General Landlording & Rental Properties

User Stats

48
Posts
22
Votes
Mike Shahi
  • Washington, DC
22
Votes |
48
Posts

Annoying tenant - how should I address this issue....

Mike Shahi
  • Washington, DC
Posted Jul 12 2022, 11:47

I have a tenant living in my basement that pays on time and keeps the space clean. She's been here 2 years and recently purchased a new construction home with an expected completion date of December 2022. 

She has a very interesting personality and can seem demanding. Up to this point I've seen used good emotional intelligence and catered to her every need. I've addressed even the most minor issues like changing light bulbs when I can easily put it on the tenant. 

What has bugged me the most are her constant phone calls about noise. She seems to get anxiety and is constantly on edge. I'm getting tired of the "what was that noise?" phone calls which ends up being nothing but banging from utility trucks or the tapping sound from rain- seriously?. The house is secure with bars on the windows, cameras and security doors at each entrance. One time she asked if I was home and stated that she hears someone walking upstairs. I was about 10 minutes away but I told her if you feel unsafe, to call 911 and the next thing I know my house is surrounded by police. 

Last night was the last straw when I received a phone call at 1:30am asking to look at the security cameras because she "hears something". I looked out the window and nothing. I let her know that I don't see or hear anything and she stated that she could just be going crazy - you think? 

I feel like she has crossed personal boundaries and it's become unacceptable behavior. A part of me wants to talk to her, maybe shoot over an email to put in a place a process for emergencies and what exactly constitutes as an emergency. I don't think I have the legal right to ask her why she behaves this way- "have you been robbed at gunpoint? Had a previous house broken into?"


We are at the finish line with her lease so a part of me wants to let it go. I don't want to create an enemy and then having her file constant complaints out of spite. I'm not really sure what to do- talk to her or let it go and just live with it. 

Germantown, Maryland

User Stats

8,427
Posts
9,474
Votes
John Underwood#1 Short-Term & Vacation Rental Discussions Contributor
  • Investor
  • Greer, SC
9,474
Votes |
8,427
Posts
John Underwood#1 Short-Term & Vacation Rental Discussions Contributor
  • Investor
  • Greer, SC
Replied Jul 12 2022, 11:55

Don't jump through hoops for her. When she calls let it go to VM. I train my tenants to text me. 

My phone goes on DND after 9PM and only people I designate will ring through.

I had a leak at a house one time and when they couldn't get me they called the fire department who came and shut the water off at the house. The next morning I saw the text and VM and I sent my handyman over to fix the problem. I literally lost no sleep over this.

They can call 911 for an emergency, everything else can wait till I'm up.

User Stats

2,041
Posts
3,756
Votes
Scott Trench
  • President of BiggerPockets
  • Denver, CO
3,756
Votes |
2,041
Posts
Scott Trench
  • President of BiggerPockets
  • Denver, CO
Replied Jul 12 2022, 11:58

Interesting. I look forward to hearing others' input on this situation. 

A couple of thoughts: 

1) This is the danger with house-hacking and why some refuse to do this. You are making thousands of dollars and this is a risk that we all take with an annoying tenant. 

2) I'd make sure that the lease does, in fact, expire in December (if not sooner). Don't let some problem come up that allows her to stay in your basement. 

3) You can consider moving yourself, and as part of that move, hiring a property manager to take over the property. This would work well if you are trying to get into another house-hack. 

4) If you are stuck, I think that you can consider having a sit-down and outlining the rules of the house: 

- You are the landlord and she is the tenant. 

- You are responsible for these items, and not those items (make a list of what is reasonable for the landlord to deal with like broken toilets, leaky sinks, power outlets not working, windows not opening, etc. and a list of what the landlord does not deal with like people making noises outside. Furthermore, it is none of her business whether you are home or not, and who is walking around your property. 

- Inform her that a call at 1:30 AM of any kind is almost never appropriate. If she is in physical danger, she should contact the police, not you. You will respond to emergency issues with the property within 24 hours and within a week for less urgent items.

- Get this all documented into an updated version of the lease if you can. If you can't do that, make your expectations clear anyways, but make sure that your rules do not conflict with your lease or local laws. 

- Get this person out of the building if an earlier opportunity arises. If you are month to month, simply explain to her that the lease will not be renewing, and move on. 

User Stats

272
Posts
177
Votes
Henry T.
177
Votes |
272
Posts
Replied Jul 12 2022, 12:35
Your description: Pays on time, clean, interesting personality, maybe demanding.  My first thought is maybe this is someone on an autistic spectrum? Her mind is flying with all kinds of distractions simultaneously. Not her fault. I know I'm only guessing here. If this is the case, she needs understanding not harshness. I aslo see that your boundaries are not consistant. It's very kind of you to change a lite bulb for your tenant but it also shows that you're there for anything. I would suggest a kind, gentle talk, wth paper backup (for visiual learners sake) settinng boundaries. Something she can refer to before knee jerking, or becoming emotionnal or whatever. Pays on time, and clean goes a long way for me.  I could be totally off base here, but it was my first thought. Maybe it's something to consider?

User Stats

272
Posts
177
Votes
Henry T.
177
Votes |
272
Posts
Replied Jul 12 2022, 12:40
Quote from @Scott Trench:
=

- You are the landlord and she is the tenant. 

- You are responsible for these items, and not those items (make a list of what is reasonable for the landlord to deal with like broken toilets, leaky sinks, power outlets not working, windows not opening, etc. and a list of what the landlord does not deal with like people making noises outside. Furthermore, it is none of her business whether you are home or not, and who is walking around your property. 

- Inform her that a call at 1:30 AM of any kind is almost never appropriate. If she is in physical danger, she should contact the police, not you. You will respond to emergency issues with the property within 24 hours and within a week for less urgent items.

- Get this all documented into an updated version of the lease if you can. If you can't do that, make your expectations clear anyways, but make sure that your rules do not conflict with your lease or local laws. 

Setting boundaries. Yes.

User Stats

2,041
Posts
3,756
Votes
Scott Trench
  • President of BiggerPockets
  • Denver, CO
3,756
Votes |
2,041
Posts
Scott Trench
  • President of BiggerPockets
  • Denver, CO
Replied Jul 12 2022, 12:40

I like @Henry T. and @John Underwood's ideas better than my own after reading them.

User Stats

18,103
Posts
28,344
Votes
Nathan G.
  • Real Estate Broker
  • Cody, WY
28,344
Votes |
18,103
Posts
Nathan G.
  • Real Estate Broker
  • Cody, WY
ModeratorReplied Jul 12 2022, 13:27
Quote from @Mike Shahi:

We are at the finish line with her lease so a part of me wants to let it go. I don't want to create an enemy and then having her file constant complaints out of spite. I'm not really sure what to do- talk to her or let it go and just live with it. 

You've allowed her odd behavior for nearly two years. In fact, I would argue you've encouraged it. At this point, I would consider it a costly lesson, finish out the lease, and be more careful with the next renter.

User Stats

1,032
Posts
759
Votes
Sergey A. Petrov
  • Real Estate Consultant
  • Seattle, WA
759
Votes |
1,032
Posts
Sergey A. Petrov
  • Real Estate Consultant
  • Seattle, WA
Replied Jul 12 2022, 13:54

Like everyone stated, your tenant is not annoying, they are a human being and you are the enabler. Back in the day I had a tenant that heard “rats in the attic” - none were found. Then “a bird must be stuck in one of the vents on the roof” - none were found. Then “were you in the house earlier? I think someone was here because I vacuumed before I left and the carpets looked like someone walked through when I got home” - no, we didn’t have anybody out. Then “I am often woken up in the middle of the night because it sounds like someone is in the backyard and just lurking around the house” - call the police next time. These things continued. We eventually said we’ve responded to each and every “complaint”, found no substantive evidence to any of them, and the next step would be to call Ghost Busters but I lost their phone number. We rode out the term of the lease and did not renew. Rent was always paid on time, there have been no complaints from the neighbors or anyone else, and the house was left in an immaculate rent ready (literally) condition at move out. The security deposit was refunded in full and the house was immediately re-rented. There have been no reports of similar nature from subsequent tenants.

User Stats

48
Posts
22
Votes
Mike Shahi
  • Washington, DC
22
Votes |
48
Posts
Mike Shahi
  • Washington, DC
Replied Jul 12 2022, 18:41

@Sergey A. Petrov

Wow. Sounds exactly like my tenant. Everyone here provided great input. I do admit that I have a really hard time saying no. I enabled this behavior

There’s a great saying- pick up a bee from kindness and learn the limitations of kindness

So to provide a quick update she gave me a call this evening and apologized for the late phone call and stated that this is not going to become a new habit. She was awakened in the middle of the night by what she thought was noise from the security door. I told her that if she feels that her life is in danger to call the police- after a few seconds of silence, her tone somewhat changed as if I made an offensive remark and she said we will have to respectfully disagree with that solution. Wtf?

I should have told her “OK when you move into your new house in a few months and you hear noises who are you going to call?”

This was my third and last tenant in the basement. I have house hacked ever since I moved into this home but at this point I’m done with it. I really want my own space and peace. All three tenants kept the space clean and paid on time but like someone said earlier we are all humans with different personalities and frankly I’m just tired of it all- I need a break. My mental health is far more important

User Stats

10,594
Posts
7,778
Votes
Replied Jul 12 2022, 19:00

You should have set boundaries before.  Catering to her every whim was what got you in this situation.  I agree with John-don't answer the phone and let it go to voice mail.  Telling her to call 911 if she thinks there is an intruder is the appropriate response.

You could always try short term rentals where you can make it as available as you want and limit the length of stay.

User Stats

487
Posts
432
Votes
Rodney Sums
  • Laveen, AZ
432
Votes |
487
Posts
Rodney Sums
  • Laveen, AZ
Replied Jul 12 2022, 19:32
Quote from @Mike Shahi:

I have a tenant living in my basement that pays on time and keeps the space clean. She's been here 2 years and recently purchased a new construction home with an expected completion date of December 2022. 

She has a very interesting personality and can seem demanding. Up to this point I've seen used good emotional intelligence and catered to her every need. I've addressed even the most minor issues like changing light bulbs when I can easily put it on the tenant. 

What has bugged me the most are her constant phone calls about noise. She seems to get anxiety and is constantly on edge. I'm getting tired of the "what was that noise?" phone calls which ends up being nothing but banging from utility trucks or the tapping sound from rain- seriously?. The house is secure with bars on the windows, cameras and security doors at each entrance. One time she asked if I was home and stated that she hears someone walking upstairs. I was about 10 minutes away but I told her if you feel unsafe, to call 911 and the next thing I know my house is surrounded by police. 

Last night was the last straw when I received a phone call at 1:30am asking to look at the security cameras because she "hears something". I looked out the window and nothing. I let her know that I don't see or hear anything and she stated that she could just be going crazy - you think? 

I feel like she has crossed personal boundaries and it's become unacceptable behavior. A part of me wants to talk to her, maybe shoot over an email to put in a place a process for emergencies and what exactly constitutes as an emergency. I don't think I have the legal right to ask her why she behaves this way- "have you been robbed at gunpoint? Had a previous house broken into?"


We are at the finish line with her lease so a part of me wants to let it go. I don't want to create an enemy and then having her file constant complaints out of spite. I'm not really sure what to do- talk to her or let it go and just live with it. 


 It appears the two of you have a different perspective on what type of relationship you have. This may be enhanced by the fact you share a roof. You may be able to speak with her compassionately to understand where her anxiety comes from while politely setting boundaries so that you're not receiving phone calls at all hours. Let her change  the light bulbs and be an adult as well. It's quite possible her behavior is clinical in nature requiring assessment by medical professional

User Stats

2,203
Posts
3,789
Votes
Jill F.
  • Investor
  • Akron, OH
3,789
Votes |
2,203
Posts
Jill F.
  • Investor
  • Akron, OH
Replied Jul 12 2022, 19:34

I, apparently, am a mean old witch. I think you start answering any late phone calls from her by yelling "BOO!, OMG! did you hear that?" and then drop the phone and start stomping on the floor.

I will be helpful by changing lightbulbs and the like IF it's not going to put me out too much... but otherwise I just tell people no, that's not something we handle for you. Like @John Underwood I do not take calls at night. when I go upstairs to bed my phone stays downstairs; I'll call back when I get up and moving, around 9:30- 10:00am. I also had tenants call the fire department for a supply line leak once in the middle of the night.

I think my tolerance level for unreasonableness gets lower every passing year.

User Stats

10,594
Posts
7,778
Votes
Replied Jul 12 2022, 19:39
Quote from @Jill F.:

I, apparently, am a mean old witch. I think you start answering any late phone calls from her by yelling "BOO!, OMG! did you hear that?" and then drop the phone and start stomping on the floor.

Too funny.  Maybe he should give the tenant your phone number ;) 

User Stats

2,203
Posts
3,789
Votes
Jill F.
  • Investor
  • Akron, OH
3,789
Votes |
2,203
Posts
Jill F.
  • Investor
  • Akron, OH
Replied Jul 12 2022, 19:48
Quote from @Theresa Harris:
Quote from @Jill F.:

I, apparently, am a mean old witch. I think you start answering any late phone calls from her by yelling "BOO!, OMG! did you hear that?" and then drop the phone and start stomping on the floor.

Too funny.  Maybe he should give the tenant your phone number ;) 


Lololol noooooooooooooo!!!

User Stats

2,373
Posts
1,837
Votes
Kim Meredith Hampton
  • Real Estate Broker
  • St Petersburg & Orlando
1,837
Votes |
2,373
Posts
Kim Meredith Hampton
  • Real Estate Broker
  • St Petersburg & Orlando
Replied Jul 13 2022, 07:20

@Mike Shahi You have already let the horse out of the barn!!! I seriously doubt that she will change at this point. Just send her an email or letter stating that what is an emergency and during what times. Other than that, just let her move on-good riddance!

User Stats

1,614
Posts
2,257
Votes
Linda S.
  • Investor
  • Richmond, VA
2,257
Votes |
1,614
Posts
Linda S.
  • Investor
  • Richmond, VA
Replied Jul 13 2022, 08:15

@Mike Shahi,

From my experience, high maintenance/stressed out/worry about everything tenants are very consistent-- they will ALWAYS be like that.    

I would have a very firm, NO BS talk with her.    You have done everything within your power to provide a safe, nice, clean place to live.   You can't change the area outside, if she feels unsafe she needs to move ASAP.     Calling at 1:30AM is unacceptable, I'm sorry, squirrels and raccoons are out there, I'm sure that what she heard.  If you're in the city, maybe someone was cutting through your yard, I don't know.   If she feels unsafe, she needs to find a new place.   Not to say I grill people, but I'm straight with them-- if you call me at 4AM, what do you expect me to do?  Most companies won't' open until 8/9AM, so it's useless, I can't make a person appear magically.   Call me when I can do something rationally.  

Personally, if she's paying, I wouldn't kick her out, but I would show her the door is always open and you won't tolerate that kind of behavior.

Paranoid or mentally whatever?  I don't care-- you aren't a health professional and this isn't your job, your job is to be a landlord, not a door mat.  Be firm-- and fair.

User Stats

142
Posts
57
Votes
David Hedges
  • Investor
  • Crown Point, IN
57
Votes |
142
Posts
David Hedges
  • Investor
  • Crown Point, IN
Replied Jul 13 2022, 10:02

you need to stop taking the calls, and let them roll off to voicemail, only returning the ones that are relevant. 

By responding every time they call, and not putting some of this on your tenant, you've actually encouraged some of this behavior.

I was getting not the same, but at one time was getting calls at all hours including those 1 or 2am calls, from tenants. In the middle of the night, unless the place is on fire, or something of that scale, nobody is going to jump through hoops to respond right away. 

what I had done was get a google number that I gave tenants. Most times late calls, I would let go directly to voicemail, or if I knew a tenant would call with unimportant questions or complaints, I would just let those go to voicemail also. From there I could look over the calls, and respond if I felt there was a need. 

User Stats

48
Posts
22
Votes
Mike Shahi
  • Washington, DC
22
Votes |
48
Posts
Mike Shahi
  • Washington, DC
Replied Jul 13 2022, 20:22

@Rodney Sums

You hit the nail on the head. She admitted having OCD.

The issue is that when she did make maintenance calls for me to come downstairs to fix something, it turned into a one hour convo about life, work etc so now the landlord/tenant relationship turned into a friendship. (In her mind). It’s difficult to pass by someone everyday and pretend they don’t exist when they live under the same roof.

Some of the maintenance calls that she’s placed have been for such minor issues and sometimes I just sit here and think to myself what the hell are you going to do when you move into your own home in a few months with nobody around to make repairs?

She’s called me for things like the cabinet knob being loose and all I did is tighten it with a screwdriver in 5 seconds. She stands there like, what did you do? What was it?

She can’t hold her own for sh*T and I’m wondering what the hell she is going to do when I’m no longer around in a few months to call for repairs and “security” - actually why do I even care? I’m counting down the days