Warning Letter to Tenants for Fayetteville, North Carolina Property Management

A warning letter to tenants should always be the first step to correcting the behavior of tenants. Unlike a notice to quit, a warning letter should be viewed as something that is not adversarial, and instead, is a courtesy to your tenant to correct certain behavior.  A good practice point is to think of it as a behavior modification tool. 

We provide you with a copy of a warning letter to your tenant at the end of this blog.  Feel free to use it as a template to get you started. 

We would like to think that property management involves simply collecting rental income.  But this is far from the actual practice.  In Fayetteville, North Carolina property management, we would hope it would be that simple.

Tenants can, and will, do some things which are against the lease agreement.  Some may be cured by a simple phone call, text or email, others may require more meaningful action.  No matter what course you take, we always recommended starting at the lowest level possible.  This is where the tenant warning letter comes into play. 

While for some lease violations, we could skip the warning letter all together, and immediately start with the eviction process, this might not always be the best way to proceed. This is generally the nuclear option, and should be reserved for those situations when you truly want to get rid of the tenant.

The lowest level involves a warning to the tenant that their conduct is breaking terms of their lease agreement.  A warning letter is for those tenants who you believe will listen to you, and correct their behavior.

A warning letter is also used at times if you decided to orally warn a tenant of their conduct, and is merely a slight escalation.  While a warning letter may put the tenant on guard, it does not necessarily raise the alarms like a notice that is part of the eviction process.

Make Sure Your Warning Letter Looks Official

Making your warning letter to your tenant look official can’t be stated enough.  In fact, all correspondence between you and your tenant should be done as formally as possible. This is not to say that you may not send informal text messages or emails to your tenant.  The point we are trying to make, and what you must understand, is that everything you write, do, or say, may end up in a proceeding where a third party is judging your actions and words. 

You must remain cognizant of the fact that you want to always be treated, and viewed, as a professional property investor.  The same applies if you personally know your tenant, or if you only manage one property. 

Additionally, an official looking warning letter will impart the sense of urgency and weight of the situation.  If a tenant understands that their conduct carries with it potential immediate negative ramifications, and that you are likely to carry out the next steps, the tenant is more likely to change their behavior. 

Elements of the Warning Letter for Tenants

There is no specific format for a warning letter to tenants.  In fact, a warning letter is not mandatory at all, of any conduct on the part of the tenant.  While North Carolina Landlord Tenant Law doesn’t mandate the form of the warning letter, we recommend certain things be included, as a courtesy to your tenant, and to give your warning letter the official nature it deserves. 

The best you can, we recommend you include the following in your warning letter:

  • Write the warning letter on company letterhead (you did form an LLC for your real estate investment didn’t you)
  • Include the date in the top left hand corner
  • Include the tenant’s name and address below the date
  • Establish, immediately, what violations the tenant is guilty of, as well as the corresponding lease paragraph, and/or laws. 
  • Inform the tenant of how you would like the tenant to correct the behavior. 
  • Clearly identify a date by which you expect the correction to occur. 
  • Identify your course of action if the tenant does not comply

We will discuss the major recommended component below, to ensure your warning letter has the correct impact you are trying to seek. 

continued below. . . .


Who is Violating the Lease Giving Rise to the Warning Letter

This includes the tenant, co-tenants, children, and guest.  It is not limited to just the lawful tenant, but anyone the tenant should be expected to have reasonable control over.  

This is important, and the proper party should always be identified.  If you have more than one tenant legally living in the property, you should address all tenants in the warning letter.  If you drafted your lease agreement correctly, all tenants should be aware that the conduct of one of them, can be imputed on the others if they fail to take corrective steps.  The warning letter to all of the tenants will hopefully then serve to have them police each other up. 

Identify the Specific Terms of the Lease Agreement that Warrant a Warning Letter

Identify, with specificity, what is the infraction. Keep this succinct, but with enough information so that the tenant is aware of their exact conduct. What this means is that you must tell the tenant what they are doing wrong. Don’t deal in generalities, get down to the weeds as much as possible.  This provides the tenant with enough notice of his conduct.

It is not enough, sometimes, to provide the tenant with notice of the conduct.  I am sure we can all agree, that many tenants probably don’t’ read their lease agreements, including addendums, fully. In this case, you want to point to the specific paragraph that is being violated.  You may also want to include the language of the relevant portion of the paragraph.

So your first step is to actually go through the rental contract line by line to find the factual basis for the violation of the lease.  It is not enough to say to the tenant “you are in violation of your lease agreement.”  The likely response from the tenant to your warning letter is, especially if the violation isn’t obvious, “what did I do.”

You must be unambiguous when you write the warning letter to your tenant.  This way the tenant knows exactly what they have done wrong.  Explain everything in the warning letter like you would to a first grader, and effectively communicate with your tenant.

Along similar lines, it is a good idea to check any federal, state, or local North Carolina landlord tenant laws to ensure you are not violating any in the context of our warning letter to your tenant.  It is better course of action for you as a landlord to be overly cautious, as a violation could cost you more for behavior you were trying to correct. 

An additional benefit of researching the applicable law is that you can rest assured that your complaint is grounded in legal fact, which will add more weight when you address the issue with your tenant. 

What Corrective Course of Action Do You Want the Tenant to Take Based on The Warning Letter

This is important, because if you want the tenant to correct an action, you should tell the tenant what you want the tenant to do.  This avoids having sent a letter, the tenant thinks they have taken the right action, and you end up having to send another letter for the same conduct.

This correction should be specific.  Again, you don’t want to leave anything up to the tenant’s interpretation.  Tenant’s, when left to infer your intent, will almost always decide upon the path of least resistance.  The end result of poor communication of your intent is a frustrated tenant who thinks they corrected the problem, and you, a frustrated landlord because the tenant didn’t interpret your warning letter correctly.

To make everything smooth, and flow correctly, have someone else read your letter to make sure it is crystal clear. 

What Are the Consequences if the Tenant Fails to Correct the Behavior in the Warning Letter

You should notify the tenant of your course of action if the tenant decides he does not want to comply, fails to comply, or doesn’t fully comply. This puts the tenant or notice that you will pursue a course of action, and that you are serious about the alleged violation.

As a point of practice, a warning letter is not necessarily a legal requirement under the law.  The notice to quit, which we discussed in a previous blog, is the notification that is required for the eviction process to begin.  There are certain behaviors by a tenant, that may justify beginning the eviction process rather than sending a warning letter. 

Along similar lines, a warning letter will not satisfy the legal requirements for a notice of intent to terminated the lease agreement.  The notice of intent to terminate the lease agreement must contain certain information which is governed by state law.

The most important thing to remember is that actions have consequences.  It is equally important that you realize the same applies to both you and the tenant.  By this we mean that if you say you are going to do something, then you must do it.  There are few things worse than you as a landlord not following through with what you say you are going to do. 

Speaking, or in this case writing, without action, destroys trust between you and your tenant.  Even more important, if you don’t follow through, your tenant may believe that you aren’t serious, will continue to violate the lease or the law, and subsequent warning letters to your tenant will have a diluted effect. 

Following through with your course of action is also necessary to maintain a sense of professionalism between you and your tenant.  Nothing is personal, it’s business.  Operating with a business mentality will keep you focused on the warning letter being necessary to maintain a healthy business relationship with your tenant, or provide you with the property evidence should you have to go through an eviction process. 

Do as you say, not what your tenant would like for you not to do. 

Key Takeaways for Your Warning Letter to Your Tenant

As a property owner, and now property manager, if your tenant is in violation of the lease agreement, writing a warning letter is the best place to start.  Your job is to ensure that your letter is effective, clearly conveys what is wrong, as well as establishes the urgent need for correction.

The issue facing many landlords, as well as a lot of property managers, is that they either don’t have experience crafting legally sufficient and tactful correspondence to tenants, or become too emotionally charged for the communication to be effective.  

The best warning letter communicates to the tenant the appropriate weight of the situation, along with the consequences, including possible eviction, if the tenant does not comply. 

While we know it may be difficult attempting to craft an appropriate warning letter for tenants, don’t be afraid to give it a try.  A well written warning letter today, could prevent you from having to go through the even more painful ordeal of an eviction later on. 

If you need help drafting a warning letter, you can download a copy of one of ours for free at the link below. You can also send your warning letter for your tenant back to us, and we will give you our feedback. 

As a property management company in Fayetteville, North Carolina, our goal is to empower landlords and property investors with enough knowledge to make them successful. 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  You can also sign up for the Linchpin Property Management Academy, and gain access to all of the FREE resources we make available to our property management community. 

The Team at Linchpin Property Management