Leaky Pipe, Naked Tenant, Chain Locked Door: What Would You Do?

96 Replies

Just curious: what would YOU do in this situation? 

(The lady in this story has a history of "drama" with us - so nothing in this story is unusual.) 

A tenant called last week about a pipe that has been leaking in her ceiling. We had problems with that pipe a few years ago and sent a plumber in to fix it. Apparently it wasn't fixed, and it's damaging the new drywall again. Ugh. That's a separate issue. 

We told the tenant we would send someone out. She called back the next day and said she doesn't want anyone to come over because she is sick and just got out of the hospital. (A line she has used A LOT over the past 5 years.)  In reality, I believe the tenant is a pretty severe alcoholic and doesn't want anyone in her unit.  We told her we had to come, it was a plumbing emergency. 

So we posted a legal notice that we would be entering her unit in 72 hours to fix the pipe (we posted it 72 hours ago.) The tenant called after seeing the notice (at night, outside business hours) and said she really doesn't want it fixed, again mentioning the hospital and being sick. We told her we need to come in anyways. 

This morning we meet the plumber over at the house. There is a note on her door. "Do not enter. I am sleeping."  

We unlock the door, and open in 3 inches - and the door chain is across the door. We can see inside that the tenant is inside, half naked, on the floor. Passed out cold.  She does not respond to our calls to her. 

So my question to you is:  What would you do?


Air horn.  Definitely.

I would call 911 for a medical emergency.

I'd break the door down and make sure she was breathing...then I'd cover her up with a blanket and contact some local help (non-police... they only make situations worse)...

What did you do? @Brandon Turner  

Call 911. She's on the floor nonresponsive.

I would call the police and tell them you have a tenant that will not allow you access for an emergency condition.

They have to let you in to fix an emergency right away. You do not have to wait 72 hours for an emergency condition.

No legal advice.

Might be time for you Brandon to leave the drama, cash out , and go into other investments where you are not dealing with crap like this all the time.

If she is pass out call the police and let then check to see if she is ok, and if she is dead drunk, she might sober up when she sees the police.

911 Is a given but I would not go inside or touch the person. No legal advice. 

Go out and buy a puppy, a baby Chihuahua should work. Open the door as much as you can and let the puppy wake her up. Worst case scenario, you get a free puppy. 

But seriously, I would probably call an ambulance if you can't wake her up

@Darren Sager  

Hahaha - I vote for air horn too.

@Brandon Turner  

Seriously, get the tenant evicted...find a valid reason. How was your lease written? Do you have a clause there that the tenant should allow you access to the property in case of emergencies? Since she refused to do so, can you use this as THE reason to evict her? Talk to your attorney.

Okay - to add some more to the story (This is developing right now, as I write this. I am not there- thank goodness! My office manager is. )

I tell my manager to call the police. She is about to, and she decides to go in and check again one more time. The tenant is no longer half naked on the floor. She is now fully naked in a chair. She is alive.

She says groggily "go away, I'm sick."

My manager says "Open this door right now."

She says groggily "no. Go away."

Now what do you do? 

I would call 911 and have an ambulance respond. You entered at the time on the notice and saw the tenant passed out, possible dead on the floor and were glad you were there when she obviously had a medical emergency (after all she just got out of the hospital, right?). Either they haul her off to the hospital or while she's arguing with the ambulance drivers maybe the plumber can go in and fix the pipe.

Go away, she may have the plague.  

This post has been removed.

After once again kicking myself for not having a property manager, I would probably call 911. 

It is the most likely option to keep you out of any future trouble. Sure, it's likely overkill, but on the flip side, what if it's not? She could have alcohol poisoning, she could accuse you of something and try to pursue legal action against you, who knows?

The obvious pickle you're in is that you can't let the leak continue. You have a legal obligation to get that fixed, so you have to enter. If she's not able to let you do it by staying awake long enough with notice, you have to take other measures.

Oh, and you probably wouldn't want to renew her lease. 

I would call the police and/or ambulance. 

I have a family member who is an alcoholic.  It is an ugly disease.  Perhaps the police or EMTs would provide the shock she needs to turn her life around.  

I hope so and hope you get this resolved quickly.

I would call 911 and then go in when the police are there. She sounds like she has enough issues that she may attack or shoot someone if they come in. She may think she has the legal right to do that because in her mind someone would be entering without her permission. You gave the required written notice to go in to fix the pipe.

Shoot, responded before reading the update. Now we've got a naked, responsive lady in a chair.

At this point, there are a lot of questions with a "Choose Your Own Adventure" type ending:

  • Have your office manager start crying and appeal to her emotions by telling her she'll get fired if she can't get access to let the plumber do his job. Amazingly, this might actually work.
  • If you want to or must continue keeping her as a tenant, explain to her that you can leave and come back at a specific time that she requests in the next 24 hours, but she'll have to pay the plumber's "diagnostic" fee for today. If she gives you a time for access, you leave and come back in hopes she'll let you in. If not, see the next two choices strategies.
  • Do you want to keep her as a tenant? If not, how fast can you evict in your state? Can you evict for her not giving you access? If you can evict and evict quickly, leave and start that process. Fix the leak once she's gone.
  • Tell her that you have to enter and if she won't let you, you'll have to call the cops. Hope that she doesn't make you call the cops, but do it if you need to. Hopefully they'll get you access (can they even make her let you in??).

She didn't pass out.  She fainted and you are concerned for her well being. Maybe she is having a stroke so she isn't coherent.  You need to call 911 to have her checked on.  After they bust through the door, remove the door chain.  After all, its broken now since they busted through and you aren't a slum lord that would just leave a broken chain hanging from the wall.

I think you guys are barking up the wrong tree calling paramedics or cops.  Cops aren't going to get involved in a landlord tenant dispute.  Paramedics won't break down the door unless there's a clear problem.  Her being awake and responsive and saying "go away" doesn't seem likely to result in the paramedics kicking down the door.  And they may send you a bill.

Tell her "You've reported a water leak.  We're here to fix it.  Leaking water is an emergency condition and the lease allows us to enter the property without your permission.  Open the door or we will cut the chain and come in and fix the problem."

Really, you should run this by your attorney and ask the proper way to handle this.  May be that if a plumbing leak has been reported that you should turn off the water to avoid damage.

Though these events have likely come to their resolution at this time, for those following this thread and for future references, I would not use an emergency line for a non-emergency. You can construe what has been stated to "justify" an emergency situation, but it is not being viewed as an actual emergency. It is being viewed as a way to gain lawful access without getting into trouble with the law yourself. The fact is there is a problem that the tenant reported with the property. The landlord must get access to resolve the problem. The landlord is legally bound to resolve the problem, and the tenant is required to allow the landlord access to resolve the problem (obviously with some adjustments depending on statutes & ordinances of different municipalities). All law enforcement agencies have non-emergency lines. This would be a perfect opportunity to utilize a non-emergency line to request officer assistance. If that officer deems emergency services necessary, let him make that call. The local authorities have an interest in preventing situations to escalate to emergency status (which will generally require significantly more resources than a single officer escorting a landlord onto their own property with a non-cooperative tenant). 

Law enforcement is there to "protect & SERVE." Police escort is a function of their job, and I believe they would send an officer out to assist in this circumstance. In my city, the Sheriff office will also do this. 

@Dameron Shore  

Despite the police having direct phone lines, in Pittsburgh you are instructed to use 911 for ALL calls to the police. 

Calling the police when she was passed out cold and not responding -- that's a must.  

Once she was up and speaking, the police involvement part seems over.

@Brandon Turner  -- mathematically, it's intriguing from a time plotted against nakedness standpoint.  Half-naked at first, then some time passes and she becomes fully naked -- wow.  I mean, I would stick around for a while longer just to see what 150% nakedness even looks like.

I've been instructed by the police here that I should have called 911 instead of 311 for a couple things I've called about, based on that this would be a 911 in my area as well.

That being said, @Lynn Currie   offered some good options, after reading her post, I change my response; I would offer the tenant the options Lynn brought up so she picks one.

Hmmm...what does she look like?

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