Tenant lawsuits: prevention is better than cure

Tenant lawsuits: prevention is better than cureNobody enjoys being sued. It goes without saying that defending a lawsuit in court is both costly and stressful. However, if good property management practices are implemented, many potential lawsuits from tenants can be avoided. The key is to be proactive in the first place.

Screen your tenants properly

The time spent on this task is worth every second. Their background, criminal history and credit should be checked. Follow up on their references and conduct a thorough interview. This will help prevent problems that may arise, such as tenants who do not maintain the property, allow unapproved persons to move in or who do not pay rent on time.

Be respectful and fair

People skills are a must. Treat them as you would want to be treated and do not discriminate between tenants. These are the people who will be paying your mortgage.

Document everything

Lease contracts set the rules that both landlords and tenants agree to follow in their relationship. A lease is a legal document that includes all business details, such as the rent, terms of tenancy, limits of occupancy, fees and deposits, repairs, entry to rental property, and other restrictions.

Some landlords want to include specific clauses unique to their property.  If you do this, make sure you start with a base lease template that has been reviewed by a lawyer for your state.

For future legal purposes, it is also very helpful to document every instance you think is significant, for example, if you have a disagreement with your tenant about something.

Keep your tenants informed

It’s all about disclosure. Let your tenants know of any possible situation that may cause them inconvenience. For example, if there is a mould problem on the property or if a contractor is going to be there on a certain day to do repairs.

Provide safe and secure premises

Criminals will take advantage if they see an opportunity. Assess the boundaries and safety weaknesses of your property. You may want to change the locks for a new tenant. If you’re marketing your investment property to families with small children, think about child proofing measures.

Don’t take forever to repair

When a tenant requests repairs, set up a convenient time to come and inspect the damage. Tenants will respect you if you give them notice before you stop by. After the inspection, schedule the repair immediately. One of the main complaints from tenants is that landlords take their time getting something repaired, which can be stressful and very inconvenient.

After the repair is finished, set up a time to inspect the work done by the contractor to ensure the repair was satisfactory (to both you and the tenant).

Another downside of a landlord being slow to repair is that the tenant may just go ahead and find his or her own contractor to do the work. This contractor may do a subpar job and exacerbate the expense of the initial problem or even damage the property.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse

Know the laws that exist between landlords and tenants in your State. Violating one of your tenant’s rights could see you in court with a hefty bill to pay.

Be available

Respond promptly to any calls or messages. If you will be away for any period, let them know. Don’t let your tenants think that their concerns are not being addressed or that they are unimportant.

Reward good behaviour

If your tenants pay rent on time or in advance, consider rewarding them with something small you think they would like, for example, chocolates.

Be compassionate to good tenants who just happen to have a one-time problem. But never break your lease rules for this and let tenants take advantage.

If tenants feel they have an understanding and reasonable landlord, they will be less likely to file a lawsuit.

Don’t be afraid to ask for personal assistance

If you are evicting a tenant for the first time, for instance, it may be useful to have a lawyer present or to have a lawyer write an appropriate letter on your behalf.

What do you think a good landlord should do to avoid being sued?

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