Phil Querin Q&A: Tenant Abuses/Assaults Community Manager

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Phil Querin

 

Question: We have a tenant who physically assaulted one of our Managers, creating an unsafe condition for numerous tenants. Police were called. Tenant was arrested and transported to a hospital for observation. Since her arrest she remains in a facility.  How should we handle this - 24-hour notice or 30-day notice? 

 

Also, how do we serve the notice since she remains in a facility?  With rising abuse of managers by tenants, what recourse do managers have?  Where do you draw the line with tenant harassment of managers - verbal and physical?

 

Answer. ORS 90.396 addresses acts or omissions justifying 24-hour notice of termination. This type of event is covered under the statute. If provides for termination if:

 

“The tenant, someone in the tenant’s control or the tenant’s pet seriously threatens to inflict substantial personal injury, or inflicts any substantial personal injury, upon a person on the premises other than the tenant;”

 

What you describe clearly qualifies on its face for a 24-hour notice. However, if this is not something expected, or if the tenant has some mental/anger issues which qualify for treatment, you may want to get more information before proceeding. 

 

Here are some things to remember:

 

  • 24-hours’ notice is a minimum; you can always allow a longer period of time;
  • This violation is not curable like the 30-day notice;

 

The 24-hour notice should not be used where a 30-day curable notice would likely suffice in securing compliance. Your description clearly suggests a 24-hour notice is appropriate, since allowing the right to cure may not be appropriate. Plus, there is likely too much risk in permitting the resident to return, only to cause further injury to others.

 

For purposes of service of the 24-hour notice you would normally send by regular mail, personally serve, or mail and attach the notice to the front entrance of the door.  However, if you know a tenant is in jail or here, being housed in a hospital, using the above methods will not likely provide the notice you need. You should contact the institution (e.g., sheriff’s office, hospital admitting desk, etc.) to find out how they permit notices to be delivered to persons in confinement.

 

In less serious cases, e.g., verbal abuse (not threats of imminent injury, however), the 30-day notice may be more appropriate. Now that ORS 90.630 has a 3-day “cure period” for isolated events, it can be a useful tool that does not prolong the unpleasantness for managers having to wait 30 days. 

 

For example, if the verbal conduct has continued, and shows no sign of abating, issuing a notice under ORS 90.630 can be used. It now becomes noncurable quickly if breached, so management can use it effectively to stop the conduct. 

 

Part of the issue today is using the courts to enforce evictions considering Covid delays and the housing crisis. Accordingly, you must be judicious when using termination notices, i.e., only in those cases you believe are necessary either for management safety, or the protection of other residents. 

 

If the conduct does not rise to “termination notice” level, you might consider using mandatory mediation to secure voluntary compliance. See, ORS 90.767.

 

Of course, the best solution to threats, intimidation, and more serious conduct is to avoid it by choosing your tenants carefully. This means vetting applicants closely before ever being allowing in the community. Unfortunately, that is not always an option, which is why the 24-hour notice is the tool of last resort.

 

Lastly, remember that judges are hesitant to terminate a tenant in such cases, unless it is an issue of health and safety of management and the residents. Before proceeding, check with your attorney to discuss how best to proceed.

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