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What To Do When a Neighbor Has a Dispute With Your Tenant?

Sarasota Area Tenants Don’t Always Play Nice

As the 80’s pop-band “Depeche Mode” used to sing, “People are people, so why should it be . . .” (I’m really dating myself here ;-)). The truth is, people sometimes aren’t nice to each other—it’s a fact of life.

Our Owner Gets a Letter

I got an email not long ago from one of our owners regarding an alleged dispute between neighbors—here it is, with some masking of identifiable info for privacy reasons:

Good-day & hello,

I received a letter about some vulgar graffiti that was sprayed on the home next to mine at 1234 Xxxxxxxx Lane in North Port, supposedly by a friend of our tenants. The neighbor is demanding that I paint the exterior of his home. My sympathies go out to the veteran homeowner, but I don’t feel that we should have to paint his whole house. 

Then there is the fact that perhaps the tenant’s friend did not do this?  Is there a police report identifying them as the perpetrator? Can someone contact the tenants and get their side of the story, please?

Thanks and regards,

Neighbor Disputes, owner speaking to tenant

Our Response to the Owner

So, here we have a situation where the neighbor of our tenant is making an accusation, without proof or corroboration, and is making a demand to have their house painted by our owner. This is how we responded:

Hi Xxxxxx,

So unfortunate that the neighbor had that happen to them.

Unfortunately, this is not something that we can become involved in, in any way whatsoever. We are not the police, and we are not the monitors of alleged disputes between neighbors. This is not something that we, as property managers, should legally be dealing with.

This is a personal dispute between third parties that need to work it out among themselves. It is the responsibility of the alleged victim to call the police. Again, we are neither police, investigators, nor judges. These are roles that we have no legal authority to assume.

We have absolutely no proof that our tenant did anything wrong, and if the tenant did, then it is a matter for the police, the neighbor, and the tenant. Should proof of any wrongdoing on the part of our tenant come to light, and should that activity constitute a breach of the lease, only then could we take any action, which would be limited to posting notices and, if necessary, initiating an eviction.

What we have no business doing is jumping into the middle of something we know nothing about, and which is the concern of third-parties, not ourselves.

Be well, my friend.

Think about it—absent any proof of any particular party doing anything to anyone—how is it an owner’s or property manager’s business to jump into the middle of such a dispute? Furthermore, if we did jump into the middle of it, guess what—We would then be in the middle of it! Once you’re in, you’re not easily getting out!

If we did get involved, what exactly were we supposed to do—launch an investigation? Pick a side? Become a third-party mediator? No, best to stay out of it until such time as we are obligated to get involved—when we have proof that our tenant had done something worthy of taking action.

And what if the neighbor had proof—say they had a video of the tenant spraying the graffiti? Then, we would expect the neighbor to contact the police and pursue a legal remedy. Again, we as property owners and managers are not legally authorized to conduct investigations, try cases, adjudicate outcomes, nor order restitution—such is the jurisdiction of the legal system.

What Happened?

So, whatever came of this? Absolutely nothing. The neighbor never pursued it—apparently having no proof to back up their accusation.  This whole thing likely came down to some neighborhood kid having “fun” with a can of paint on a random house, and because for some reason, one neighbor doesn’t like another neighbor (a reason that is none of our business), they decide to make accusations and demands. It’s a shame, but it happens all of the time.

Tenant Issues, neighbor checking neighbor

Conclusion

Of course, every instance is unique, so if you have any doubt as to what you should do in any particular situation, please contact your personal attorney for advice. As a general rule, unless you have formal police and investigative training, along with legal authority, and ironclad proof, I think it’s probably best for you to stay out of other people’s business.

About the Author

John Michailidis, JD, is the Broker/Managing-Member of Real Property Management of Sarasota & Manatee, a Sarasota, FL based residential property management company. Real Property Management of Sarasota & Manatee provides both Full-Service and Lease-Only services to greater Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice, and North Port area landlords. If you own residential investment real estate anywhere in Manatee or Sarasota counties, do feel free to reach out to our team at 941-216-0005, or through our website.

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