Tenant Dispute on Multi-Family

6 Replies

I have 2 Section 8 tenants in one of my multi-family properties.

1st tenant has been there since I purchased. He is an older gentleman tenant that I inherited and is hearing impaired. His mother has lived in the next door multi-family property... which I do not own. I am expecting this tenant to be around for a very long time in order to be close to his mom. He is a great paying tenant.

2nd tenant has been there for a year. She is a younger female whom is a decent tenant. She pays her rent late most months but pays consistently on the same day and pays the pretty hefty late fee so I haven't minded much as of yet.

One issue is that the hearing impaired gentleman can come off as intrusive and has been too forward in trying to get female tenants attention. He is loud and has a hard time with personal space. He has done the same with me but I just figure he is trying to let me know about certain things going on at the property when I'm there. I'm concerned because according to female tenant, the male has recently pushed the female. This crosses a boundary that I am not sure how to deal with. The female stated that it wasn't a hard push but she wants the male tenant to leave her alone and to even stop talking to her. I advised her to call the police if he touches her again and notified a family member of the male tenant that this is unacceptable. I made a mistake and haven't sent a letter right when finding out but I still intend to. The problem is there is a huge language barrier even with written correspondence so I am unsure of how to notify him in a way that he fully understands what I am trying to say.

There is also a shared backyard that is in question. They both have backdoors leading to a backyard but the male has his unit mostly facing the front yard and female has her unit mainly facing the backyard. She would like for him to stay out of the backyard because she has a dog she keeps there. Pet deposit was received for pet. Initially she had no issue with the male tenant going to the backyard however he keeps leaving the back fence open for her dog to get out. She purchased a lock for the door and the male tenant took the lock off and threw it away according to female tenant. Female tenant has been sending me long text messages about being upset with male tenant. Her lease is almost up and she says she does not want to leave.

There are so many issues, I just thought I'd reach out for advice. The tenant misunderstanding is one thing. The violence and disability/language barrier has made this a more complex issue than I think I can figure out on my own. Any input appreciated.  

@Nicole Jones

Honestly stay out of the altercations between them.  Your advice on the police is a good start.  These are adults.  You have zero power to mediate anything between them.  

Part of what they need to do is establish some sort of boundary face to face.  Don't offer to mediate, don't offer to make a decision in "favor" of one or the other.  Dealing with one's neighbors can be difficult but the landlord needs to stay out of it for the most part.

Can you put up a fence in the shared backyard, so each unit has its own space?

@John O.

 I could do that but it would cost money I'm not willing to spend and would create a very odd space out there. The front neighbor has access but his door opens to the side of the house which is very narrow. The back neighbor has both of her back windows on either side of the back so splitting the yard in 2 would make it so that one of her back windows is facing "his backyard" and one is facing hers. Too confusing and expensive to really be the privacy the female tenant is asking for, but thanks for the suggestion.  

@Aaron Montague

 Thank you, this gives me peace of mind. I'm only worried of getting into a situation where rent stops coming in from her and she can use my inaction as justification. But I suppose I would give the exact advice you are giving.

@Nicole Jones

Unfortunately sometimes the solution is to remove one of the tenants.  Remember that you are not obligated to renew anyone's lease, even if they are paying and wonderful tenants.

Document everything. 

If the female tenant is feeling harassed, she will need to call the police, then you can collect the report from them.

Even though the older gentleman may pay on time, if he is chasing off the other tenants then it could cost you money in the long term - not to mention be a headache with dealing with complaints all the time.

Perhaps the best thing to do would be to let his lease end and not renew...

A few thoughts: 

-Make sure your tenant understands that she needs to utilize the police if she feels threatened or feels that she has been assaulted. I'm sure someone who is a lawyer here can provide some better pointers on this end, but you don't ever want to be the primary mediator when something is bigger than the most mundane issues between tenants. 

-Figure out a way to not share a backyard when there is a pet involved. I've worked with tenants in 4 different situations where there has been a shared backyard and at least one tenant has a dog. It has never not been an issue. Either someone leaves the gate open, or feels that the dog is encroaching on their free use of the common space, or someone doesn't pick up the poop, the dog is too loud, etc. It may be worth it to just block off access for one unit, or split it awkwardly and have it primarily as a "dog run" or garden type area than a true backyard for either tenant, but definitely do away with the common space as soon as finances allow. It probably wont be all that expensive and will save you numerous headaches. 

-See if your male tenant works with any social workers to receive services. This isn't really something you can ask too directly, you don't want to seem like you're setting him up to be discriminated against, but if you're observant, you'll notice pretty quickly if he uses home health services, has a social worker, etc. Many home based services will include a social worker who is probably your best shot at helping him to be a better tenant. If there's a language barrier and hearing barrier, plus the "old and I don't give a damn" barrier, a social worker or family member in the home are usually the only people that can resolve such issues without an excess of emotion. If he is receiving some services, pull them aside or give them a call and inform them about the situation and let them know he could use help in resolving it, as it is "jeopardizing his housing" (magic words). They won't be able to tell you much as they don't have a release for you, but you can tell them as much as you want. 

-Worse comes to worse, you can always not renew his lease. I would make an honest effort to avoid that, however, not just because of financial and time costs to you to turnover the unit, but because if he's elderly and hard of hearing, plus on Section 8, he's going to have a rough time finding housing. Obviously, you're not his social worker yourself, nor are you running a charity, but it would definitely be the decent thing to do to make sure you don't end up putting him homeless just because its easy. 

Hope you find a good resolution!

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