BiggerPockets


How to handle complaint of tenant food odors?

Forum Powered By:

14 posts by 8 users

To participate in forum discussions, create a free account or login.

Bill Phinney

Real Estate Investor from Sparland, Illinois

Apr 10 '08, 03:13 AM


Greetings to all:

I have just received an e-mail from a tennant which I will paste below. We purchased a 4 unit building 3 weeks ago. 2 units unoccupied and 2 units occupied but no leases. Top floor tennant has lived there over 15 years and pays $300. Bottom tennant pays $485. Both of the other units are now renting for $500 and are occupied. The plan is to raise the $300 rent to $485. Logic is we did some improvements in the unoccupied units which allow us to get $500. No shortage of inquiries when we advertise in local paper and post sign in lawn.

How would you handle this type of complaint?

I received and reviewed your lease and appreciate all that you considered. Very hard to make a decision. However, the strong odor coming from the apt. below has forced me to come to the conclusion that it is time to move out. I have the windows in my apt open (gets kind of cold), but that does not seem to do much to control the smell that radiates upwards. I have friends who have told me what my neighbors are probably cooking. Nights/evenings seem to be worse with whatever it is brewing slowly below. I have a history of sinus problems and Asthma which is completely under control. I must be sensitive to smell and the odorsare triggers. The smell is probably not going to ever go away from whatever they are cooking, and the last landlord allowed them to move in probably not knowing or caring anything about their cultural cooking habits. The odor permeates into all of the rooms in my apt making relaxing and sleeping somewhat difficult. It is not fair for me to continue living with the odors from below that permeate into all of the rooms. There is no insulation in the apt between the upstairs and downstairs apt. My lungs are starting to burn and my sinuses are not tolerating the continual odor. You will have difficulty renting out this apt in the future considering what I have discussed. I completely understand your lease and terms. But, the odor is driving me up the wall from below and that will not change.

I agree that the food smells. I have place two timer realesed air fresheners in the hallways and they seemed to help a little. The upstairs tennant asked that I remove the one near his door due to his breathing. I know it may appear as if this guy is complaining too much but he is a long term tennant and plans to remain renting. I also agree that it smells. How would you notify the " cultural" tennant about the odor of their food? I do plan on replacing the charcoal filter in their range hood since I suspect it is no good.

I look forward to your replies.
Regards,
Bill


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:01


Michael Rogers

Real Estate Investor from Ooltewah, Tennessee

Apr 10 '08, 03:25 AM


I just want to clarify. Are they cooking some sort of foreign food or is the tenant suggesting they are cooking meth? Just checking. If it's meth, then it's an expensive problem. If it's some sort of smelly food, you might politely mention to the tenant that it smells and ask them to see if they know any way to tone the smell down. Open windows, don't cook that meal anymore, etc..

Good luck


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:01


Michael Rossi

Real Estate Investor from Ohio

Apr 10 '08, 04:24 AM


Have you been there and smelled the problem? Is it a serious problem? Have you talked to the previous owner to see if the upstairs tenant has been a complainer? Have you told the downstairs tenant to stop stinking up the building?

Usually, when I have someone start whining about their medical problems, I get rid of them. People that talk about their allergies or asthma being irritated by a food smell are probably lying and just looking for an excuse to whine.

I doubt if the upstairs tenant will stay if you raise the rent from $300 to $485. Have you asked her?

If the downstairs tenant is causing the building to stink and the upstairs tenant is a whiner, I'd get rid of both of them and start over with your own tenants.

Good Luck,

Mike


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:01


Bill Phinney

Real Estate Investor from Sparland, Illinois

Apr 10 '08, 04:30 AM


Michael,

Thanks for the reply. Definately not meth!

More like fish cooked in a dirty gym shoe. When I have obsereved the odors it did not trigger the happy rumblings of hunger in my belly as would a pizza, roasted chicken, or a sizzling steak would have. I assume that the current tennant will be moving out as a result. I have no problem with that since it will allow me to gain access to the unit to make a few improvements and get $500 a month instead of the $300 he is currently paying. My concern is this being an area of concern with a new renter as well since it seems to be an at night thing.

I'm just wondering how people here might word a written notification.

Thanks in advance.
Bill


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:01


Raymond Berndt Jr.

Real Estate Investor from Jacksonville Area, FL

Apr 10 '08, 05:13 AM


I agree, that getting rid of the both of them and renovating those units sounds like the best plan. Get better cashflow! Did you say that those tenants were not on a lease? Maybe going forward you could ad something into your leases that describe odor damage and complaints to it??


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:01


Tim W. Donor

Inspector from Tampa, FL

Apr 10 '08, 05:16 AM


When I was in my first or second year of onsite managing while in college, I actually called the fire department thinking there was a gas leak at the apartment complex. When the firemen entered the unit next to me, they discovered it was the raucus stench of her cooking that I was smelling. She got the message and it wasn't an issue anymore...lol

If it's ethnic food, maybe you need to run an ad in that ethnic group's newspaper and get a tenant who will appreciate the smell. It's not like they're going to change their diet to suit another ethnicity's palette.


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:01


Michael Rossi

Real Estate Investor from Ohio

Apr 10 '08, 05:33 AM


I would be very careful about what you say to the downstairs tenant if they are an ethnic minority. The easiest thing to do is give them the proper notice that their tenancy is being terminated. If you complain about the ethnic food smell, some wacko, socialist, legal-aid lawyer is going to charge discrimination. If they were not a minority, you could just tell them to stop stinking up the place. Unfortunately, that won't work if we're talking about ethnic food cooked by an ethnic minority. It's not right, but that is the reality. I'd just give them notice to leave and not give a reason.

Good Luck,

Mike


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:01


Michael Rogers

Real Estate Investor from Ooltewah, Tennessee

Apr 10 '08, 06:36 AM


I agree that some tenants are chronic complainers and will make your life difficult no matter what you do. You may be better off if this upstairs tenant moves out and you are able to get a new tenant at a higher rate.

As far as telling someone you have had a complaint about the smell coming from their apartment, you are not breaking any laws asking them to curb the smell. I totally agree that you need to exercise political tact when talking to them and not even touch on the ethnicity of the food being prepared. I'd guage how they react to your request. If they are resistant and difficult, then consider a notice. However, you might get lucky and they clean up their act.


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:01


Bill Phinney

Real Estate Investor from Sparland, Illinois

Apr 10 '08, 07:04 AM


I tend to agree that the best thing is to let the complaining tennant move, complete the improvements and charge more rent. My wife is of the " A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush" mindset. I however am always trying to figure out a way to buy the bush and charge those two birds rent for cash flow!

I think I will let him go with no attempt to sway his decision and also speak with the other tennant about opening a window when cooking. I will also be offering the tennants that cook the odorous food a lease for $500 which is an inrease of $15 per month. This may prompt them to move. If so I feel it is time for som KILZ! If they accept the increase (with no improvements) and I recieve any more complaints from the other 3 renters than I will know that this is a real problem and get rid of the tennants that make the odorous food.

Thanks for the replies.
Regards,
Bill


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:01


Michael Rossi

Real Estate Investor from Ohio

Apr 10 '08, 07:27 AM


I will also be offering the tennants that cook the odorous food a lease for $500 which is an inrease of $15 per month. This may prompt them to move.

I wouldn't give them more than a month-to-month lease. If you give them a year lease and they keep on stinking up the building, you may end up with one $500 tenant and 3 empty units for the next year!

Good Luck,

mike


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:01


Bob McIntosh

Real Estate Investor from Hoboken, New Jersey

Apr 10 '08, 06:36 PM


Originally posted by "MikeOH":
I will also be offering the tennants that cook the odorous food a lease for $500 which is an inrease of $15 per month. This may prompt them to move.

I wouldn't give them more than a month-to-month lease. If you give them a year lease and they keep on stinking up the building, you may end up with one $500 tenant and 3 empty units for the next year!

Good Luck,

mike

I agree with Mike on this one. A month to month is the way to go.

Also have you thought about having the smelly tenants move to the apartment above, this may help reduce the smell going into the other apartments...

just a thought :groovy:


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:02


Grand Wally

Real Estate Investor from Louisville, Kentucky

Apr 10 '08, 06:58 PM


Going forward, put a generalized clause in your lease that prevents a tenant from disturbing the " quiet enjoyment" of the cohabitants of the building. (actual legal term)

You can then say this cooking ruins that quiet enjoyment, just as an extremely loud stereo in a apartment would. Not sure about other states but this term is used pretty extensively in tenant/landlord relationships in Kentucky.


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:02


Bob McIntosh

Real Estate Investor from Hoboken, New Jersey

Apr 10 '08, 09:50 PM


Originally posted by "grandwally":
Going forward, put a generalized clause in your lease that prevents a tenant from disturbing the " quiet enjoyment" of the cohabitants of the building. (actual legal term)

You can then say this cooking ruins that quiet enjoyment, just as an extremely loud stereo in a apartment would. Not sure about other states but this term is used pretty extensively in tenant/landlord relationships in Kentucky.

I am on my 3rd lease (2 here in NJ, and 1 in Chicago) since graduating college and all of them have stated that I can do nothing to " disturb the quite enjoyment of any other tenant" . So I would tend to say that this is a pretty common term in leases all over the country.


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:02


P NW

OR

Apr 10 '08, 11:13 PM


You can not control what your tenants eat. Just forget about doing that. A judge woiuld laugh you out of court if you tried to evict them because you don't like the way their food smells when it is cooking.

Since the complaint didn't come until you raised the rent, I suspect that the cooking odor isn't the problem; it's the new rent amount and what you have here is a negotiating tactic to get you to greatly reduce the amount of the raise. I'll bet your tenant would stay for the lower rent amount, and the smells wouldn't bother him.

I will not keep a tenant who starts to complain that my building is damaging his health, so if that were my tenant, he'd get his notice to move out at the end of the lease. I don't like manipulative tenants to begin with, so using manipulative tactics get their name put on the short list right off the bat.

If the smelly cooking actually makes your new tenants move out, or makes the upstairs vacancy hard to rent, then I might consider giving the cooking tenants notice to move out when their lease expires. I would not say a word about their cooking, or you set yourself up for a racial discrimination lawsuit.


Edited Jun 26 2010, 05:02


(Don't Want to See This? Log in or Create a Free BiggerPockets.com Account!)

Ubg-book

Get the Free eBook from BiggerPockets

Get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks, and techniques delivered straight to your inbox weekly!

  • Actionable Advice for Getting Started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more!

Sign up below to download the eBook for FREE today!

We hate spam just as much as you


To post a reply or start a new discussion, create a free account or login.

Manage Keyword Alerts

View All Forums