Your Right to Civilized Tenants
January 1, 2004
I have a two-unit rental property, The downstairs renter is an elderly lady on Section 8 who has been there for years, but the last couple her grandson seems to have moved in. The renter denies that her grandson lives there, she says his mama is responsible for him, he’s just there a lot. The problem is that he and his friends are causing problems with my renters upstairs. This is the third set of renters who are having this problem.
All summer they are all over the porch and make it hard for the upstairs renters to get to their door. They are rude, and loud. And the upstairs renters believe he’s selling drugs.
The renters upstairs recently reported them to the police for noise. The boys accused the upstairs renters of domestic violence when the police showed up to ask about the noise downstairs. The renters upstairs have asked if I have another apartment somewhere else they could rent: I don’t.
How can I prove he’s living there to insist he move out? The renter downstairs has been there 25 years. My problem is not with her, I just don’t want her grandson around all the time. Unless I can do something fast I’m not going to have an upstairs renter.
Regardless of whether the grandson is living there, his grandmother is responsible for his actions when he “visits.” If he is disturbing neighbors, selling drugs or committing other crimes, the grandmother can be evicted and lose Section 8 eligibility.
Tell her that there is to be no more trouble with her grandson or you will report her to Section 8 and you will evict her. Then keep track or any and all complaints and incidents. Go by every so often, such as three or four times and week at different times of the day, to see how things are going and if her grandson is there.
Public-Housing Authorities have a “one strike and you’re out” rule, meaning that if a tenant or his or her guest is caught dealing or using drugs, the tenant is evicted and may never live in public housing again. Section 8 is not quite so draconian toward its beneficiaries, but they will brook no such behavior as this.
Believe it or not, we do have rights as landlords. As much as those in government who hate landlords have tried to take them all away, the pendulum is swinging back, albeit ever so slowly, toward insistence upon civilized behavior by tenants. Those in government, including some of the bleeding heart judges, have figured out that we were right when we insisted that our tenants behave. We have the right to insist that our tenants (and their guests) be good neighbors.
What happens when tenants are not good neighbors is that, as is evidenced in this case, the good tenants move out. Then it becomes more and more difficult to attract and keep good tenants. About the only people who will move in are those who are carbon copies of the riff raff that is driving your good tenants off.
Fewer good tenants mean fewer on-time rent payments, more complaints from neighbors and more visits by the police.
We must insist that our rights as landlords be honored, one of which is the right to have your tenants be good neighbors. Your first duty is to your good tenants, your second to your investment. And careful attention to managing tenants and your property go hand in hand.