When Should a Property Owner Get Involved in a Tenant's Dispute with Neighbors?
Managing a rental property means taking on a variety of roles. Depending on how involved you are day to day, a property owner can act as a leasing agent a repairman, or a problem-solver at any given time. When issues arise between a tenant and a neighbor, property owners might wonder whether they should add mediator to the list. In an ideal situation, tenants and neighbors should be left to work out their differences themselves. But disputes can sometimes escalate beyond a quick solution, and in some cases, knowing when to get involved in a dispute between your tenant and their neighbors can help you make the decision to act, if and when the time comes, more confidently.
The first thing a property owner should do when a dispute first arises between a tenant and their neighbor is to learn as much as you can about the nature of the dispute. If the disagreement is related to the property itself or the behavior of a tenant, a landlord has an obligation to step in and take action. A property owner’s first line of defense against problems is a lease that clearly outlines what types of tenant behavior will not be tolerated. If a tenant is violating the lease and a neighbor has complained, a property owner must take the proper steps to deal with the problem right away.
If, on the other hand, the tenant is complaining about the neighbor, it’s a good idea to first check for a history of disputes. It is possible that the neighbor is an ongoing problem, or you could have a tenant who is unusually sensitive. Listening to a complaint and showing genuine concern can go a long way toward helping your tenant find a resolution. You might also consider speaking directly to the neighbor and give them a chance to air their grievances. In some cases, simply being heard can help calm a tense situation. Just be sure to stay calm yourself; becoming angry will cause irreparable damage to your relationship with the neighbor, something a successful rental property owner cannot afford.
If talking to the neighbor doesn’t resolve the issue, it’s important to understand that there is little you can do to modify the neighbor’s behavior. Issues like noise complaints, obstructing sidewalk or street access, or other issues might be addressed through an owner’s association, if available, or other local officials. But it may also be that the tenant and neighbor simply can’t get along. It’s entirely possible that a different tenant wouldn’t have the same issue and would get along just fine.
On the other hand, if the neighbor is engaging in behavior that violates a law, encourage your tenant to report it to the appropriate agency, police, code compliance or health department etc. This is especially important if threats are made, the property is damaged, or your tenant feels like their safety is at risk. As a landlord, you have an obligation to help your tenants stay safe and should work with your tenant and the local authorities to resolve any disputes of this kind. If you do nothing, and a dispute escalates into harassment or physical violence, you might wind up involved in a lawsuit or worse. Knowing when and how to step into a tenant dispute with their neighbor can be a tricky part of the business. But Real Property Management can help. Our professionals can help mediate disputes, work with unhappy tenants, and take steps to encourage good relations with your neighbors.