Ask Member Support: Managing tenant disputes
I’m a property manager and I often find myself acting as a conflict mediator when issues crop up between tenants.
Recently, there was an incident between tenants that had the potential to become a safety concern. I am looking for alternatives to involving the justice system as the individual involved is part of a marginalized group whose safety may be at risk in interactions with law enforcement. Another option is to begin the eviction process with the aggressor, but I would like to find a way around this as well, particularly with the current backlog at the Landlord and Tenant Board and the realities of evicting someone as the pandemic continues.
In this situation, the conflict was largely resolved between the tenants, but there are still lingering safety questions and the possibility that issues will arise with one of the tenants in particular. Can you please provide information on how we can prevent and/or resolve difficult/potentially violent conflicts between tenants without calling the police or filing an eviction notice?
While we can certainly appreciate the desire to prevent further issues with one particular tenant, even if you feel you’re justified in beginning the eviction process based on their recent actions, you’re correct in pointing out that the pandemic and the LTB backlog make this a less than desirable solution.
Recognizing your safety concerns and the difficult position you’re in regarding being asked to mediate tenant disputes in an informal capacity, we recommend that your organization consider adopting formal conflict resolution processes and policies. ONPHA can offer a sample dispute resolution policy that can walk you through the conflict resolution process from start to finish as well as an eviction prevention policy.
One of the most important actions you should take whenever you are called upon to mediate an inter-tenant conflict is to document everything starting from the date and time the issue is first brought to you, to any investigations on your part including conversations with the involved parties, and proposed resolutions to the conflict. In the event you find yourself having to file an eviction notice, you will have the documentation necessary to move forward.
As an ONPHA member, you also have access to resources that can help you move through the conflict resolution process including templates to record the instances and content of tenant complaints and sample complainant and respondent interviews that include questions that can help you uncover the relevant facts. We also suggest adopting our sample behavioural contract which can assist you in creating solutions that are agreeable to all parties involved in the dispute.
If you find yourself unable to reach an equitable solution, and the safety of tenants and staff is at risk, we recommend that you consult with a lawyer if you feel the need to move ahead with a restraining order to help you through the considerations of and procedures involved in filing an order. If your safety, your staff’s safety or a tenant’s safety are at risk, you may need to call 911 and engage either law enforcement or a crisis intervention team if these services are available in your area.
ONPHA is also partnered with The Neighbourhood Group, which provides a number of conflict resolution services including facilitation/moderation and conflict resolution training. You might find that a bit of training would go a long way in preparing you and your colleagues for managing future disputes.
Do you have a question about conflict resolution? Do you want to access some of the ONPHA resources mentioned above? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always happy to hear from you, and to help!