tenant says he is going to call the police on me at 6 PM friday night

70 Replies

  If you saw my post last month I recently inherited a 60 unit apartment complex that I am now self managing..ok.. so here in baltimore it is june and temps are running about 85 degrees during the day  and goes down to 69 at night.. it has by no means been a hot summer this year so far..our air conditioning units are about 20 years old and I have had 4 services calls this month about units not working properly.. 2 were in need of freon, 1 need a whole new unit and 1 needs a part they are having trouble getting..all calls have been handled except the guy who needs the part they dont have.. they have said it should be fixed tomorrow.. here is the problem.. I came home to an email that said " if my air conditioner is not fixed by 6 PM I am calling the police on you for endangering our lives" I emailed back and asked if he had recieved the fan i had our handyman dropped off, he said yes.. then I asked if he had opened the windows for air flow.. he said he wouldnt open the windows due to safety issues.. I pointed out that he lived on the second floor and does not have a balcony.. and no one has ever climbed our building and broke in, and lots of people in our buildings have their windows open..his reply was he would not endanger the lives of his family as per someone elses suggestion.. then he sent me a receipt for a hotel an said I would need to reimburse him as they felt they were in jeopardy of heat exhaustion and fled to a nearby hotel.. I looked up the past weeks temps and it has been 85 during the day and 68-69 at night.. and i pointed out that at 69 degrees there would be no need to even run the air..  my question is  " what can the outcome of him calling the police on me have"?  I cant help that they don have the part?? they are very fast compared to other places i called.. all the a/c guys are busy right now..  also on a side note.. what reason/ paperwork do you need to let someone know you will NOT be renewing thier lease.. this is not the first time they have been total jerks.. when i took over my apartments he  was late every month for 6 months, when i went to his apartment and presented him with the late fee bill we argued for over an hour and he even called his wife on the phone and had her arguing with me over the charge..I am done with them.. just need to know i wont spend the weekend in jail.. my 7 years old is in the baseball championships.. thanks in advance..

Is this a building that you want to manage? It sounds like managing rentals is a new thing for you. 

If the answer is no: 1. Sell or 2. Diligently look for a management company and vet the heck out of them, You'll part ways with 7-10% of monthly rents, but your apartment could be even more profitable AFTER paying management expenses. They can increase rents and get work done cheaper than you can. 

If the answer is yes: 

You need to find a handful of experienced investors in your market. If in your shoes, I would pay them to coach me on management skills specific to your state and market. There's a lot to learn and you need to learn the info before you're in a tough spot like this. 

Arguing with tenants gets managers and owners nowhere. "I'm not going to argue this with you. If you keep arguing this with me or yelling at me, I'm going to have to end this call (conversation)." 

You will not go to jail for this. 

If I'm you, I hire a great management company and have no headaches. 

All the best!

Hi Rochelle, where I'm from the police wouldn't respond to a call about the A/C not working, that's more of a Code Enforcement issue. Here the Code Enforcement would send you a letter requesting the A/C gets fixed, if not, you would receive a fine. But since you dropped a fan off, that would show your doing something about it actively and concerned about the tenant. I wouldn't lose sleep over this tenants complaints, but I would surely not renew their lease. He/she is trying to take a position of power, if you bow down to their idle threats now and let them manipulate you, will have a hard time managing them. Just be professional and follow the golden rule in life. Good luck

My opinion, and I don't own a 60 unit complex, so take it for what its worth...if all/most of your units are 20 years old, you should keep some window units on hand to provide your tenants in events like this.  I am running my a/c In 85 degree weather and I expect my tenants will do the same.  The balto forecast is 90+ 4 of the next 5 days with humidity on top of that. Treat people well and you won't have to worry about these things.  As for the police, they can't throw you in jail for this...but the fact that you are worried about your tenant's threats suggests to me that you are in over your head and figuring it out as you go.  Not a good place to be imo.

You will not be arrested.  You may very well be liable for that hotel bill.  Consult a local lawyer.

if I were you, I would stop in the police station myself today and see what they have to say after you explain the situation. They most likely won't even get involved but you will know once you ask. I would say you have handled things well enough, I probably would have bought a replacement unit for the unit with the part on back order and then just keep that as an emergency spare going forward. 

You have nothing to worry about here. This is a civil matter not a criminal matter. Police probably wont even respond.

Does the lease say you will provide working A/C's? Does it say anything about timeline for repairs?

Can you put a window AC in temporarily while the part comes? This is a cheap temporary solution so the tenant doesnt drive you crazy in the meantime.

Originally posted by @Garrett Hogan :

You have nothing to worry about here. This is a civil matter not a criminal matter. Police probably wont even respond.

Does the lease say you will provide working A/C's? Does it say anything about timeline for repairs?

Can you put a window AC in temporarily while the part comes? This is a cheap temporary solution so the tenant doesnt drive you crazy in the meantime.

 our windows slide left to right not up and down so there is nothing to hold a window unit in place.. it would be dangerous to put a window unit..his apartment runs length wise and if he did open the window in the front of the apartment ( living room dining room) and his bedroom in the back it would cause cross ventilation but he refuses to open the windows for safety reasons.. we are in a nice area and he is on the second floor.. our living room dining room have ceiling fans and we gave them 2 large stand up rotating fans.. the lease does say there is no compensation for a temporary lose of heat or a/c.. so would that still leave me liable for his hotel bill? and can he just go to a hotel of his choosing and bill me??

It is not a crime to not provide an air conditioner to your tenant, so you won't be arrested.  The cops probably won't even show up.  If they do, just tell them the part has been ordered, but as far as you know it's a civil matter and the tenant can just sue you, but can't have you arrested.  They'll know this.  Like I said, they probably won't even show up.

I highly suggest you no longer engage with this tenant, other than in writing.  You shouldn't be having arguments with the tenants.  And your communications can normally be done in a small paragraph.

How long have they been without A/C?  Why don't you abate their rent for the days they were without A/C?  In other words, if they were without A/C for 5 days, give them a 5 day rent credit for next month.

But, that's all the court would ask you to do.  You don't have to pay for hotel rooms.

And why don't you buy a couple portable A/C units you can loan to tenants when this happens?  Have them sign a receipt that says the value of the unit on it, so if they decide to try and steal it, you will have a written receipt with their acknowledgement of the value - so you can charge them for it if you have to.

 I would completely ignore his threat to call the police.

Also, I suggest you do not give him notice to move until the notice time frame in your lease.  If you give notice now, it will look like a retaliatory eviction, which is when you kick out a tenant after they have exerted a right.  He is asking for you to fix the A/C, which he has a right to.  If you kick him out now, he may win a claim for retaliatory eviction.  So, wait to give notice of non-renewal until it's required.

As far as the weather outside - landlords who have contracts that they will provide air conditioning, don't get to tell the tenant when it's needed.  If they want to chill the place down to 55 degrees, that's their right.  Unless your lease says otherwise, and they agreed to it.  The issue here isn't what the weather is outside, it's the time it's taking to repair an a/c unit, that is part of the agreement you entered into with a tenant.  He rented a place with air conditioning.  So, that's what you have to provide.  And you need to fix in in a reasonable time frame.

But, I'd send a short email to the tenant like this.

Dear Tenant,

As you know, there has been a delay in acquiring the part for your air conditioner.  I have been told that your air conditioner should be repaired tomorrow.

I realize this has been inconvenient for you.  And although Florida law only requires me to make repairs within a reasonable time, which I have been attempting to do, I am willing to give you a rent credit for the days that you have been without air conditioning.  I will get back to you with the exact amount you may deduct from next month's rent.

Also, if the unit cannot be repaired tomorrow, I will provide you with a portable air conditioner to use temporarily.

Please be aware that I am not required by law to do this much, but I am willing to do this to show my good faith effort to take care of this problem.   If you seek reimbursement beyond this, you will have to look to your renter's insurance policy.

Sincerely,

You

Something like this, is what I'd do.  Good luck.

The police will not respond to the tenants call. The issue is a civil matter and the tenant will either need to consult an attorney for any damages they feel they incurred or file a complaint with the housing department in whatever government agency has jurisdiction oversight for housing in the area of your property.

fyi, should you get an invoice for a "hotel" bill send a reply with a copy of their rental agreement or lease asking them to identify where it states they should be reimbursed. 

Personally, I'd incur a vacancy and give the person a termination notice if your rental agreement or lease allows for such (providing it keeps with local housing regulation compliance).

Rochelle, 

Heat is a necessity and AC is a convenience. If it was the middle of winter and temps were below freezing, it would constitute a "Loss of use" and he would have some sort of claim. In this case you could be liable for putting them up in a hotel, however, a typical renter's insurance policy should cover this. 

Do you have any vacant units that you could offer him temporarily?

This whole hotel thing sounds pretty ridiculous, its not like the place is flooded. 

How long has it been since his AC stopped working? It should be in the lease that you have a "reasonable" amount of time to inspect and perform repairs. 

You have responded to the repair call and it is in the process of getting fixed.  You are doing your job.  In my state I only need to provide heat, not A/C anyway.

I'm not familiar with Maryland LL tenant laws, but I would do what you are doing with the AC unit.  You've made reasonable accommodations and should not be liable for their hotel expenses.  I doubt Maryland has a law requiring AC repairs to be an emergency.

Let him call the police, it is not a criminal matter and they'll tell him that on the phone. Go the baseball championships and dont lose any sleep.  Send him a 30 day notice of non renewal prior to the expiration of his lease.  If he refuses to leave after that initiate eviction.

Management is a lot of work, but know your LL Tenant, Laws, document everything that happens with every tenant, operate in good faith and you'll be fine.

@Rochelle Wilkinson Wow, I think we were all responding at the same time LOL!  Anyway, I just wanted to add, now that I've read other responses, that I disagree that you need to let someone else manage your place.  Nobody was born knowing how to be a property manager.  I could tell you lots of stories about how I learned things the hard way.

With argumentative tenants, I learned to only deal with them in writing.  I would not answer their calls, and I'd pop off a quick email or text only if it was required, like to schedule a repair.  I completely ignored calls or texts that were rambling weird complaints that could be ignored.  I'd make a note in their file, though.  And was glad to see them move out :-)

For instance, I routinely ignored angry voicemails from tenants about how they could hear other tenants having loud sex.  LOL.  Um nope, not knocking on someone's door to discuss their loud sex.

And I only had 25 units.  I bet you could tell some stories!

Anyway, you're in the frying pan right now, but you'll learn.

Originally posted by @Brandon Siewert :

I'm not familiar with Maryland LL tenant laws, but I would do what you are doing with the AC unit.  You've made reasonable accommodations and should not be liable for their hotel expenses.  I doubt Maryland has a law requiring AC repairs to be an emergency.

Let him call the police, it is not a criminal matter and they'll tell him that on the phone. Go the baseball championships and dont lose any sleep.  Send him a 30 day notice of non renewal prior to the expiration of his lease.  If he refuses to leave after that initiate eviction.

Management is a lot of work, but know your LL Tenant, Laws, document everything that happens with every tenant, operate in good faith and you'll be fine.

 Thank you.. while this is new to me I actually do like the work.. and everyone ( well the other 59 units think I am doing a great job.). in fact we now have a wait list and I turn people away every day over the phone.. changes have happened for the better and people say now that I am in charge they are staying forever.. even after I sent out rent increase letters.. so I think I will stick around..

Garrett is correct, air conditioning is not a necessity - a residence is still in occupiable condition without air conditioning. 

Police cannot do anything it is a building official and you are not breaking any laws.

Keep records of contacting HVAC and I would notify tenants of status of repairs that way they know what is going on.

Also you do not have to pay the hotel bill. As noted elsewhere, I would offer a complimentary 5 day rent credit. Note that its complimentary though as they will attempt to seek credits for anything later on.

No criminal liability. Not a police/criminal matter. Possible reimbursement due for days without ac if you are to provide it per the lease....and thats of course if the the tenant pursues you in a civil matter, and thats only if an agreement isn't come to beforehand between u and tenant. Tell these brain surgeons to call the police all they want. Ac will be fixed asap. Click.

No risk of police involvement over the A.C.

Don't engage with this guy. Contact an A.C. repair co and get it fixed as soon as possible. Tell the tenant when the repair guy will be out to fix it. Conversation over. 

If the tenant tries to withhold rent from you next month over this promptly serve him with an eviction notice.

On a side note.

60 units is no small building. Are you sure this is something you want to self manage?

Originally posted by @Sue K. :

@Rochelle Wilkinson Wow, I think we were all responding at the same time LOL!  Anyway, I just wanted to add, now that I've read other responses, that I disagree that you need to let someone else manage your place.  Nobody was born knowing how to be a property manager.  I could tell you lots of stories about how I learned things the hard way.

With argumentative tenants, I learned to only deal with them in writing.  I would not answer their calls, and I'd pop off a quick email or text only if it was required, like to schedule a repair.  I completely ignored calls or texts that were rambling weird complaints that could be ignored.  I'd make a note in their file, though.  And was glad to see them move out :-)

For instance, I routinely ignored angry voicemails from tenants about how they could hear other tenants having loud sex.  LOL.  Um nope, not knocking on someone's door to discuss their loud sex.

And I only had 25 units.  I bet you could tell some stories!

Anyway, you're in the frying pan right now, but you'll learn.

 Thanks for the vote of confidence.. this is the maybe third post i have written and I always get a " you should get out now response".. I don give up that easy.. and like I said I like this work.. and to be honest i have a guy here in Baltimore who is coaching me ( for free because he is just such a nice guy) and I told him that I filled all 13 vacancies, kicked out the squatter, collected back rent from 2 dead beats who were behind a total of $14,000 and evicted someone in the short time I have been in charge.. and I have raised the rent and by October of 2016 the rent roll will have gone from $300,00 annually to $674,000 .. ( some rents weren't  raised in almost 8 years and i started with new pricing for all new entries almost $300 a unit higher than they were getting last summer.. so I actually kinda think I'm pretty good at this.. do I know all the loop holes? nope? am I good with people and details? yes? do i have great vendors who i work well with and who want nothing but to please me? yes..do i truly care about the property and the people living there? yes.. i just get a little thrown off track when someone says they are calling the cops on me for endangering their life due to no A/C.. 

Originally posted by @Steve A. :

You have responded to the repair call and it is in the process of getting fixed.  You are doing your job.  In my state I only need to provide heat, not A/C anyway.

 you know it was everything i could do to not respond with " you know the apartments down the street dont even have A/C if you want A/C you have to rent a window unit from them at $50 a unit per room thats an extra $150 a month if you lived there......UGGGHHH

As several have said, its civil not criminal, its not a police matter. Second, code enforcement gives me 3 days to correct life threatening situations. Heat and water are life threatening, A/C is NOT. In one of my apartments I provide a/c and cable among other things. Their a/c going out is the same as their cable going out. It's a contractual breech, per my lease, but nothing even code enforcement can weigh in on.

Your tenant has no recourse other than court. Give him his notice that you aren't renewing his lease, and continue to try and fix his A/c whenever the part gets in. Don't waste two seconds worrying about this clown.

Originally posted by @Rochelle Wilkinson :

 Thanks for the vote of confidence.. this is the maybe third post i have written and I always get a " you should get out now response".. I don give up that easy.. and like I said I like this work.. and to be honest i have a guy here in Baltimore who is coaching me ( for free because he is just such a nice guy) and I told him that I filled all 13 vacancies, kicked out the squatter, collected back rent from 2 dead beats who were behind a total of $14,000 and evicted someone in the short time I have been in charge.. and I have raised the rent and by October of 2016 the rent roll will have gone from $300,00 annually to $674,000 .. ( some rents weren't  raised in almost 8 years and i started with new pricing for all new entries almost $300 a unit higher than they were getting last summer.. so I actually kinda think I'm pretty good at this.. do I know all the loop holes? nope? am I good with people and details? yes? do i have great vendors who i work well with and who want nothing but to please me? yes..do i truly care about the property and the people living there? yes.. i just get a little thrown off track when someone says they are calling the cops on me for endangering their life due to no A/C.. 

 You kick butt!!!!  I had a similar story in the place I took over.  Had to kick out tenants, Had to collect back rent, fill 7 units out of 25 that were vacant.  And I'd managed offices, and had a real estate background, but had never been a property manager before.

There were situations that threw me, too, until I learned the law - especially about fair housing.  There are always the ones who threaten to complain about discrimination, even if they don't have a leg to stand on.  But, until I learned the law, they could be intimidating.

My hat is off to you, though!  You have taken this challenge by the horns.  You rock :-)

@Rochelle Wilkinson

You argued with them? About the late fee? For over an hour? How much is your time worth? You just threw away more money than the late fee in the time you spent arguing with them. 

This is a business, Rochelle. It's not your family. 

Are they on a month-to-month lease? Then you need to give them notice (by mail) and get them out. They are professional tenants and will make your life miserable. 

When they violate the terms of the lease, don't engage with them. File your complaint in rent court and show up on the date of the hearing. Bring the signed lease with you. Let them complain, let them rant, and let them tell it to the judge.

Educate yourself about the law. Your tenants probably know more about the law than you do and are manipulating you because they've figured that out. Landlords get fined and rent-escrowed by the state, and if they've been really negligent they get prosecuted, but generally they don't go to jail.

Go to BREIA landlord meetings the last Monday of each month. It's coming up next week. Look it up on BREIA's website.

I don't say this often, but a mentor might be helpful to you, because you inherited the property and from you are telling us here, you didn't get much training for it, and here you are throwing yourself into it doing something you've never done before.

Also, don't forget to hire a lawyer. 

Look for posts from @Seth Sherman and @Mark Owens about landlording in Baltimore.

Good luck to you,

Nancy Roth

@Rochelle Wilkinson , I know nothing about Maryland law, but I have found that 80% of my headaches come from 20% of the people I deal with.  After that sunk in I fired several of my clients and life became so much better.  Get rid of this tenant, legally of course.  It may be worth it to contact an attorney to review the history and have them show you the procedure on how to kick them out.  You do not want to make any mistakes on this one.  it is better to have an empty apartment than a bad tenant.  If a tenant gets crosswise with me I evict them, but legally of course.  Good luck and hang in there.  Everyone who is good at property managing started by knowing nothing and worked into a better manager.

I don't know about other states but in GA an A/C unit is ESSENTIAL. Very dangerous to not have A/C.

It's 97 here now and not the dry heat but we get the humid stuff that is hard to breathe. If it's 97 outside with no A/C then inside the unit it is much hotter in a confined space. Those levels of heat could kill someone or cause a heat stroke. Some states do not have temps that go above the 70's so not many places have A/C's. Those states tend to have a lot of cold winter months to extreme's.

In GA we usually have 9 warm months and then about 2 to 3 cold months but it usually doesn't get colder than the 30's or 40's except for a few days. So here I would say the A/C is just as important or more so than the heater. 

On raising rents it is one thing to send a letter requesting an increase. The proof in the pudding will be when October hits and people will pay it or not. The people are happy now because you are dropping bank fixing everything on the cheap rent they are paying. If they do not want to pay the new pricing and leave you might have to drop 3k to 4k a unit to get rent ready for the new occupants on the waiting list because of the long time they have lived there and wore the unit down. Hopefully everything works out for the best.  

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