Stephanie had been living as a tenant in a co-op building for the last three years and had never had an issue with the other people in the building. However, she recently started complaining about Laura, a new tenant who lives across the hall. Stephanie said Laura played music loudly throughout the day and late into the evening. Stephanie also complained about Laura constantly inviting people at all hours of the night, making her feel unsafe. When Stephanie complained, Laura said it was within her right to do all of these things.
The Importance of Preparing Dispute Documentation
If you are a property owner with tenants who are in conflict, it's necessary to mediate, document your policies and processes, and act quickly to resolve disputes that could potentially result in the loss of income from a great tenant who decides not to renew their lease or the legal expenses involved in evicting a disruptive tenant.
Ideally, individuals living in a close community go about their daily lives without clashing with other members of the building, condo, or co-op. However, there are times when two members of the community rub each other the wrong way and wreak havoc on the rest of the community. A dispute might begin with parking on the wrong spot in the lot to playing music too loud and escalate to bigger problems. In order to avoid further conflict, you need to prepare proper dispute documentation.
Ultimately, a well thought out dispute policy will protect you as the landlord as well as the tenants. Establish a protocol that will be followed in the event of a tenant dispute. It could, for example, include the following points:
- After a tenant complaint is received, meet with both parties to get the facts.
- Document the findings and give a verbal warning.
- If the offensive behavior continues, send a written letter.
- Advise the complaining tenant to call police and file an incident report depending on the behavior.
- If the offensive behavior persists, start eviction proceedings.
Your dispute resolution guidelines should be clear to all residents before they move into the building. Before signing the lease, rental agreement, or purchase agreement, you should go over the dispute policy with your prospective tenants or residents. While nobody plans on entering a dispute, having a resolution process in place in the event that a conflict does occur is critical. With proper documentation, you can bring the disputing parties together and mediate the situation until an appropriate middle ground is found. Dispute documentation should cover all the bases and leave nothing out.
Luckily, Stephanie and Laura's landlord had prepared dispute documentation. Stephanie filled out her complaint and submitted it. After going over the documentation, the landlord called a meeting with Stephanie and Laura. They discussed the noise and visitor issue. According to the documentation she had signed, Laura would have to either turn down the volume or use headphones after 8pm. However, Laura did have the right to invite guests at any time as long as they were accompanied by her and followed the building's rules. By sitting down and going over the disputes and documentation, both Stephanie and Laura came to a resolution.
As a property owner, you can avoid problems like this by working with an experienced real estate attorney to create clear guidelines and contracts that document expectations, rights, and penalties for all parties involved, which is essential to managing disputes and growing your successful leasing business.
What To Do Next:
ust as every piece of property is unique, each instance of litigation for a piece of property is unique - and not every lawyer has experience handling such litigation. Using the legal process to achieve your strategic objectives involves much more than paper pushing. It requires an understanding of how New York City and New York State law is applied to your specific case.
Nicholas Moccia provides prospective clients a Property Strategy Session in order to ensure he understands your objectives as well as your obstacles. Nicholas Moccia then formulates a plan of action that is tailored to your objectives including a cost/benefit analysis. To this end, Nicholas Moccia provides predictable and transparent fees structures, and to the extent possible he will project for you, step by step, the likely course your case will take.
If he's not the right attorney for the matter, or if an alternative to legal action is more appropriate, you have his commitment that he'll point you in the right direction. Just call his office at (718) 701-5772 to schedule.