Have you ever had to deal with a tenant harassing landlords? Maybe you found out that your tenant is threatening to sue? Or perhaps you’ve just received a letter from a tenant’s attorney, or you’ve had heated conversations with your tenant who is making threats, and you’re wondering what you should do or what are your rights if the tenant destroys your property. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place.
First off, it’s essential to recognize that this can be a pretty scary situation to be in. An attorney sends you a letter on behalf of a tenant, and now you’re more than likely freaking out because you don’t know what to do. Sadly, this happens quite often. Tenants often threaten to sue their landlords.
I mean, everybody’s got their attorney. We also get the Fox On Your Side, but the first thing is this typically doesn’t happen, so just try to remain calm. But, if you do find yourself in a sticky situation, here’s what to do if your tenant is threatening to sue.
Please bear in mind that we are not here to give legal advice. Instead, we are just telling you what we typically do in these types of situations. In the end, you’ll always want to run everything through an attorney before taking any of these steps.
If you receive the letter from an attorney representing your tenant, that’s a threat, and it’s safe to assume that the tenant is mad. The first thing you should do is just chill out. You don’t want to complicate matters more by also raising your blood pressure.
The second thing is to try to understand that if they end up suing you that it’s not the end of the world.
We have been a part of a lot of lawsuits where we disagree with tenants. And again, we’re here to tell you that it is not the end of the world.
If you are an individual landlord, not a company, you can represent yourself in a small claims court. Otherwise, if you are a company, know that you’ll have to hire a lawyer to handle the situation.
Any tenant harassing a landlord should be handled with care. Make sure you’re always keeping records of everything, including interactions and conversations, with the individual so that you have proof if needed in court.
You want to be careful about keeping records, while it is a necessary part of gathering all of your materials. Each state has specific laws about recording people. Make sure you brush up on your local laws before you start recording your tenant.
For example, you have to disclose to the individual in the recording that you are recording them for them to be able to stand up in court.
If your tenant is threatening to sue and you are trying to avoid taking it to a courtroom, you still want to avoid making any promises to them off the record. If the situation has already escalated this far, you’ll want to make sure you do your due diligence to handle it out with proper care to protect both you and your property.
A harassment situation can quickly arise from what may have started as a threat to sue from your tenant. Make sure you understand the laws on both sides so you can recognize if you are being harassed by your tenant.
Likewise, you’ll also want to be sure to know harassment laws to be careful of things you may say or actions you may take as a landlord retaliating against a lawsuit of any kind.
Remember that the goal is to be very objective and try to fix the problem before getting sued by your tenant. The last thing both parties want to do is get into a “he said, she said” battle in the middle of a courtroom. That’s just no fun for anybody involved.
If you’re in the situation, it’s important to remember a few vital pieces of information so you can go into it with a clear head.
Whenever there is a conflict between you and your landlord, you should always welcome an attorney involved on behalf of a tenant.
Typically, attorneys are less emotional about the situation than the tenant would be. As such, you can have a more objective conversation about the situation with the attorney who can relay the information to your tenant. In a best-case scenario, you may even solve it a whole lot faster than dealing with the tenant.
The first thing we like to do before speaking with an attorney is to write down everything we know about the situation. The purpose of writing it all down is to ensure that you have all of your facts straight, get all the documentation prepared, and take notes of all the communication you’ve had with the tenant.
Generally, you’re probably going to feel like you’re in the right, so you’ll want to back your argument up with the cold hard facts.
There have been plenty of times that we’ve delivered these facts to the attorney, either via email or through the mail, and the situation seems to go away without ever having to step foot in a courtroom.
You want to try to aim for this result as much as possible, and the way to do that is by collecting all of the information you can. Take the time to gather people involved in the situation and make sure you have everything written down that you know of.
The next thing you need to do is to be prepared and email or call the attorney back. Try to remind yourself that these aren’t tricky conversations, although they might seem intimidating at first. Generally, they’re pretty objective.
Keep in mind that there are attorneys that are jerks, and so, from time to time, you have to deal with one of those. But for the most part, they’re all pretty much trying to get the situation resolved.
The last thing worth mentioning is that if you ever feel uncomfortable in a situation, call your attorney right away and let them handle it. Indeed, we hate to spend that money, but there are certain cases where it’s best just to pick up an attorney or a phone and call your own attorney and ask them the questions.
Ultimately, you want to try your best to forget the fact that they’re threatening to sue, just kind of push that aside. Instead, focus on the problem and see if you can’t come to a resolution on your own. Remember that solutions may require you giving a little bit above what you thought is fair just to get it to go away, though. The last thing you want is to end up in court over a tenant harassing a landlord.
Matthew is the CEO of Evernest. He is a student of the book Good to Great and is passionate about building the best property management company on the planet (and maybe even the universe if Elon Musk will hurry up). You can usually find Matthew at the baseball field with his son, at a dance recital with his daughter, or at his favorite restaurant with his wife, when he’s not in the office. And if you can’t find him in any of those places, it probably means he’s traveling.