Tenant Cat Fight Getting Out Of Control

26 Replies

Hi fellow landlords! My google searches are getting me nowhere.

I have a four plex. The walls are extremely thin thanks to a really bad builder/inspector and my lack of insulation knowledge.

That being said, my tenants all hear each other through the walls. Luckily, for the last two years, they’ve tolerated it. I have had amazing tenants.

One unit recently vacated and I received the best ‘on paper’ applicant. Good job, credit score, background check and references. They paid rent and deposit before moving in and set utilities up immediately. No red flags. (I’ll call them “Unit 4”)

One week after Unit 4 moves in I hear that the cops were called. Someone parked in Unit 4’s parking spot to wait for a tenant in Unit 3. Unit 4 lost their mind and began threatening the driver of the parked car with a piano leg (yes, a piano leg).

After hearing both sides, I tried to do some mediation because I failed to introduce the new tenant to their neighbors. Maybe it was my fault they got off on bad terms. We had a Coombaya session and they both agreed that they each over reacted. That was about a month ago.

Two nights ago, I get video from Unit 3. The videos are of the shared wall with Unit 4 at 1:40am. Unit 4 is yelling obscenities and slamming kitchen cabinets. The cops were called and Unit 4 was was issued a 12 hour DC (be quiet or we will arrest you).

I call Unit 4 and leave a message letting them know I heard about an incident and asked them to call me back. I haven’t heard from them.

I’d like to offer Unit 4 to leave because this is the 2nd time this has happened that I’ve been notified about (I know this has been ongoing because Unit 3 doesn’t complain until it’s bad). This has become a very hostile environment and I will lose my long standing tenants in Unit 3 if it continues.

Also: I self manage the property and have recently moved out of state.

What would you do? Please send me your advice or lessons learned! I’m so blown away by the behavior and don’t envision it ending.

If you moved out of state and you are looking at headaches upon headaches it may be time to speak with a property manager.  I hope that someone is able to give you better advice, but having someone on the ground can be more profitable in the long run and I am sure a good property manager will be able to manage a problem tenant.

You need to hire a property manager since you have moved out of state. That will help you in the future with issues like this. Your tenants "Unit 4" seem to be a little on the crazy side. If the problems continue, I would definitely offer them the option to vacate. I also recommend giving a 7 day notice to cure, so it is in writing that they need to act appropriately. You should have verbiage in your lease regarding disturbances. This is usually something I would have the tenants work out so we are not involved but I agree with you not wanting to lose a good tenant over something like this.

Agree, you need a property manager.  Although nice you do not need to do introductions among tenants nor should you host peace treaties.  If Unit 4 is crazy who know how they may react to you getting involved.  They may think you are taking Unit 3's side.  Check you lease and see if there is a way to evict for the previous behavior.  Let a property manger handle it.  Good luck.

Aside from all of the above suggestions. You can try if these are side by side units to add some  sound insulation between units. look at soundproofcow.com for some basic info. I gather they are older and don't have firewalls between them. 

You could give unit 4 the happy clause and tell them you seem unhappy, I am giving a one time offer of letting you out of lease without penalty. Or you could give her a cure or quit notice for lease violations of quiet enjoyment.   All that said if you say anything about sound or property rules in general I advise a reminder to all. Blind cc on email is a good way to do this.  Your new tenant sounds mentally impaired...

HI @Jo Ballagh , this sounds like a frustrating problem, and certainly one that is likely to repeat itself if the 4plex is side-by-side-by-side and has a poor barrier between the properties.  For the immediate situation the best resolution would be to find an amiable exit for the problem tenant.  Surely they don't enjoy the situation either, right?  

In the long run, though, it would possibly work to add an extra few inches to the wall and pack it full of the best insulation you can staple in or blow in, rated for sound-proofing.

Best of luck!

@Jo Ballagh  Is this tenant on a year lease? If they are month to month I would give them the appropriate notice your state requires to leave. You can try “speaking with them” but that didn’t work in my scenario (explained in second paragraph below). I would start documenting the disturbance they are causing. If they are on a lease and you have to get to the point of an eviction - I know where I live an eviction due to disturbance is a lot harder then eviction due to non payment. 

I had a crazy tenant living under me a little while back. Same types of things screaming/slamming/ blasting music at 7am,the list goes on. I kept going back in fourth whether to deal with her longer or get her out. In the back of my mind, I knew I could not keep good tenants in the place with her being the disturbance she was. Luckily she was month To month and I gave her notice. It did NOT go over well so just be prepared. Eventually got her out, but we did get to beginning stages of eviction.  FYI since she was on a month to month the eviction was due to lapse or time, not noise/disturbance. 

@Trevor Emmett

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ve been looking for a good property manager in my area for a few months now; interviewing and asking for referrals...but I haven’t had good luck with it. And my previous experience with another property was horrible. So I thought I’d try to manager remotely until this occurred (again).

So yes, I’m texting all other owners I know in the area for recommendations and starting the interview process again.

@Jessica Bridges

Thanks for the reply! I have a “good neighbor policy” in the lease but it only states quiet hours are from 10pm-7am and violations may lead to eviction.

I also just got a log from “Unit 4” and video recordings of Unit 3 through the wall. I realize now it’s likely a retaliation. Unit 3 is just as loud. However, it’s during “normal” hours.

I’m considering giving them both the option to leave...and then hiring a PM of course

@Colleen F.

Awesome advice on the soundproofing options! I also interviewed a PM yesterday and they said [although it’s expensive], I can drilling holes between the studs and power insulate each shared wall.

I like your idea of a “one time out” offer and am drafting that now...while I choose a PM!

@Will Fraser

Thank for the reply! I definitely need to find a solution for the sound barrier. I just talked to someone who suggested drilling small holes in each share wall and blowing insulation between the studs. Even though it’s pricey, it’s probably my best bet

@Rachael Agruso

Thank you for the empathy!! Haha. I don’t have month to month leases...which usually saves me except now!

I recently received similar videos from Unit 4 of THEIR side of the wall! Unit 3 is also very loud....although not directly threatening towards Unit 4 (if that somehow makes anything better).

I’m going to offer one to move out and then hire a PM. I could probably handle it if I were still within driving distance but not now.

Although this tenant looked good on paper, clearly they have an "anger management" problem at best, or more likely are mentally ill.  Frankly, if I were tenant 3, I'd be giving you notice right now.  Remember that angry nutcase who slaughtered the 3 Muslim dentists in the complex over his rage about parking issues?  I hope your tenants don't remember this.

Anyway, you need to get this guy out - and no PM is gonna handle this well for you.  I wish the police had arrested him when he threatened the neighbor with a weapon - they should have!  I suggest that you issue the man a notice to quit for serious nuisance, and list the two episodes - threatening a neighbor/visitor with a club (after all, that's what a piano leg is) in the parking lot, and screaming, cursing, and slamming doors at 1:40 AM in his unit, thus disturbing everyone else's peaceful enjoyment, and necessitating that the police come for a second time to deal with his behavior.  After you've had the Notice to Quit served on him, then you contact him.  You never ever speak to him again, from this minute forward.  You do it ALL by text or email.  You tell him that he is leaving, but he can choose the way in which he departs.  He can leave you by October 31, leaving the unit clean and undamaged, and he will get his deposit back the day he moves out, and leave without a blemish on his rental record.  Or he can be evicted for serious nuisance, and he will have trouble renting in the future, because every detail of why he's being evicted is going to be visible online shortly after you file the suit.  If he's not out by October 31, give it to a lawyer to run the eviction for you.  Believe me, you have plenty of cause.  Get both police reports now - the lawyer may need them for court.  

Be glad you live in another state.  If I were you, I'd get your name and address off the of everything he can find right now, so he'd have trouble coming after you.  This man is crazy and angry - a bad combination.

Your problems started when unit 4 moved in. I'd be inclined, after the piano leg incident to try and get unit 4 out. I'd start by just asking the next time they complain if they want out of the lease...  (the ol' "happy clause"). What state is the propety in? Assuming that it is legal in that state if they don't decide to take you up on the happy clause I'd do what @Karen F. suggested above.

@Jo Ballagh Isn't it fascinating to see things like so so GOOD on paper and turn out to be NOT SO GOOD in reality!

There is obviously something off about Unit 4, so you should try your absolute best to get them out asap, so prepare for some loss of some kind as you might have to give some concessions if possible. 

Some have suggested a PM, and that is not a bad idea, but you might be able to make it work if most of your tenants are doing just fine. 

Keep us updated... Good luck and it'll be fine! 

Hi Jo. I am so sorry to hear that you're dealing with this headache. Usually, you'd get a feel for the type of person during the screening process (and it sounds like you definitely did your due-diligence; props to you!). This is one of those situations that makes you realize that while someone might look incredible on paper, they might be a horrible tenant (aside from looking into past evictions or references from prior landlords) it is close to impossible to know how they'll actually be once they're resident occupants on a lease. Unfortunately, the best advice I can give is to follow the advice of what others have noted above. Try and get this tenant out as best as you can. I hate to hear that you're dealing with the drama of some of this, and sometimes that drama can carry over, which is exactly why it makes sense to get a new one in there as fast as you can. I hope everything works out! @Jo Ballagh

I think it’s safe to say that your Unit 4 tenant is an off the rails ape $&it crazy mental case and needs to be voted off the island . Find a way to get rid of this knuckle dragger idiot before you have a vacant building !

You can’t self manage effectively from out of state especially with a four unit insane asylum for a building . Call a property manager and get some rest at night .

This sounds like a police issue.  YOu are there to manage the property, not to make sure tenants like each other.  THat being said, if one is preventing quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the property, that shold be stated in the lease as a requirement of the lease.  They need to be told that is a violation.  Maybe offer to allow that teantn out of their lease...

Do some more research on soundproofing.  I think you'll be "unpleasantly" surprised at how little 3 1/2" of insulation will go towards "soundproofing" the wall.

@Jo Ballagh the answer is always going to be “what does the lease say”. I noticed you mentioned you do have a “good neighbor” clause. Normally, enforcement of any violation is a written notice to be posted. You can also have house rules. Tenants have to agree to them and be notified of them. Again, it goes back to having a strong lease. Another good rule of thumb is to DOCUMENT EVERYTHING in the event that you go to court for an eviction. Posted notices are crucial for this as well. In order to keep managing your property from out of state you can buy a lease from the Landlords Almanac website. Their Facebook page will help you get answers from local landlords and professionals as well. I recommend Real Property Management Last Frontier if you do use a PM. Oh last thing for managing remotely, you can use a courier to post notice. Feel free to dm me with any questions and I’ll do my best to get you pointed in the best direction for what YOU want and not just tell you what I think you need... but I might sprinkle a little of that on there too. Cheers!

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