Addressing Tenant Tensions
As a landlord you did what was necessary, you ran credit checks, ensured financial responsibility, references were contacted and verified, and security deposit was taken.
You’ve done everything possible to ensure your tenants will respect the property and pay rent on time.
Even with the best tenant screening, you can’t prevent conflict and differences in lifestyles between your tenants. This conflict often causes high animosity and leaves you in the middle of what could be tenant-on-tenant drama.
What’s A Landlord To Do?
Be it the stomping of a “loud” upstairs neighbour, excessive music, parking in the wrong spot, or even aggressive smells wafting through the next door unit, every property manager has encountered a tenant complaint about a neighbouring tenant.
For the most part, these types of lifestyle complaints can be settled with a little mediation, compromise, and lease enforcement. In cases of serious threats, harassment or violence, legal action might be necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of your tenants.
How to Manage Feuding Tenants
The first step is to ensure the lease that you have your tenants sign is solid and that it details rules expected of tenants that promote a safe and peaceful environment.
A safe environment includes provisions about unacceptable harassment, threats or inappropriate behaviour directed at other tenants. And a peaceful environment includes conditions that make all tenants feel comfortable regarding nuisance or noise.
Lease Terms for a Safe and Peaceful Environment
There are some landlords who write and include specific points in lease agreements about what a safe and peaceful environment entails in regards to noise and behaviour for all tenants and their guests, and go so far as to highlight that failure to comply is considered breaking lease terms and can be grounds for eviction.
If simple disputes and noise complaints cannot be settled with conversations and warnings, then having a strong lease in place can certainly help if an eviction notice is necessary.
Create a Resolution Policy and Procedure
To better mitigate tenant disputes, it’s a good idea to have an established internal policy which details how you are going to handle these types of situations. A policy also ensures that you or a member of your team treats each complaint with consistency.
What Should Your Policy Include?
Address it before it starts
Encourage your tenants to solve their problems on their own. When a tenant first moves in, offer them helpful suggestions about dealing with their neighbours. You can include a handout with your tenant welcome package. In the case of most noise complaints, the offending tenant often does not realize they are being too loud and will happily turn down their TV or music, and quiet down a party if a polite request is made.
Provide your tenants with instructions about how to file a complaint. Do you want your tenants to call you every time they have a complaint? Do you want them to fill out a complaint form? Do you prefer an email? Communicating your preferred method of communication to your tenants will help to avoid late-night calls to your emergency or maintenance lines.
Always Acknowledge Your Tenant’s Complaint
You must respond and acknowledge your tenant’s complaint as soon as possible. It is important that you take complaints seriously, so your tenants feel valued and respected. (Even if you have to suppress an eye roll from Tenant Tina for another complaint about Tenant Tom’s “animated gaming enthusiasm.) Explain to your tenant that you empathise with their situation and that you will do what you can to mitigate the behaviour. If no action can be taken, explain why.
Make a call
Contact the tenant in dispute by phone and advise them that a complaint has been made, and explain the details around it. Do not tell them who made the complaint, this can cause further disputes or tension among your tenants. If they are breaking rules which are stipulated in the lease agreement, reference this violation and request that the behaviour is corrected. Remind them that lease violations are grounds for eviction. Oftentimes a request and warning are all that are needed.
Put it in writing
After your phone call, send an email to the tenant in dispute, confirming your conversation and what was discussed. Your letter should detail any actions moving forward that they or management will take to address the issue and reference any specific lease violations.
This is where tenant complaint forms can come in handy. You should also have a record of the date the complaint was made, what actions you took, your conversation with the offending tenant and what settlement was agreed upon. Make sure to log all complaints, and build a file against repeat offenders. This will help if you find yourself before the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board or in the middle of legal action.
Check-in with the tenant who made the complaint. You want to ensure they are comfortable and satisfied with their rental arrangement. You don’t necessarily have to ask specifically about the situation or complaint, but reaching out will remind them that they are respected.
A tenant who is being difficult and disruptive should recognize their own responsibility to follow your lease terms and change their behaviour after receiving a complaint notice.
If a situation poses a potential threat to anyone’s health or safety, be prepared with legal counsel to take appropriate actions. Do not be afraid to remind your tenants that if warranted they can certainly call the police to address disputes where they have been or feel threatened.
Landlords don’t always realise that they are often called upon to be the “referee” between feuding tenants. Having a successful rental property means creating a positive atmosphere among tenants. Proactively managing tenant disputes encourages tenant retention and signals that you are a great landlord and property manager.