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Bad Tenant? What to do?

Even the best landlords run across a tough tenant once in a while. In nearly twenty years as a Seattle landlord, we have had a few. Some customers are just impossible to delight or even satisfy. The negative energy of these experiences can drag you away from creating value and enjoying your income.

Read on for some insight into how to best address the challenges coming from bum tenants. Ideally, a great property manager’s response will make life, or at least landlord-tenant relationship, more enjoyable for everyone!


Have you had ever had a tenant come at you, via text, phone call or in person with an aggressive demeanor? The most important tip we have learned is that the first thing to do when you feel triggered by someone’s tone is to take a breath and become aware of your own feelings. Do you feel physically threatened? Then leave if safe. If there is no physical risk, then the most important step is to manage your reactions and try to be as calm as possible. You may find yourself speaking through your teeth to hold your tongue, and that is okay. Don’t forget that the tenant is also inflamed and probably not being his or her best self at this moment. It’s important to make space and listen to his or her concerns.

When they get away from the situation and reflect on it, you will be the person that listened to them.

Put yourself in the tenant’s shoes. How would you feel if you had experienced what they experienced? It costs you nothing to look at things from their point of view.

For example, if they are slow pay or behind during COVID, perhaps a more flexible weekly schedule would work for them. Many people are working gig jobs and have other reasons to have inconsistent income streams.

Remember, this is not a personal friendship.

Some landlords have trouble keeping boundaries. When tenants are speaking up frequently about complaints, some landlords can get dragged into details they should stay away from. If the neighbors are noisy, but not violating the lease, you have an obligation to both people to help them each find quiet enjoyment. Having Elevation as a property manager can help maintain these boundaries.

We want you to have friendly relationships with your tenants, but it’s important to make clear that you're keeping relationships professional. This helps to keep emotions out of the landlord-tenant relationship. Here are some of the problems we see when people rent to friends and family:

· Diligence about maintenance sometimes gets thrown out the window, since “Uncle Gabe will take care of it.”

  • When lease terms are violated, tenants always play the friend / family card for sympathy and flexibility, often expecting preferential treatment for repairs or requests.

  • When they want to move out, they usually feel that it is their right to leave whenever they want and have rent pro-rated to the day at best.

Write it down!

If you don't have time for logging every work order, don’t fall asleep at the switch! It may be time to hire Elevation Investment Management to do what we do best, maximizing your income and free time.

You should also log every phone call, email, text or in-person conversation with tenants. When tenant complaints are delivered verbally, respond with written documentation detailing your response.

Keep a record of:

  • Every in-person interaction and be sure to note any volatile or notable behavior.

  • Interactions the resident has with property managers

  • All payments you receive and when.

  • Any complaints from neighboring tenants or others about your tenants.

Watch out for “professional tenants.”

It’s best to avoid these types before they get the keys to your property. We conduct full screenings, legal in Seattle and the other King County areas we practice.

Best practices for screening future applicants include:

  • Conducting a criminal background check if legal.

  • Verifying occupancy history, including evictions or foreclosures

  • Income verification, including an employment history

  • Full credit report

  • Obtain feedback from all references

In addition to the above best practices, the professionals at Elevation Investment Management have twenty years of experience guiding our instincts. Each of us remembers all too well our first professional tenant and what the warning signs are. Seattle’s restrictions and “first in time” laws make setting your rental criteria more important than ever.

Use a Property Manager to Protect Yourself

We at Elevation Investment Management are dedicated to providing you a safe stable income stream. We advertise, market and fill vacant units at market rates with safe, screened tenants. Our job is to protect your investment as well as your time and energy. Call today! 206-201-1180

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