In multi-unit properties, tenant disputes are almost a given. Whether it's a noise complaint, a fight about shared amenities or common areas -- or even an all-out brawl on the property -- multifamily investors are bound to see one at some point or another. The question is: How do you handle it? The answer really depends on the severity of the problem, as well as what's detailed in your lease.
Are you currently dealing with a tenant dispute on your rental property? Here are seven steps to take.
1. Determine if there's a safety concern
The first thing to determine is whether the dispute is causing a safety issue. Is a tenant being harassed or threatened? Is inappropriate behavior being directed toward them or their family members? Does someone feel unsafe in their own home?
If there is a safety concern, you'll want to get the police involved before it can escalate any further.
2. Acknowledge the complaint (or complaints)
If there doesn't seem to be a safety concern, let the tenant know you've received their complaint and are actively working to investigate and resolve it. Ask for details where possible, including the dates, time, and location of the offense and any other information the tenant can provide. If they have photos of the issue, even better.
3. Talk to the offending party
Next, talk to the disputed tenant. Get their side of the story, and make sure to document it thoroughly. If possible, avoid using the other tenant's name (though in many cases, it may be obvious).
4. Make a recommendation for resolution
This might be as simple as telling one tenant to turn down their music by 10 p.m. or asking another tenant to take better care of their garden. If the dispute is more complicated, think about bringing in an official mediator.
5. Follow up in a week or two
If both parties agreed to your resolution, follow up in a week or so to ensure things are going smoothly. You should also do a second follow-up a few weeks later. Make sure your tenants feel heard, safe, and respected.
6. Consider any lease violations
If the problems continue, you'll also want to investigate any potential lease violations. If it seems a tenant may have violated their agreement, you may have grounds to evict them. Consider speaking to a real estate attorney to make sure you have the necessary evidence to do so.
7. Be proactive
Your best bet: Set expectations with tenants from the start. Include a clause in your lease that details your standards for a safe, peaceful living environment, and clearly outline your options for recourse should they violate those terms.
Having a trusted real estate attorney on hand can also help in cases of tenant disputes. An attorney will have a good handle on local tenant rights and eviction laws and can help point you in the right direction.