Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What can be done about troublesome tenants?

Let me start out by saying that today's blog is not meant to suggest that every tenant is or will become a nuisance to his or her community. There are many tenants who make better neighbors than the people who own the unit next door.

That being said, many communities today are struggling with tenants who, for whatever reason, have become a source of general nuisance to others. Most of us have suffered living next to these kinds of occupants at one time or another: loud parties, disabled car on perpetual cinder blocks, garbage on the front lawn, frequent visits from the police for the all-too-frequent domestic disputes and more.

Often the unfortunate people living next to these characters expect and fully demand that the association do something NOW! Realistically, however, how many tools does an association have at its disposal to deal with this kind of situation?

If the tenants' behavior rises to the level of a general nuisance, the association can pursue an injunction against the owner who rented to them to stop the behavior from continuing. If the association's governing documents require the use of a board-approved uniform lease form or lease addendum (and the owner in the case at hand complied with the requirement), such document should provide the association with even more options to quickly remove a troublemaking tenant. In addition, if the association's governing documents allow fining, the association can fine an owner for his or her tenant's or other occupant's misbehavior.

There is no easy or cheap solution to rid your community of a truly bad tenant. The best solution is better prevention. If you don't have the ability to screen tenants, speak with your association attorney about what you can and can't do in terms of screening. I have often told clients that it is also important to have your owners screen their own tenants to get a clear picture of who they are letting into their homes. Too many owners stick their heads in the sand about the type of tenant they are bringing in to the community. If your governing documents required owners to submit their own screening results for their proposed tenants, it might make some of them think twice if some red flags surface.

There is no surefire guarantee that screening can prevent a troublesome tenant just as there is no way to ensure that owners cannot also become a source of nuisance to their neighbors. In these troubled economic times, many owners are happy to have any tenants to supplement their assessments let alone good ones.

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