Landlord Terrorized by Terrible Tenant

by | Sep 3, 2012 | Tenant Screening

Q: I have a tenant that resides in a shared apartment with 3 other tenants. She is so messy and abusive verbally that she has chased 3 of my tenants away.

When I found out she was intimidating people by threats, I confronted her about this and she started getting hostile with me. I have asked her numerous times to stop engaging in conflict with other tenants and she says she isn’t, yet 3 have moved out and 3 others have said the same thing about her.

One tenant has filed a complaint with the police department. The others are too scared to file complaints as she has threatened to “have her people come by and take people down” if they do anything. She has told people in the building she is on probation for a felony she committed. 

I just hired an attorney. The tenant has made threats to other tenants that if she was to get evicted she would burn the house down. Just last week she found out I’m going forward with an eviction process against her and she “had a grease fire” in the kitchen and burned down my kitchen. The Fire Department labeled it as a grease fire, yet she was “in the shower” when it happened.

 After the fire was going, one of the other tenants on her floor was actually there and called me to let me know what was going on. The problem tenant never called me or the fire department when the fire started. I believe she jumped in the shower long enough to wet her hair, and pretend she knew nothing.  She went upstairs to tell the guys on the 2nd floor there was a fire yet she has had arguments with them constantly. Every day I bring in a new tenant, they move out the same day or in a short time.

This woman is crazy and although I can’t prove anything, I know I’m right and I know what she has done. Any thoughts?  –TVS Landlord

This case is an unfriendly reminder of just how easy it is to allow problem tenants into your rental property, and how costly and time-consuming it can be to get them out. 

It sounds like you might run short-term rentals.  This strategy can be financially advantageous, but there is a drawback.  Short-term rentals sometimes encourage landlords to skip steps when it comes to tenant screening.

This tenant openly admits that she has a criminal background. She may have a poor rental history to boot. 

Going forward, it is crucial to take the time to prequalify, and then thoroughly screen each rental applicant. The time taken there will be far shorter than the time needed to successfully evict a person like this.

By the way, this problem wasn’t caused because of short-term tenancies.  Long-term tenants can be equally problematic.  The trouble started by not knowing enough about this woman’s background and character before she moved in.

One of the most troubling aspects of this situation is your statement “I can’t prove anything.”  It will be your burden as the landlord to prove the statements you make in defense of your eviction case.  Develop a system of documentation.  Here, for instance, you should have a rental application, lease agreement, move-in condition report, copies of other tenant complaints, a list of potential tenant witnesses, the police report the other tenant filed, the police report on the fire, and a dated chronicle of every interaction you’ve had regarding the complaints. With that much ammunition, your attorney is in a much better position to quickly win an order for eviction.

In order to know what information you need to collect, you need to know what the grounds are for evicting a tenant. What does your lease provide? For instance, being messy may not be enough cause to evict, but harassment and property damage are likely on the list. Some landlords include the right to evict if the tenant lies about their background on the rental application –like hiding a felony conviction. 

You did the right thing by hiring a lawyer and starting the eviction process.  You may want to take the extra step of having your attorney review these lease provisions and make sure you have the best possible protections.  Stay focuses on the appropriate grounds for eviction when you monitor a problem tenant.

Act quickly at the first sign of a problem.  You shouldn’t need to keep addressing the same issues with the same tenant.  Typically, one warning is about all a tenant is entitled to.

You may want to review your leasing policy with regard to roommates. It is unclear whether you rented to each of these tenants separately, or whether they came to you as a group. Your rights as a landlord are intimately tied to whether the other tenants are liable on the lease for this same apartment.  They may not have had the right simply to move out and leave you with this dilemma.

If at any time you feel unsafe because of a tenant’s harassment or threats, don’t hesitate to involve the police.  Make your safety, and that of others around you, your first priority.

Improving tenant screening practices will reduce the risk of renting to a problem tenant in the first place. Understanding your rights as a landlord will give you the confidence you need to quickly dispense with a problem tenant.  Careful documentation provides the power to get the problem tenant out, and to restore the profitability of your rental property.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.


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