Dealing with (and preventing!) bad neighbors

Geoff Roberts
Geoff Roberts | 4 min. read
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Published on August 30, 2010

Dealing with bad tenants can be tricky enough—though such scenarios are not ideal, at least you have a contract on your side to dictate certain rules and behaviors that ensure the comfort of all your tenants. But what happens in a case involving bad neighbors, when you don’t have the benefit of a pre-existing agreement on your side?

Depending on the set-up of your property, a bad neighbor can potentially be just as disruptive (or perhaps even more so) than uncourteous tenants in your own property. Following are some suggestions to help mitigate this sort of scenario.

Consider Neighbors When Property Hunting

Time and time again in this blog, we’ve highlighted the importance of doing extremely thorough research when seeking out an investment property. And guess what? We’re about to dole that same information out once again.

With so many other factors to take into consideration when selecting a property, evaluating potential neighbors is one of those things that all to often falls by the wayside. But on a day-to-day basis, your property’s neighbor can have a considerable impact on your tenants’ quality of living. And if that impact is a negative one, you may very well find yourself with high turnover or an undesirable vacancy rate.

So, with this in mind, taking neighbors into account is a consideration when purchasing a property. Visit your potential property at various times of the day to see if there are any red flags (be sure to do this at times when neighbors are likely to be home, such as weeknights or on weekends). If you pick up on any noise or behavioral issues, you may want to consider what sort of impact this might have down the line.

Meet Your Neighbors

This sounds simple, but neighbors are much more likely to make more conscientious decisions when they are taking a specific person into consideration as opposed to an anonymous “neighbor.” As soon as you purchase your property, take a few minutes to introduce yourself to your neighbors—this doesn’t take much, just a five-minute chat will do.

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Have a Calm and Rational Conversation

While “pre-screening” neighbors will certainly help you avoid problems down the line, it’s not fail-safe. After all, properties change ownership and if you have a neighboring rental property, you could find yourself dealing with someone else’s bad tenant.

If you become aware of problematic behavior either from your own observations or tenant complaints, have a polite but frank chat with the neighboring property owner, whether that’s the house occupant or a fellow landlord. This simple step may be all it takes; sometimes people are unaware of the effect their actions are having on others and may simply need a bit of enlightenment. Should you have this sort of conversation and find that the issue persists, try one more conversation, preferably at the time the issue is actually occurring.

Involve the Authorities

Although it’s not ideal and can be uncomfortable because it inherently involves a party that you will presumably deal with in the future due to proximity, if the offending behavior is chronic and involves some sort of legal violation (such as noise past a certain hour or reckless public behavior) call the non-emergency number of your local police force and put the matter into a third-party’s hands.

Remember, as with most things, the best way to avoid dealing with problematic tenants is to prevent the problems from happening in the first place. Hopefully, by executing the first three recommendations, you will never reach the point where you have to act on the fourth.

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Geoff Roberts

Geoff is a marketer, surfer, musician, and writer. He lives in San Diego, CA.

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