Property Management Blog

Escaping the Nightmare of Tenant Advocacy Groups

Dora Pinter - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Escaping the Nightmare of Tenant Advocacy Groups

One day, you receive a letter from your tenants that says something about a health and safety notice. You plan on getting around to reading it, but the notice slips from your mind. A few days later, your tenant moves out and escapes from their current lease without paying any costs. What is going on?
 Unfortunately, this is not a theoretical situation. A few years ago, one of the property managers in the area dealt with a nightmare tenant. The tenant blared music late at night, made a mess of the property and caused thousands of dollars in damages. Then, the tenant decided that they wanted to move and did not want to finish out their lease. They hired a tenant advocacy group and sent the property manager a health and safety notice with a list of 367 problem items at the property.
 As it turned out, the only problems at the property were caused by the tenant. The manager was never able to access the property to prove this though. When they showed up on the first day, the property was locked up tight. Each day afterward, the property remained locked down. After the time limit ran out, the tenant moved out and they had to refund their security deposit as law demands in case of a health and safety condition. The landlord and managers had to pay for the repair costs, but the tenant was able to move on to another rental to do the same thing again.
 As a Phoenix property management company, we have unfortunately seen this happen. Many property management companies and landlords have ended up horribly surprised by tenant advocacy groups. These groups advertise that they can get any tenant out of their lease for $500. Unfortunately, the law was once entirely on their side. Even now, managers must be on top of things if they want to stop the unscrupulous tenant from walking away with an undeserved security deposit.

 The process starts when the tenant serves a 5-day health and safety notice. From that moment, you or the property manager has five days to inspect and remedy issues at the property. This would normally be easy enough, but the tenant advocacy groups are tricky. They create 20-page lists of 367 items that have to be repaired. You have to go through each of these items individually to prove the tenant wrong.
 Until recently, the situation was even worse than it is now. Landlords were actually unable to repair the inspection items. The advocacy groups told tenants to lock their doors and keep property management companies out of the rental. Then, the five days would pass by without anyone being able to access the property. The tenant walked away without any repercussions, and the advocacy group was $500 richer. Meanwhile, the only people harmed were the property management team and the property owner.
 This sounds incredible, but we have seen it happen to too many other management companies. Recently, the law finally changed. Tenant advocacy groups still help tenants skip out on their leases, but a talented Phoenix property management company can stop the tenant from walking away with your money. The law changed so that landlords now can enter the property anytime during the 5-day notice period to inspect it. Tenants can no longer lock you out, so a timely response can save you money.
 Dealing with this type of problem is not easy, but it is the only way to make sure that underhanded tenants are not taking advantage of the property owner. When we get the list of 367 items, we immediately go into the unit and inspect each item. We video every single nook and cranny as proof in case we have to take it to court and repair things as needed. Then, we can use this information as proof so that the tenant has to cough up their rent and lose their deposit if they plan on leaving. It might be a hassle, but it is the only way to protect our rights as landlords and property managers.

 If we do not have proof that the long list of inspection problems does not actually exist, then the tenant gets to move out with their security deposit. The last thing we want is to encourage this type of deceitful, dishonest behavior. We certainly do not want the tenant to get away with it, so we do everything possible to prove that the tenant lacks a case.
 When we receive a 5-day health and safety notice, one of our property managers shows up with the handyman. Then, we spend the next three or four hours going through everything on the list in order. Each inspection item is recorded on video. In the unlikely event that a repair is truly needed, we fix it.  
 The tenant is betting that we will not bother with inspecting the property. Most property managers do not actually inspect the property because they think that it is easier to just let the tenant move out. Interestingly, tenant advocacy groups never mention to tenants that the tenant will actually have to pay for the inspection if nothing is wrong. If we go to the home and do not find any problems, then we can charge the tenant for inspecting those items.
 Unfortunately, we had to deal with this exact scenario in Surprise, Arizona. Apparently, the tenant had decided that they wanted to break their lease and did not want to pay for it. Instead of letting them get away with this behavior, we immediately went out to the property to inspect it. We found one small problem and fixed it on the spot. Then, we charged the tenant our hourly rate for the time we spent to inspect the property.
 Not only did they have to remain at the property, but they had to cough up money for the inspection. We recouped the money spent on the inspection, and the property owner retained their tenant at no cost. Without a timely, detailed inspection, the tenant would have been able to successfully pull this trick and get their security deposit back.
 While most of our tenants are wonderful people and pay on time, there are always a few bad apples who try to get away with everything they can. As your property manager, we make sure that your rights are always protected. We know how much of a hassle it is to deal with deceitful tenants like this, so we handle all the work. With our fast inspections and detailed proof, we can stop tenants from taking advantage of the law and our property owners.