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When to Get Involved in a Resident/Neighbor Dispute

Managing a rental property means taking on a variety of roles. Depending on how involved you are day-to-day, a property owner can act as a leasing agent, a repairman, or a problem-solver at any given time. When issues arise between a resident and a neighbor, property owners might wonder whether they should add mediator to the list. In an ideal situation, residents and neighbors should be left to work out their differences themselves. But disputes can sometimes escalate beyond a quick solution, and in some cases, knowing when to get involved in a dispute between your resident and their neighbors can help you make the decision to act, if and when the time comes, more confidently.

The first thing a property owner should do when a dispute first arises between a resident and their neighbor is to learn as much as you can about the nature of the dispute. If the disagreement is related to the property itself or the behavior of a resident, a landlord has an obligation to step in and take action. A property owner’s first line of defense against problems is a lease that clearly outlines what types of resident behavior will not be tolerated. If a resident is violating the lease and a neighbor has complained, a property owner must take the proper steps to deal with the problem right away.

If, on the other hand, the resident is complaining about the neighbor, it’s a good idea to first check for a history of disputes. It is possible that the neighbor is an ongoing problem, or you could have a resident who is unusually sensitive. Listening to a complaint and showing genuine concern can go a long way toward helping your resident find a resolution. You might also consider speaking directly to the neighbor and giving them a chance to air their grievances. In some cases, simply being heard can help calm a tense situation. Just be sure to stay calm; becoming angry will cause irreparable damage to your relationship with the neighbor, something a successful rental property owner cannot afford. We know, it can be hard!

If talking to the neighbor doesn’t resolve the issue, it’s important to understand that there is little you can do to modify the neighbor’s behavior. Issues like noise complaints, obstructing sidewalk or street access, or other issues might be addressed through an owner’s association, if available, or other local officials. But it may also be that the resident and neighbor simply can’t get along. It’s entirely possible that a different resident wouldn’t have the same issue and would get along just fine.

On the other hand, if the neighbor is engaging in behavior that violates a law, encourage your resident to report it to the appropriate agency, police, code compliance or health department, etc. This is especially important if threats are made, the property is damaged, or your resident feels like their safety is at risk. As a landlord, you have an obligation to help your residents stay safe and should work with your resident and the local authorities to resolve any disputes of this kind. If you do nothing, and a dispute escalates into harassment or physical violence, you might wind up involved in a lawsuit or worse.

Knowing when and how to step into a resident dispute with their neighbor can be a tricky part of the business. But Real Property Management Pittsburgh can help! Our professionals can help mediate disputes, work with unhappy residents, and take steps to encourage good relations with your neighbors.

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