In an ideal world, disputes between landlords and tenants would be exceedingly rare. Tenants would pay their rent on time and mind the terms of their lease. At the same time, landlords would stay up to date on local property laws and never fall behind on maintenance. Unfortunately, these issues are more common than either landlords or tenants would like. But what are the most common disputes between landlords and their tenants–and how can landlords avoid them entirely?
Maintenance and Repair Disputes
If a tenant has a maintenance request you haven’t filled in a timely matter, that can cause some understandable friction. As a landlord, you must ensure that your tenants’ rental is safe and liveable. Oregon law allows seven days for essential repairs and 30 days for nonessential ones. However, waiting this long to make such repairs might strain your tenant’s patience.
How to avoid them: One of the best ways to avoid disputes around belated maintenance requests is by conducting regular maintenance throughout the year. (Or provide your tenants with guidance on how to do it themselves). For issues that arise unexpectedly, having partnerships with quality contractors makes it faster and easier to complete crucial repairs promptly.
One of the most concerning issues for a landlord is the prospect of a tenant damaging the property. After all, this property is your livelihood. If a tenant seriously damages it, you could end up with more repair costs than the security deposit will cover. In that event, you face the annoying and uncertain process of taking your tenant to small claims court. No one wants that.
How to avoid them: Unfortunately, if a malicious renter damages your property willingly, there’s not much you can do to prevent it. However, cases such as these are rare, and for the most part, any property damage will likely be accidental. The first step to avoiding damage disputes is specifying prohibited behavior in your lease. From there, lay out clear provisions for the fees a tenant may incur if they cause damage. By ensuring your tenant is aware of behaviors that may cause damage and therefore cost them money, they’re more likely to avoid them in the first place. Specifying fees upfront also makes it clear what tenants should expect in cases of a damage dispute.
Disputes Over Security Deposits
When the time comes for your tenant to move out, they no doubt hope to get as much of their security deposit back as possible. If they don’t receive as much of it as expected, that can cause a dispute. However, sometimes you must withhold some of the deposit to cover damage done by a tenant during their residency.
How to avoid them: Firstly, as mentioned in many of these other sections, it helps to lay out clear terms in your lease about what you will withhold a security deposit for. Specify the type of damage you will not charge your tenants for, such as small nail holes, compared to wall dents or other harm that warrants withholding some of their deposit. Before your tenants even move in, document the condition of your rental in pictures so you can prove any damage the tenants caused. Lastly, you must legally present your tenants with an itemized receipt of the charges you deduct from their deposit.
Pets can be a contentious issue between landlords and tenants. Understandably, some landlords are nervous about an animal causing damage to their property. Some unscrupulous tenants might sneak an animal into the unit rather than pay a pet fee or rent. This can lead to damage disputes, rising tensions, and even cause for eviction.
How to avoid it: Lay out clear pet rules in your lease. If you don’t allow pets, be upfront about that in your property’s listing before your renters even sign their lease. If you allow pets, an additional pet deposit or rent can help ease your mind about the potential damage an animal might cause to your property.
Nonpayment of Rent
This is one of the most severe issues a landlord will face. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered new legislation around nonpayment of rent that may have muddied the waters regarding what rights a landlord has when tenants fall behind on rent. Though many of these provisions are no longer active, the confusion remains.
How to avoid them: Make it as easy as possible for tenants to pay rent on time. Use an online portal that allows automatic payments so your tenants never have to worry about forgetting. If your tenants have experienced a life event and are struggling to make ends meet, you might set a plan for how they’ll pay back the rent they owe. Keeping an open channel and being willing to be flexible (within reason) can avoid escalating the situation. Still, in some cases, if your tenants refuse to pay their rent, the only course of action may be to pursue eviction.
The Best Way to Avoid All Tenant Disputes?
When it comes to avoiding tenant disputes entirely, communication is vital. Though it can’t prevent issues from arising in the first place, having a clear channel of communication between yourself and your tenants can deescalate many issues before they have a chance to become more serious. By establishing a positive relationship with your renters, you encourage them to come to you with their concerns before they become more serious. When you’re helping to make your tenants’ experience positive, they may be more likely to work with you to avoid conflict.
Unfortunately, avoiding disputes between landlords and tenants is not always possible. Sometimes you get unlucky with a tenant who willfully violates their lease or damages your property; other times, you might make an error that causes a dispute to arise. Working with a property management company might be the answer if you’re stressed about communicating with your tenants and staying on top of their disputes.
At Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew, we do everything we can to ensure your tenants have a fantastic renting experience. From our 48-hour maintenance guarantee to our easy-to-use tenant portal, we work hard to keep your tenants happy–and handle all the details if any dispute arises. If you’d like to hear more about our service package, call or text us at (503) 515-3170 or fill out the contact form on our website at any time.