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Getting Harassed by a Tenant

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I recently read about a case where a female landlord was being harassed by a former tenant.  Unfortunately, this happens every day, as some unscrupulous tenants may try and strong-arm a landlord in an effort to get back a security deposit or have unpaid rent forgiven.  In fact, some investment property landlords live in fear that their current or prior tenants will do something to try and “get even.”  With this in mind, I thought it might be helpful to discuss what a landlord should do if faced with a similar situation.

In this particular case, the tenant moved out and left the apartment in complete and utter disarray.  When the landlord tried to hold the tenant accountable, he threatened to hire a real estate attorney and file a lawsuit.  Since then, the former tenant as well as his parents have sent multiple emails and left many voice mail messages aimed at intimidating the landlord. 

If you are following a long-term rental property investing strategy, you may at some point find yourself in a similar situation.  If so, here’s what to do. First, if a tenant threatens legal action, ask to speak to their lawyer directly.  This will enable you to either call the bluff, or dig for more information.  If there is no attorney, inform the tenant that you will not accept any additional communications from them unless presented in writing.  In the unlikely event the tenant actually does have an attorney, get the phone number and give a call to find out the scoop.

If the harassing behavior continues, or if you fear for your safety, get the local police involved.  File a harassment charge against the tenant and get a full police report.  If the tenant’s actions still continue, at that point you can get a restraining order.  Keep records of everything in a safe place.

Finally, always remember to remain professional even in unpleasant scenarios like this one. Avoid the temptation to yell at or threaten the tenant, because if the case does wind up going to court, your actions up until that point will either help you or hurt you in the eyes of the judge.

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