How to Deal with Difficult Tenants: A Guide for Landlords

Table of Contents

Renting out property can be a lucrative venture, but it comes with its fair share of challenges, and chief among them is how to deal with difficult tenants. The key to a successful and stress-free landlord-tenant relationship lies in proactive measures and strategic planning.

In this article, we will explore various strategies to avoid, manage, and ultimately resolve issues with difficult tenants, ensuring a smooth and harmonious rental experience.

Avoid Difficult Tenants through Effective Tenant Screening

The best way to avoid dealing with an undesirable tenant is to filter them out before they even become a tenant. Having a streamlined and effective screening process for prospective tenants can help to ensure you choose one of the best tenants available for your property.

If you’re only managing a couple of properties with a few tenants each, you might be able to cope with not much more than instinct and a solid set of tenant screening questions. If you’re dealing with dozens of rental units though, the best option is often to hire a professional property management service. Tenant screening is just one of the services they can perform, and it’s a task they truly excel at.

Communicate Intuitively and Expertly

Being consistent in your communication style and the procedures you follow is one of the most essential aspects of coping with difficult tenants. Even a difficult tenant can become a good tenant when handled with proper care.

Outlining your expectations and processes in the lease agreement – and crucially: sticking to them – allows you to maintain a sense of dignity and predictable stability for both yourself and your tenants. It also ensures you know when to stand your ground, even if a tenant is being confrontational or aggressive.

Having planned your approach in advance can help with the stress of coping with a difficult tenant too, because you already have a set of steps to follow when conflict arises. Beyond that: focus on finding solutions to the problem at hand while avoiding aggressive or accusatory language. If the tenant makes unreasonable requests or refuses to cooperate, you may need to seek the aid of a mediator, or the Landlord and Tenant Board.

Deal with Complaints Effectively

Knowing the right way to deal with tenant complaints is key.

Offering solutions in a timely, proactive manner can nurture a healthy landlord-tenant relationship. If a situation can’t be resolved, considering a tenant’s complaints with empathy and respect even when there’s disagreement is a great way to build a foundation of trust.

When a situation is unclear, visiting the property and talking to people on-site can show you’re taking things seriously and calm a situation even if you’re not able to offer an immediate solution. It can also give you a more complete picture of a situation if the issue is a dispute between tenants.

If things get out of hand with a difficult tenant and the situation begins to escalate, it can be wise to involve a mediator or consult with legal professionals.

Keep Accurate, Truthful Records

Good record keeping is an oft overlooked aspect of being a landlord. Keeping an accurate, ongoing record of communications and events is one of the best ways to ensure positive long-term outcomes.

It’s best to keep a dated record of any meaningful communication with a tenant and any actions you take. This applies to not just complaints, but maintenance requests, informal reports, notices sent to tenants, and anything that could prove useful in documenting your efforts with a tenant.

If you ever find yourself in legal trouble with a difficult tenant, you’ll understand just how important records are.

Know Your Rights & Duties When dealing with Problem Tenants

The rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords are shaped by a wide variety of laws, regulations, and acts. The most difficult tenants are likely to be familiar with them, and you should be too.

Familiarizing yourself with the key provisions of the Ontario RTA is an excellent first step. The RTA is a provincial statute that governs the landlord-tenant relationship in Ontario and sets out the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants.

Looking into the following will build upon the topics covered in the Ontario RTA:

  • Implied Warranty of Habitability: Landlords are liable for ensuring the safety and habitability of their properties.
  • Fair Housing Laws: Landlords must adhere to fair housing practices, treating all tenants equally and avoiding discriminatory practices in advertising, tenant selection, and eviction.
  • Landlord-Tenant Laws: These laws typically cover issues such as lease agreements, security deposits, rent increases, repairs, and the eviction process. Along with the processes that must be followed.
  • Lease Agreements: While not a law per se, the lease agreement is a document you create which outlines the terms and conditions of the rental. It is a crucial document that governs the landlord-tenant relationship.
  • The Ontario Standard Lease: Landlords of most private residential rental units in Ontario must use this form (standard lease) when they enter into a tenancy with a tenant.
  • Tenant Privacy Laws: Tenants are entitled to quiet use of the property and protection from mistreatment. Advance warning must be given before entering a rental unit (except in emergencies).

There’s a lot you’ll need to learn, but don’t worry: as a landlord you can expect to be refining your knowledge and skills over time. You don’t need to know everything right away.

Be Prepared For the Worst — Plan Ahead for Problem Tenants

Even the most ideal and cordial landlord-tenant relationship can sour over time.

Planning your strategy ahead of time can ease the mental distress of dealing with a difficult tenant, and is an excellent way to improve your outcomes if the worst does happen. Paired with the record keeping mentioned above, pre-planning can save you thousands in costly repairs or legal battles.

Tempers can fray in unexpected ways, and in a crisis there’s no telling what people might do. In the event that you find yourself recovering from the fallout of a bad tenant, you’ll have a much easier time if you can prove they should be the ones paying for any damage they’ve caused.

Understand when Evictions May Be the Best Solution

As an absolute last-case option, eviction is a vital tool in the landlord’s skillset. Especially when dealing with difficult tenants.

While it’s never a desired outcome, there are situations when eviction is your best option. For example:

  • Nuisance or Disruption: Persistent disruptive behavior, such as excessive noise or harassment of neighbors, can be grounds for eviction.
  • Illegal Activities: Drug use or criminal behavior can be grounds for eviction. Landlords have a responsibility to provide a safe and lawful living environment.
  • Property Damage: Intentional property damage or extreme failure to maintain the property to a reasonable condition can be grounds for eviction in some cases.
  • Violation of Health and Safety Codes: If a tenant violates health and safety codes, the landlord may be able to evict — and in some situations, may be liable if they fail to do so.
  • Nonpayment of Rent: Landlords have the right to expect timely payment, and consistent nonpayment can lead to eviction proceedings.

Not all situations are as obvious as the above list. For example, after taking ownership of an existing rental property tenants may resist changes and, in extreme cases, this can result in a need to evict.

It’s vital to have a solid grasp of not only how to evict a tenant, but also whether eviction is your best option.

Consider A Property Management Company To Handle Tenant Relations

The best way to cope with difficult tenants is to… not be the person coping with them. Hiring a property manager is an effective way to manage not just your buildings, but also your tenant relations. You might be surprised by some of the benefits of hiring a property management company.

A good property management company can take good care of tenants every step of the way. Advertising your properties, screening tenants, handling maintenance requests and complaints, implementing rent increases, and even providing you proper documentation for your taxes.


Successfully managing difficult tenants demands proactive strategies. From robust tenant screening to clear communication and effective complaint resolution, these measures are critical for maintaining a positive landlord-tenant relationship.

Additionally, landlords should prioritize legal awareness, accurate record-keeping, and thoughtful planning to navigate potential challenges, including eviction if necessary.

Picture of Marla Coffin
Marla Coffin

Worried about handling Tenant Conflict?

Marda Management is a full‑service property management company, handling properties of all sizes for investors and owners worldwide. Learn more about how we can help with tenants.

Complementary Optimization Meeting

Submit your e-mail address below and we’ll reach out!