Ask Kari: “Karen Tenants: How to Keep the Drama at Bay”

Last Updated: February 17, 2024By

By Kari Negri, Chief Executive Officer, SKY Properties, Inc.

  • Dear Kari, I’m about at my wits end…One of my tenants is so demanding that it’s making me crazy? What should I do?

Karen (Slang / Noun):

A slang term originating from internet culture and popularized in the 2010s used to describe a stereotypical person, who exhibits entitled and demanding behavior. Typically associated with individuals who frequently complain, make unreasonable demands, and seek to assert authority over others in various scenarios; often characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a tendency to escalate minor issues into conflicts, and an expectation of receiving preferential treatment.

As property rent regulations continue to lean in the favor of tenants, dealing with tenants can get trickier. Now more than ever, tenants are savvier about what they are entitled to, and they are not afraid to speak up. At the very least, they expect proper living conditions and fair treatment, but sometimes entitlement creeps in and the requests surpass the basics. New air conditioning and heating, new flooring, extra parking, special privileges…the expectations from renters are higher than ever before. Many of today’s tenants will have no reservations about negatively hitting your social media or trying to rally city departments to get their way.

As landlords or property managers, we need to stay on top of tenant laws, keep communication open, and handle issues as fairly as possible. It’s all about building good relationships and making sure things run smoothly at our rental properties. However, what happens when you encounter a Karen tenant?

Ahh, the notorious Karen tenant. Brace yourself for a unique challenge! These tenants require exceptional patience and a tactful approach to address their concerns while maintaining a harmonious living environment for all. Karen tenants tend to believe they are always right, regardless of the facts, and have no qualms about causing disruptions or confrontations with landlords, property managers, or fellow residents.

Here are some tips to help you handle those Karen’s and assert your authority like a boss!

Tip 1: Enforce Building Rules Consistently

Karen or not, ensure that the community rules are applied consistently to every resident. By doing so, you establish a clear understanding of boundaries and expectations among all residents. Consistency in rule enforcement is not only appreciated by the entire community but also ensures compliance with Fair Housing guidelines. By treating everyone equally and upholding the rules uniformly, you create a fair and inclusive living environment for all residents.

Tip 2: Document Everything

It’s crucial to maintain a detailed written log of a problem tenant’s behavior for future reference. This documentation serves as solid evidence in case legal action becomes necessary. Additionally, consider taking relevant pictures and, if possible, installing affordable security cameras to capture any Karen moments or rule violations. It is also important to keep copies of all letters or notices sent to the problem tenant about their behavior. By staying organized and having these records readily available, you’ll be well-prepared to address any issues that arise with the tenant in a clear and effective manner.

Tip 3: Keep Emotions Out of Documentation

Don’t let your emotions run wild when documenting the antics of a Karen or any problem tenant. Keep it cool, calm, and collected. Stick to the facts and avoid getting personal or biased in your documentation. By staying objective, you can maintain a professional approach and keep the focus on addressing the issues at hand. So, take a deep breath, put those emotions aside, and let the facts do the talking!

Tip 4: Serve 3-day Notices Quickly

Don’t dilly-dally when it comes to serving those 3-day notices, especially when dealing with troublemakers in your community. Not sure which notice to use? Here’s a helpful guide:

  • If the tenant refuses to pay rent, serve the 3-day notice to pay or quit and stick to the timeline like glue! If your policy states that notices go out by the 5th of the month, make sure they’re on their doorstep by that day.
  • If the tenant needs to stop specific behavior or acts within 3 days, like causing disturbances or restricting owner access to their unit, use the 3-day notice to perform or quit.
  • If the tenant has violated the lease or committed a breach that cannot be fixed, use the 3-day notice to quit.

Being prompt in your enforcement shows that you are serious and dedicated to maintaining peace in the community. So, don’t waste any time! Get those notices out and let the Karens know you’re on top of things!

Tip 5: File Immediate Police Reports for Any Illegal Activity

When you have a tenant causing a ruckus with their illegal activities, waste no time in dialing the police. It’s crucial to report those incidents pronto! Get to know your local police department’s Senior Lead Officer for your area or reach out to local law enforcement to figure out the best way to file reports. Taking swift action ensures you’re looking out for the safety and well-being of the whole community. So, don’t hesitate to make that call and show those troublemakers that their antics won’t fly in your building!

Tip 6: Raise Their Rent

If you’re dealing with a troublesome tenant, consider a rent increase. But first, check if your building is rent-controlled. You can increase the rent by any amount, just give proper notice beforehand. For rent-controlled units, know the regulations in your area for the allowable increase. Raising the rent not only keeps cash flow consistent but also gives problem tenants a gentle nudge to explore other housing options. Let’s face it, nobody wants to pay more, and maybe that’ll be the motivation they need to find a new place. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, there are tenants you can’t please. So, the best outcome is for them to move on.

Dealing with difficult tenants is just another aspect of property management. Just remember to stay cool, handle it with grace, and maintain a fair and inclusive living environment. Your professionalism and composure will set the tone for a harmonious community. So, keep your cool and manage like a boss!

Kari Negri is the Chief Executive Officer of Sky Property Management and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles.  Do you have a question for me?  Please send your questions and comments to me at Kari@SKYprop.LA.


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