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Do property managers need to be involved in disputes between tenants and neighboring businesses?

If the dispute impacts your tenant’s use of their rental, then yes. If unaddressed, even minor issues between tenants and neighboring businesses can escalate into serious problems that can, among other things, waste your time and damage your reputation. Property owners can even face legal liability if the disturbance becomes severe or persistent.

Fortunately, your intervention as a neutral third party can quickly and amicably help resolve many disputes between your tenants and neighboring businesses.

What can be done if a tenant has a dispute with a neighboring business?

Your first step is to identify the source and nature of the problem, gathering as many details as you can. Does the problem regularly occur, at a particular time of day, or sporadically? How does your tenant know that the neighboring business is the source of the problem? Has the tenant complained to the business? If so, are the complaints documented? Does it affect all of the property or only part of it? How does it affect your tenant's ability to use and enjoy their property?

Your tenant may be the primary source for much of this information, but you should speak to other neighbors to confirm the scope of the problem.

Next, conduct research. Has this tenant complained about similar issues before, either with you or another property manager? Have previous tenants complained about the neighboring business? Gathering this background may provide perspective and the leverage necessary to resolve the dispute.

Once you have all the facts, it's time to communicate with the neighboring business. You may wish to put this in a written Complaint to Neighbor. Regardless of how the communication takes place, you should lay out the facts of the problem, potential solutions, and ramifications if unaddressed. Be firm, direct, professional, and amicable. Record all communications and efforts to resolve the dispute as well as the neighboring business's responses. 

What if the problem persists after communicating with the neighbor?

If the neighboring business fails to take action, you and your tenant should consider pursuing legal remedies to secure the business's cooperation. A Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney can help you figure out your legal options.

For instance, disturbances caused by noise, smoke, or odor may rise to the level of a nuisance. A nuisance is the legal term for when there is an interference with the use of property. Many places have non-emergency numbers, such as 311, to report such nuisances to the appropriate local authority, who will attempt to stop it.

If the neighboring business's unruly customers or employees are causing the problem, they may be guilty of disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct. It may be appropriate for you or your tenant to call the police.

Depending on the severity and frequency of the disturbance, you or your tenant may also sue the neighboring business for physical damage to the property or interference with the tenant's right to enjoy the property. A court may order the neighboring business to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again.

Can property owners be liable for not taking action?

It depends. In most places, property owners have a legal duty to ensure their tenants can use their property without serious disturbances. For liability to arise, in most instances, the issues must be ongoing and impacting a tenant’s ability to live there. Additionally, a landlord may need to have notice of the issue, or know there is a potential issue, and fail to act, before being held liable. Landlords should not hesitate to ask a lawyer when they are unsure about their duties and potential liability.

If you fail to take action after receiving a complaint from a tenant about a problem with a neighboring business that impacts their use of the property, you may be considered in breach of your lease. This may permit your tenant to withhold rent until the disturbance is resolved, receive a refund for the period of the disturbance, or, in some situations, it may provide cause to break the lease without penalty. Discuss these issues with a lawyer if you are concerned about a problem neighbor and a situation that has been difficult to resolve on your own.

What can be done to minimize liability for property owners?

Promptly taking reasonable steps to resolve the disturbance will help limit your liability as a property owner. Be proactive and deal with potential issues instead of just hoping they go away on their own. Consider options to handle the issue on your own, like adding sound insulation to your rental or no smoking signs out front. Document and record all interactions and attempts to resolve the situation.

Rocket Lawyer has resources to help you deal with disputes between tenants and neighboring businesses, and other rental property management issues. Get the legal help you need anywhere and on any device using the Rocket Lawyer Mobile App.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


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