Are you having trouble with constant neighbor complaints about your tenants? Landlords may commonly hear “your tenants are too noisy”, or “your tenants are in my front yard”. What would you do?
The Rights of Your Tenants and Neighbors
Every person has a right to quietly enjoy their property, regardless if one is a homeowner or a tenant. It is therefore your duty as landlord to provide these rights to your tenants, as specified in your lease contract.
One of the things landlords often overlook when they are renting out a property is the relationship between their tenants and the neighbors. As homeowner, your focus is probably on keeping the tenants happy so they will stay in your property for a long time. Part of this is making sure that they build a harmonious relationship with their neighbors.
The neighbors, on the other hand, are also important people to consider in the picture because they are among the constants in your community. They may also be some of the people you can rely on to look after your property when cannot be there on a daily basis to monitor it.
Neighbor complaints emerge when you or your tenants fail to respect your neighbor’s rights. To make sure conflicts are prevented or at least minimized, here is a list of possible issues you might want to be aware of.
Most Common Issues of Neighbor Complaints
Noise and other Nuisance Complaints
Disputes between neighbors often arise as a result of nuisances. These nuisances cause negative effects on the overall value of the area. Nuisances are commonly caused by repeated and ongoing patterns of misconduct such as noise, odor, smoke, fumes, dust, and animals. They often result in devaluing and damage of properties, inconvenience, and more conflict. Thus, landlords have a role in maintaining harmony in an area.
Some petty nuisances do not trouble the neighborhood much. Most can be solved through talking amicably, and even confrontation with the neighbor causing the nuisance. This way, you would ask the neighbor to stop the activity and take action to prevent the nuisance.
For other instances, this has to be solved with the intervention of other people. You may opt to have a mediator who will help iron out the issues with the neighbor. This way, you as a landlord can take a direct action about the situation. If whatever causes the nuisance is within your own property, the landlord or the occupant can remove it.
On the other hand, if the nuisance remains on the other person’s land, the landlord or the troubled occupant would still have to ask permission to go on the neighbor’s property to stop the nuisance. Lastly, applying to a court for an order to stop the nuisance, or an order that the neighbor will pay compensation damages, can be done. Any of the parties may seek legal advice.
The combined factors of noise from barking, animal waste, and a potential for animal bites may annoy your tenant’s neighbors. To avoid these, some landlords try to prohibit having pets in their property. This is because in a nuisance case, the burden falls on the landlord.
The landlord is typically responsible for proving that there is no nuisance if the case goes to court. The tenant normally has no responsibility to prove that there is no nuisance issue. Each state has their own definition of what classifies as a nuisance, so it is important to seek legal advice from an attorney for more specific information on what you have to prove in court.
It is important to communicate well with your tenants and their neighbors to settle the nuisance.
Note that pet owners have responsibilities under the law. These include making sure that their pet stays within their property. In almost all states, laws imply that pets are not allowed to go beyond the pet owner’s premises without a leash. This is because pets wandering off in a neighbor’s property could cause trouble.
Pet owners are also responsible for cleaning up after their dog. If a dog’s waste is constantly in a property, the owner may be invited over by authorities and be required to pay at least a $50 fine. Barking dogs may also cause a problem if they are constantly making disruptive noise. A neighbor could complain as this is a form of nuisance.
For issues on pet behavior, it is best to talk to the pet owner first. Dogs who bark excessively are trying to send a message, and landlords can work hand in hand with the owner to help resolve the pet’s problem.
Yard and Boundary Complaints
Some complaints may be towards the property itself. From issues about fences to front yard plants, anything can come up. Make sure you know your rights as well as your duties on these matters.
For fences, it is important to respect the boundary line between the two properties. Both property owners share the fence when both use it. Most state laws cast responsibility for the maintenance of boundary fences on the owner that uses the fence unless an agreement states otherwise.
On the other hand, you or your tenant must share the cost with the neighbor when the fence needs repair. If your tenant’s neighbor refuses to cooperate, you may prepare a written explanation of the problem, have the repair work done, and sue the neighbor for reimbursement.
Other buildings and renovations can also cause issues with the neighbor, especially if the structure disrupts another in terms of lighting, fumes, and such. Take note that these activities require a local permit first. Thus, whether you or your neighbor is planning some building activities, make sure that these permits have been obtained.
Issues Related to Trees
Trees and lawns may also be a reason for neighbor complaints. A tree on your property, for example, may cause trouble with the neighbor if the leaves and branches are falling off on their yard. Aside from the constant work of cleaning it up, it may also cause damage or injuries.
Watch out for some trees that may be under the protection of the local council. If it is on a common land, you cannot simply cut these off. Some trees may need maintenance especially if the roots cause damage and the branches are overgrown. In this case, the professional services of an arborist is needed.
Useful Tips to avoid Neighbor Complaints
Provide a clause in your lease or rental contract
The best way to avoid neighbor complaints or having a smooth resolution of issues is to discuss the terms with your tenant beforehand. Inform them of what they are allowed to or not allowed to do within the property. Also state the consequences if they fail to meet these terms. You may refer to the local policies as certain laws differ from county to county and state to state.
Build rapport with the neighbors
Make sure you spend a little time to get to know who your neighbors are. You may ask a bit about their background like how they usually spend their days or weeks in the neighborhood, if they have pets, and such.
Best to allow yourself to be friends with them as they can watch out for your property. This will also help quickly resolve minor issues in the neighborhood.
Encourage tenants to be friendly with neighbors
If you have become friends with the neighbors, make sure to introduce your new tenants to them and have a small talk with each other. This will also help your tenants ease in the neighborhood.
Give your contact details
You may give the neighbors your contact details and make them comfortable enough to simply give you a call if there are any problems. This will avoid neighbors going to authorities right away should an issue arise.
Maintain an open communication with the neighbors. You may also ask how they are once in a while or send in greetings during the holidays.
Drive by the neighborhood once in a while
If possible, regularly drive by the property just to check the condition of the house and the tenants. This also allows you to look out for small things are good signs such as if the lawn is properly maintained. If there are complaints about the tenants, it would also be best if you could see for yourself and have a random check.
Let your neighbors know that you do maintenance work
Simple things like showing the neighbors that you ensure the quality and maintenance of your property, especially the common or outdoor aspects like the trees and fences, may say a lot about you as a landlord. This shows that you are a responsible landlord and that they don’t need to worry about any issues because you are hands-on. This will help make both the neighbors and your tenants at ease.
What if mediators are needed?
Some issues may be more serious than others and require another person of authority to mediate. If needed, contact mediation services for assistance. They may cost a bit, but it allows both parties to come to a resolve instead of going to court.