Tenant Threats

I am fit to be tied right now.

My “lovely” tenants called me today complaining that the pipes froze and that their downstairs is colder than upstairs. My rental is in PA - big duh on both accounts.

The wife threatened me with calling the housing authority on me because of these issues.

I don’t really know what else to do. I’m p*ssed off that I’m being threatened, and I’m sure there isn’t much I can do as a landlord.

Can I make them leave? I thought maybe if they’re claiming the house is so unbearable, it might be best that I tell them to vacate so the property can be fixed.

They’re on a short term lease. There is a lot of egg on my face, because I allowed these tenants to move in due last minute due to their other home catching on fire. Their references checked out and all… I just think they want something for nothing. Big surprise.


Sorry, Niki. You’re the landlord. You have to provide a means to heat the house that will actually heat the house.

As for the plumbing freezing, it’s maybe on you, maybe on them. If they didn’t have the heat on, it’s their responsibility. However, as the landlord, you are supposed to maintain the plumbing.

It was minus 17 for a week here just 2 weeks ago. The only plumbing that froze on any of my houses was the one I was living in. All the rentals were fine. They have good heat, good insulation, and thermostat controlled heat tape on the plumbing under the house.

In PA, you should expect freezing weather and the house should be outfitted to deal with it.

As for the threat, that’s a separate issue. I will not permit my tenants to threaten me, and if they do, they get their notice to vacate.

Please note, that if the tenant actually calls the HA before you give her notice, you will not be allowed to evict her, because it would be retaliation.

My suggestion: get the plumbing thawed and the heat fixed and then give them notice to vacate.

By the way, I will not rent to any tenant who has had a house burn down. Houses don’t actually catch on fire by themselves very often, and I don’t want tenants who have behaviors that start fires.

The applicant would have to present irrefutable proof that the fire wasn’t their fault before I would consider them.

hello tatertot!

How do you check if the tenant had a “burned house” in the past?

Thank you,


[[[…How do you check if the tenant had a “burned house” in the past?..]]]]

The first thing you do is to ask them. It’s a question on my application. Yes, I have had an applicant tell me that a house they lived in burned down. They said “some solvents exploded”, which I suspect means that they were making meth.

You will get applicants where their insurance company is trying to find them a place to live because their house burned down.

You should be getting current and prior landlord names. You check to make sure they are really the landlord, and damage to the rental is always one of your interview questions.

You get prior addresses on the credit report. Those need to be checked against the prior addresses claimed by the applicant.

Also, ask their reason for moving. Tenants think that “house burned down” is an excellent reason.

Be friendly. Look interested. Listen actively. You won’t believe some of the things applicants will say once they start talking and you aren’t critical. Fires are exciting and make them the center of a drama, so most people who have had a fire love to talk about it.

I don’t like to accept applicants who move frequently, so 2 landlords will give me at least 4-5 years reference. The prior landlord will probably know if if there was a fire in the house before his.

You can’t do an FBI security clearance, so you aren’t going to catch absolutely every problem and every lie. But if you screen tough, you will catch a lot of it. The really bad tenants are bad at everything they do, including lying.

Sometimes you get a genuine conman who has fabricated a pretty good background cover-up. Maybe that one will get through your screening. But if you have procedures in place, have a written criteria and stick to it, and don’t rent based on your “gut feeling”, most of the bad ones will get screened out. (Reject for bad gut feeling. Don’t accept for good gut feeling)

Also, smile at the kids. Many kids are starved for adult attention and they will spill their little guts if you listen to them and look interested. They will tell you all about the family pets and if there was a fire, I’m sure they will find that interesting to talk about. Note: I do not interogate the kids, simply respond to them, and their loose little lips will sink ships.

Household fires are caused by Cooking 26% and improper heating 12% and then every other cause is less that 5% and most in the 1% to 2%. That means that if the house burned it is because they burned it down cooking or using a space heater.