Triplex tenants not getting along

9 Replies

Hi everyone!

We have a triplex with neighbors in the basement unit and first floor unit constantly filing noise complaints on each other.

It's getting to the point where one tenant "feels threatened" by the other... calling curse words through walls, etc.

Both tenants checked out in background/credit checks, both have jobs and are easy to work with one on one.

I'll add we had other tenants in both apartments and never had noise complaints from them. Ever.

What do we do to end the apartment noise drama? They've called the cops on each other when it's loud at night, etc.

Looking for any help, thoughts? Experiences?

For the most part, don't get too involved because it generally works itself out. Otherwise, really, just expect someone to move out. That's how it goes in apartment living unfortunately. People forget that they live in close quarters and are either too loud or have unrealistic expectations of quietness.

The main thing is to not let them drag you into things. Don't make promises. Stay neutral. I like to say for things like this, remember you're a landlord and not a life-coach, mediator, police officer, or anything else. Just a landlord. You can not control other people's behavior.

Thanks Nicole W. ! I especially like the "not their life coach" piece of advice... that's so true! If that's what they think we are, then we are seriously under charging ;)

We do try to stay neutral and I do take everything with a grain of salt, but the drama is so old!

Thanks for the advice. I'll try to ride this one out.

Hopefully it smooths over. Just be ready that one of them approaches you wanting to move out/break their lease early. Be as fair as possible without also losing too much money. For instance, if they want to move out, make clear that they still owe rent for the time they remain in the unit, that it must be cleaned, and that you will be keeping the security deposit for breaking the lease. I've found that when you deliver bad news with a friendly tone, they tend to take it better...usually. ;-)

I see you have several units. I used to self-manage and my husband kept saying to have a PM take over. I was reluctant, but finally did it and wow, it's so nice. He was right about getting a PM. So.... it's something for you to consider too. Then all these small but piling headaches can be someone else's while you just see the money come in.

I had one like this but there was one clear PIA of the two. I told them work it out between them. The downstairs tenant kept saying the upstairs tenant was walking too loud. I finally had to give the downstairs tenant an ultimatum. They had just signed a renewal and started complaining again. I basically said you can sign this form that you will stay and I dont want to hear a complaint or you can sign that this is your notice. If you have a clear instigator i would give them an out. Complainers like that never change.

If police reports supports a noise violation , write it up,, if it persists give notice of lease termination , you could do a mutual termination agreement.

Basically unless I have a supporting Police report I give all tenant the same notice ,, Noise, music, no yelling, ect..  must be kept at a tolerable level all the time.. 

You don't need a PM to handle noise complaints.. 

I always say if you can stand outside in the hallway and hear your stereo with the door closed the music needs to be turned down.

Summer is worse  with windows open.

To clarify, it's not that anyone needs a PM to handle noise complaints. It's that sometimes a person gets tired of dealing with all the little issues (noise complaints, arguments, repair requests, general complaints, requests to pay rent late, contacting you at the worst possible time, etc etc etc). A PM is fantastic for ridding a property owner's life of essentially babysitting and dealing with that kind of thing. That's all.

When two tenants in close proximity to each other don't get along, usually one or the other will complain to us. But often a problem goes unchecked for a long time and brews and festers before we become aware of it. If the problem stems from a lease violation/breaking the property rules, we talk to the offending party and serve a notice to comply. We also make it a point to check in more often and watch the property more closely until things settle down.

Many years ago we had an unpleasant situation arise between two tenants in one of our duplexes. They were at odds with one another, not because of noise, they just didn't like each other. One was brash and one was timid. The brash one had lived there a few years longer and was quick to anger. He also overextended his presence into some of the common areas. He was the first one to raise a complaint. When I went to the timid one to find out his point of view, I could see he had been living in an uncomfortable situation and had become quite passive. He and his family had started to use the back door just so they wouldn't run into the neighbors on the front walkway.

I asked the brash tenant to tone it down and make an effort to be more neighborly. I also pointed out that he and his family was taking up too much of the common areas with their things and crowding out the neighbor, so that would need to change. I can't remember what his initial complaint was about the other neighbor, but only that it was trivial. Something to do with the trash bins. I asked him if he had tried to talk with his neighbor about it and he said no because the neighbor avoids him, isn't friendly and doesn't smile.

I told the timid neighbor that everyone has a right to enjoy their home, in peace and quiet. If he doesn't feel comfortable using the front door because of his neighbor's disposition, then perhaps there is something that they need to sort out.  I told him the common areas are for everyone's use and I would support that and that I had asked his neighbor to remove their things from the common areas. I asked the timid tenant to make an effort to be more neighborly and perhaps try to strike up a conversation from time to time with his neighbor. I explained that problems or differences of opinion will sometimes occur, so it's best to try to resolve issues before they grow into larger problems.

I told both tenants that we can't always choose our neighbors and they may not become our good friends, but we can at least greet them with a smile when we see them and make an effort to get along. I also said if the two families don't work out a way to live in harmony, then both of them would need to look for other housing. Then we spent a little more time at the property.... doing maintenance.... to keep tabs on how they were doing. With some effort from both of them, they made progress.  I'm glad to say both families are still living at our duplex, the first family since 2003 and the second family since 2007. They're not friends, but they're not at odds with one another any more and they're even somewhat cordial.

So, it comes down to making sure all parties are in compliance with the terms of the rental agreement. Guide them to make an effort to resolve their differences, instead of escalating the problem. If they don't, then it's time to talk about a move-out plan. You don't want to ignore the situation, because you're more likely to lose the better of the two tenants.

I'm going to go against the grain and ask what does your third tenant say? I've been in a similar situation with a tenant who was walking on the roof of another (oddly laid out property and clearly dangerous). I saw some evidence to support it including beer cans etc. Rather than going to the root right away, I talked to the other tenant to confirm that there was something going on. The more weight I can have with my argument/conversation with the problem, the better. I understand that this isn't exactly comparable, but I value consensus and try to empower tenants as much as possible. 

However, if you're not going to go that direction, I love @Marcia Maynard 's response and the fact that they're still there 10 years later sounds like the biggest win of all. Hooray for no vacancy!!!

I think I'm some cases it is appropriate to mediate a bit. Vacancies turns and lost rent can be worth the 10-15 minutes it would take to try to defuse the situation. Most often people just want to be heard and they will calm down. Explaining to them both that apartment daily living noises are normal and expected however if the noise is so loud that is disturbing the quiet enjoyment of other residents then we have another issue. I have explained to both tenants at the same time if this constant back and fourth does not stop the they both will be receiving a notice of termination which will reflect on their landlord reference. Usually that is enough to get them to stop. Hope this saves you some headache.

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