A reader sent a question to me, and I thought it would be good to post my answer for all to read.
You often talk about how landlords can deal with problems they’re having with tenants, like collecting past due rent and not taking care of the home. But how about dealing with issues among tenants themselves? I have a situation with two tenants fighting over an air freshener that is getting me stuck in the middle.
Best I can do is tell you how I handled something similar …
I once owned a 10-unit, two-story apartment building. One of my tenants was a middle-aged couple who had a disabled adult daughter. The young woman would spend hours a day gathering aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and glass jars from along the streets and trash cans she came across. Then she would bring them back to the apartment where she had set up a table on the patio to sort out her findings.
The tenant living above them called me. She said the goings on downstairs was creating a health hazard. Rats were running around and the smell was terrible.
I confronted the downstairs tenant who explained that once a week he’d load the items in his van and take them to the recycler. It gave his daughter something to do, plus made her feel good that she was making a little money.
Next I had my exterminator check the patio area out. He couldn’t find any trace of rats or any other rodents. The space was clean since the daughter thoroughly hosed it down each day.
Then I went back to the upstairs tenant and relayed the findings. Didn’t matter. She still wanted it to stop. And if I didn’t do something about it, she’d call building and zoning.
The last thing I wanted was some inspector snooping around, because if they look hard enough, they find something wrong.
So I decided to get both tenants to neutral territory … a local coffee shop … to discuss this together.
I had the upstairs tenant explain what she found objectionable. Then I asked the downstairs tenant explain how this activity was therapy for his disabled daughter.
The upstairs tenant wouldn’t budge.
So then I asked her when she found the collecting of recyclables to be the most objectionable.
“When I’m trying to watch my shows. All that noise from their patio.”
“What are your favorite shows?”
“Judge Judy and Judge Brown.”
“I like them too,” said the downstairs tenant.
The two of them back and forth recapping some of their favorite episodes.
I eventually managed to find out that those shows were on from noon until 2:00 pm. And I got the upstairs tenant to agree that if there was no noise coming from the downstairs patio during those hours, she would be happy.
The point here, Ned, is that if tenants are squabbling with each other, you best get in the middle and take control. Otherwise, you have no idea how it could turn out. You could lose one or both of them as tenants or end up in court yourself.