Landlord / Tenant Q&A: CATHERINE M. MATTHEWS (R), GRI

CATHERINE M. MATTHEWS (R), GRI
Broker-In Charge, Callahan Realty, Ltd.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. I have a long time tenant that lives in a high rise condominium unit that I own; I have never had a single issue or complaint about her until now. I got a call from the resident manager that said my tenant is playing her TV too loudly at night. I talked to the tenant, she apologized that she had inadvertently disturbed a neighbor. She said she did not feel her TV was loud but did volunteer to rearrange her furniture to move the TV away from the window and she lowered the volume. I haven’t received anything in writing from the manager but I did receive a second phone call; I feel my tenant is trying, what should I do?

A. House Rules are in place in an attempt to provide a harmonious living situation among residents. In addition, they are there to keep residents and guests safe, to abide by local and federal laws and to maintain the value of the property. In most instances House Rules consist of common sense and consideration. I hope that you provided your tenant a copy of the House Rules prior to or during her move in process. This is always necessary, if a tenant has not been provided the rules you cannot expect that they will abide by them. For the sake of this question, let’s assume your tenant has the rules.

I always take written violation notices seriously. I believe that although a tenant may get a little too lively during a party, forget to renew their safety inspection, or not bag their trash properly once, it does make them a bad tenant. What is not good is when Landlords do not follow up and allow tenants to think it is acceptable for the behavior to continue with little to no consequences. I’ve found in most instances when a tenant does violate a rule, knowing the Landlord has been notified brings an extra degree of seriousness to the violation.

Pursuant to Section 514B-104(11), Hawaii Revised Statures, the Board of Directors can give the Managing Agent, the Resident Manager and other authorized agents or employees of the association the right to issue violation notices and to levy fines against the responsible owner, the owner’s tenant or another person occupying the unit. Fines may be assessed only by the managing agent or resident manager.

In this particular instance, I might not assume your tenant is in the wrong. I would want to have a conversation with the manager. The fact you have not been issued a written notice and just a phone call could mean it is just one person who is overly sensitive that is being bothered, especially since your tenant has made changes. Sometimes in condominium living if you are sensitive to normal sound you may need to close your windows or even wear ear plugs. If of course the sound is bothering multiple people, then further changes may be warranted. If it is just one person and the manager feels your tenant is in compliance with noise levels, it will be up to the manager to explain this to the complaining resident.

If you do receive a violation notice, you would have the right to contest the situation in writing to the Board of Directors. Many times situations like this are touchy because of the personalities involved. Regardless of what the rules are that govern the tenant’s behavior, they must apply these rules equally to all tenants. Both federal and state fair housing laws prohibit discrimination against tenants in the handling of regulations.

Please remember that Resident Managers have to deal with everyone, it is a very hard job. Be supportive, understanding and fair to all parties.

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