how to say no to tenants

Updated February 2021

Successful landlords have learned how to be effective business managers. Real estate investment is a business. As a landlord, you are responsible for making the necessary decisions that allow your business to be profitable, all while staying within the law.

One of the most effective things a landlord can do to run a business successfully is to learn how to say no to tenants.

While this may sound cliché, mastering the skill of saying no can help you keep your sanity, streamline your business practices, and make things easier for you and your tenants in the long run.

If you don’t know how to say no to a tenant and their requests, you could end up doing far more work than you are responsible for. All work comes at a cost, but giving in to all tenant demands won’t always see a return on that investment.

Today, learn how to reject tenant requests in a professional way to help you and your business find surer footing as you continue to grow in the rental industry.

Table Of Contents: How To Reject A Tenant

Learning how to reject a tenant is difficult for all landlords at first; it takes time to understand how to best approach this type of situation. Working through the following tips and scenarios will help you become better at handling necessary refusals when they arise in the future.

Dealing With Demanding Tenants

Dealing With Demanding Tenants

Somehow, modern culture has changed what was once considered a polite refusal into what’s often perceived as a harsh rejection. When you say no to someone, you may feel like you’re being rude, mean, or uncaring.

However, if you’re dealing with demanding tenants, you must learn how to say no and clearly draw boundaries.

Learning to say no is both empowering and freeing. It helps you assess responsibility, limits your time focused on unnecessary tasks, and gives you a chance to prioritize your goals.

Many people associate negativity with saying no, and find that someone who always says yes is more likeable and eager to please. As a landlord, neither of those characteristics really benefit you.

Instead, by saying no to some things, it opens the doors for you to say yes on other requests and sets the tone for the landlord-tenant relationship that you are not a pushover and won’t capitulate under pressure.

Successful landlords will learn this technique, and if you can master it, your management abilities will definitely improve.

6 Tips For How To Say No To Tenants

As a landlord, learning to say no can be difficult and it may take you several instances to gain enough confidence to deliver your message. When you follow these tips, it can help you master this important business skill practiced by the most successful landlords.

Here are 6 helpful tips on saying no to tenants:

1. It Takes Practice

It may take some practice with saying no before you feel comfortable doing it in real life. Run through scenarios in your mind and formulate answers to requests where you will need to say no.

Think back to past events and make a list of specific scenarios where you would have liked to say no to a tenant, but felt obligated to say yes to be nice. Think about each of these scenarios and what would have been the best choice for your business. Then, have an imaginary conversation with yourself about how you would refuse a tenant in the future.

If you have a business partner or any landlord friends, you can even talk about this together! It might feel a little strange at first, but practicing how you would refuse a tenant out loud can be incredibly helpful in making it feel more natural.

2. You Don’t Have To Be Mean

Remember, saying no doesn’t mean that you have to be mean or rude. It’s a real skill to turn down requests in a polite manner using language that is clear and concise, but not abrupt or negative.

Sometimes, people might respond to your refusal in a way that makes you feel like you are being mean.  This can cause you to become heated and start speaking with more emotional language. However, it’s important in these moments to remember what you are doing is a reasonable progression according to your job and duties as a landlord.

Focus on keeping your language as polite and neutral as possible throughout the conversation. Be clear without being negative, and remember what you are trying to convey. Doing this will help prevent the conversation from turning negative.

3. Body Language Is Important

Your body language and tone of voice is a key part of delivering an effective no. Make eye contact, keep your voice even and firm, and deliver your decision with an explanation if needed.

Your goal in addressing your body language is to show that you are serious about your position, but you are not threatening. You are standing your ground without being angry or overly forceful. Paying attention to these things in particular may be helpful:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Try not to lean too far towards or away from them.
  • Keep your eyes focused on them while speaking and listening.

These three actions are relatively simple, but they can do a lot to transform how you hold yourself while speaking. This will give you the assertive power needed to hold your ground without becoming (or seeming) aggressive.

4. Don’t Apologize Too Much

Many people bundle up a no with profuse apologies, which minimizes the effectiveness of the conversation and suggests that there is room for negotiation. Avoid overly apologizing—one simple and sincere apology will do (if needed).

If you are feeling bad that you cannot accept their request at this time, it’s okay to express that. After all, rejecting a tenant request can feel like you are inconveniencing the tenant even if you are being reasonable.

Expressing that feeling repeatedly, however, is going to make the tenant feel confused. If you feel so bad, why won’t you just give in? Keep your apologies short and sincere to avoid this type of miscommunication.

5. Be Respectful

Make sure you are saying no to the situation or request, not to the person. Being polite and respectful to the tenant while denying their request emphasizes that you are clearly focused on the business decision you are making, not putting the person down.

It can be tempting to reference other situations that have happened between you and the tenant as a means to explain your decision, but that is not going to help. Instead, that could come across as petty or demeaning. Focus on the facts of the lease as the basis for your denial. Preventing things from being personal keeps it as respectful as possible.

6. Explain Your Reason Clearly

Offer an explanation as part of the message. When you can present your reasons clearly, the tenant is more likely to accept your answer as final. They may not like it, but at least they will see your reasoning.

Before you deny a tenant request, think through the following:

  • Why is the request not possible?
  • If the request is possible, why does it need to be delayed?
  • Where in the lease is this refusal represented?
  • What questions is the tenant likely to have?
  • Why does the tenant think they have a right to this request?
  • Why does the tenant not have this right?

You can prepare yourself to have a more productive conversation by thinking about these things beforehand. Some tenants might not ask any follow-up questions, but it is better to be over prepared in this scenario.

Go above and beyond to make sure your reasoning is clear. If the tenant seems confused or unaccepting of your decision, reference specific parts of the lease or make a copy of the information you are basing your decision on. This will help them to process the decision.

These tips can help you boost your confidence and get you mentally ready to stand your ground as needed when it comes to managing your business and making appropriate decisions for how you are handling your property.

How To Reject A Tenant Request: Example Scenarios

How To Reject A Tenant Request: Example Scenarios

In a perfect landlord-tenant relationship, there would be no conflicts with tenants or instances where you would have to say no to someone. However, real life requires successful landlords to gently but firmly decline some tenant requests.

Here are some scenarios based on real life situations where landlords said no gracefully, and how it benefited their business. Studying these examples can help you learn how to deal with tenants and their requests.

Problem: Overly Demanding Tenant

Roberta has a tenant who is extremely demanding. The tenant, Lisa, frequently calls or emails Roberta with urgent maintenance requests. To get results, Lisa often vaguely threatens to contact various authorities, such as her lawyer, the police, or a local tenant landlord group. Roberta always jumps whenever Lisa puts in a request for something, because she is intimidated by Lisa’s demands and threats.

This has resulted in many late night visits, expensive after-hours fees for service companies, and plenty of stress for Roberta.

Solution: Enforce A Better Timeline

Roberta decides to say no to Lisa’s frequent immediate repair and maintenance demands.

Unless the repair threatens the safety of the tenants, would damage the property somehow, or otherwise affect the warranty of habitability, Roberta says she will address the maintenance in a timely fashion.

On this call and for the next several “urgent” requests, Roberta tells Lisa that the requested service is not urgent, she won’t be addressing the nonessential repair immediately, and that she will resolve the issue within the week and keep Lisa informed of progress.

Each time Lisa protests, Roberta calmly explains that her approach is well within the legal requirements of landlord responsibility, and that she will be sending a written statement of the course of action to Lisa and keeping one for her records.

After several similar incidents where Roberta says no, Lisa’s requests are fewer and more respectful.

Problem: Denying A Tenant Request

Davis is a landlord who has been fielding calls from other tenants about noise, parking problems, and other lease violations from the guest of one of his tenants, Marcus. It seems that Marcus’ girlfriend has been staying at the rental unit almost every night and day, and it is evident that she is the cause of many of the problems.

When Davis confronts Marcus about the girlfriend and the lease agreement violations, Marcus asks if his girlfriend can move in and be on the lease agreement. Davis knows that while Marcus has been a good tenant, the girlfriend has proven herself to be nothing but trouble.

Solution: Stick To The Agreement

Davis tells Marcus that he will not allow the girlfriend to be added to the lease agreement and that Marcus is, in fact, responsible for the actions of any guests to the rental property.

Davis is firm when he tells Marcus that if he cannot remedy the situation with the girlfriend’s behavior, Marcus will receive a 30-day notice to quit for lease violations. When Marcus protests, Davis shows him the place in the lease agreement about guests and violations and reiterates that the next report means official action.

The next time the girlfriend visits, she violates the lease agreement again and angers other tenants who notify Davis. Davis delivers the official notice to Marcus the next day, and receives a desperate phone call begging him to reconsider. Davis says no, and sticks to his timeline as outlined in the notice.

When Marcus moves out, other tenants express their appreciation for how Davis handled the situation. It goes without saying that other tenants internalized that Davis is not a pushover when it comes to enforcing the lease agreement.

Problem: Pushing The Boundaries For Late Rent

Marissa is a landlord who delivered a late rent notice last week to Brian. After several days of trying to get in contact with him, Brian finally calls and states that he will pay the rent as soon as he can, probably in a few weeks. He asks that Marissa toss out the pay or quit notice and stop the eviction process until he can pay because he promises that it will only be this once.

Brian then offers to pay partial rent soon and the balance later. He indicates he is willing to do payment arrangements as well—anything to stop the eviction process.

Solution: Be Firm

Marissa knows she is in a tough situation and needs to be firm on what she will accept.

At the beginning of her journey as a landlord, she decided that she would never accept partial payments or do payment arrangements, so she stands firm and delivers a solid no to the tenant.

Marissa reminds Brian that if he could come up with the full rent payment plus late fees, she would stop pursuing the eviction. She tells Brian that the eviction process will go forward as planned until the rent is paid in full and after a certain point, she will not accept rent.

Despite his promises to pay and his attempts to get her to call off the eviction process, Brian never did follow through. By the time Marissa realized he wasn’t going to pay the rent, the eviction process was well underway.

Had she waited to start the process until she realized that, Marissa would have endured several more weeks or months with no income while the eviction process got started.

Problem: Out Of Your Responsibility List

Ed has a tenant named Lisa who has lived at one of Ed’s properties since summer. It is winter now, and Lisa has called Ed to ask why he hasn’t shoveled the driveway and sidewalks at her property.

Ed is pretty sure he is not responsible for this at the property, but he double checks the lease agreement and local laws before talking to Lisa.

When he tells Lisa that he will not be clearing these areas and that it is her responsibility, she gets upset and requests that he clear them anyways.

Solution: Offer Other Solutions

Ed may offer to help Lisa clear the driveway this one time if he is feeling particularly generous, but he is more likely to offer other solutions for Lisa. Ed knows a guy who does this type of work and offers his information to Lisa to schedule regular clearing.

Additionally, he reminds Lisa that the lease does not require him to clear these areas and that it is actually her responsibility to do so. He knows this might be a lot for Lisa to handle with her lifestyle, so he gives her some ideas of how to handle that.

By offering another solution to Lisa while also refusing her request, he softens the blow and shows he is still willing to be a kind and helpful landlord, just not in the way she originally wanted.

Check Emotion Before Communicating With Tenants

There are many ways to deal with confrontation, conflict, and stress than resorting to losing your temper.

Landlords have to deal with a wide range of people and some of the most unusual situations. Keeping your cool can help you be a better business owner and will definitely help you resolve conflict in a more effective way.

Here are 5 tips on how landlords can control their emotions and get better results from themselves and others in resolving any business situation.

  1. Stop and Think.
    Anger emerges in big bursts and can often fuel a landlord for a long time. Before opening that symbolic door to anger, people can mentally step away from the situation and take a minute to collect themselves. It’s not out of the way to state, “I’m going to need a minute,” and take a long pause before getting into a conversation with someone. The old trick of counting to 10 really can help people get their thoughts together before they speak.
  2. Don’t Match Anger With Anger.
    Sometimes, anger is triggered because another person is confrontational and aggressive to begin with. Landlords can be the voice of reason in a tense situation and can even steer the conversation toward a more civil tone by staying calmer than the other person and refusing to rise to the level of anger they are showing. Even if the landlord starts out angry, they can change the tone of the conversation by calming down.
  3. Move Forward.
    When feeling irritated or frustrated at a landlord-tenant situation, it’s important to keep moving forward. Staying stuck in a fit of anger will only make a situation worse and cloud judgment, preventing people from making the best decision. Address the situation with a problem-solving attitude and the anger will fade soon.
  4. Just Walk Away.
    If a situation is getting too tense and both sides are not expressing themselves well or being heard by the other, it’s time to walk away and resume at another time. Landlords can physically remove themselves from the situation, ask the other person to get out, or call the police in extreme situations. With a commitment to resume the conversation at a later time or date, both sides will benefit from a new perspective and from blowing off steam.
  5. Look For The Positive.
    In almost any situation, looking at the positive can often be enough to hurdle over feelings of anger. For example, if the anger is triggered by heading to court for an eviction, landlords can see the silver lining in that they are almost done dealing with those problem tenants. When confronting a bad tenant about a lease violation, the landlord can keep in mind that a formal written warning may compel the tenant to better behavior.

Consequences Of Saying No: Dealing With Rude Tenants

The benefits of saying no when it is appropriate are huge, but there are some downsides and consequences of taking a stand. Anytime you refuse someone, they will most likely not be happy about it.

In a business relationship, you’ve got to set limits, and being a landlord is no different. Knowing when to say yes and when to say no is a key part of a successful management strategy.

Whether a tenant gets angry, gives you the silent treatment, or turns passive-aggressive, sometimes the consequences of saying no can feel personal. Above all, don’t take it personally; feeling slighted when refused is simply human nature.

As a landlord, you must own your decisions and realize you are making them for specific reasons. When you are educated about what it takes to run your real estate business, your confidence in making the right decisions will carry you through any guilt you might feel.

Avoiding Future Problems: Choosing Better Tenants

There is no way to guarantee that you will choose tenants who will never disagree with your decisions, but there are some ways you can make sure you choose great tenants. In fact, cultivating your tenant selection skills is another important part of being a landlord.

Do you know the best ways to select tenants? Have you worked on improving your tenant selection procedure to have reliable tenants at your properties?

Tenant screening is a very important process, and it takes landlords years to get their screening process right. Screening can help you avoid taking on prospective tenants who are more likely to cause you grief as a landlord.

With help from a tenant screening service, you can revitalize your screening process to better fit your business model. From including credit report results to following up on background checks, there is a lot that you can do to improve screening.

Do You Know How To Deal With Problem Tenants?

Once you learn how to deal with tenant problems and saying “no” to requests that are unreasonable, you’ll be able to be a much better landlord. Even if tenants are unhappy with your decisions at times, all tenants will benefit from a landlord who knows their worth, knows how to handle their problems, and acts in a consistent way.

Remember the following when you are working on saying no to tenants:

  • Be clear about the reason why.
  • Make sure to stay calm, collected, and professional.
  • Do not be mean; use polite language.
  • Limit your apologies to one.

It will take time to get good at saying no to tenants, and it is possible that you’ll never feel 100% comfortable with it. That’s okay as long as you are able to say no!

Great tenants will understand that you have to refuse requests from time to time, so make sure you choose tenants who are more likely to be understanding in the future. Having the right tenants will make your job easier from start to finish!

Have you learned how to say no at the right place and time, or do you struggle to stay firm against tenant requests? Please share this article and let us know more about your approach in the comments section below.