As a landlord, one of the hardest things to deal with is handling disputes between two tenants, or between one tenant and a neighbor. Unfortunately, conflict is inevitable so you’ll have to learn how to handle it correctly. In this post, you’ll find a few helpful tips on dealing with tenant-related disputes in case your rental property is in an HOA or COA community.
What’s the best way to avoid tenant conflict?
Tenants can get into conflicts with other tenants. This is especially true in condominium communities where tenants live very close to one another. As their landlord, it’s your job to ensure that they continue to practice their legal right to the peaceful use of their property. In other words, it’s your obligation to ensure that they’re free of disturbances from other tenants or you, the landlord.
To avoid conflict between tenants, practice the following tips:
#1 Prepare a “welcome guide”
When new tenants move in, consider giving them a welcome guide that includes what they can and can’t do as tenants. The guide should also include the type of behavior that’s expected of them, for example, how they should act in common areas like the park or pool (e.g. no shouting). Your property manager can help you prepare this welcome guide to encourage tenants to respect others.
#2 Screen potential tenants
Conflict involving tenants can be avoided if only you choose your tenants wisely. As the property owner, you should screen all of the potential tenants by checking their criminal background, credit report, etc. You should also look into their track record with their past landlords to check if they once got into trouble with other tenants. Alternatively, you could enlist the services of a South Florida property management company with a strict screening process in place.
#3 Maintain an open line of communication
Aside from regular property management, don’t forget to tend to your tenants’ needs. If you neglect to communicate with your tenants, you won’t be aware of what’s troubling them. Partner with a property management company that uses technology to maintain an open line of communication with tenants. That way, your tenants can file complaints that your property managers can address, and in effect, reduce the potential for conflict.
When should the association interfere?
In homeowners associations (HOAs), the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) protect homeowners when it comes to their right to live peacefully in the neighborhood. In other words, homeowners aren’t allowed to engage in aggressive or abusive behavior toward other owners, including property managers, contractors, tenants, and so on.
When conflicts arise in an HOA or condominium owners association (COA) community, the association stays out of it initially. For instance, if a neighbor complains about the upstairs neighbor’s noise, the two are supposed to sort things out on their own. However, the association should interfere if it finds that the nature of the dispute is so serious that it goes against the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations.
In general, there are two types of situations where an HOA or COA should step in:
- Quid Pro Quo Harassment. This is when a homeowner conducts an unwelcome act as a condition to receive a service. An example is when the association’s hired contractor says to a homeowner, “I won’t repair your roof if you don’t go out on a date with me.”
- Hostile Environment Harassment. The second type of harassment is when a homeowner experiences pervasive This includes threats, coercion, and intimidation.
In cases of harassment, the association has to find proof before it can escalate the issue to court. The association’s board of directors needs to secure information from a reliable source to confirm the claim of harassment. It’s worth mentioning that the homeowner does not need to be the one to report it, but anyone aware of the incident.
From there, the HOA or COA should follow the steps outlined in their governing documents, such as their CC&Rs and rules and regulations. What’s important is that the HOA or COA acts on the complaint. If the association fails or refuses to stop the harassment, the board of directors will be held liable, and the homeowner can file a lawsuit.
What should landlords do in this situation?
Although tenants aren’t homeowners, the HOA or the association management company is required to treat tenants equally. In other words, the HOA should treat cases of tenant harassment the same way that they handle homeowner harassment. In case your tenant suffers from harassment in an HOA or COA community from a non-tenant, consider hiring a property management company with an in-house real estate lawyer.
Otherwise, if the conflict is between two of your tenants, you or your property manager should interfere. Your tenants are your responsibility, so if your tenants won’t sort things out between them, you’ll have to get involved.
How can landlords handle tenant conflict?
Should landlords step in to address issues between two tenants? Not always. As a general rule, the landlord should allow the two conflicting tenants to sort things out on their own. Give them the opportunity to air their grievances. If they aren’t willing to settle, that’s when you should interfere. If conflict resolution isn’t your strong suit, consider hiring a property manager or mediator. Keep in mind that the solution shouldn’t come from you — your task is only to help them come to a compromise. If you provide a solution that favors one tenant over the other, you will look like the villain.
However, if the issue can be solved by reviewing the lease agreement (or the CC&Rs if your rental property is in an HOA or COA community), you can remind your tenants of the rules. For instance, if Tenant A complains about Tenant B’s bins that are spewing trash, but your lease agreement states that tenants are obligated to keep the sidewalk clean, then Tenant B is in the wrong.
Need help handling tenant conflicts?
If you need assistance in dealing with conflicts within your HOA or COA community, contact the expert property managers at Luxury Property Care. We provide a variety of property management services, including tenant screening and legal counseling, among others. Call us today at (561) 944 – 2992 or contact us online for more information.