Good Tenants Gone Bad: A Landlord's Nightmare
Everyone's heard the old story about how a frog tossed into a pot of boiling water will immediately try to escape, while a frog placed in a pot of lukewarm water slowly brought to a boil will remain oblivious to the end. This story may sound a little bit familiar to you as a Jacksonville area landlord: you’ve no doubt encountered more than your share of tenants that are like that pot of boiling water. You take one look and want to escape right away—but it can be harder to know what to do with tenants that start as ideal renters that slowly raise the heat.
A “What If?” Story
Here’s a hypothetical scenario that you may encounter: let’s say that you’ve just put the final coat of paint on a new investment property that you’re excited to rent. You find a younger couple that passes your screening process with flying colors; they show no history of previous issues, have decent jobs and credit, and no criminal background. Even better, they seem to be easy going and flexible—and were even willing to reschedule a tour when you had unexpected maintenance issues pop up elsewhere. All in all, you’re excited that you’ve found such an excellent fit for your new unit. You get their signatures on the lease, hand over the keys, and everything is great—so far.
Turning up the Heat
Things go well at first: your new tenants are pleasant and get back to you within a few hours whenever you need to talk to them. You see them around the property every so often when you stop by to do some routine maintenance, and they’re always quick with the small talk; rent checks are still in your mailbox on time. You start to feel like you’re in the clear and things are going to keep on as they have—then the first problems start to appear.
It’s something small at first:
- Your reach out to your tenants to schedule a visit to the property to check up on something, but they don’t get back to you for two or three days.
- They had been good about getting trash out to the curb for pick up every week, but you notice that they’ve started to miss trash days and bags are beginning to pile up against the side of the house.
- You had a firm no pet policy that they agreed to follow with a smile, but on your last trip by the property, you thought you saw a leash tied up by the back door.
You start to mention some of your concerns to your tenants and ask if everything is going okay and they assure you that everything is fine—they’re just a little stressed about something going on at work, and someone in the family is sick. You feel pretty good about the conversation and look forward to things improving in the months ahead.
The Pot Starts to Boil
Only things don’t get better:
- Rent checks start coming in a few days late every month.
- You start hearing about noise complaints from some of the neighboring properties, and you’re not sure if you’re going to have to start dealing with routine police visits.
- You know that you rented the property to a couple—but now you aren’t seeing the woman around when you visit the property. Instead, you’re seeing another man who looks a lot like the one who signed the lease, but you can’t remember ever having a conversation about one of your tenants moving out—and her name is still on the rental agreement.
You wake up one morning, a few months into the term of this lease, wondering exactly how things got this far; The problems began to happen so slowly that you didn’t see them for what they were until it all hit you this morning. Now that you can see that you’re in a bad spot, what can you do about it?
Taking the Proverbial Pot off the Stove
The good news is that you have a few options on the table for resolving problems of this nature. Our hypothetical tenants have violated a few terms on the lease, so eviction is definitely on the table. Be familiar with Jacksonville (and Florida) law when it comes to eviction, but if your tenants have:
- Made consistently late payments on rent
- A tenant living on the property who is not on the lease
- Kept pets in violation of the no-pet policy
Eviction is well within your rights. Remember that it can be a drawn-out process—especially if your tenants want to contest it. However, it may be worth the trouble if you have several months left on the term of the lease and you’d like to get rid of this headache as soon as possible. Remember to seek out proper legal advice before proceeding and be prepared to document everything that you do going forward if you haven’t been doing so already.
Another option is to run out the clock on this particular set of tenants: if this specific pot has taken long enough to start boiling, you may only have a handful of months left. If you know that you can handle this set of tenant issues for a little while longer—and they aren’t causing property damage or doing anything illegal—it can be easier to take this experience as a learning opportunity and prepare to turn over the property to a new set of tenants. You are well within your rights as a landlord to decline to renew or extend the term of the lease, especially when your tenants haven’t been holding up their end of things.
Let an Expert Property Manager Be Your Partner—and Guide!
If you find yourself with some slow-brewing tenant trouble, you can call upon the services of a Jacksonville area property manager to handle things for you. Green River Property Management, for example, offers a couple of services that would be an excellent resource in this type of scenario. Green River’s Executive Service tier pricing plan includes eviction protection, which is coverage that shields against lost income and court costs when you decide that you do need to pursue eviction against a tenant. Additionally, Green River strives to place only the best renters in your properties—and guarantees that they will replace them when they leave.
You can escape the pot—and avoid becoming the frog in the first place—by reaching out to Green River Property Management. Schedule a time for a FREE consultation with an expert property management company; we're here to preserve, protect, and serve you and your investment property.