Solving the Problem Tenant Scenario

Solving the Problem Tenant Scenario
Overgrown Lawn

In a problem tenant scenario, tenants who have shown unwillingness to follow the rules and terms of the lease should be viewed with strict scrutiny, meaning that “excuses” given by the tenant for not being able to comply with the lease should not be assumed true or as a legitimate reason.

Tenants who have demonstrated a good track record for complying with the lease, paying rent, caring for the property, and treating us with due consideration should be considered for an arrangement to resolve a problem, as long as the tenant meets reasonable conditions. Failure to meet those conditions should preclude the tenant from special arrangements.

Types of Problem Tenants

Understanding the types of problem tenants can help landlords manage their properties more effectively and mitigate potential issues.

Failure to Pay Rent

The following are guidelines in consideration of whether or not to make an arrangement with a tenant for late payment of rent or not. If you choose to allow a tenant to explain an undue hardship, you should require the tenant to:

  • present credible and substantial evidence to prove the claim that their failure to pay rent was not due to their own negligence, was unexpected/sudden, and was unavoidable. 
  • Require the tenant to provide relevant documentation (when appropriate).
  • show the ability to make the current payment by a required date and the ability to pay the upcoming payment timely.

Violations of the Lease

Managing lease violations is a critical aspect of maintaining a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship and ensuring the integrity of the rental property. This section explores common lease violations, distinguishes between curable and non-curable violations, and outlines the appropriate notices and actions landlords should take in response to each type of violation.

Examples of common violations are as follows:

  • unauthorized pets
  • unauthorized occupants
  • failure to keep lawn to standards
  • vehicles parked on the grass/unauthorized areas 

Violations must never be overlooked. Notice and demand must be given to the tenant.

Types of Violations and Notices

There are two types of violations: (1) curable and (2) non-curable. Non-curable violations should be treated formally always and from the beginning. Non-curable violations mostly include intentional destruction of property or injury to person. Curable violations should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. 

Once a 7 day notice to cure has been given, second or subsequent violation within 12 months is deemed a “non-curable” violation, and a 7 day notice to terminate can be delivered. 

Curable violations are potentially less serious (e.g. remove a pet, cut the grass, etc.), and may be dealt in two ways: 

  • informal notice of violation and demand to cure, and 
  • formal 7 day notice to cure. 

Informal notice can be given to the tenant if the violation is “minor” and curable, meaning, it is easily curable and not likely to cause damage or liability to anyone. The informal notice can be an email notifying the tenant of the violation with a short time to cure the violation. 

Formal notice should be given when the violation is non-curable, serious or continual in nature and when the tenant did not cure the violation when informal notice was sent.

Effectively addressing lease violations is essential for maintaining a well-managed rental property. By promptly identifying and categorizing violations as curable or non-curable, landlords can take the appropriate steps to remedy the situation and uphold the terms of the lease agreement. Clear communication through informal and formal notices ensures that tenants understand their responsibilities, contributing to a smoother landlord-tenant relationship and a property that remains in good condition.

Procedures for Handling Failure to Pay Rent

Informal Notice

Soon after the late fee date, email the past-due tenant of the past-due rent, but for tenants with a history of problems, you should immediately deliver to that tenant 3 Day Notice to Pay or Vacate

3 Day Notice to Pay

One day after the date that you email an informal notice, for all past-due tenants, email three (3) notice to pay or vacate

  • If the tenant pays in full rent within 3 days, no further action is required, and you must accept the full payment if it is within the 3 day notice period.
  • If tenant does not pay in full, proceed to next step
    • PARTIAL PAYMENT ATTEMPT? If a tenant attempts to make partial payment during a 3 day period, do NOT accept partial payment if you know that you want to evict that tenant. 
    • ACCEPTED PARTIAL PAYMENT? If you accept of partial rent, you must either deliver a new 3 Day Notice to Pay or provide the tenant with a receipt stating the date and amount received and the agreed upon date and balance of rent due before filing an action for possession, pursuant to F.S. 83.56(5)(a).

Risk Level Assessment of Problem Tenant

When a tenant poses problems during the tenancy, you should assess the risk level of the tenant to determine whether you want to evict or make an offer of settlement with the tenant. 

Relevant factors could include:

  • History of late rent
  • Maintenance problems
  • History of lease/law violations
  • Illegitimate complaints from tenant
  • Ease to work with tenant
  • Extraordinary circumstances

Assessing the risk level of a problem tenant is crucial for landlords to make informed decisions about eviction or settlement offers. By considering factors such as the tenant’s history of late rent, maintenance issues, lease violations, and overall ease of working with them, landlords can determine the best course of action to protect their property and maintain positive landlord-tenant relationships.

Settlement Attempt 

If the tenant “qualifies” for an offer of settlement, your attempts could include:

  • Tenant must make tenant application for settlement agreement (to discover tenant’s current financial and other situations)
  • Prepare terms of settlement and get approval from your attorney
    • Tenant must sign an updated lease agreement (if Tenant is not already on one)
    • Settlement payment schedule to be prepared, including
      • Past due payments
      • Other fees to compensate us for our time and inconvenience 
      • Other conditions
      • e.g. property to be brought to good standards
      • Remove any other lease violations

Attempting a settlement with a qualified tenant involves a structured approach, including assessing their current financial and situational status, drafting settlement terms with legal approval, updating lease agreements if necessary, and outlining a payment schedule. This proactive approach not only addresses past due payments and fees but also aims to restore the property to acceptable standards while resolving any outstanding lease violations.

Other Lease Violations of a Problem Tenant

Notice to Cure

If a tenant does not cure as required in an informal notice (e.g. email), deliver a written seven (7) day notice to cure (note: for any notice emailed, you must add 5 days to the notice period to ensure compliance with the Florida Mailbox Rule). 

  • If tenant timely cured default, no further action needed
  • If tenant did not cure, proceed to next step

Evicting a Problem Tenant

Is the tenant one that you KNOW we want to evict? If so, begin eviction proceedings.

If the tenant is not one that you KNOW you want to evict, did the tenant make good faith, substantial attempts to cure, but still not in full compliance? 

  • If so, soon after the expiration of the 7 day notice, inspect the premises to ensure compliance and make sure no other violations are occurring on the premises
  • If tenant in total compliance, no further action needed
  • If tenant not in total compliance, go to next step

Risk Assessment (see above) 

Settlement Offer (see above)

Addressing the problem tenant scenario requires a systematic approach, from assessing their risk level to determining whether eviction or settlement offers are the appropriate course of action. By carefully considering factors such as past rental history, maintenance issues, and lease violations, landlords can navigate these challenges effectively, protecting their property while striving to maintain positive landlord-tenant relationships.

Property Management Law Solutions, LLC is a Florida law firm that specializes in landlord-tenant law and is a landlord-only law firm. We provide statewide services including evictions, consultation plans, education and training, membership plans, lease agreement plans and more. If you are a landlord or property manager, contact us today or subscribe to one of our online membership plans.