19th April 2011

Settling Domestic Disputes Among Tenants

While I was out getting some exercise one afternoon apparently two tenants living in a single rental property of mine, decided to break-up. Oh joy. The back story is that these tenants had just moved into town from another state. They have two kids between them and one on the way.

I returned to find no less than 12 missed phone calls from the two of them and upon listening to their messages, I understood that they were splitting up and they would like their pre-paid rent back. After speaking with both of them, I explained that they can get out of the lease but that there would be penalties. They would have to forfeit the security deposit and two months’ rent.

The gentleman of the house asked me during the phone call if I could come to the property and change the locks. I let him know that I would come to the property the next day even though I had no intention of changing the locks.

When I arrived on-site, I let him know what I had told the estranged lady of the house on the phone earlier. I would not be able to change the locks due to the fact that even though he signed the lease, she and the children were listed as residents and they had just as much legal right to be there as he had. In fact, if she were to call the police, they would make him produce the lease determine that she had a right to be there and I would be forced to come back and change the locks back to give her access.

On the phone, apparently there was some question as to whose money pre-paid the lease and they were expecting me to make a decision as to who got the remaining money after fees were paid. The way I left it with them was that they needed to come to some agreement and if the lease was to be broken, then give me a call. I should also mention that there did not seem to be any violence, just a disagreement of some sort, so in my opinion, there was no need to involve the police.

In these situations I think it’s best for a landlord to try to stay as neutral as possible so as not to get involved in the domestic dispute. Domestic disputes are not my jurisdiction and neither is marital law.

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