Landlords sometimes get caught by surprise when they try to enforce a lease provision because they discover that it’s not what their lease actually says.
If it’s been awhile since you read your lease, take a few minutes to review some key provisions before you speak with problem tenants:
Is there a grace period for late rent? Some leases provide as much as 5 days leeway before you can get tough.
Do you have to serve notice of the default? The lease may add extra steps.
On what grounds can you evict the tenant? Can you move on it after a criminal arrest, or suspicion, or do you have to wait for a conviction? What if the tenant smokes pot? Starts a band? Steals the neighbor’s parking space? While you can’t possibly list every contingency, your lease must be drafted well enough to cover lots of different possibilities.
Does the lease “auto-renew”? While that provision is prohibited in some states, it’s still common in standard leases. This clause can work against you when you are trying to run the clock on a bad tenant.
Do tenants have to notify you if they get a pet? A roommate? Sublet the apartment? Are you required to consider it?
Is there a guarantor on the lease? Do you have the person’s signature and contact information?
While you probably can’t tweak the lease until the term runs, at least you will know what you are up against when dealing with problems.