It is no secret landlords and tenants don’t always see eye to eye, often with good reason. Disputes over unpaid rent or ignored maintenance requests are just a few reasons why landlords and tenants butt heads, and sometimes these arguments turn violent.
One such story is that of a 50 year-old Wilson County, NC landlord, Mendy Morris Faires, who was recently arrested for pushing her 49 year-old tenant down the stairs in November 2012, resulting in the tenant’s death nine months later. There are many unknowns in this particular story such as why the initial police report indicated no serious injuries were sustained, or what caused the landlord to push the tenant in the first place. The landlord also reportedly had a history of DWI’s and other substance-related misdemeanor charges. Charges are pending in this case.
The Connecticut Post reported a 41 year-old Connecticut landlord, James Cunningham, was astounded by the ‘guilty’ verdict he received in late August 2013 for the shooting death of his 38 year-old tenant one year prior. He was charged with murder and unlawful disposal of a body. He is facing 65 years in prison.
In March of this year the NY Daily News reported that landlord Philippe Estevez shot and killed a male tenant. The tenant reportedly came to the defense of a female tenant with whom Estevez had been involved in a dispute. After fatally shooting the male tenant, Estevez allegedly attempted to shoot the female tenant too but his gun jammed. Estevez is facing a murder charge and perhaps attempted murder.
According to the US Department of Labor, nearly 2 million American workers report violence in the workplace every year, and it is presumed many more incidents go unreported. In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries reported an overall 767 workers were killed as a result of violence and other injuries by persons or animals, including 463 homicides and 225 suicides. Shootings were the most frequent manner of death in both homicides (81 percent) and suicides (48 percent). Female workers were less likely to be involved, and of the 338 fatal work injuries involving female workers, most (71%) were suicides.
The Department of Labor also reports research which identifies factors that may increase the risk of violence for some workers. Such factors include exchanging money (particularly cash) with the public and working with volatile, unstable people. Working alone or in isolated areas may also contribute to the potential for violence. Additionally, time of day and location of work, such as working late at night or in areas with high crime rates, are also risk factors that should be considered when addressing issues of workplace violence.
Landlords meet not one but all of these extra danger criteria, when making trips to their rental properties. In addition, landlords often have properties in high crime areas where return-on-investment may be perceived to be higher.
So what can be done to prevent landlord-tenant issues from reaching the point of violence and prison sentences?
Recognize Renting Property Is a Business – Landlords must learn to treat being a landlord as a business and not a hobby, side-gig, or a temporary fix to a financial problem, if they are to be successful. It is mandatory to have the proper tools in place which would include solid knowledge of the industry, appropriate paperwork (read: ezLandlordForms!), effective safety measures (such as carrying pepper spray and using smartphone apps so others know where you are), effective communication with colleagues and a responsive and knowledgeable contractor/handyman for maintenance issues.
Discontinue the Personal Pickup & Delivery Services to Tenants – Landlords may be setting themselves up for adversity when personally visiting the rental property to demand rent and delivering delinquency notices. It may be smarter and certainly less provocative to hire a courier service to deliver notices, and have tenants mail the rent or better yet transfer it electronically through PayPal or another free online money transfer service.
Automated Eviction – If rent is due on the 1st and is officially late after a 5 day grace period, then on the 6th of every month the landlord should serve eviction notices, without exception – it is simply built into each month’s calendar. If you are not up to that regularity, then pay an assistant $10/hour to do it for you on the 6th, and to file in court for eviction after the mandatory waiting period for the eviction notice. When tenants know that the process is automated and not subject to the landlord’s whims or emotions, they will know what to expect and will be less likely to be late with rent. There will also be no surprise when the eviction notice arrives, it is simply the consequence of late payments and emotion is removed for the tenant as well.
Insure Against Loss & Damage – A little-used option that can be extremely useful is surety bonds. For a non-refundable fee, an insurance company will guarantee against the tenant causing loss or damage to the rental unit. Read more about tenant surety bonds here.