Real Estate Tips |8 min read

Bad Tenants: How to Solve 7 Worst Landlord-Tenant Disputes

Bad tenants happen to the best of us as landlords and property managers. Landlord-tenant disputes over late rent, criminal activity, property damage, and other pains can seem impossible to navigate. However, there’s no need to worry. Below, we have solutions to help you solve your problems and maintain your ROI.

Main Takeaways

  • You can stop landlord-tenant disputes in their tracks by crafting airtight lease terms, ones that set clear, explicit boundaries for your tenants. Furthermore, you can give written notices when violations occur. In certain cases, like criminal tenants or evictions, you should even involve law enforcement.

How to Solve 7 Worst Landlord-Tenant Disputes

As Northern Virginia property managers, we too have had bad tenants for our clients. Ones who add headaches and hours of stress to our days. But whether you work with a professional property manager, or are trying to handle things alone, here are a few ways to deal with the 7 worst- landlord-tenant disputes.

Late Rent

Getting bad tenants to cough up the money can feel like pulling teeth. However, there are actions you can take to push them in the right direction.

Clear, Explicit Policies

To get ahead of any thorny landlord-tenant disputes that might ensue, put your foot down. Implement concrete policies that have no wiggle room for debate or misinterpretation. This way, all your bad tenants will have consistent consequences laid out for them if they miss rent.

Automatic Rent Reminders and Payment

You could implement automatic rent reminders. By doing this, you can provide the memory jolt that otherwise forgetful tenants need. Even better, you could arrange for automatic payments, so that all parties don’t even have to give payments a second thought in the first place.

Late Rent Fees

If you create a late rent fee policy in your lease terms, it gives bad tenants real consequences that directly hit their wallets. Of course, each area has different laws regarding late fees, so be sure to investigate these.

All in all, the minute late payments come into the picture, you need to lay down the groundwork that such behavior is not acceptable or tolerated. If you give bad tenants an inch, they will take a mile. Don’t let them take advantage of your generosity.

Property Damage

There is always going to be that one tenant who neglects your property. We all know and hate this tenant—the tenant who leaves marks on the floor and breaks your appliances with abandon.

Rental Inspections and Documentation

This is where rental inspections come into play. In particular, you should do move-in, move-out, and biannual inspections. Inspections offer you the opportunity to take many protective measures, like photos, videos, checklists, and documented notes. This way, you can document your bad tenants’ impact on your property, both visually and in writing.

Concrete documentation protects you from landlord-tenant disputes in interpreting a property’s condition.

For example, you don’t have to squabble over whether a window is truly broken or not, or about exactly when that window broke. No matter what either of you believes, your documentation will settle the score with objective answers. More critically, if you need to escalate landlord-tenant disputes in court, you may need positive proof to win over a jury.

Firm Lease Terms

Furthermore, you should have firm, legally compliant lease terms for punishing tenants who misuse your property. These should be extremely detailed. You should outline all relevant prohibited actions and their consequences to prevent loopholes.

Also, actions should have consequences. In your lease terms, you could set penalty fees for damage-causing tenants and have them pay for repairs. You could even stipulate that tenants must leave if the damage gets bad enough.

Notice to Quit

In addition, you can deliver to them a formal written request to stop. In legalese, this is a court-recognized “notice to quit.”

Hopefully, these precautions will do the trick. Just in case, though, you might want to have insurance ready if things get out of hand.

Criminal Behavior 

If bad tenants break the lease, that’s under your jurisdiction. However, if they’re outright breaking the law, it’s a little trickier.

After all, you’re not the police, so you don’t have the authority to boot tenants out for criminal actions without due process. However, you still are liable for their behavior. As such, you must do something so that you’re not on the hook for their mistakes.

First off, you could include a clause in your lease terms that promises eviction for illegal tenant actions. If it’s too late for that, and the criminal activity doesn’t pose an immediate danger to anyone, you should consult a lawyer. If it does, law enforcement should step in.

Cooperating with each resource is necessary to ensure you respond to these landlord-tenant disputes in a legally compliant way. Even outside of that, having their back makes it multitudes safer to deal with the more dangerous criminals.

This is another area where inspections could be exceptionally useful. You can use them as an opportunity to see if anything rings alarm bells.

Subletting Issues

Subletting is yet another complex issue. On a legal level, the legality of subletting differs based on your local laws.

If subletting is illegal in your area, then this matter is relatively straightforward. It’s a legal problem, so legal entities can sort out this issue for you. In that vein, you would benefit from contacting a lawyer to intervene.

Unfortunately, if subletting is legal in your location, then you may be banned from stopping it. Other places may allow you to prohibit it through your lease terms. In these cases, it’s on you to create and enforce your own subletting policies. Or, you can hire a property manager to uphold the enforcement of lease terms for you.

Generally, it’s a bad idea to let your tenant sublet tenants of their own because you can’t vet these new residents yourself. We don’t recommend it.

Unwanted Pets

Luckily, you can ultimately set the lease terms when it comes to pets. If bad tenants fail to follow these restrictions, that could be the basis for eviction.

If you do happen to allow pets, you should set detailed pet policies and procedures for what the pet is and is not allowed to do on your premises. If the pet causes property damage, you can place a fee on their owner.

Bad Tenants Who Refuse to Move Out

If you face bad tenants who refuse to move out after the lease ends—also known as squatters—there are a few things you can do. In many states, squatting is grounds for eviction. In any case, you legally cannot attempt to remove the squatter yourself. Instead, you should call law enforcement for their help.

Then, various states have different laws on your next steps. They will decree when and if you next must send a written notice to leave or file a court case.


While evictions are a solution, they also bring along many possible problems. This is a complex legal process that varies location by location.

In general, you need to document anything and everything the bad tenants have done as proof of lease violation. Then, you can start with a written notice to vacate or to correct the violation. If this doesn’t work, you can escalate landlord-tenant disputes in court and file a formal eviction case. The courts will take it from there.

Let BMG Take Bad Tenants Off Your Hands

You can stop landlord-tenant disputes in their tracks by crafting airtight lease terms, ones that set clear, explicit boundaries for your tenants. Furthermore, you can give written notices when violations occur. In certain cases, like criminal tenants or evictions, you can even involve law enforcement.

All these actions set a precedent, laying down the groundwork if you end up escalating landlord-tenant disputes in court.

While these tips can reduce your risks, they still don’t erase the fact that landlord-tenant disputes are an incredibly fraught, complex, delicate problem that can easily become a disaster. On the milder end of the spectrum, you could lose a source of cash flow and face a hit to your personal brand’s reputation.

In other cases, however, your tenants could become aggressive and possibly violent. Or, you could get sued. After all, landlord-tenant law is so notoriously strict and multi-layered that it’s easy to accidentally violate it. Misinterpreting one word could get you in hot water. All in all, there is endless potential for things to go disastrously wrong.

Professional, specialized property managers are well-versed in landlord-tenant disputes and laws. This way, they can properly follow all necessary protocols. Not only that – they can enforce your lease, connect with law enforcement, handle evictions, and even represent you in court so you can minimize your involvement. What’s more, they can do tenant screening to prevent problem tenants from coming to you in the first place.

In essence, property managers act as your own personal mediators. Contact us today to protect your legal standing, your safety, and your business.

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