Entering the field of property management is exciting and scary. It can be one of the most rewarding career paths you can take. However, property ownership and management have their pros and cons. One of the most stressful aspects of the job comes when a tenant is harassing the landlord.
A tenant threatening to sue is something you never want to happen. Landlord harassment can ruin your day and make you feel a sense of panic or anger. An upset renter is inevitable, but how you respond to an incident is essential. While you may not be able to avoid a negative Google review, you may be able to avoid spending valuable time and money in a courtroom. Here are some ways to react if you find yourself in a situation of a tenant harassing the landlord.
Lawsuits or threats of legal action are going to happen in the world of property management. The more properties you have under your control, the more lawsuits or threats of lawsuits you are going to encounter. Tenants tend to find any reason to get upset, and often they act irrationally if they feel they are being mistreated.
If a tenant has threatened to sue or has sent a threatening letter from their attorney, it is important to remain calm. High-stress situations can cause panic, which can lead to bad decisions. We never want to react out of anger or frustration. Whether the threat of litigation is from the renter or their lawyer, take a few deep breaths when you first hear the news. Being in a correct state of mind will help you respond professionally and productively.
Often a tenant will react out of frustration without knowing the law or your rights as a property manager or owner. If this happens, rebutting with an angry attitude will only make the situation worse. The best thing to do is stay calm before moving on to the next steps.
Documentation can be the difference between a lawsuit coming to fruition or disappearing. If the tenant has already hired a lawyer, sending the lawyer your documents about the situation is the first step. Keeping records of the communication between you and the tenant about the rental unit will help put the problem into perspective.
Whether it is a maintenance complaint, money situation, or another reason the tenant is angry, keeping documents about the information and people involved is vital. There are times where sending the tenant’s lawyer these documents can make the situation disappear.
You should have a good system for documenting interactions with residents, guests, lawyers, maintenance and repair companies, or any other party that may be involved in a dispute. Keeping good records is vital to protecting yourself in a legal situation and ensuring the success of your business.
While we always strive to avoid conflict, disagreements with tenants are inevitable. Try and see the situation from your tenant’s perspective and use empathy to dissolve the problem. Sometimes a calm, structured conversation can end the tension. If the tenant has felt the need to hire a lawyer, this can work to your advantage.
Lawyers will be objective to the problem and can help solve the issue without emotional judgment. Their only involvement is on behalf of their client, and therefore the connection to the home or problem is strictly professional. Dealing with lawyers can be intimidating, but they are usually going to respond in a manner that will allow for quick de-escalation.
The last thing you need to do if you have a threat of litigation is finding a solution. First, try the previously mentioned steps, such as sending the facts and all your documents to the tenant or their lawyer. Use empathy to try and fix the situation without ruining the relationship with the renter. If the problem persists even after calm conversations with the tenant or their lawyer, you may need to bring your lawyer into the fray.
You hope to avoid bringing your lawyer due to the high costs and time commitment; however, it may be necessary to protect yourself and your properties. Having lawyers handle the situation voids all emotional connections and is often the best way to resolve a conflict.
The best way to avoid legal action is to follow the law in any interactions with your residents. When it comes to maintenance or entering the property, it is important to give all required notices in an adequate time. If you are not breaking the law, you should have nothing to fear from legal action on the part of a tenant.
Follow the lease agreement completely, and your tenant should have no grounds for a lawsuit. However, no matter how great you do as a property manager, there will always be tenants that can make your life difficult. This is one reason it is important to get the best tenants through your screening and underwriting process.
When the inevitable litigation does occur, do not let it upend your operation. Handle the situation with poise and dignity, move on, and continue to provide excellent service as a property manager.