How to handle threats from tenants

Bad tenants are a fact of landlord life.

You do what you can to minimize the risk of bad tenants through credit checks and screening services, but a great tenant on paper may be a nightmare to deal with in person.

Tenants may threaten you for several reasons, such as attempting to avoid an eviction, stopping you from realizing they're breaking their lease clauses, and attempting to intimidate you.

How you handle threats from tenants depends on the situation and the consequences for taking action.


Violent Threats
If a tenant is physically threatening you, you have a few judgment calls to make.

Your safety and well-being are your top priority in any situation.

If you're in the same physical location with the tenant while he's making these threats and you're unable to defuse the situation, leave the property.

The tenant may need some time and space to cool off after you delivered an eviction notice, is having a bad day in general, or has anger management issues.

By removing yourself from the situation, you reduce the risk of physical harm to yourself.

You do run the risk of your property being damaged, so consider involving the police department if the tenant seems likely to take his anger out on your rental unit, or he has tried to physically harm you.

If the tenant is making threats over the phone, make a record of what he said to start a paper trail.

Save emails or texts if the tenant communicates with you through those channels.

Documentation is important if you have to take your tenant to court due to the threats.


Legal Threats
Tenants may make legal threats for discrimination, eviction protection, or constructive eviction.

If a tenant is threatening legal action and states she's involving a lawyer, cease the conversation unless it's through a lawyer.

If the tenant is bluffing, you stopped the conversation from continuing in an unproductive fashion.

If the tenant isn't bluffing, you have a heads up to prepare for a potential court case and retain your own legal counsel if necessary.

You want to be prepared in case your tenant goes through with a legal threat and takes you to court.

Threats Against Other Tenants
A tenant may threaten other tenants instead of communicating calmly about problems.

While it's ideal when tenants can work out internal disputes with each other, especially those sharing rental units or common areas, the conversations don't always work out nicely.

You don't want a tenant feeling unsafe due to an angry tenant, so it's important to mediate if the conversation goes badly.

A tenant who is creating an unsafe environment for your other tenants may need to be evicted from the property, or may need a strong conversation on how to properly communicate issues with other tenants.

While stress and anger can lead to harsh words, there's a difference between a tenant having a bad day and one who is making your other tenants feel unsafe.

Bad tenants who threaten you or other tenants need dealt with appropriately.

In some situations, you can let the tenant cool down before addressing the problem.

In other cases, you need to involve a lawyer or the police.

Knowing when to use each option is important for handling a threatening situation appropriately.

Posted on Oct 16, 2015

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