Dealing with Difficult Tenants

Last month we had our first tweet chat on how to deal with difficult tenants.  We co-hosted the chat with Modern Refinement who are seasoned property managers.  The response was fantastic, showing us this is clearly an area that you want to know about.  There’s a lot of information that we couldn’t fit into 280 characters so we asked Modern Refinement to provide more information in this month’s newsletter.

As a Zambian property owner living in the diaspora, there are a few things you need to know when it comes to tenant relations. After nearly a decade of dealing and observing different tenants from all kinds of backgrounds, we put together a few tips in dealing with tenants.  Even if you don’t yet own property at home now, you may own property at some time in the future.  These six tips are worth keeping in mind.  As a landlord, the six pointers below can help you deal with difficult tenants:

  1. Be calm, objective, and rational… It’s understandable to get angry when tenants cause problems. However, being hotheaded will only make the situation worse. If you’re too worked up, you might want to sleep on the situation, consult with others or try put yourself in the tenant’s position before you take immediate action.


  1. Keep written records of everything… The best ways to avoid conflict with your tenants is to keep written records of everything; the lease agreement, receipts, letters, emails (especially your texts and WhatsApps). When inspecting the property, don’t just keep a written record of your findings – take pictures and videos that feature a timestamp whenever possible. Whenever a disagreement occurs, go back to your records.


  1. Teach tenants how they should treat you…The tenant/landlord relationship is much like any other relationship – your actions have to reflect how you expect to be treated. If bad attitudes and behaviors are allowed from the beginning, this does not change later. It’s always good to have an idea of the culture you want to set on your property.


  1. Hire a property manager… With some tenants, difficulty is a norm, no matter how much you go out of your way to accommodate them. If found in such a circumstance, it may be in your best interest to let someone else handle them for you – property managers are in-fact there especially for this. Just imagine all the free time you’d gain and all the stress you’d eliminate by doing this!


  1. Ask the terrible tenants to leave… You do not have to reach your breaking point to ask your tenant to vacate your premises. While getting a difficult tenant to voluntarily leave can be difficult, it isn’t impossible. Written notice to vacate over a period of 6 months may be the best approach which clearly lets them know you want them to leave. However, that doesn’t always work and unfortunately you can’t force a tenant out of your home without going through the costly eviction process.


  1. Begin the eviction process… Eviction can be quite the costly and tedious endeavor. In Zambia one has to hire legal counsel and go to court for a resolution, you can only evict a tenant for one of these three reasons; the tenant failed to pay their rent, failed to move out once their lease ended, or they violated the lease terms. It’s important to note that once you have signed a lease agreement you cannot evict a tenant just because you don’t get along with them!  Unfortunately, that isn’t an option!

Please note that the above information is intended to provide general information only. The contents contained in this article do not constitute legal and/ or professional advice and should not be relied on as such. For legal and/or professional advice please contact a licensed professional.


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