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Dealing with tenants who don't follow the rules

Owning rental properties has its benefits. You have a passive form of income, a stable investment and the opportunity to meet people from many walks of life. If you are skilled at repairs and renovations, you may enjoy the challenges that arise daily when your tenants have issues with their units or the appliances within.

Perhaps the most common drawback of being a landlord is dealing with problem tenants. Even a thorough screening process, which is critical to have in place, cannot always protect you from tenants who cause you grief. You may have questions about what to expect in this situation and the steps you can legally take to deal with it.

Problem tenants

Tenants may look ideal on paper, and their background checks may indicate nothing to worry about. However, you never really know a person until you spend time with him or her, and your tenants are no different. Some of the most common issues with renters you may face as a landlord include the following:

  • Tenants who are frequently late or cannot pay the full rent on time: You can minimize this by having a non-negotiable payment policy in place, including late fees and warnings leading to eviction.
  • Renters who damage or make changes to a unit without permission: Taking before and after photos of a unit is essential, and requiring written permission for improvements can provide legal support.
  • Tenants who have frequent guests: Your rental agreement should have specific language about subletting or having long-term guests not listed on the lease.
  • Complainers who make constant requests: You may find these renters monopolizing a significant amount of your time with trivial repairs.
  • Pet owners: Your lease can include penalties for damage a tenant's pet causes or consequences if a tenant keeps pets despite your prohibition.
  • Tenants who break the law: You would be wise to seek the advice of a legal professional when dealing with tenants who use your building for illegal purposes, such as selling drugs, growing marijuana or other actions.

Any of the above problems can make your rental property difficult to manage. You may lose valuable tenants or be unable to attract quality renters if you have loud, unruly tenants or if the police are stopping by several times a week. Nevertheless, the Wisconsin eviction process favors the tenants, so you want to be careful to follow the procedure carefully and have as much documentation as possible.

You will never want to drive out a problem tenant by doing things such as shutting off the water or changing the locks. Additionally, without taking the proper steps, it is illegal for you to enter a tenant's unit and remove his or her belongings, even if the tenant hasn't paid rent in months. However, you do want to protect your property and your other tenants. Obtaining legal counsel can provide you with the information and support you need to safeguard your interests.

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