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How to deal with a problem tenant

Becoming a landlord seemed like a good way to create a lasting source of income. Whether you are managing one property or multiple properties, you want to make sure to protect your investment. Now you have found yourself in a situation with a problem tenant. You just need to know your options.

If your tenant is behaving irresponsibly at your property, your first inclination might be toward eviction. However, evicting a tenant means a trip to court, which could mean a drawn-out process with legal fees. You must also have good cause to evict a tenant. It might be in your best interests to try to work it out with the tenant first.

Mediation with a tenant

One way to resolve conflicts with tenant is hiring a mediator. A mediator is a neutral party who facilitates a legally binding solution that is beneficial to both parties. The mediation can take place face-to-face, by video chat or over the phone. You can do it in one sitting or over a series of conversations, depending on your preference.

The benefit of using a mediator is that it may keep you out of court, which will save time and money. If a mediation works, you will sign a resolution agreement at the end of the process. This agreement works as an amendment to the lease. However, not all matters can be resolved through mediation, and it is possible that your tenant will not follow rules of agreement.

Pursuing eviction of a tenant

If the tenant fails to follow the resolution agreement, or you decide against mediation, you might want to pursue eviction. To evict a tenant, you must first have good cause to do so.

Here are some reasons you can pursue eviction for a non-complying tenant.

  • Not paying rent
  • Health and safety violations
  • Tenant refuses to accept changes to the lease
  • Illegal activity, like drug convictions or assaulting you the landlord or other employees
  • Convictions for theft
  • Failing to leave the premises after the lease expires
  • Violating the lease contract
  • Damage to the property severe enough that it significantly decreases property value

According to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, in most instances, you must provide written notice detailing the reason for eviction, and stating that the tenant must vacate the premises. This is called a "Notice to Quit." The length of notice varies depending on the type of violation. For example, for health and safety violations, you must give the tenant a 90-day notice. Whether or not the tenant has paid rent, you still need to go to court to file a lawsuit for eviction.

To start the proceedings, you file a complaint with your county's Office of the Special Civil Part Clerk. Then you need to start preparing for trial with an attorney.

Some things you should not do while you are preparing for trial is change the locks or turn off the tenant's electricity. These actions are illegal and could hurt your case.

Whether you decide to pursue a mediation, another form of compromise or pursue an eviction, you have the right to protect your rental property from a problem tenant.

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