Member support question: Violent tenants
After trying to work with one of my tenants to solve their arrears, they have become increasingly hostile towards me and other staff. The last time they came to the office, they used abusive language. I’m scared it could escalate to physical violence. What can I do to protect myself and my staff?
If at any time you fear for your safety or for the safety of your staff or tenants, call the police. In the long term, you need to protect yourself and your staff. Depending on the type of housing you offer and the supports available, support staff may be able to work with the tenant to help them improve how they relate to staff and come to a better understanding of how to effectively communicate their concerns.
If you don’t already have one, you should create policies for workplace violence and harassment. Take a look at the risks in your workplace (such as between co-workers, between tenants and staff, or domestic violence situations where a staff member may be at risk from someone outside the organization). Once you’ve identified the risks, consider how might mitigate each of them. Gather input from all levels of staff, as maintenance staff may have different concerns than administrative staff.
If you wish to maintain the tenancy, you have the right to ban the tenant from your office. Let them know in writing that their behaviour is unacceptable and that they will no longer be permitted to visit the office. Make sure they understand how they can pay rent, put in maintenance requests and conduct other necessary business. Also make them aware that eviction is a possible consequence of future threatening behaviour.
Even if you choose to pursue eviction based on the tenant’s behaviour, you will need to protect yourself in the meanwhile. If your office door and walls are solid, install a door viewer. Leave the office door closed with a notice for people to knock if they need to see you. You may also consider modifying your office hours if you or other staff are in the office alone during certain times.
The most important thing is to ensure the staff’s safety. Take the time to talk through the risks and make a plan. ONPHA has resources that can help you make sure you have all the necessary policies in place.
Do you have a question? Contact Member Support at firstname.lastname@example.org.