Tenants Calling Code Enforcement Not Property Mgmt.

15 Replies

HELP!!

We closed on our first larger multi-family about 6 months ago. Since then we have corrected a bunch of deferred maintenance, started to update vacant units and are working on turning around the property. We have had some issues with tenants, who are being required to actually pay rent, calling in issues to code enforcement. When I say issues I mean the toilet backed up Sunday and they completely bypass calling the property manager and are telling the city that the property manager can't be reached. While on the phone with code they are also bring up a bunch of other items that we didn't know were issues.  My property manager is on top of issues and when called usually has a solution within hours if not within the day. The city, of course, is hitting us with everything, the property is old and the last owner neglected it. What do I do, we are fixing everything that we know about but some larger fixes take time. I don't want to piss off the city but I feel like they are training my tenants to call them and bypass the property manager. I don't get why an owner who neglects the property gets treated better than one who puts in the effort. Any advice or previous experience with this would be helpful.

1. Yes we have talked to tenants about the step to handle maintenance issues

2. We have explained our issue to the city with tenants bypassing us and going directly to city code enforcement

Hey @Aaron K. , it is definitely in the lease what happened, at least with two of the tenants (friends of course) they claim to have attempted to contact my property manager by phone. Granted there are 5 ways to contact him. The problem is unless they show us their phone we can't disprove that they "attempted". We are sending out letters on the first to remind people of all the ways that they can contact my property manager. 

Are the tenants month-to-month? If so, I'd likely give them their 30 (or 60) day notice to vacate immediately.

What exactly is code giving you fines for? They can't give a violation for a stopped up toilet can they?

Can you contact the city for a full inspection, and get a list of what code violations there may be? Then maybe get an extension or time frame from the city to fix said items? And, I would note which tenants are doing this and terminate their lease when it is up for renewal. 

Originally posted by @Nicole A. :

Are the tenants month-to-month? If so, I'd likely give them their 30 (or 60) day notice to vacate immediately.

What exactly is code giving you fines for? They can't give a violation for a stopped up toilet can they?

 I was going to say the same thing. 

@Anthony Wick , luckily we were sent a list of violations and granted an extension but, unfortunate there are 4 separate 4 plexs, the two friends live in two different buildings, hence the list is doubling. @Anthony Gayden the way the city works is they will only inspect something when there is a call and once they are out there they can inspect every common area and that unit for violations. So while it started as a toilet, it ended up being about 5k in repairs which we were working on accomplishing most. Just not in the deadline we were given by the city. 

@Nicole A. sadly they are in a 1 yr lease but one gentleman did move and we are going to evict the other as well. Luckily there aren't fines but we are being required to do thousands of dollars of work we planned on doing in a very condensed deadline. Repainting all the buildings and re doing some exterior lighting along with a code change issues that we were just notified of. 

I think in the end I'm just frustrated that the city treats landlords who are trying, in this manner. And it likely wont change until we get the problem tenants out. Its annoying that this is all happening because we ask people to pay their rent and that slum properties go free. 

I had a former tenant who started doing this.  She was on month to month lease.  I immediately told her to move.  I manage the property myself and just got tired of the drama.  We have the property inspected by the city on a regular basis.  That was about 4 years ago.  We had the same tenant for 4 years and hardly any complaints.  We have a new tenant in that property with no problems either.  A lot of times tenants like to play games and threaten stuff like that because they don't want to pay the rent.

We are having the same issue with a tenant. He has been living in n this apartment for 3 years with no issues until recently, For some reason he is acting erratically and is pissed at us lately. First he started complaining about crickets OUTSIDE the apartment that didn't let him sleep and a wandering opossum he spotted outside one night. We went over to spray for bugs and crickets and the magical opossum as well,  but he insisted that it had to be remediated faster, we solved the issue within 5 days... He then went and filed an anonymous complaint to the code enforcement office which have found one single serious violation which we remediated in 1 day. There a re other less important ones which we will remediate as needed. 

Our main concern is the tenant doing this behind our backs and the high possibility that he will do something else. 

Is there any recourse we can take beyond not renewing the lease upon expiration?

Any advice and or experience with similar situations is welcome!


Thanks


Jason

@Jason Krac My thought is to just schedule a time with the tenant to do a unit inspection. Approach it in a way that indicates you want to make sure that you have provided all maintenance necessary. It is common to do inspections. I warn my tenants I do it every 6 months and then do them regularly no matter who they are.

While there, ask if the crickets etc are better. Be super approachable. If this guy is complaining because he wants out of the lease and is faking stuff to try to give him the right to then you may get the opportunity to mutually close his lease down now. Problem tenants just aren't worth the trouble even if their money is good. 

I find when people feel you are sympathetic they are more likely to make their real intentions clear. Being sympathetic doesn't mean you agree with everything but let them know they are heard. Saying things like "I can see how you could feel that way" or repeating their complaint back at them such as "So you are saying that you feel the opossum is judging you when he appears in the yard?" Make sure you don't use the incredulous voice but the sympathetic voice when you say that. "I can see how his staring at you like that could make you feel judged." "I have found that it is often better to ignore people when they are being judgmental, it gives them power when you get upset." Now your tenant feels heard without you agreeing that the opossum is being judgmental. You have acknowledged their feeling which often calms the situation.

Originally posted by @Sharon Rosendahl :

@Jason Krac My thought is to just schedule a time with the tenant to do a unit inspection. Approach it in a way that indicates you want to make sure that you have provided all maintenance necessary. It is common to do inspections. I warn my tenants I do it every 6 months and then do them regularly no matter who they are.

While there, ask if the crickets etc are better. Be super approachable. If this guy is complaining because he wants out of the lease and is faking stuff to try to give him the right to then you may get the opportunity to mutually close his lease down now. Problem tenants just aren't worth the trouble even if their money is good. 

I find when people feel you are sympathetic they are more likely to make their real intentions clear. Being sympathetic doesn't mean you agree with everything but let them know they are heard. Saying things like "I can see how you could feel that way" or repeating their complaint back at them such as "So you are saying that you feel the opossum is judging you when he appears in the yard?" Make sure you don't use the incredulous voice but the sympathetic voice when you say that. "I can see how his staring at you like that could make you feel judged." "I have found that it is often better to ignore people when they are being judgmental, it gives them power when you get upset." Now your tenant feels heard without you agreeing that the opossum is being judgmental. You have acknowledged their feeling which often calms the situation.

 Thanks Sharon, great advice

@Jeremy Woods

Reach out to elected city officials. Everything government is subjective to political whim. Introduce yourself and say you are the new owner. Talk to them about everything you've done and what you still plan to do to bring up the property and subsequently the general neighborhood. Tell them about how the tenant is cutting your property manager out. Chances are that the code enforcement division is used to the previous neglectful owner and the only way to get a response was to hit hard and heavy with the fines. An email that gets forwarded to the code enforcer through the city manager's office usually carries a little more weight than if you reach out directly.

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