My Tenant is harassing me!
It’s one thing to have an annoying tenant…and it’s something completely different to have a tenant who is harassing you.
Different people have different reactions to this type of harassment. What makes it especially difficult is the fact that this tenant is living in YOUR house and owes YOU money each month.
So…what do you do when your tenant begins harassing you and won’t stop?
I’ve rented thousands of homes, so you can imagine I’ve had my fair share of tenants who harassed me . . . some had legitimate reasons, but some had very little reason to harass.
I’ve been harassed to clean a tenant’s front porch from all the pollen on it . . . harassed and had a Better Business Bureau claim filed against us because a tenant paid rent TWICE and blamed us for taking it . . . harassed because the “heat wasn’t working” and their kids were freezing in December and when I showed up at the house, they were all wearing shorts and “wife-beater” t-shirts and mad the heat wouldn’t get it to 80 degrees.
If you are going to be in this business for any time, you will have some funny stories (along with some depressing ones!), which at the time will require mounds of patience.
Let’s take a quick look at steps you should take if your tenant is harassing you . . .
1. Is the claim legitimate? Sometimes it is hard to disconnect yourself from the emotion that a tenant is bringing when making claims against you as a landlord.
Sometimes, we take it personally and immediately want to defend ourselves or justify our actions. But, much like any business decision, some of the best business people are able to disconnect themselves from the emotion and handle the situation. That is an important and valuable skill for any landlord.
If their air conditioning is out on July 4th, they may be mad about it. It is not worth playing “tit for tat” with the tenant. Whether they are made about it or not, you need to get it fixed. Try not to be a landlord that wants to prove your point or “show them” and ignore the issue because of the way they’ve treated you.
If it is a situation where you are in the wrong or you should fix something, do it despite the way they act towards you. The best customer service companies in the world do the same…and as a landlord, you’re in the customer service business.
2. Are they calling you about appropriate things at inappropriate times? This is a frequent thing tenant’s will do. They expect you to be like a vacation home rental company and answer at all hours of the night.
We have a 24/7 answering service that handles these types of calls, but you may not have that luxury. The first step will be to have a candid conversation about the tenant’s expectations. Sometimes a proverbial “line in the sand” will be enough to make the tenant aware of his or her unreasonable expectations.
If that conversation doesn’t work, simply don’t reward them by answering the phone or responding to emails at that time.
They will get the hint and won’t expect responses from you until the appropriate hours that you shared with them during your conversation. However, if you start by answering their calls/emails/texts at inappropriate times, you will have likely started a practice that will take much longer to stop than had you discussed your policy during the leasing process.
3. Are they calling you about inappropriate things at inappropriate times? One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about this business is that you can’t please everyone.
If you are like me and like for things to work perfectly every time, it will bother you when you can’t please someone. If this is the case and you can’t make them happy, you can either live with the misery, ask them if they would like to “mutually terminate” the lease and go your separate ways, or hire a property manager to insulate you from the tenant.
A good property manager has had the tough conversations you may be avoiding. And the important thing to remember is that certain tenants understand how far they can push an individual landlord…it’s likely much further than the professional property management company can be pushed!
A tenant harassing you can be a very frustrating thing. They will always be on your mind and you feel like you can never get away from them. Hopefully this article will help you deal with a tenant who is harassing you or prepare you to deal with difficult situations should you find yourself renting to a difficult tenant in the future.