Regardless of how well you screen potential applicants, some tenants will refuse to act reasonably once they have moved in. Whether the issue is repairs, rent increases or noise complaints
that require you to talk to them, they often lash out. Bullying should never be tolerated, nor should it be met in kind. However, there are good ways you can appropriately approach your tenant’s actions. Here are a few common threats tenants make, and how you can effectively handle them while keeping your reputation and integrity intact.
Twisting the law
One of the most commonly used - and misused - tools
by angry tenants is the law. The property manager is
threatened based on what the tenant thinks they know or just read on Wikipedia. Tenants often refer to a single sentence taken out of context to defend themselves when they feel they are being treated unfairly. The best offense for the property manager is to explain the law himself or encourage the tenant to speak with an attorney who understands local landlord-tenant laws.
Chances are good that if you have a disagreement with a tenant, you may hear something along the lines of “I am going to knock on doors and get all the tenants to hate you.” It is a good idea to remind tenants that they could be putting their own home at risk if they spread inaccurate information to other tenants. Should you learn the tenant is spreading inaccurate information, your first option is to seek legal advice. Depending on the actions of the tenant, it may become necessary to begin eviction proceedings.
Taking it to Facebook
Since you are responsible for collecting rent, you are also responsible for assessing late fees when rent is not paid on time. Your tenant may tell you that they are going to post something terrible about you on [insert social media site] because of the late fee. While this is unfair to you, it is also one of the most damaging steps a tenant can take. There is little you can do to stop the tenant from posting, but you can respond well.
First, respond professionally: as soon as you identify the post online, respond politely and forego pointing out that the tenant failed to pay rent on time. If the tenant continues to lash out via social media, he should be reminded that he could face a defamation suit. One such lawsuit, Bently Reserve L.P. v. Papaliolios, 2013 WL 3949029 (Cal. App. Ct. July 30, 2013), resulted in a tenant being found guilty of defamation.
Threatening local action
One of the most common tenant threats is “I’m going to call the ‘city’ and file a ‘report.’” This threat typically occurs after a rent increase or when the tenant wants
the landlord to pay for unapproved upgrades or repairs. It may seem wise to respond by telling them to feel free to notify the city (particularly if you know the unit has
no violations). However, it is likely more helpful in the long run to advise them that making a call to the city in retaliation for a perceived wrongdoing could result in a loss of their credibility with the city.
Whenever you are dealing with tenants, it is imperative that you keep an accurate record of any threats the tenant makes. Keep a detailed log of dates, times and pertinent information, and inform the property owner of any issues
that arise. In most municipalities, bullying is illegal; you may need the record in order to begin eviction proceedings
against the tenant. You will likely have to rely 100% on your accurate and detailed notes if you ever intend to evict. These records are essential so be detailed. Make note of witnesses or get copies of police reports, keep notes or emails from tenants, keep a log of even the smallest thing - it can make a big difference.