Hopefully, you’re not afraid of conflict. Landlords, when renting out property in Philadelphia, are sometimes called upon to manage tenant disputes and complaints. Maybe they’re upset because their neighbors are loud or their dogs are leaving messes in the common outdoor areas. Perhaps there’s an argument over parking or a simple personality conflict.
You expect adults to work out their own issues. Occasionally, however, you’ll need to get involved, and you want to have a plan in place to ensure you’re fair, consistent, and attentive to the professional boundaries you’ve set.
You also don’t want to get yourself into any legal trouble.
Neighbor disputes are not necessarily common in Philadelphia rental properties, but they can occur in multi-family properties and apartment buildings. If both neighbors are your tenants, you can easily reference the lease agreement and hold the problem tenant accountable. But, things can get complicated when your tenant is having trouble with a neighbor who isn’t also your tenant. What can you really do when you’re not managing that other property?
We’ve found that the best things to do are to listen to your tenant, look for creative solutions, and document everything.
Here are some tips for handling neighbor and tenant disputes in your rental property.
Start With a Strong Lease Agreement
Your lease should set forth expectations for your tenants and outline a process for dealing with tenants who act disrespectfully towards one another. We know that many of the disputes that occur between landlords and tenants or tenants and neighbors can be prevented with a careful reading of the lease agreement. The lease is where everything starts. It sets forth what’s expected during the tenancy.
If you and your tenant find yourselves in a dispute over late fees, you can point your tenants to the rent collection policy that is surely included in your lease. If there’s a dispute between two of your multi-family tenants about noise late at night, you can refer them to the quiet hours section of the lease agreement.
Your lease will address:
- Noise/quiet hours
The lease agreement is your road map.
When your lease is clear, consistently enforced, and understood by all parties, you can avoid disputes and disagreements with and between tenants.
Tenant Disputes: Your Philadelphia Tenants Want to be Heard
The resident you have placed in your property has a right to the quiet enjoyment of their home. If a neighbor is interfering with that, there will almost certainly be a complaint, and as the landlord, you’ll be expected to resolve it or at least acknowledge it.
Prepare to listen. When your tenants come to you with a complaint about noise, pet problems, parking issues, or other problems and nuisances that they’re experiencing, they want to be heard. It’s your responsibility to let them make their complaint. You may not be able to solve it. But, by listening empathetically and with compassion, you’re validating their concerns and demonstrating that you care about their comfort. This is good for your relationship and for your tenant retention.
You don’t necessarily know what it’s like to hear a dog bark in the upstairs apartment all day, but you can agree that it’s disruptive and unfair. Ask questions when your tenant is sharing their concerns, and talk about what they’ve already done – or tried to do – to remedy the situation.
Encourage Communication Between Tenants
Communication can help resolve conflicts, and if your tenants are comfortable talking to their neighbors, you’ll want to recommend that as a first step. Maybe everything will be resolved with a neighborly discussion about whatever problems there are. It’s possible the offending neighbor doesn’t even realize that their television is so loud.
You might find your tenants are too nervous about talking to the neighbors. If the neighbor is also a tenant of yours, it’s okay to offer to talk with those neighbors yourself. This isn’t necessarily your job, but you’re trying to provide good customer service, and you want to keep your Philadelphia tenants happy. This offer establishes trust.
Investigate and Document the Tenant’s Complaint
You won’t necessarily be able to solve the problem of a bad neighbor.
However, you can be responsive to your tenant.
After you’ve heard the initial complaint, check in to see if things are better, worse, or the same. Always document the complaint in great detail in case it needs to be escalated.
There may be a bit more leverage if you are renting out a property in an HOA or a condo association. In such a case, you can go to the association board to resolve the issue or ask them to intervene and talk to the neighbor who is causing problems. There are almost certainly rules about noise, quiet hours, and pet clean-up.
If you’re managing a dispute between two tenants of yours, you can easily reference the lease agreement and bring the offending tenant into compliance. You can also threaten eviction. But if you are only responsible for one tenant and not the other, you can only take things so far.
Avoid Tenant Disputes and Complaints with Attentive Screening
One way to avoid tenant disputes is by placing tenants who are unlikely to cause problems or initiate conflict.
Every tenant screening process needs to follow all fair housing laws. It has to be consistent and objective. In addition to your financial screening and your investigation into prior evictions and criminal backgrounds, take a look at rental history. Talk to current and former landlords.
Those landlord references are important. They’ll tell you whether tenants were easy to work with. They’ll let you know if there was property damage, unpaid rent, or lease violations. You can ask if they’d ever rent to that tenant again.
It’s important to support your tenants, and you also want to set some standards for how neighbors are expected to treat each other and your property. If you’d like some help managing tricky tenant disputes or neighborhood conflicts, we can help.
Please contact us at McSherry Property Management. We work with investors of all experience levels in the greater Philadelphia metro area as well as surrounding suburban areas in Montgomery, Chester, Burlington, and Delaware County, to the Delaware River.