Anyone who owns rental property, be it commercial or residential, at some point ends up having to deal with what we call the “nightmare tenant.” Nightmare tenants create a bunch of code issues and then call the city to have you cited for those issues. They ignore the lease and get a Rottweiler. They allow their cousin to move in and deal drugs from the back door. You discover this when the police destroy your front door to make an arrest – and they later have you cited for not repairing the door. Nightmare tenants find an issue with your lease or your property and unilaterally decide they do not have to pay rent anymore.
On the commercial side, nightmare tenants immediately fall into arrears – and they refuse to communicate. They make alterations that were not approved. They use space that was not included in the lease. Nightmare tenants are no longer cooperative with you, and are intent on fighting you in whatever you try to achieve. They will obstruct your caretaker or manager, and they will try to get other tenants to align against you. You need to get rid of them - IMMEDIATELY.
Unfortunately, all too often, those same tenants seem to find a welcoming audience in the judges and referees who are appointed by the courts to handle landlord and tenant issues. Time and time again, we have seen nightmare tenants avoid an immediate eviction by playing on the sympathies of the court or based on a technicality in your lease. Moreover, nightmare tenants have often been through the courts before, so they are often more familiar with the game than their landlords.
As a landlord dealing with a nightmare tenant, you need to assess the situation and be proactive. If there are code issues or other lease compliance issues involved, you need to take care of them right away. If your tenant is obstructing you, you need to document your efforts so you have a record of the obstruction when you go to court. If the tenant is verbally abusive or better yet, writes abusive emails or texts, you need to keep those records.
Nightmare tenants themselves are usually incapable of following the terms of your lease. You need to look carefully at their situation and if they are not in strict compliance with your lease, you need to put it in writing and let them know that eviction will be the penalty for non-compliance. You need to be cognizant of laws that prohibit retaliation and/or discrimination.
When you go to court to evict them, you have to know your lease, and you need to put every single pending lease violation in the Complaint to ensure they cannot reinstate the lease simply by paying the balance of rent owed. If the tenant has done something really stupid, make sure the judge can read about that in your Complaint so he or she knows they are dealing with a nightmare tenant. In court, you have to be prepared for the issues that will concern the judge. Did you properly serve the occupants with the eviction summons? Do you have a “non waiver” provision in your lease if you accepted any kind of partial payment in anticipation of a later full payment? Do you have a rental license if required? Did you give your tenant a copy of the lease if required? Etc.
Nightmare tenants can make life miserable and it can seem like you are powerless at times. At Hance Law Firm, we have never lost an eviction case to the nightmare tenant and we do not intend to. We are happy to provide a free initial consultation regarding your landlord/tenant issue and we find that even the initial consult often dramatically reduces your uncertainty when dealing with the nightmare tenant.
Hance Law Firm is located in Downtown Wayzata and serves clients throughout Minneapolis, St. Paul and the Greater Twin Cities area.
We invite you to comment on this blog, and tell us about any similar instances you may have experienced.