Finding out your good, long-term tenant may now be involved in drug use in your rental property can be a nightmare for a landlord or property manager. A good neighbor next door to your tenant has alerted you to a possible problem.  Veteran landlord and property manager Hank Rossi, who is both a rental property owner, landlord and property manager himself, takes on this question and others from landlords and property managers around the country about their rentals.

Dear Landlord Hank:

The neighbors next door to one of our rental properties have told us they “think” our tenant next door may be doing drugs and dealing inside the house. But we do not have any proof. The neighbors are not our tenants, but know we own the property and thought we should know.  Our lease allows us to evict for such behavior, but what if tenant contests the eviction and asks us to show proof? We don’t have any. We are scared to enter the house and confront the tenant.  How should we handle this? Call the police?

– Landlord Brett

Dear Landlord Brett:

This is a very sticky situation and one you can’t ignore.

You need to move very quickly on this and prudently. Ask the neighbor of the tenant to write a complaint to you and allow them to remain anonymous. Ask them to contact the narcotic’s division of local police station and submit this too.

Your neighbor of the tenant may not do this. So I’d definitely contact your local police narcotic division and ask for help.

Do not confront the tenant about drug use in your rental

Do NOT confront the suspected druggies yourself. You could ask the police if there has been any criminal activity at your address.

The local police can due “courtesy” patrols which means they drive to your property once or twice a night to provide a police presence, if only for a short time.

Stay in communication with complaining neighbor of the tenant to tell them the police will be patrolling. See if you can get confirmation that the police do indeed patrol your property.

Feel free to contact the police to ask for any information about your property, anything noted on patrols, etc. as the squeaky wheel may get more attention.

Get as much detail from your complaining neighbor, about your tenant, as possible, about why they think the tenant is involved in criminal drug behavior. Could be there is lots of traffic in and out for short visits. Could be the smell of pot or other unusual smells. Also it could be the sighting of a drug transaction.

A pile of trash like this hidden behind your rental house could indicate drug use in your rental property.

You could also check your electric meter for the unit in question to see if there is an increase in electric consumption. I like to keep my properties well lighted at night, too, but if this is a single-family home the tenant will be in control of that.

I’d get as much “evidence” together as quickly as you can and then talk to any attorney that specializes in landlord-tenant relations for more advice and to see if it’s time to proceed to an eviction.

If you are going to evict for illegal activity, this is usually faster than the normal eviction process.

This is one time I would definitely use an attorney for an eviction so everything is done by the book.


Hank Rossi

Dear Landlord Hank: What Do We Do About Possible Drug Use In Our Rental?

Photo credit DedMityay via

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About Landlord Hank:

Dear Landlord Hank: What Do We Do About Possible Drug Use In Our Rental?

Landlord Hank at work on one of his properties

Landlord Hank at work on one of his properties

“I started in real estate as a child watching my father take care of our family rentals- maintenance, tenant relations, etc, in small town Ohio. As I grew, I was occasionally Dad’s assistant. In the mid-90s I decided to get into the rental business on my own, as a sideline. In 2001, I retired from my profession and only managed my own investments, for the next 10 years. Six years ago, my sister, working as a rental agent/property manager in Sarasota, Florida convinced me to try the Florida lifestyle. I gave it a try and never looked back. A few years ago we started our own real estate brokerage. We focus on property management and leasing. I continue to manage my real estate portfolio here in Florida and Atlanta. “ Visit Hank’s website here.