How to deal with racist tenant?

11 Replies

In order to learn more about the day to day of buy and hold investing, I've been assisting my former landlord over the last couple years with managing his 40+ units. This is a first... A new tenant moved into one of his 4-plex buildings about 3-4 months ago, and recently we have had several complaints from one of the other tenants that she has been extremely rude and disrespectful to him and his wife. She has apparently been cornering them in common areas, saying things like they aren't good enough for this neighborhood, and using racist insults. They also claim she is going out of her way to make noise in her apartment (they share a wall), slamming cabinets, stomping, allowing her friends to hang out in the shared hallway and talk loudly. (I believe them.) My contractor also mentioned that she was "incredibly unpleasant" to him while he was there making repairs for her.

We've talked to her about the noise, but directly insulting other tenants (especially based on race) is unacceptable. This woman still has another 6-7 months on the lease, but she is making our other tenants so uncomfortable that they are thinking about breaking their lease and finding a new place to live. They have been great, long term tenants, and I don't want this to drive them away. However, we don't have any actual proof besides the couple's word against hers. What can we do here? Can we evict based on this?

@Jessica Sorensen

There is usually a portion in the lease that has to do with not disturbing neighbors, being too loud, too late and etc, etc.  If it's that big of a problem and you have that many complaints, look over the lease and see if they are in clear violation and if you have grounds to post a notice to vacate.  With 40+ units he/she probably has an attorney, I would talk to them.

What does the lease say? Some/many landlords will have clauses in their leases, especially in MFH situations, that provide for evicting otherwise paying tenants that are creating havoc in their building. My own lease has the following: "Tenant's family and guests shall at all times maintain order in and on the premises, and shall not permit loud, improper noises or otherwise disturb other residents". Then there is a "make good" clause that lets me notify them they are violating the lease, give them X amount of time to rectify the situation, and give them the hook if they fail to comply. 

Since it is one word against another, if you go this route, you should be prepared to defend the action in court if it gets to that. To that end, you may request from the tenants that are being disturbed that they provide some documentation of the behavior that has occurred. 

unfortunately it's not illegal, and proudly doesn't violate the lease to be racist. So focus on the behavior. Document every violation keep copies of the letters you send. You're going to have to systematically manage them out. Sounds like they are already doing a pretty good job of helping you do this. I would do it add quickly as possible so your don't lose good tenants. This will make your future leases better.

Read your lease, mine says tenants have the right to have quiet enjoyment of their place, so if a tenant disrupts that quiet enjoyment that is basis for eviction. If you don't address immediately, you will lose your other good tenants very quickly.

Can the tenant help document the issues they are experiencing?  I once lived in an apartment building and the guy downstairs was so extremely disgusting (cats drinking from milk in bowls of cereal he ate the night before) so I wrote a letter to the landlord explaining ALL that I saw (he left his door open often) and that we were now seeing roaches in my friend's unit across the hall from me and that I would not be happy if roaches started to appear in mine.  The landlord was able to use that letter in court and was able to finally evict that guy after trying to do so for many years.  He was so grateful to me after that eviction, he let me keep a shower head I had installed that used a little more water (I didn't know I couldn't)!  haha

The easiest thing to do is let the good tenants know that you are dealing with the problem and she won't stay any longer than 7 months from now.  

In the future, do only month-to-month agreements, so you can easily get rid of problem tenants.

Trying to get her evicted for breach of contract can be done, but will be a pain in the rear.  Just not renewing would probably be just as fast and not as much hassle.

Then, just do M2M agreements in the future.

I have a bias that racists are ignorant.  Due to that basis I would be surprised if they can produce a copy of the lease. 

As others have indicated document everything: complaints, discussion with tenant, etc. 

I would give them a warning that "house rules" do not permit disturbing/harassing other tenants and that there have been some complaints.  Any further disturbing/harassing of the other tenants will result in eviction.  

I would be surprised if I evicted them that legal action would follow but even if it did I would consider it a necessary expense.  I would have everything documented. I would be evicting a racist tenant while demonstrating to the other tenants what behavior is acceptable and that our properties will not tolerate tenants that disturb and/or harass other tenants. 

Good luck. 

Reference your state landlord tenant regulations and find out what the grounds are for evictions. If interfering with reasonable enjoyment of other tenants is grounds then file the eviction. You will need to first speak to the other tenants and confirm that they are prepared to testify at the eviction hearing. If they are not prepared to testify don't waste your time trying to evict and simply reassure they she will be gone at the end of her lease.

As suggested don't use year long leases, only use M2M to protect yourself in the future. 

Can the tenants carry their phone around and get her on video?  Then, they can call the police and get her for harassment.  And then, you could serve her with at least a notice to comply with the lease or quit.  

There was a discrimination case I read about recently that was this same scenario.  It was a Jewish couple being harassed by an African American woman.  I can't recall if the tenant was successful at suing the other tenant or the landlord or both, but it was based on discrimination.  

I'd learn how to get that tenant out asap, though.