The rental property manager wears a plethora of hats. Depending on how involved you are day to day, a property owner can act as a leasing agent, a repairman, or a problem-solver at any given time. One hat that you may not be aware of is when issues arise between a tenant and a neighbor. Should you become the mediator in that situation. In an ideal situation, tenants and neighbors should be left to work out their differences themselves. However in some cases disputes can sometimes escalate beyond a quick solution. The key is knowing when to get involved in a dispute between your tenant and their neighbors. When that situation does come you can rest assured with confidence and address or mediate the issues.
The first thing a property owner should do when a dispute first arises between a tenant and their neighbor is to learn as much as you can about the nature of the dispute. If the disagreement is related to the property itself or the behavior of a tenant, a landlord has an obligation to step in and take action. In these situations leases are very important because they put expectations onto the tenant while inhabiting your property and in disputes this is your best line of defense. If a tenant is violating the lease and a neighbor has complained, a property owner must take the proper steps to deal with the problem right away.
If, on the other hand, the tenant is complaining about the neighbor, it’s a good idea to first check for a history of disputes. It is possible that the neighbor is an ongoing problem, or you could have a tenant who is overly sensitive. In any case the best practice is a pre-established line of open communication and attentive listening. Listening to a complaint and showing genuine concern can go a long way toward helping your tenant find a resolution. You might also consider speaking directly to the neighbor and give them a chance to air their grievances. In some cases, simply being heard can help calm a tense situation and having both parties know that there sides are heard may also simmer the tense situation. The important thing in these situations is to remain calm and unattached to the disputes at hand; becoming angry will cause irreparable damage to your relationship with the neighbor, something a successful rental property owner cannot afford.
If talking to the neighbor doesn’t resolve the issue, it’s important to understand that there is little you can do to modify the neighbor’s behavior. Issues like noise complaints, obstructing sidewalk or street access, or other issues might be addressed through an owner’s association, if available, or other local officials. But it may also be that the tenant and neighbor simply can’t get along. It’s entirely possible that a different tenant wouldn’t have the same issue and would get along just fine.
On the other hand, if the neighbor is engaging in behavior that violates a law, encourage your tenant to report it to the appropriate agency, police, code compliance or health department etc. This is especially important if threats are made, the property is damaged, or your tenant feels like their safety is at risk. As a landlord, you have an obligation to help your tenants stay safe and should work with your tenant and the local authorities to resolve any disputes of this kind. If you do nothing, and a dispute escalates into harassment or physical violence, you might wind up involved in a lawsuit or worse.
Knowing when and how to step into a tenant dispute with their neighbor can be a tricky part of the business. But Real Property Management can help. Our professionals can help mediate disputes, work with unhappy tenants, and take steps to encourage good relations with your neighbors along with a trusted line of open communication between our tenants and management.
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