Landlord stress is a very real thing. It is the number one reason many landlords abandon their dream of building a portfolio of rentals that make them money.
This is a people business and it is inevitable that you will have to deal with your tenants at some point. It can be very frustrating to deal with people because not everyone will think the way you do.
Dealing with your tenant when he thinks he is “right” and is absolutely sure you are wrong is no fun. Then, inevitably, this person proceeds to try and convince you to change your mind. What a great way to lose your mind.
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For some reason, a lot of tenants don’t think they should have to cut their own grass. But, in my area, we don’t cut the grass for tenants who live in houses. It is the market standard that every tenant cuts their own grass, keeps the weeds in check and even cleans the gutters.
A while back, I had one tenant decide that just wasn’t going to work for her. Talk about landlord stress! Keep in mind that I go over this when the lease is signed. The tenant also signs a paper agreeing to take care of the yard work. So this should not have been a big shock to the tenant.
I received a citation from code enforcement about tall grass and weeds so I called the tenant. Much to my surprise, she said “Yes, I was wondering when someone was going to come cut the grass. It is getting rather tall.” I was like WHAT!?
I took a deep breath and calmly reminded the tenant that it is her job to take care of the yard. I also reminded this tenant that she signed a paper agreeing to do just that. She informed me that she didn’t remember signing that and wouldn’t have signed it had she been told about it. This really cranks up my landlord stress level!
At this point I was really getting irritated because I read that particular paper to them along with several other basically word for word. I snapped a picture of the paper and her signature and texted it to her.
I told the tenant that she signed the paper and we didn’t cut grass at rental homes. She was really ugly and proceeded to tell me what I could do with that paper. When she was done, I told her I was sending someone over to cut the grass. Per the lease, there would be a $75 fee added to her balance.
She then called me a not very nice name and hung up. Maintenance ended up cutting the grass three times for a total of $225. Let me tell you, the maintenance staff was not happy! But, we didn’t have a choice as we didn’t want to keep getting cited for tall grass.
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Stand Your Ground
At the beginning of the next month, the tenant blew in the door, handed her money order to me and started to leave. I stopped her and told her I couldn’t accept her rental payment since it didn’t include the $225 for grass cutting.
She turned around, glared at me and said “You don’t really expect me to pay such an exorbitant rate to cut my grass do you?” I calmly stared her down and said “Yes, I do. It states in the lease what we charge to cut your grass if you don’t.”
Confrontation Won’t Kill You
I don’t like confrontation and I was mentally just cringing in my seat. The tenant was so confrontational and in my face, that I wasn’t so sure she wasn’t going to hit me. I told her that if she didn’t either take her money and leave or pay the additional fee, I was calling the police.
Further, if she didn’t pay, I was going to start the eviction proceedings. Big surprise! The tenant refused to take the money order and left. So, I jumped in my truck, ran down to the post office and sent it back to her via certified mail along with a 7 day letter.
I kind of held my breath for the next few days. Then, three days later, the tenant’s husband came into the office. His face was bright red and he didn’t even say hi before he began to apologize profusely.
The poor guy had been out of town on a job and wasn’t aware that his wife wasn’t cutting the grass. He happened to get the mail, saw the 7 day letter along with the money order and asked his wife what was going on. The 7 day letter also showed three different grass cutting charges for $75.
The tenant’s wife then told him what happened. When this poor guy showed up in my office, he was mad at his wife and assured me that it would never happened again. This woman has never apologized to me but she has never come back into the office again. Her husband is a real sweetie and they have lived there for a little over two years as of right now.
Hold Your Tongue
As angry as I was initially, I kept my mouth shut and didn’t argue with the tenant. I followed the systems that I had in place. Even though it would have been really easy to just let it go and not charge her for cutting the grass, I didn’t deviate.
The bottom line was that I didn’t want to have to send someone over there four times a month to cut her grass. Maintenance didn’t really have time to take on one more unnecessary job! Because I held by ground, my systems worked and now the tenant is cutting his grass.
Yes, there were a couple moments of ugliness but in the end, because I did what I was supposed to do, I trained the tenant. I showed the tenants, both husband and wife, that it wasn’t ok to tell me what she was and wasn’t going to do.
In the end, while I still don’t like the wife, they always pay the rent on time and they cut their darn grass!! They love the house because their kids can walk to and from school and her mother lives a few doors down from her. I haven’t had any more trouble out of them.
Taking The Easy Way Out
Let’s take the previous scenario and imagine the other reality for a moment. What if I had taken the easy way out and hadn’t said anything when the tenant dropped her rent payment off and just let her leave the office.
What if I hadn’t refused to accept this tenant’s rent and didn’t tell her that she owed another $225?
Stop and think about that for a minute.
Your Tenant Just Took Control
First, this tenant wouldn’t have gotten the shock that yes, I expected her to pay that bill. She would have gotten in her car and thought, “I sure told my landlord.”
Or worse, what would have happened when this tenant started yelling at me and I had backed down and agreed to remove the charges?
This tenant would have known that all she had to do was verbally abuse me (and anyone else on my staff) and she would get her way.
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Don’t Be Trained By Your Tenant
In the end, that tenant would have trained me!!! This is the best way I know to start experiencing landlord stress on a daily basis.
If I had allowed the tenant to tell me that she wasn’t going to cut her grass and had I agreed, I would have started down the path of this tenant running my life and telling me how it was going to be. Plus my maintenance would have been ready to kill me because I had added an unnecessary job to their schedule of seemingly unending jobs.
It is your house and it is your job to enforce the rules. Be consistent, fair and willing to enforce your rules. Your tenants will respect you and you will have far fewer problems.