5 Tips for Handling Tenant Conflicts
“Hi. This is John Doe. There’s another issue I need to bring to your attention ASAP. Call me back.”
We’ve all received this message before. The dreaded “needy” tenant who has more wrong than right happening in his suite…all…the…time. Everyone jumps when the calls come in and yet, there’s seemingly always something that needs to be addressed. Maybe it’s the tenant who has had the late fee application discussion every month for the past 4 months but cannot fathom how paying in person on the 11th just isn’t cutting it. Or, how about the tenant with the stainless-steel coffee bar that can see those fingerprints on the coffee urn…again?
These are conflicts and part of our everyday existence in property management. Conflict is defined as “an incompatibility between two or more opinions, principles or interests.” Person A needs Person B to agree or address the issue at hand and vice versa. Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Except as the professional and the decision maker for your property, you also have the added pressure of keeping your cool. Try these 5 tips the next time Mr. Doe calls; it just might help!
This may seem elementary and slightly trivial- but it’s crucial. While breathing is usually involuntary, how many times have you experienced shortness of breath during a speech, heavy traffic, or intense conversations? Taking that breath enables you to lower your heart rate, your blood pressure and gather your thoughts. You are going to need those thoughts to validate your opinion later. Take the breath!
Again, this should be a “given”, but the facts plainly state that we do not listen well. Statistically speaking, “we spend between 70-80% of our day engaged in some form of communication, and about 55% of [that] time is devoted to listening”.* Listening to a complaint not only gives you the information needed to address the grievance, it also builds a trust with that tenant. They trust us to take their needs seriously, but how do they know we are taking them seriously? We must listen, without interrupting, until the entire complaint is finished being relayed. Brace yourself: it may not be pleasant or quick. However, it will be worth it. You will be informed, and they will feel better…hopefully.
Okay, here’s your chance! Engage…not react. There’s a big difference. There are various positive ways to engage and restating the issue is a great one to start with. Think of it as repeating your order in the drive-through; it reinforces that someone heard what you were saying and gives the opportunity to correct any misinformation. Another way to engage and foster trust is to ask questions. “How can I help?” and “What can I do for you to make this better?” will portray genuine concern and let your tenant feel important. Finally, let the tenant know that this issue can and will be addressed. It’s ok if you can’t immediately guarantee a timeline or issue a remedy, although that is the most desirable response. Be realistic and honest in order to build that trust between you and your tenant which is far more important in the long run.
Get It Done.
From the moment you hang up the phone or the email from the tenant hits your inbox, the clock has started. Maybe not for you, but for the tenant. Keep that in mind as you assess your responsibility and options. They may have “sat” with this issue before bringing it to your attention, so attempt to issue your response in a timely manner. No one can define that term for you but use your best judgement.
This is GOLD. Nothing smooths over conflict more than emphasizing that the concern was valid in the first place. Following up ensures the job is complete, the tenant is happy (or happier) and paves the way for strengthening your relationship. It can be a call, an email or personally dropping off a note or treat (bonus points if they receive it directly from you). Tenants want reassurance and need to feel their opinions and concerns matter and, to be honest, aren’t they the reason we have our job in the first place?
*Statistic gathered from Center for Hearing and Communication (2007).
Author Bio: Leslie M. Sinclair is an Assistant Property Manager for Gemini Rosemont Commercial Real Estate and a Houston native. She has an amazing son named Ignatius James and is honored to follow in familiar footsteps as an IREM member and Future Leaders program participant.