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Dealing with a ‘professional’ tenant

Q: Six months ago I decided to manage my own property after years of substandard service by my property manager – and so far so good, until I leased my property to someone who seemed to know every tenancy rule in the book. They began by making unnecessary demands such as to install new blinds, reposition the power sockets, and so on, when no repairs were required. He has consistently quoted the Fair Trading rules regarding his rights as a tenant, and claims to know all the rules. While I want to make life better for my tenants, I feel like he’s intimidating me by threatening to report me to Fair Trading if his demands are not met. How do you suggest I deal with this type of tenant?

A: This is a great question and one that many landlords unfortunately face. This is a time when you probably wish you had found a good property manager, then they would have been dealing with this troublemaker. However, if you are keen to persist with self-managing your property, all is not lost.

Firstly, this tenant is clearly trying to bypass the tenancy agreement, so make sure you are 100% clear on what you have both contracted yourselves to, and be firm. Do not tolerate intimidation; not only is it unwarranted and rude, but he is more than likely hoping you will back down. Be confident. You are in a strong position as the landlord – the tenant will need to be on your good side to acquire a reference from you for any subsequent leases.

Without understanding the details of your tenancy agreement, I would say that the likelihood of Fair Trading agreeing with the tenant on items such as power points being moved, etc., is unlikely. As a landlord, you are required to maintain the property in reasonable repair, not to redesign it to suit a tenant’s needs or whims.

Ask your tenant to put their requests and demands in writing, giving you the all-important paper trail for any subsequent mediation or legal meetings. If you deem the requests unnecessary, then reply to the tenant, asking for a reason as to why they are requesting such a thing. By being reasonable and sticking to the law and your tenancy agreement, you should find yourself growing in confidence and not feeling as intimidated as before. 

Always be friendly and remind the tenant that while you want to make their tenancy as pleasant as possible, you cannot agree to unreasonable requests. Keep things calm and professional when liaising with your tenant, but be confident and stern enough that the tenant realises that their constant legal quotes do not intimidate you at all.