Landlord obligation under "will not disturb the peace and quite"

18 Replies

I have 4 tenants that are roommates, that are sharing an apartment together in Philadelphia, PA.  One roommate is complaining that the others are:

  1. Threating her
  2. Moving her stuff
  3. Not allowing her at all enter or exit the apt. or to do so in a safe manner.

Am I under any legal obligation to assist?Is this a violation of tenant “will not disturb the peace and quite of other tenants”?

@Usman T. Are they all on one lease together? Did they know each other at the time they signed one lease? In this case I would say they need to work it out among their selves.

If they have individual leases (college student situation) then you may be responsible for getting them all in line. Going forward you may want to add the ability to fine unruly tenants when they are not playing nice.

To answer your question -Yes (in my opinion)

There are multiple stories and the truth in the middle, sounds like you may have to get involved and threaten to evict one or some but hopefully not have to actually follow through.

Roommates, what fun... until it's not. 

Questions:  are they each and everyone on the lease?  Does the lease hold them individually and severally responsible for the apartment?  Has the 'harassed' roommate contacted the police, directly confronted the other roomies, or just complained to you, the owner?

It would seem to me that your question about quiet enjoyment and if you should assist is a little bit of a stretch.  Normally that clause refers to the owner or managing agent not directly harassing the tenant(s), but I suppose a Philadelphia lawyer could reach for other interpretations.  (When we get complaints from apartment A that apartment B is noisy at 1 am, especially if there is yelling and possible abuse or criminal activity, we instruct them to contact the police and keep a record of the time, date and description of offensive activity.)

What we do in situations like this:  interview the other roommates (separately) to try to get a focus on the entire picture, and don't simply assume the 'victim' (or perpetrators) is being entirely truthful and accurate (nor should you dismiss their complaints)--you need facts.  Instruct the 'harassed' tenant to keep a contemporaneous and detailed list of perceived threats, harassing behaviors and obstruction of entry/exit. 

Further, in these types of cases, we formally (in writing) cite ALL the tenants of that apartment about harassing-, threatening- or criminal-activity as being a direct violation of the lease terms, making them subject to eviction. 

Independent of that citation,  I'd tell the subject tenant to take the written list of complaints to the police to be on record.  (Caveat--make sure that you are in accord with any local ordinances regarding number of roommates permissible and/or number of unrelated persons occupying the same living space.)

Lastly, if the subject roommate is being truthful and accurate in their description of events, I'd move to evict ALL of them.  Our leases contain a clause about criminal/harassing/threatening activity.  If the living situation has actually degraded into the type of behavior the subject roommate is describing, I'd loose them all and start over.  Try not to get sucked into the drama.  Know your laws, be fair but firm. And keep in mind, land lording and social work are two very different businesses. 

Hope this helps put some perspective on this--Good luck!

Personal conflicts between roommates is not your problem. Stay out of it.  Tell them to resolve their problems and if one or more decides to leave you do nothing. Keep them all on the lease till it ends. If they choose to bring in a new room mate you must screen and approve.

Hi John,

Yes, they all signed one lease together and knew each other beforehand.  Looks like they are now having a falling out.
I'm thinking to send a Notice to Cease to all the tenants, basically telling them to behave.  The person that is complaining is leaving at the end of the month and the others are renewing the lease.  I agree, the truth is somewhere in the middle.  I hate having to play parent with tenants :)
Originally posted by @John Underwood :

@Usman T. Are they all on one lease together? Did they know each other at the time they signed one lease? In this case I would say they need to work it out among their selves.

If they have individual leases (college student situation) then you may be responsible for getting them all in line. Going forward you may want to add the ability to fine unruly tenants when they are not playing nice.

To answer your question -Yes (in my opinion)

There are multiple stories and the truth in the middle, sounds like you may have to get involved and threaten to evict one or some but hopefully not have to actually follow through.

Hi Marc,

Thank you for your detailed response.  Yes, they are each on the same lease and are held both individually and collectively liable.  The 'harassed' roommate is supposedly in the process of getting a restraining order against one of the roommates (so they are going on record).  I just don't want to be responsible for not having done "something".  

Do you think writing up a "Notice to Cease" to all the tenants would be sufficient?  Basically telling them to behave.  The 'harassed' is leaving in about a month (when the lease ends) and the balance of the tenants are resigning. Good point, I still need to interview the other roommates to make sure I have the whole picture as to what is going on.    

Originally posted by @Marc Winter :

Roommates, what fun... until it's not. 

Questions:  are they each and everyone on the lease?  Does the lease hold them individually and severally responsible for the apartment?  Has the 'harassed' roommate contacted the police, directly confronted the other roomies, or just complained to you, the owner?

It would seem to me that your question about quiet enjoyment and if you should assist is a little bit of a stretch.  Normally that clause refers to the owner or managing agent not directly harassing the tenant(s), but I suppose a Philadelphia lawyer could reach for other interpretations.  (When we get complaints from apartment A that apartment B is noisy at 1 am, especially if there is yelling and possible abuse or criminal activity, we instruct them to contact the police and keep a record of the time, date and description of offensive activity.)

What we do in situations like this:  interview the other roommates (separately) to try to get a focus on the entire picture, and don't simply assume the 'victim' (or perpetrators) is being entirely truthful and accurate (nor should you dismiss their complaints)--you need facts.  Instruct the 'harassed' tenant to keep a contemporaneous and detailed list of perceived threats, harassing behaviors and obstruction of entry/exit. 

Further, in these types of cases, we formally (in writing) cite ALL the tenants of that apartment about harassing-, threatening- or criminal-activity as being a direct violation of the lease terms, making them subject to eviction. 

Independent of that citation,  I'd tell the subject tenant to take the written list of complaints to the police to be on record.  (Caveat--make sure that you are in accord with any local ordinances regarding number of roommates permissible and/or number of unrelated persons occupying the same living space.)

Lastly, if the subject roommate is being truthful and accurate in their description of events, I'd move to evict ALL of them.  Our leases contain a clause about criminal/harassing/threatening activity.  If the living situation has actually degraded into the type of behavior the subject roommate is describing, I'd loose them all and start over.  Try not to get sucked into the drama.  Know your laws, be fair but firm. And keep in mind, land lording and social work are two very different businesses. 

Hope this helps put some perspective on this--Good luck!

@Usman T. Just so you know, you are in a legal gray area anyway, as the City of Philadelphia does not allow more than three unrelated persons to live in the same dwelling.

Room mates are no different than renting to married couples. Interrelationship between tenants is none of their landlords business until it impacts the lease. As in one chooses to leave.

Landlords are not parents or social workers, stay out of your tennats business.

Originally posted by @Gregory Hiban :

@Usman T. Just so you know, you are in a legal gray area anyway, as the City of Philadelphia does not allow more than three unrelated persons to live in the same dwelling.

 Is this the same for student rentanls?

Dealing with whiny students , fun.  I am the oldest of 5 kids , 2 boys and 3 girls .  There wasnt a day that went by without whining or tears .   ( It was never "my " fault )

If the person that's complaining is leaving at the end of the month, and the other three are renewing their lease, it sounds like the problem has solved itself. 

I see 2 issues from what you have share thus far.

The first is this.... IF the 'harassed' receives the restraining order, you have a problem because the other(s) won't be able to come within X amount of feet of the 'harrassed', making it impossible for them to live there.

The second is.... IF the harassed has come to you claiming harassment by the others, and is not feeling "safe".  Those are very alarming buzz words that a judge will take seriously.  They ring similarly to a battered wife who seeks shelter.  You may consider allowing her to be released from the lease now.  She was only on the lease for another month anyway.

While you don't control the others, you DO provide the housing.  IF the housing you provide is not "safe", you may have a problem.  That, coupled with the fact that you have 1 too many tenants in the unit may be an indicator that you should release her from the lease and avoid any future litigation.

@Cara Lonsdale

"IF the housing you provide is not "safe",

Safety is not a issue in this situation as determined by the actions of the tenant. The OP stated the tenant is intending to leave at the end of the month. If it was a unsafe situation she would leave immediately. She would move in with friends, go to a hostel or take a motel room. Safety is measured by a individuals actions and no judge will rule this to be a unsafe situation if the tenant voluntarily choose to stay.  Sorry but her actions undermine the seriousness of her claims. She has shot herself in th efoot if she intends to seek recourse.

If the person who complained to you is moving out at end of month, can you go over to be the in person while she's moving out?

And if your current leasing situation is violating the occupancy law (we have the same limitation here), can you turn this into a win/win with a variation of cash for keys if she vacates mid-month, with you there while she's clearing out?

Originally posted by @Thomas S. :

@Cara Lonsdale

"IF the housing you provide is not "safe",

Safety is not a issue in this situation as determined by the actions of the tenant. The OP stated the tenant is intending to leave at the end of the month. If it was a unsafe situation she would leave immediately. She would move in with friends, go to a hostel or take a motel room. Safety is measured by a individuals actions and no judge will rule this to be a unsafe situation if the tenant voluntarily choose to stay.  Sorry but her actions undermine the seriousness of her claims. She has shot herself in th efoot if she intends to seek recourse.

 I appreciate your comments, and tend to agree with you in theory.  However, in the US, many states adopt a consumer friendly stance when it comes to these sorts of things.  If the tenant voiced a concern to the landlord about not feeling "safe", and the landlord doesn't react in a manner that point towards resolution, they can be liable if anything should happen to the tenant.  

Of course, the OP can choose to do nothing and see where it goes.  I only offer a suggestion to let her out of the lease a month early as it seems like the path of least resistance, and considering the OP is in violation right now by having 1 more tenant than he should have by the state's law, I saw it as a way of resolving both issues with one swift move.

@Usman T. check out this link.  It may offer some guidance on how to structure future lease language for your situation as well as offer some tips on how to handle the current situation.

Managing Fighting Tenants

Thanks!

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