Getting Rid of a Tenant: When is the best time?

You may have seen in the news recently the story about Laurie Veatch and her nightmare tenants that have cost her thousands of dollars and many sleepless nights. In case you didn't get a chance to see it here is the link:

Vt. landlord says she survived rental nightmare

The treatment Mrs. Veatch endured is exactly why it is so important to know the tenant-landlord laws inside and out, and have well-functioning systems in place to address and handle any scenario.

While Veatch had hired the services of a property manager, those property managers should have been used from the very beginning. There is an old saying in property management that says, "The best time to get rid of a problem tenant is BEFORE they move in." If you read the article on Laurie Veatch and her nightmare tenants then you know tenant-landlord laws are very much in favor of the tenant. Because these laws favor the tenants it can make getting a problem tenant out extremely difficult and sometimes almost impossible.

This whole situation could have been avoided if some due diligence was performed by the landlord/property manager. This scenario is exactly why it is so important to screen your tenants. A good property manager has the ability to check a tenant's credit report. This report can be used to determine how responsible a tenant is about paying his or her bills. A low credit score reflects a poor bill payment history, while a high score represents a strong payment history. In the case of Laurie Veatch, the nightmare tenants had a significant eviction history with at least 6 evictions in the Burlington area since 2001. If you hire the services of a strong property manager, they will have the ability to not only pull an applicant’s credit report, but they will also be able to do a full eviction and rent payment history search - in which case those six prior evictions would have come up and their rental applications would have been denied!

Another problem in this story involves the funds the landlord collected upfront. The landlord/property manager should require all tenants to be able to pay first month’s rent and security deposit at lease signing. This will help to determine that the tenant is financially stable and is capable of handling their money wisely. If a tenant cannot present you with at least first month’s rent and a security deposit at lease signing, do you really think they will be able to pay their rent on time?

What it comes down to is this: if you are currently a landlord or you are thinking of becoming one, make sure you have at least a general understanding of tenant-landlord laws. There is a great resource titled "Renting in Vermont" which breaks down the whole process from finding and screening tenants to collecting rent to managing move ins, move outs, and evictions.

Once you know these laws and have a good understanding of what you as a landlord can legally do, then you must develop a system to handle and record your income and expenses, maintenance issues, contractor payments, vendor payments, contractor 1099s, vendor 1099s, and your taxes at the end of the year.

If all of this overwhelms you, or you don't feel comfortable handling these landlord responsibilities, make sure you seek out the help of a qualified property manager.