10 Ways to Resolve Tenant Disputes
Once you have decided to become a landlord, you will need to be prepared for disputes that will inevitably arise with your new tenants. Being prepared will help you avoid being caught unawares by a dispute.
Instead of immediately going to court, there are many other options in resolving property disputes. You can even state in your rental agreement what steps you will take to remedy a dispute.
Here are the ten tips for handling disputes between landlords and tenants.
1. Avoid disputes by knowing the law
The best way to resolve disputes is by avoiding them before they even begin. Many problems arise because one party does not know they have broken the agreement or they are not aware of their rights under the law. Taking the time to learn the law will help you avoid disputes and make you a better landlord.
2. Keep your cool
When a situation arises, never lose your temper, even if your tenant does. Try to be as calm as possible and do your best to take care of the situation on your own. If you are having difficulty, or if your tenant is not cooperating, you may need to seek assistance in court. However, by keeping your cool, you are representing yourself in the best possible light.
3. Talk it out
Many problems with tenants can be solved if the issue is discussed thoroughly on both sides. Do not let your temper flare, even if you are justifiably angry. There may be an honest answer to a problem, and both of you may be blowing it out of proportion. Working it out between the two parties is almost always cheaper and easier in the long term.
4. Meet face to face
If you have only traded angry words over the phone with your tenant, a face-to-face meeting may help. Hold the meeting in neutral territory where both of you will feel safe.
5. Get a professional mediator
If you have tried without success to resolve the dispute, a professional mediator may be able to assist you. Many states now provide property-dispute mediators who are trained to deal with situations that can arise with rental properties.
6. Submit to arbitration
Arbitration is similar to mediation, but arbitration is binding. An arbitrator will hear both sides of the case and issue a binding ruling to which you must adhere. If you are worried you are in the wrong, you probably won't want to take this step. Instead, own up to the problem and try to settle with your tenant.
7. Document everything
A paper trail is your best defense. If your tenant has repeatedly broken the rules for your building or your lease agreement, or if they have made unreasonable demands, your documentation can help prove your case. Keep a file on each tenant and record all that transpires. Presenting this documentation to your tenant may even dissuade them from taking you to court.
8. Let the lawyers decide
Many cases can be resolved before they go to court, once lawyers are involved. If you and you tenant are currently represented by a lawyer, they may be able to help you settle the case out of court.
9. Small claims court
In most cases, disputes arising from rental property fall under the jurisdiction of small claims court. This option is usually cheaper than a regular court battle and may be the quickest alternative to an acceptable solution.
10. Take it to litigation
If you have exhausted all other avenues, you may have to take your tenant to civil or criminal court. The actions of your tenant will dictate whether the case should be tried as a civil case or a criminal case. Make sure that your lawyer is well versed in landlord/tenant law and capable of prosecuting the case successfully.
Taking the time to work through a problem with a tenant may save you time, money, and effort.