Good tenant relationships are the cornerstone of a successful real estate investor’s business. But even the most cautious landlord will have at least one tenant who is never happy.
Some will even threaten to take legal action. While many times the tenant is just blowing off steam, it’s important to take these threats seriously and handle yourself professionally.
People threaten lawsuits all the time. But what’s the right thing to do once the tenant states they are seeking legal action?
Here are a few tips to help you navigate these sometimes treacherous waters.
If you’re in a heated face-to-face conversation or phone call, don’t lose your cool. When the tenant states they’re going to sue, don’t argue with them.
Get as much information from the tenant as possible about the situation, and let them know you will contact them at a later time.
Don’t Make Any Promises You Can’t Follow Through On
If the tenant is upset about maintenance issues, get all the information tell them you are working on it. Don’t offer them a reduction in rent or tell them you’ll fix the problem immediately. If they are clearly angry, just walk away.
Report Harassment Immediately
Sometimes people say or do things in the heat of the moment and after a couple of days go by, the threats will stop. But if you’ve done everything you can do to resolve the situation and the tenant is still making threats, you may need to get the police involved.
If you feel physically threatened by your tenant or they are constantly bombarding you with angry phone calls and text messages, contact the authorities. Get a copy of the police report and place it in your tenant’s file in case things escalate later.
Contact Their Attorney
If a tenant has stated that they’ve already contacted an attorney, ask for the name and phone number of the attorney and follow up with them as soon as possible.
Many times you’ll find that the tenant was dishonest. But if they really have secured an attorney, contact them immediately. Attorneys will not take on cases if there is no legal basis, and many times the problem can be resolved outside of court.
Get It In Writing
Some states and jurisdictions allow tenants to withhold rent because of maintenance issues. But they have to provide you written notice of this including the reason why they are withholding rent.
Get Legal Help
If you receive a written notice from a tenant that are refusing to pay rent, or you receive legal paperwork that a tenant has filed suit against you, don’t panic. Don’t contact the tenant, either. Go immediately to your attorney and ask their advice on how to handle the situation.
Sometimes tenants who are seriously behind on their rent will file suit to keep you from evicting them.
It’s important to involve your attorney as early in the process as possible to avoid potential headaches and costs later on down the road.
Being a landlord is hard work. If you find yourself constantly struggling to handle your growing portfolio of rental properties, it may be time to hire a property manager. They’ll save you time, money, and the headache associated with dealing with tenants who threaten to sue.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. Be sure to consult with a legal professional before taking any action.