How to teach tenants a lesson legally?

Dear all,
I am also a new landlord and am managing an apartment complex
which bought one month ago, so right now I inherited all old leases and some bad tenants.

There is one tenant who always has rents problem, and fail to
pay me in full. She said she doesn’t have phone installed
so I have drive 40 miles for the rest of the rent. However, everytime, she said she didn’t have any money with her and requested to pay it later with the next month rents.

I am wondering how you guys deal with this. I know I can’t cut off
the electricity or water to make her pay.I don’t want to do anything unprofessional but I really want everybody pay me on time.

If I begin to evict her, it may cost at least 2 months and I don’t
want to wait so long; if I give her a written warning, I don’t think
she would take it seriously.

Do you guys have any idea about how to “whip” the bad tenant legally?

Your thoughts will be highly appreciated!!

thank you!

If you purchased the building outright, it’s my understanding that you aren’t contractually bound by the existing lease. If the seller’s name is still on title, you are bound by the existing lease. Most standard rental agreements allow for a nullification upon transfer of ownership with a 30 day notice; even if not specifically addressed. As the new owner, you are now “GOD” and can rewrite the rules. Contact me offline if you’d like a bulletproof rental agreement.

I’d start eviction…out with the old and in with the new.

Thank you guys for the replies!

I of course want to start evict but is there any other way to get
rid of these dead beats as quick as possible? I don’t believe
they can pay me.

Also, they don’t dump old furnitures in dumpster, instead,
they leave them on ground, and I have to pay $50.00 for a
special trash service. god, These people make me headache.

Be sure to charge them the $50 for the trash removal, I don’t think you are obligated to cover it.

however, I really don’t know who did this.
there are 12 units in the building and I live far away from it.
maybe it is time to call a management company :frowning:

Walk Tall and Carry a Large Stick…the new sheriff’s in town. :wink: I can’t, for the life of me, understand why anyone would want to be a landlord with all the hassle involved. Set the stage now, to make it as turnkey as you possibly can. Use discounted rent for paying on time, set up a PO Box for payments, set payment dates for the 25th so you can cover your nut on the first, use stiff penalties for lates, etc, etc. I use a NNN lease to take these headaches away; Davey likes his sleep too much to worry about a clogged toilet at 4 AM. I also jump for joy when a tenant is late…and take the missus out for lobster on the tenant. Accept no BS from your tenants. ZERO TOLERANCE. This is business, more importantly it’s YOUR business that feeds your family.

Thank you Dave for your reply and the agreement you shared with me!

I tried these means on my tenants and yes, they pay me every month on time from then on and they are nice people.

But to those real bad, they just don’t care, no matter what you say,
they just go" I don’t have money" , and refuse to vacate.
I offer them 50 dollars to vacate, and they refuse too.

Seems eviction is the only choice.

I once had a foreclosure attorney tell me it’d be cheaper to offer the defaulting tenant $1,000 (choose your figure, but $50 ain’t gonna cut it) to be paid on vacating the property in an immaculate, ready-to-move-in condition. Maybe it’d work for your situation.

Lord have mercy. Did you people ALWAYS pay ALL your bills on time?

Late payers are a guarantee in some markets. That’s why they are renters. Hey they are still paying your mortgage.

You can take a postdated or undated check for the balance of the rent and write in the date when they tell you it’s ready. No checking acct??? Can you trust another tenant to forward it? Give them a few bucks for the gas you save. Be creative. Work with them.

Preparing the unit for re-renting and the vacancy may be more costly than keeping a slow payer.

Also, you don’t use legal to ‘punish’ or teach someone. That could backfire. There are notices you can send before legal that may encourage them to pay. You use legal to get them out.

I learned my lesson too. I was going to be a different kind of landlord and not put late fees in my lease. What an idiot huh?

Finally after two years… because of one guy, my new lease has a late fee of 25.00 PLUS 5.00 for each day late thereafter.

Good luck, be creative, please let me know how it turns out.

I have late fee’s in my lease and I dont think I have collected it once in the 4 years Ive had tenants.No they dont pay ontime .No I dont hound them for the fee either.I work with them with the thought that If they cant afford the rent they are not going to be able to afford the late fees.But I do strongly remind them that tehy are in violation of their lease which COULD be grounds for eviction.I’ll let you go this month but lets not make a habbit out of this ;D After a few months they are still late but they are eating out of your hand as you have been doing them a great big favor the last few months ;D


Unfortunately, you’ve already made a HUGH mistake that is going to cost you thousands of dollars over the next year. By not requiring payment on time, you’ve told every tenant in that building that you’re a weak landlord and that they don’t have to follow the lease - including paying you.

I have several apartment buildings and here are some of the rules that I live by:

  1. Have a tight lease. Talk to other apartment building landlords at your REIA - they’ll be happy to give you a copy of their leases. You can NOT force anyone to change a lease that is effect, so you’re stuck with the existing leases until they expire. Once they expire, have all tenants sign your lease.

  2. Enforce every term of the lease. This is absolutely critical in apartment buildings. Once you waiver on lease terms, then the lease isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. For example, if you lease has a no-pet clause and you let dear sweet Mrs. Jones to have a cat, then why can’t Bill Brutus have a pit bull? Once this begins to occur, you’ve lost control of your building.

  3. Make the rent due at 5pm on the 4th. Why the 4th? Because many apartment dwellers get their government checks on the first couple of days of the month. If the check hasn’t arrived by the 4th, it isn’t coming!

  4. Starting at 5:01 pm on the 4th, post eviction notices on the doors (check your state laws) of each tenant that hasn’t paid in full! After the 3-day notice (or whatever is required in your state) has expired, immediately file the eviction with the court. Once you’re filed for eviction, don’t stop it for any reason and definitely do NOT accept any rent.

In Ohio, you can hand the tenant the notice; send it certified mail; or post it on their door. I post it on their door because it sets an example for the other tenants. I’m not only communicating with the non-paying tenant, but with all the tenants in the building. This serves as a deterrent to other tenants.

  1. Never take partial rent payments. This sets a precedent and prevents you from evicting the tenant.

  2. Never take excuses or agree to “work with” the tenants. The rent MUST be paid in full and on-time. Doing anything else is the mark of an amateur and just about guarantees that you are going out of business. Your goal is to get them to pay you FIRST. If you take excuses, they’ll spend their money elsewhere first, and then pay you if anything is left.

  3. Never pay a tenant to move. This is just about the only suggestion in the Carleton Sheets course that I disagree with. Yes, it may work occassionally and get a tenant out expeditiously, but it is suicide in an apartment building. What you’re telling the tenants is that if they don’t pay you, you will pay them extortion to move. At this point, it’s over. You might as well sell your RE business and flip hamburgers at MacDonalds - it’s over.

If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to follow these steps, sell your building NOW! Weak landlords don’t survive for long and the only question is how much money do you want to lose.

Good Luck,


Hey, I’m in Mi. and on occasion tennants do not switch the power into their name. On the lease it is stated that they in fact are obligated to do so. If they don’t, I will forward the bill to them and they most often pay. BUT if they don’t I have in the past ( and it is legal) turned off their power and it took that particular tennant 1 day to move. The other tennant who wasn’t paying witnessed this and paid her bill. So one annoying tennant gone and the other paid. The rest of the tennants in the building all watching knew I meant business. But…you’ll find the good tennants get the power in their name immediately.
Hope this helps.

We can’t turn the power off here so easily. I had that happen to me also. The girl took 3 weeks to do it. She took the place a month before she could move in so she didn’t bother. But because of her, I tell tenants the power transfer order has to be on file with the electric company to be active the day they move in. Then I can check it with the power co before I hand over the keys.

As we speak, I just called the power company and there is no transfer order for the new tenant I am meeting with today… so no keys for her. How sad.


With all due respect you are a well versed and successful individual I have learned from.I understand the necessity for strict enforcement of the lease however sometimes there is a price to pay called vacancy. Ive found that in a duplex or even a fourplex I own I have a 0% vacancy on both since Ive owned them (31/2 yrs) because I work with my tenants and when one has moved they either moved to another one of my properties or had a friend waiting to move in.Sometimes I feel it pays to work with them as opposed to rerenting and advertising and clean up …as long as they are payed in full by the 10th or so.

tenant-landlord laws does avry from state to state.

However, the lease is a legally binding contract and like all contracts can all be prematural ended by means listed in the contracts. Thus, unless this is some special provisions in the leases, the new owner is taking possession of the property subject to those contracts. The leases is really nothing more than an encumburance on the property. It “survives” the transfer of title.

I’m willing bet that many states have tenant protection laws in place to prevent lease changes just becuase a property is sold.

check with someone knowledgeable in your local tenant-landlord laws before attempting to modifiy existing (non-month to month leases)

Too bad a lot of those suggestions woudn’t work in Massachusetts. Lots of laws here protecting the tenant. You can’t charge a late fee or offer a discount for paying the rent on time. Late fees only kick if they’re more than 30 days late.

Self-help evictions are also illegal. That would involve other things like shutting the water off, changing the locks, tossing their stuff out etc.

Really the standard practice here is to have a 14 day notice to quit served. You can do this a day after the rent is due. Then there’s all sorts of dates that need to be kept tract of before you end up in housing court. Hopefully you’ve got a copy of their rental application so you have their SS#'s and can at least file a suit against them in small claims court. That’s why it’s best to have tenants that have a decent credit report, if they care about their credit, they won’t stiff you. If they’ve got bad credit, anything can happen and they won’t care.

This is why some people try to get the building delivered vacant so they can screen their tenants before renting to someone.

And as for the electric and gas, I usually just call the electric company and have it turned off before they move in so I tell them they need to call otherwise the electricity is going to be off when they move in. The electric company doesn’t mind shutting it off if there’s no one there, they could have a problem if there is someone living there as I think they’re not allowed to shut it off on certain classes of people like elderly, sick, handicapped, etc.

Henry in Ma
I think you guys do take the cake for the most tenant freindly state. There is never a shortage of landlord horror stories coming from there.

That’s why I love Ohio! Common sense laws are still the rule and global warming is making us the next Florida! Anyone looking for prime Ohio river lots???


NY and CA are right up there. Every landlord must have a clear understanding of the eviction/foreclosure laws; regardless of their state. I would think knowing the laws would be a given???