Property managers get all kinds of hard questions from residents. Sometimes, offering the right response is a legal matter. You don’t want to violate fair housing laws. Other times, a good answer is the difference between an upset tenant and one who will give you a positive online review.
This article covers seven hard questions that residential property managers need to be prepared to answer.
“Why am I paying different rent than someone with the same size unit?”
A tenant may feel that their rent is too high or is being raised unfairly. They may even see a listing for a neighboring unit that’s less expensive than theirs. Explain to them that rent is based on the property, not the resident. There are many factors that go into setting rents – including lease terms, vacancy rates, seasonal fluctuations and market comps – so don’t be afraid to spell them out (politely).
“Why does he get a reserved parking spot and I don’t?”
Some disabled residents are entitled to a reserved parking spot. It is important for property managers to protect their right to privacy. You cannot ask them about the nature of their disability, and you may not share any information with others.
When reserving the space, do not put up a blue handicap parking sign that says “Reserved.” Instead, use a plain brown sign. If other tenants ask about the reserved space, don’t mention that the tenant has a disability. Simply inform the resident who asked that their neighbor has a lawful right to the parking spot.
“Why does she get a pet when the rest of us have a no-pet policy?”
If you have a prospect with an emotional support animals (ESAs) or service dog, you may not deny them occupancy due to their animal or their disability. They are exempt from no-pet policies and do not need to pay pet deposits.
ESAs can be dogs, cats, birds, rodents, etc. They don’t require special training, but they must be prescribed by health professionals for the emotional benefit of the owner.
Service animals are usually dogs, and they’re not considered “pets.” They are trained to perform a job and can go anywhere their human goes. They are often recognizable by the “service animal” vest they wear while working.
You don’t need to explain any of this to other tenants. If someone asks why their neighbor gets a pet, politely tell them the resident has a lawful right to their animal.
“Marijuana is legal here, so why can’t I smoke in my apartment?”
Some states have fully legalized marijuana. Even if you live in such a state, you don’t have to allow residents to smoke in their apartments. That’s because marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Also, property managers have a right to establish no-smoking policies in their properties. A smoking ban covers tobacco, marijuana and vaping.
Use Yardi Breeze if you need to update any part of your lease, and make it easy for tenants to understand. For instance, you might create a one-page reference document with all your most important policies.
“My neighbor is hoarding. Can you do something about it?”
Hoarding is a psychological disorder, and it is not the same as collecting things or being messy. A hoarder’s space may become so cluttered that exits and windows are blocked. Hoarders may also cover stoves and use ovens to hold their belongings. This is a fire hazard and violation of the resident’s lease.
If trash, food or other items are being hoarded, neighbors may complain about foul odors coming from the hoarder’s apartment.
Property managers need to walk a fine line—your job is to document everything. Yardi Breeze lets you upload photos and track resident communications. Should you need to reference your documentation, you’ll have proof complete with timestamps. This avoids any “he said, she said” in a dispute.
It is equally important not to judge the tenant. Hoarding is a disease, not a choice. Offer to help them find a counselor. After doing so, give them a timeline to change the behavior. Again, document every step you take.
Always discuss your best course of action with a lawyer.
“My neighbors have an occupant who harasses members of my family.”
There may be several things to consider if another tenant is being verbally or physically abusive to you or your family.
- The offender may be a minor (under 18-years-old).
- The offender may have an intellectual disability. In this case, they may have special protections under law. Yelling, swearing, pushing and other acts of aggression do not necessarily mean intent to harm.
All tenants have a right to personal safety. There are several things property managers can try to resolve the conflict.
- If the offender is a minor, talk to the parents/guardians. You are required to provide reasonable accommodations that keep all your tenants safe.
- Keep in touch with the aggrieved tenants. Let them know what’s being done to resolve the issue. Ask them to contact you immediately whenever something happens.
- Document everything. If you are forced to move to eviction proceedings, you’ll need every detail to support your case.
- If possible, reach out to emergency contacts that live off-site. With legal guidance, provide written warnings to the resident’s family.
- If the offending tenant is disabled, write more warnings than you would for a non-disabled occupant (to avoid counter-claims of unfair treatment). If the behavior is violent and/or threatens the immediate safety of others (e.g., setting the apartment on fire, using a weapon), you may be able to move to eviction. It bears repeating: seek legal advice for your situation.
“Can you tell my upstairs neighbors to get their noisy kids under control?”
Multifamily buildings come with their share of noises. Many apartment complexes have quiet hours to help control noise when most people sleep. Outside these hours, residents are free to go about their lives. Toddlers and young children in particular tend to make noise, especially when excited. No amount of complaining will change that reality.
Encourage the annoyed party to politely ask their neighbors to reduce the noise. All tenants have a right to quiet enjoyment, but all apartment buildings have some level of noise.
If a tenant’s complaints persist, you could offer to release them from their lease.
Please note that this article does not replace legal advice. We hope this information is helpful. Always seek professional legal advice for your specific situations.