid them? Work with our skilled Rent Estate™ Advisors here at Renters Warehouse or a trusted attorney. Let our skilled team handle every potential issue that can arise for your Fairfax rental property! You can even get started finding excellent renters for free with our Tenant Screening Checklist.