In a perfect world, all of your tenants would live harmoniously, without fighting or calling you with a constant barrage of complaints. In the real world, though, not every set of tenants you put in place will automatically get along with one another. How you react to complaints, what actions if any you take and how you cope with tenant squabbles can have a big impact on your stress levels and the time you spend managing (or micro-managing) your rental properties.
Your tenants have a right to enjoy the property they are using, and a responsibility not to interfere with others. A lot of tenant complaints tend to fall into subjective areas, making it difficult for you to know when to intercede. While owners of multi-family units will encounter this type of issue more frequently, it is something every landlord should learn how to deal with. How can you tell what issues you should worry about, and which ones don’t matter? There are only a few instances where you should intervene, and in many cases, intervention involves contacting the police.
How and When to Intervene in Tenant Disputes
Are strong or conflicting personalities involved? If your tenants simply don’t like one another, the best course for you as a landlord is to simply stay out of it. If you are receiving constant complaints that aren’t of a criminal or dangerous nature, your best course is to stay uninvolved. You’ll cut your stress levels considerably if you don’t try to parent your tenants, and if you deflect them in a firm but nice way the behavior should taper off. While it can be difficult to stay out of a dispute, simple squabbling and minor, subjective complaints don’t require your attention; your tenants are adults and need to behave responsibly.
What are the tenants complaining about? If your upstairs tenant is complaining about your downstairs tenant and noise levels, are they having a real problem or simply having trouble adjusting to apartment or condo living? Some people don’t realize that noise carries in a multi-family dwelling and there may not be anything that you can do to fix the problem. Noise is subjective, and unless the tenant making the complaint can provide a third party with a reason to intervene there is not much you can do. If noise levels are truly reaching the “disturbing the peace” levels, the local police are better equipped to deal with the problem than you are.
Is there a danger to your tenants? If one tenant is breaking the law or breaking the lease, you can intervene by either calling the authorities or contacting the problem tenant. Reports of fire hazards, firearms or dangerous dogs should be taken seriously and reported to the proper authorities to protect your tenants and yourself. You may be held liable for injuries that occur on your property if you do not take action when you are informed of a danger to one or more tenants.
If you have no choice: If you seem to have one true problem tenant that is disrupting everyone’s right to enjoy the property, you may have no choice but to begin eviction proceedings. Most states allow you to give a three day quit or cure notice to a problem tenant; this legal notice advises them that they must correct the troublesome behavior or be evicted. Check both your lease and your state laws before taking this step, and save this for the most extreme cases. True criminal acts should be reported to the authorities, but the actual eviction process will need to be initiated by you as the landlord.
Proper screening of tenants and a good lease will help you prevent most tenant relationship problems. Once a problem arises, the way you address it will largely depend on the type and severity of the complaint and what if any legal obligation you have to your tenants and property.