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When is it time to get rid of a tenant?

Sometimes the answer is easy. They haven't paid the rent and have no intention of paying it. You evict them. They are trashing the property. You evict them. They are selling drugs out of the unit. You evict them.

Other times the answer is not so easy. They are late with the rent often, but you always get it. You have to talk to them or send them notices every so often about rule violations or noise. They are rude and obnoxious to other tenants or neighbors. They make constant, ridiculous demands of you. It's harder to decide if you should make them live somewhere else.

A lot of the decision depends on the rental market. If you have a booming market where you know that when you put up a for-rent sign you will get half a dozen qualified applicants, you will probably just send this annoying tenant on his or her way with proper legal notice.

On the other hand, if you had to wait four months before you got even a marginally qualified applicant the last time you had a vacancy, you will probably grit your teeth and try to make the best of a bad situation, working with the tenant to try to get him or her to be a good citizen.

Chances are your rental market is somewhere in the middle. With that in mind you have to decide if this one is worth keeping or is one you want to throw back.

The most important thing to remember in dealing with tenants with whom you are having a problem is to stay in control of the situation. Before you deal with the recalcitrant tenant, work out a plan of action to get him or her to either shape up or find another place to live. If you are not in control, your tenant will be.

Decide what you want to happen. Set a goal for the situation. You might successfully say, "if the tenant agrees to and successfully abides by the rules for two months, I will let him stay." you might say, "if I get the rent on time for the next three months, I won't find another renter." you may or may not want to communicate that to your problem tenant; it depends on his or her personality, and other factors.

The next thing you want to do is the cost/ benefit analysis of either keeping the tenant or getting rid of him.

First, figure about how much it will cost you to get rid of this one and get another one. Figure in the cost of the vacancy, the cost of clean up and fix up, the cost of advertising, etc. Second, figure our how much it is costing you to keep this one living in your property. Are you losing good tenants because of this tenant's behavior, figure the cost of re-renting those units. Is there other damage that you need to repair because of the tenant in question? How much is your irritation and worry worth? That's hard to put a value on, but how much better would things be if a marginal tenant wasn't living there?

Put the figures side by side. If getting a new tenant for the unit is cheaper overall than keeping this one, your question is answered. If it's a wash, you have to decide how tired you are of this irritating renter.

These decisions are just part of the fun of being a landlord. One consolation, though, when you're through with this problem, you will have learned how not to make the same mistakes again.

Robert Cain is a nationally-recognized speaker and writer on property management and real estate issues. For a free sample copy of the Rental Property Reporter call 800-654-5456 or visit their website at

Reprinted with permission. 1999 Cain Publications.

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