How to Deal with Complaints and Conflict Among Tenants in a Multi-Unit Building

System - Sunday, October 29, 2017

When you serve as a landlord, your relationship with your tenants is incredibly important. You have a lease in place that governs the relationship, which is helpful. But, lease aside, you still must do what’s necessary to ensure your relationship thrives.

There are other relationships at your properties that are just as important and often far more complex than the tenant-landlord relationship, those between and among your tenants. Do you ever wonder how to deal with tenant conflicts as a landlord? You’re not alone. 

It would be nice if there were one magic recommendation to be made about how to handle tenant disputes with other tenants, but those disputes can be among the most challenging situations you can encounter when managing a rental property.

The first step is always to discern who is creating the issue. That’s not to say you can just hold one person accountable for tenant conflict in a multi-unit building. Rather, handling tenant issues with other tenants is a sensitive task, one you can only master over time. When you have a challenge with a tenant disturbing other tenants, or a similarly challenging tenant-tenant relationship problem, here are some ideas for resolving the conflict.

Address Everyone Involved in the Tenant Conflict

Once you’ve figured out who is causing the problems, the tendency may be to single that person out and chastise them like or impose requirements for changing their unruly behavior. But that’s not often the best course of action, even though it’s likely the most obvious. Instead, you must always address all parties involved, even if the culpability isn’t evenly spread out.

Why is that? Because tenant relationship problems often boil down to the age-old “he said, she said.” Or it may be a case of one tenant saying, “He did this!” while the other tenant is saying, “But she did that!” 

Truly, it can be one of the most aggravating situations to find yourself in as a landlord. But even after you make an internal determination as to who is at fault, you still must address both parties. Singling out just one party is only going to make that individual or group come to resent you, which can often lead to conflict between landlord and tenant. But telling both parties to stop what they’re doing makes no one feel truly at fault. 

Make sure to appeal to each person’s superiority. Something along the lines of, “Hey, I know the other party is doing this, but I’m counting on you to …” is always a good approach to take. Also, make sure they understand living in a multi-family building means living in close quarters, and it’s not good for anyone to live with such conflict hanging over their heads.

What Can Be Done Legally in a Tenant Dispute?

Adding to the frustration of tenant issues with other tenants is that there's rarely ever a legal remedy. That's right  you're most likely on your own to come up with a solution. This is because: 

  • The state of Pennsylvania and almost all other states have processes and regulations that govern how and when a landlord can evict a tenant. 
  • Even in the most severe cases of tenant-tenant conflict, you'll rarely have the evidence needed to satisfy legal standards for eviction. 

Remember how we mentioned most conflict falls into the “he said, she said” category? That's part of the problem. Most evictions are related to easily provable situations. For example, the tenant didn't pay rent for three months. That's a lease violation, and one that can trigger the start of the eviction process. It's not so simple when a tenant is disturbing other tenants.

And the last thing you want is to get into some sort of legal challenge or extended legal disagreement. Is a landlord responsible for tenant behavior? In legal terms, it’s a little murky. But in practical terms, a landlord is responsible because the legal system can’t be counted on to govern tenant behavior. 

Practical Management Over Legal Action

When you manage a rental property, you’ll often find a practical approach to management trumps all. You’ll be tempted to take a legal approach in some situations, but you’ll discover a practical approach is far more effective and far more natural once you gain experience in operating a property and regularly dealing with its residents. 

Experience matters in these cases. Very few property owners enter into rental property management with a preternatural understanding of practical management. In fact, the tendency as a new landlord is to focus on legal rights — which is normal and understandable in the absence of experience. But, over time, as you deal with how to manage fighting tenants and other issues, you’ll begin to develop that deeper understanding of practical management, and you’ll find that a practical approach naturally emerges over time.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t pursue legal remedies in the most severe cases. But focus on practical management first, and you’ll find it’s far more effective than anything else you can do.

Become an Unbiased Mediator of Complaints and Conflict

Here’s one final thought on how to deal with tenant conflicts as a landlord. Never get swept into the conflict and placed in the middle. Set yourself up as an arbiter, an independent and unbiased third party who wants nothing but the best for all involved. When you choose sides or start mediating the “he said, she said” aspect of a conflict, you’ll find yourself swept into a never-ending back and forth that will drive you crazy without leading to a solution.

Again, take the firm-but-compassionate approach of telling both parties to knock it off from the start. Flatter each party when you can. This will engender goodwill and help spark a resolution. To the extent you can change the circumstances around the conflict, go for it. But most conflict isn’t so easily remedied with a change in circumstances.

Let Us Handle Your Tenant Vs. Tenant Challenges

Yes, a practical management approach takes experience and naturally emerges over time. But not all property owners want to take a hands-on approach to mediating tenant conflict. That’s why choosing an experienced management partner can be such an attractive option.

At Harrisburg Property Management Group, we provide comprehensive rental property management services. We take care of everything related to your property, from leasing to repairs and maintenance to mediating tenant conflict — and, when necessary, evicting tenants. Let us help you make the most of your investment in a rental property.

Contact us today about property management services from Harrisburg Property Management Group.

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