landlord safety

Daughter of Inglewood mayor charged with hiring a friend to attack her landlord…

The news that made headlines this June, reveals one of the real dangers to professionals in the rental industry. Landlords and property managers have the potential to experience harassment, threats and even physical violence at the hands of their tenants.

In the case above, a renter hired a friend to attack her landlord over an ongoing dispute, according to LA Times. Due to the fact that landlords develop personal relationships with their tenants- one where the renter knows the landlord’s home address and even his schedule- their safety can be at risk if the relationship goes south.

While the situation above is an horrifying example of landlord danger, it is more likely that a landlord will encounter hostile behavior from an unhappy tenant. Hostile tenants use intimidation tactics to harass or threaten their landlord in order to keep a security deposit, live rent-free or otherwise violate a lease agreement.

It is important to be aware of certain safety precautions you can take to protect yourself and your property just in case your landlord-tenant relationship goes south.

Landlord Safety Precautions

  • Don’t give out your home address.
  • Encourage that your tenants make rent payments online
  • Get a P.O. Box for tenants to mail checks to.
  • Try a Google Voice number for business calls. It’s free and prevents your tenants from constantly calling your personal number with complaints or threats. As an added bonus, Google will transcribe all voicemails for you for easier record keeping.
  • Check your Insurance – An angry tenant poses a real threat to damage your property. Key things to think about when getting a landlord insurance policy include buildings insurance, contents insurance, emergency assistance, legal fee coverage, and accidental damage.
  • Screen Your Renters. Tenant screening goes beyond reviewing a tenant’s credit report and criminal background. You should verify professional and landlord references to find out if the applicant has a history with aggression (make sure to google the business and call the online number to make sure they gave you a real reference!).

If your tenants start issuing threatening messages or menacing acts to you, here are some ways to manage it professionally.

What To Do When Your Tenants Threaten You

  • Do not threaten back. Keep calm and respond professionally.
  • Call the Police if you feel threatened or in immediate danger. Having records will help you if you need to go to court.
  • Ask a witness to be with you during interactions with your tenants.  
  • Tell the tenant that all communication must be done in writing.
  • Save all of the texts, emails, and voicemails. You might need them in court someday.

In some cases, a tenant may threaten to take you to court. If your renter claims he will sue you, you can verify the legitimacy of this claim by asking to speak with the attorney they claim is representing them. Get the lawyer’s phone number and give them a call. Lawyers have an ethical obligation to follow the law, and cannot encourage a tenant to pursue a course of action that is not justified. Chances are, the attorney will speak to you more respectfully, making it easier to resolve the problem.  Ask for information from the attorney in writing.

If your tenant is especially demanding or mean but hasn’t quite moved towards harassing, it is important to establish yourself as the authority in the relationship. Consider this advice from a landlord on a forum:

I do not put up with verbal or physical abuse. I would draft a letter today and mail it to her certified mail that you are giving notice of lease non-renewal effective TODAY. So even if her lease doesn’t expire until April, as of TODAY she is aware it is not going to be renewed. No specific reason needs to be given. Just “your lease which ends xxx will not be renewed. Please be completely moved out and return keys on that date by (whatever time). A move out inspection will follow.”

This puts the ball in her court to contact you.

Be careful though. This will undoubtedly [upset] her something serious. Well whoopee doo. She’s already angry. But what you do need to do is follow up with a maintenance visit 30-60 days BEFORE the end of the tenancy so you can note damages, repair them, and bill them to the tenant. Don’t wait until the end to find out how many holes she and her ex-con boyfriend have punched in your walls. There won’t be enough deposit to cover it, likely. Hire a rough and tough handy man who looks like he leads a biker gang to go over to take care of it. If she refuses to let him in for a scheduled appointment (post time and date on the door in advance, of course), bill her for the service call and reschedule. Rinse, repeat as often as necessary, and keep sending the bills and deducting them from her rent. The day she doesn’t pay the charges and is short on rent, evict her.

Some might call this the perfect recipe to hack off a tenant. She’s already hacked off. Nothing you can do at this point to change that. I call it, “taking back control and de-stressing.”

If you don’t like my ideas, that’s fine, but whatever you do, under no circumstances do you answer her hateful texts or phone calls. Do not participate in this kind of childish behavior. – 

Mr. Landlord – Landlord Forum : Abusive Tenant

Remember that you have rights when it comes to protecting yourself from negative behavior from your tenants.  Follow the law, don’t get emotional, respond professionally, contact the authorities, have a landlord-tenant lawyer on your side, and move forward with a legal eviction if necessary. And don’t forget to screen your tenants.

Do you have any negative tenant stories? Share your experience in the comments.