Dealing With Tough Tenants
A property manager is required to wear many hats, not the least of which is the customer service hat. Tenants are often the best and worst part of the job; some may praise your problem solving skills in the morning and complain about a new one by lunchtime. It's all part of the job, but sometimes tenants go beyond the standard complaint and become a daily obstacle in getting your job done.
Here are a few tips on how to minimize tenant conflicts, and how to deal with them when they do arise.
Visit Your Property Regularly
Most tenant complaints will revolve around physical aspects of a property; garage lights are out, the security guard is never around, there is always trash in the stairwell. While you may enlist a team of employees and vendors to ensure things like this are taken care of, we don't live in a perfect world; things slip through the cracks, service providers can get complacent, and on and on. If at all possible, plan to visit your property regularly. This helps guarantee you have first-hand knowledge of your tenants' daily experience with the building, allows for checks and balances with your employees and vendors, and gives you a regular opportunity to build relationships with your tenants. It's much harder to have a contentious relationship with someone you know and (hopefully) like.
Be Proactive About an Issue
It's always easier to solve a problem when you're ahead of it. For example, if you know you're having work done in your garage and you have a tenant who cares greatly for their front-row reserved spot, go beyond the standard FYI email out to all tenants. Take a moment to call or even visit that particular tenant in person to let them know this is coming. Not only does this ensure they've been made aware of the work taking place, it gives you the opportunity to address any concerns they may have before they become problems. Plus, who doesn't love that kind of personal touch.
Ask the Right Questions and Listen
Conflict with a tenant isn't always easy to resolve. Sometimes they are frustrated about simple problems like those I've previously mentioned, and sometimes they're actually frustrated with something else. While a tenant's complaint may be superficial, if they seem disproportionately upset over it or are constantly finding reasons to call you and express their distaste over something, perhaps there's a bigger issue at hand. If you feel the latter may be happening, try to get to the deeper issue by asking your tenant questions and sincerely listening to the answers. Do they have an underlying conflict with another tenant, is their business suffering, did a staff person just quit? While you may not be able to solve those problems, knowing about them gives you greater insight into how best to deal with a tough tenant.
Online or In-Person?
Some conflicts can be solved in an email, and some are best addressed in person. Think about all of the factors at play in the conflict you're facing; how well do you know the tenant, do they complain often, are they new to the property, do they always call you instead of emailing you? Take all the information you have into account before deciding what mode of communication to use to work towards a resolution.
Document All Communication
Be it traditional paper reports, emails, or even recording summaries of conversations you have with a tenant, document everything! As a property manager, you can have an infinite number of interactions and conversations within a day. Sadly we don't all have an elephant's memory, but we do all have the resources to record interactions that could prove important down the line. When you realize you're dealing with a potentially difficult tenant, start a record for them. Hopefully you never have to refer to it, but you don't want to find yourself in a position where you're without sufficient records.
The last thing I'll mention here is something that's constantly echoed at IREM events, in property management offices, and in our continuing education classrooms: be professional. At the end of the day, every tenant is your customer and that means they deserve the same level of professional service from you as you deserve from the professionals that serve you. No matter what transpires with a tenant, if you keep your professional wits about you, you'll come out ahead.
About the Author: Lindsay Konlande currently serves as the Association Assistant for IREM Houston. Lindsay earned her Bachelor Degree in Communication from Texas A&M and has several years of experience in marketing, public relations and copywriting.