Recognizing confrontational tenants and how to manage the situation
At some point, most landlords will face a confrontational tenant, unauthorized occupant, or even neighbor. It can be very stressful and threatening and this is a time to put your rental law knowledge, professional attitude, and delegated help to use. Also, always remember that you are never required to stay in a conversation that has become confrontational or threatening. Walk away and minimize verbal communication.
Below are some possible examples of confrontational people and how you can stay calm as well as safe.
A tenant has fallen behind on rent. Perhaps they have usually been on-time, but this month it’s a week late and you let them know that you will need to file for rent court/eviction. Their angry response surprises you. Some responses could be the following:
- Angrily guilting you for filing rent court against them.
- Yelling and insulting you verbally or via other means such as text, email, etc.
- Suddenly listing repairs that are needed.
- Citing incorrect/false laws that claim they do not need to pay you rent because of a certain needed repairs.
- Saying that if you or anyone comes to the property there “will be problems.”
- Announcing that they will be suing you for repairs/fraud/code violation, or any other issue.
- Outwardly or suggestively threatening to damage the property.
In fact, during your time as a landlord, you might find yourself facing a confrontational neighbor of your rental property. They could accuse or demand the following:
- Repeatedly contact you to complain about your tenants. It could be a serious issue or a non-issue.
- Demand money for repairs to their belongings or property that they felt was caused by your property or tenants.
- Threaten court for damages, code violations, or other issues.
Regardless if it’s a tenant or neighbor, you first must always stay professional and neutral. Second, if the person is confrontational, you owe it to yourself to remove yourself from the situation. No one can make you stay in a conversation that causes you stress, threatens you, or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way. That doesn’t mean you don’t handle a situation that needs action. It just means you won’t subject yourself to out-of-control people. When a person is making a complaint that is unwarranted, you really don’t even need to respond to it. For example, there is a neighbor of one of my properties that somehow got my phone number a few years ago. She periodically texts me to complain about something. I used to respond, and quickly. Now, unless it’s a situation that requires response, I ignore it.
The last time she text was to complain that my tenants were outside enjoying their firepit until late in the night. She said they were loud and even “took stuff from my parking pad to burn.” Now, I know my tenants are good people and do not cause trouble. And I know this neighbor has a tendency to overreact to…everything. The stuff they were probably taking to burn was sticks that fell from trees. Not actual belongings. I did not even respond to this text. She threatened to call the police if it continued. I continued to not respond. Nothing happened. My tenants called me themselves to tell me about the situation and apologize that perhaps they were letting the kids be too loud. No worries here. But responding to the neighbor probably would have just extended the situation and also shows her that I will respond to her every whim. While not terribly threatening, this is where things can easily escalate if you let it.
Finally, if you must go to your property during a confrontational time, it might be best to bring someone with you. Do not go alone. Bring a calm friend, colleague, or other person for support and also possibly for safety. In fact, if things are really bad and you need to go to the property, you could probably request that a police officer escort you. In the end, your safety is most important; both physical and emotional. Don’t doubt yourself and keep moving forward. Soon the trouble tenant will be just a memory and your next tenant will be a dream (as long as you do your proper screening before move-in)! And be careful…sometimes a current landlord could give a good review of their tenant because they want to get rid of them! Look at the entire picture.