Dealing with troublesome tenants
Most tenants are reliable, but if you’re a property investor, chances are you’ll encounter at least one bad renter. From failing to pay rent through to causing damage or conducting criminal activity, these tenants can harm your return on investment.
It can be stressful when things go wrong, but try to stay calm and professional, get familiar with the relevant legislation and address the problem promptly and proactively.
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Late rent payments are common, and it’s important to get on top of this issue quickly. You (or your property manager) may wish to call or email the tenant the day after rent was due.
If payment is still not received, you’ll need to issue a breach notice after the tenant has been in arrears for the number of days prescribed by the residential tenancy laws in the relevant state or territory.
Handy Hint: Get to know the Residential Tenancies Act for your state
Whether it’s a late rent payment or another concern such as noise complaints, try to resolve the issue by communicating with the tenant either directly or through your property manager. If this doesn’t work, and the tenant has breached the tenancy agreement, you’ll need to issue a breach notice.
Handy Hint: Some examples of the these notices to remedy breach are located below
Evicting tenants is a situation all landlords dread, but unfortunately it’s sometimes necessary. If you’ve issued a breach notice but the breach isn’t fixed in the given time frame, the next step is to issue a notice of termination.
However, you can’t just go to the property and kick them out – you’ll need to follow the correct process. Note that the legislation (Residential Tenancies Act or equivalent) varies by state and territory.
Generally, a landlord must provide a tenant with a written 14-day termination notice – although there are some exceptions to this rule in the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).
The notice, which must be signed by the landlord, must specify the address, the date on which the property must be vacated, and the grounds for termination.
Where a breach of agreement is solely for rent arrears, the landlord can issue a non-payment termination notice. However, a tenant is not required to vacate if they pay all the rent owed or comply with an agreed repayment plan.
Should the tenant not vacate by the date specified in the notice, the landlord can apply to the tribunal for a termination order. A termination order ends the tenancy and specifies the date on which the tenant must vacate the property.
If the tribunal makes a termination order, it will specify the date on which the property must be vacated.
If the tenant does not vacate by the specified date, the landlord can get a warrant for possession from the tribunal. This warrant enables sheriff’s officer to remove a tenant from the property.
To terminate a tenancy it is necessary for a landlord to make an application to a rental officer for an order requiring the tenant to leave. It is also possible to apply for an eviction order. These applications can be made together or at different times.
If an eviction order is made, the rental officer serves the tenant with the order. Once service is confirmed, an affidavit of service is prepared.
If the tenant does not then vacate the property, the landlord has six months to file the order with the Supreme Court to get a writ of possession. The landlord also has to file an affidavit of service of the eviction order on the tenant and an affidavit stating that the eviction order has not been obeyed.
Once filed, the writ of possession is provided to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff will then take steps to carry out the eviction and gain possession of the property for the landlord.
When ending a tenancy a landlord has to issue a notice to leave. The notice must be on the correct form and state the grounds it is issued on. It must also specify the date by which the tenant has to vacate the property and give the required amount of notice.
If the tenant does not vacate the property by the date specified, the landlord can apply to the tribunal for a termination order and a warrant of possession to remove the tenant from the property.
Landlords must apply to the tribunal within two weeks of the handover day. When such an application is made, the tribunal will send the tenant notice of the hearing and a copy of the application.
If the tribunal makes a termination order, it will also issue a warrant of possession which authorises the police to remove the tenant from the property.
The warrant is sent to the police and must come into effect within three days of being issued. It is effective for 14 days and can be enforced at any time during this period, unless otherwise ordered by the tribunal.
The police then contact the tenant and tell them on what date they will enforce the warrant.
Where a tenant has breached the tenancy agreement a landlord should issue them with a written notice to remedy the breach or leave the property. The landlord must give the notice to the tenant and keep a copy for their records.
The tenant has seven days to remedy the breach. If the notice is due to rent arrears the tenant has one further day to leave the property. If the notice is for any other reason, the tenant has another seven days to leave.
The notice should clearly state what the breach is and how it can be remedied, give the required number of days’ notice, and include the phrase “and all other occupants” after the tenant’s name.
If the tenant does not comply with the notice and refuses to leave the property, a landlord should then apply to the tribunal to have them evicted.
To do this, it is necessary to complete an application form which includes a request for vacant possession. This application – along with supporting documentation (ie copy of the lease agreement, rent records or any written notices) – then has to be lodged with the tribunal.
A tenant can only be evicted at the order of the tribunal, and only a bailiff enforcing a tribunal order can evict a tenant.
To evict a tenant it is necessary to issue them with a notice to vacate either 14 or 28 days before an eviction date.
The notice to vacate must include the date of serving the notice, the names of the tenant(s) and landlord, the property address, detailed reason(s) for why the notice is being issued, and the date on which the notice takes effect.
If the tenant does not vacate the property after receiving the notice, the landlord has to apply to the Magistrates’ Court to obtain an order for possession. When this occurs, the owner must serve the tenant with a copy of the application on the same day as they apply for the order.
The court will enforce a date for vacant possession of the premises. A representative of the court will then take possession of the property on behalf of the landlord.
Landlords have to begin the process of terminating a tenancy by serving a valid notice to vacate.
The notice must be sent by registered post or hand delivered; be addressed to the tenant(s); give a specific reason for the notice to vacate; be signed by the landlord; and give a date for the tenant to leave.
If the tenant does not vacate the property by the end of the required date, the landlord has 30 days to apply to the tribunal for an order of possession. This instructs the tenant to vacate, gives a specified date for vacating the property, and warns that if the instruction is not observed the tenant might be removed.
The order of possession also allows the landlord to obtain a warrant of possession, if necessary. This directs the police to evict the tenant from the property if they have not left by the date instructed.
When evicting a tenant, a landlord has to issue a formal Notice of a Tenancy Agreement Breach. The notice, which must detail the breach, gives the tenant 14 days to rectify the breach.
Should the tenant not rectify the breach in that time, the landlord can issue a notice of termination. This gives the tenant a further seven days, after the notice is received, to vacate the property.
If the tenant does not vacate the property, the landlord has 30 days to apply for an order for possession from the Magistrates’ Court.
If the tenant remains in the property after this process, the landlord can apply for a property seizure and delivery order. A court-appointed bailiff will then remove the tenant from the property on behalf of the landlord.
Here are some tips for ensuring a smooth ride:
- If you’re not an experienced investor, consider finding a good property manager.
- Consider landlord insurance. Your Naritas credit adviser can refer you to a specialist to assist with your insurance needs. Alternatively, online insurers like Youi provide the ability to easily get cover in a few clicks.
- If you’ve decided to self manage your property, it’s a good idea to follow a rigorous tenant-application process along with background checks.
- Communicate regularly with tenants to stay on top of maintenance issues and resolve potential problems before they arise.
- Conduct inspections on a regular basis (check local legislation for guidance on how often you can inspect).