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Tenants with Substance Abuse Problems: How to Deal with Them

ByDave Stopher

Jun 1, 2019 #health

It’s only logical that you, as a landlord, don’t like the idea of providing housing for a tenant who has substance abuse problems. And, it’s not just about the usual stigma but the common sense, too, as, unfortunately, tenants dealing with addiction can cause a lot of problems to the landlord. It’s not uncommon for addicts to neglect their tenant duties such as taking good care of the property or paying the rent and bills on time. What’s more, they can become aggressive and bothersome towards other tenants in the building/neighbourhood. However, regardless of their addiction, people have certain rights in this case and it’s important that you know them in order to act accordingly to your landlord position.

Don’t rush with the eviction decision

Prejudice and discrimination against tenants who have a drug/alcohol addiction problem is common, which is precisely why some countries have a protection act. For example, in the US, addiction is considered a disability, which protects the addicts from eviction with the Fair Housing Act. Things might be a bit different where you live, but you should still get all the legal information before actually evicting the tenant. That way, you’ll also protect yourself as eviction can sometimes mean the violation of tenant’s rights and can get you to court. So, take things slowly at first and learn everything you can about your landlord rights and options.

What about tenant’s bad behaviour?

People with disabilities are protected against discrimination but not against their bad behaviour. In that respect, if you do have to deal with some sort of a protection act, you should know that the act doesn’t protect people who are also violating their tenant obligations. That said, you may not have the right to evict someone who’s a proper tenant even though they have a substance abuse problem. But, if they don’t respect their duties such as rent, bills and property care, and even cause damage to your property, you have every right to evict them.

Be fair to those in recovery

It’s important to understand that an active addiction problem is not the same as a former one. In case your tenant did have a substance abuse problem but now uses adequate opioid treatment and is generally in recovery, you should be respectful of their private life. Obviously, it’s still important that they respect their tenant duties. Still, those in recovery usually do as they try to turn their life around. They most definitely don’t need to be scrutinized for their past mistakes at such a sensitive period.

Do the screening fairly

In order to avoid discrimination accusation as well as learn everything you want about the potential tenants, make sure to ask everyone questions about substance abuse. It would be best if you would actually create a list of questions and have it prepared for every applicant. That way, no one would question you or think it’s a personal bias as you’ve obviously come prepared with a set of questions on printed paper you probably give to everyone. This will also make your screening a bit easier.

Take pictures as evidence

Rumours and bad mouthing from neighbours and even your own stigma against addiction are not valid reason to kick someone on the street. If you are worried about tenant behaviour, however, and have legitimate reason for concern, announce your visit and document the evidence. Any property damage can and should be photographed.

You have the right to take action against bad behaviour

As mentioned before, discrimination against addiction is one thing but completely intolerable tenant conduct is an entirely different matter. If the tenant causes damage to your property, acts aggressive towards the neighbours, makes noise almost every night, gets into fights that require police interference, and similar, you have all the right to contact law enforcement and take eviction action. You may even want to consult a lawyer just to be sure.

Keep in mind that you need to remain calm, collected and reasonable as a landlord. You may not want to get into discrimination disputes about denying an addict housing right but, as you do everything by the book, always use proper reason and legitimate steps for choosing your tenants. That way, you’ll be protected from false accusations.


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