Hostile Tenants - Need Advice!

62 Replies

Hello BP Community!

I have a rather bizarre situation and was hoping for some insight. I have a duplex (two units, one address) and rented out one unit to tenants and was keeping the other unit for myself. The tenants knew this going in and were fine with it and I have written communication where they refer to the other unit as my apartment. 

For some insane reason they are now claiming both units are theirs (because they share one address) and are making my life hell (sending intimidating emails, yelling at me when I go to the property (my unit) and demanding notice for entering my unit). They have been taking pictures and video of me constantly. I had to go to the police yesterday but they can’t do anything unless the tenants hurt me although they did offer a police escort when I return. I am currently staying at a hotel because I am afraid of them. This is in Texas. 

Hopefully your lease spells out that they get one side of the duplex. 

What type of lease? Monthly or annual? If monthly, non-renew. If annual, I'd file for eviction. Eviction is not just for non-payment. Given you don't want to screw this up, I'd spend the money to have a lawyer do it.

How bad is up to the judge. Tell your story well... When at your home they approach you aggressively and make threatening comments; send harassing emails; don't allow peaceful enjoyment of your home; forced to move into a hotel due to their threats; spoke with officer XYZ on this date and he was concerned enough for my physical safety that he offered me a police escort just to enter my own home...

You can also try to contact them and offer to break the lease with no penalty. You're clearly not happy here, so why don't you find another place to live where you will be happy? No lease break penalty and I'll refund your security deposit. 

Are they (tenants) occupying the other unit?  Does it have separate utilities for the two units?  Do you have the units under a rental license that defines them as separate?

If so, you could rent the other unit or lock up the unit so that they cannot gain access and get it occupied quickly. Or you could turn off the utilities to the other side.  

The tenants are in their unit and the utilities are not separate, I pay for them and per the lease they pay me a fixed amount per month. They have never had access to my unit (separate keys/entry etc.)

Originally posted by @Greg M. :

How bad is up to the judge. Tell your story well... When at your home they approach you aggressively and make threatening comments; send harassing emails; don't allow peaceful enjoyment of your home; forced to move into a hotel due to their threats; spoke with officer XYZ on this date and he was concerned enough for my physical safety that he offered me a police escort just to enter my own home...

You can also try to contact them and offer to break the lease with no penalty. You're clearly not happy here, so why don't you find another place to live where you will be happy? No lease break penalty and I'll refund your security deposit. 

 I did offer to let them break the lease, they don’t want to. They have filed a lawsuit and want money. 

Originally posted by @Kerry Hinze:

Rent it out to another tenant, move them in quickly and have them bring a large dog too.

Ha! I actually did that, I rented my unit to a short term tenant while I was away over the summer but they made his life hell and he left  

Originally posted by @Mel S. :

I did offer to let them break the lease, they don’t want to. They have filed a lawsuit and want money. 

Sounds like professional tenants. Have they offered you to pay them to drop everything and leave? If not, it's likely coming or they are waiting for your offer.

Originally posted by @Greg M. :
Originally posted by @Mel S.:

I did offer to let them break the lease, they don’t want to. They have filed a lawsuit and want money. 

Sounds like professional tenants. Have they offered you to pay them to drop everything and leave? If not, it's likely coming or they are waiting for your offer.

When they initially filed the lawsuit they said they wanted a settlement. It took a month for them to submit it, but they wanted six months free rent, a bunch of other cash, good reference, their deposit and at least ten other things. 

The police officer suggested I bring an escort with me, I have small children so I do not feel comfortable returning to the property alone.  

Mice, furnace goes out, water gets shut off, break in utilities??  Make it uncomfortable as they are making it for you.  Sounds like a pain in the ***.  Sorry this is happening to you. Hang in there.

@Mel S.

It sounds like they may have done this before. They are serious. I am sorry to hear especially with having a family myself how much love anger on their lease? If you're being sued, yes talk with your lawyer if you haven't already.

Once they're out, I would separate the utilities and put something like Apt. A/B for the mail boxes.

Please let us know how this progresses.

-Alan

Is there something that made them hostile to begin with? Analyze if there is someway to rectify the situation with them.  

Did up their history with previous landlords.  Call them up.  Find out their story!! Research and then develop a plan based on that research.  Paint a picture for the judge if you get that far.

Originally posted by @Mel S. :
When they initially filed the lawsuit they said they wanted a settlement. It took a month for them to submit it, but they wanted six months free rent, a bunch of other cash, good reference, their deposit and at least ten other things. 

The police officer suggested I bring an escort with me, I have small children so I do not feel comfortable returning to the property alone.  

Yep, you've got professional tenants. Who did the background check on them? Didn't their name pop up in court records?

Are they still paying rent? If so, I suspect that will stop to try and pressure you to pay them.

Fast way: Pay them to leave. 

Correct way: File eviction paperwork. Counter sue them for all costs including your stay elsewhere. Maybe you collect nothing, but you destroy their credit and put a black mark on their profile for years to come so other landlords don't get screwed by them. 

@Mel S. Are you a practicing attorney in Texas? If so, I would think that you would have the advantage here and make their lives miserable. Why not look for ways to evict them, accelerate the rent and collect interest on the judgment? 

My concern is that this is not a legal duplex. If it was a legal duplex, there would usually be separate addresses and separate utilities. This sounds like a single family that was converted, so more of a mother-in-law suite arrangement. 

The good news is that the property is in Texas. You should be able to put together proof that the units are separate. Use the threats/intimidation and lies as grounds for eviction. As far as proof:

1. You are paying utilities and collecting only a portion from them. You should be able to produce your tax records showing only a portion of the utilities claimed as expense. You should have records showing they only paid a portion. In other words, something like bills totaled $3100, you collected $1500 from the tenant and claimed $1500 on expense on your taxes under utilities.

2. If you are using this as a personal residence, your drivers license and registrations would show this address. If it is just a second home, this may not work.

3. If the lease calls out a portion of the property, that alone is strong proof.

4. You can provide photos and show that you have a separate key. This space was never occupied by the tenant since move in. 

5. Show a copy of the lease from the tenant that was staying there for a while. That shows it is a separate unit.

I would also contact the city/county and determine if this is a legal duplex. If it is deeded that way and recognized as two separate units, ask for separate address designation. They can usually split like 136A and 136B. Get that recognized by the US postal service. Do this regardless of how it turns out with this tenant. 

Also I am wondering, you say in your profile that you are an attorney. What type of attorney? You seem to not understand your legal rights. Do you have friends or coworkers that handle evictions that you could chat with about this? Eviction is necessary and I would not give into the extortion. 

@Mel S. You gotta get control of this. Get a lawyer. Go on the offensive. Make them fear you, not the other way around. You can carry in Texas, right? Go to a biker bar and rent the place to a couple of them for $100 month...

I am not an attorney, but I wonder if what you describe could be interpreted as "stalking" (taking pictures and video of you constantly, etc.) and would therefore enable you to file for a restraining order against them? 

I am a property manager in Austin. Your lease should have the legal description of the property and the unit number especially if you used the promulgated form. I'd consult an attorney that specializes in tenant-landlord relations. On the Texas Property Code, there is a section that talks about quiet enjoyment by other tenants and neighbors. I'd be happy to look at your lease, although I cannot give you any legal advise.

Personally I would hire a competent attorney and file eviction immediately.  Sue for any potential damages, including court costs, hotel stays, and psychological damage that your attorney recommends suing for.  If someone tried to make my life miserable like that, the first thing I would do is return the favor and make them equally miserable.  Having an eviction and possible civil damages pending is going to make it difficult for them to do much of anything for the next few years.

I would assume that there is verbiage in your lease concerning peaceable enjoyment for you and the surrounding neighbors.  I would discretely record a few conversations and provide the judge with the email traffic as well as the police reports and hotel receipts.

I don't have any duplex's, so my verbiage probably wouldn't be as specific as what you have/should have, but this is the clause from my lease and a violation is grounds for eviction.

"Resident shall not use the premises or permit it to be used for any disorderly, boisterous or unlawful purpose in any manner, and Resident's actions and the actions of Resident's occupant, guests and invitees shall not interfere with any neighbor's right to peace and quiet enjoyment."