When to Call it Quits

Landlord/tenant relationships are similar to marriages in some ways . . . The honeymoon period begins when you meet, they look great, their references are glowing, and they move in.  But then, a few weeks or months down the road the bickering begins.  They turn out to be slobs, or they disturb the neighbors with their nightly arguments, or they don’t take care of the lawn, or they’re repeatedly late with rent, and before you know it you’re in counseling . . .

The writing is on the wall.  You know you’re headed to divorce court.  Uh, I mean small claims court.  I have a great, one-page lease and if it’s not adhered to, I get tenants out quickly. 

I prefer to coax them out if possible.  My spiel goes something like this:  “If you can be out by the weekend and leave the place clean and empty, I won’t file eviction on you.”  Sometimes, if they’re really hard up for cash, or if I have a great tenant waiting for the unit, I’ll bribe them out by offering them $100 to be out quickly.  This tactic saves me time, and the eviction filing fee, and saves my tenant the burden of having an eviction on their record.

Even in the best of tenancies, stuff happens and things start looking bleak in your long-term relationship.  People get laid off, their cars break down, they develop major health issues, they get fired, etc.  When this happens with my best tenants, I try to work with them — ask a buch of questions to see if it’s feasible they’ll get back on their financial feet soon — and make a written plan to catch up the rent, which we both sign.  If they don’t stick to it, they have to move.    

When I started landlording, I allowed everyone to stay (dummie!) because I wanted to trust that things would work out.  Well, that didn’t work out so well, as you might imagine!  I’ve toughened up.

At the first sign of a problem, you need to start thinking about calling it quits . . . stay on it, follow through, and move on.  If you’re a good landlord, word will spread.  You’ll find someone else.

Onward and upward!

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