Tenant complaints are an unavoidable part of being a landlord. There are ways to handle these complaints, however, that will increase the chances that both landlord and tenant will remain happy. Learn five tips that can give you a better chance of resolving these issues peacefully.
3 Initial Points of Caution
- Every Person and Situation Is Unique: People have different personalities and different trigger points, so it can be difficult to anticipate how a person will react when met with conflict.
- Do Not Put Yourself in a Situation Where You Feel Unsafe: If you ever feel like your safety is in jeopardy, you need to remove yourself from the situation. Hopefully, it never gets to this point, but if it does, you need to get away and consult the proper authorities, if necessary. There is no sense in putting your life or your career in jeopardy due to a tenant conflict.
- Despite Your Efforts, Some Issues Will Go to Court: Not all conflicts can be worked out and that is OK. A mediator or judge may be the best way to handle certain complaints peacefully.
Common Types of Tenant Complaints:
Tenants can complain about anything. Some of the most common issues landlords must deal with include:
5 Tips for Handling Tenant Complaints Peacefully
As a landlord, you are a business owner, and therefore, must remain professional in all of your interactions. Regardless of what a tenant is complaining about, you should not change the manner in which you, the landlord, respond to the complaint.
Being understanding, calm and professional will have a huge impact on your ability to successfully resolve the issue. While you may have to adjust your response slightly depending on the type of complaint, there are certain steps you should always take.
Listen to the Complaint
One of the best skills anyone can have is to actually listen. You need to actually listen to what your tenant is telling you and not assume they are overreacting. Being respectful and understanding of the tenant's issue may help to keep the tenant calm and will help you to be more receptive to their problem.
For example, you may be aware of a small roof leak that occurs in the bathroom when there is heavy rain. If the tenant calls to tell you there is a leak in their bathroom, you may dismiss it as the leak you are already aware of.
However, if you do not ask questions as to the exact location of the leak and the strength of the water flow, you will fail to realize that this is not the leak you are already aware of, it is actually a burst pipe that needs to be fixed immediately. So, you should always:
- Listen calmly to the tenant’s exact complaint
- Ask to follow up questions so you know exactly what is going on.
If a tenant feels they can never reach you, they will be easily frustrated. This isn't to say that a tenant should be able to reach you 24 hours a day, every day of the week.
You should have normal business hours when a tenant can contact you, for example from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. on weekdays. During these hours, you should readily respond to tenant phone calls or emails.
You should make it known that tenants should not contact you outside of these hours unless it is an emergency. Be sure to have an emergency plan in place at your property so your tenants know what is considered a real emergency and what can wait until normal business hours.
Address Complaints in a Timely Manner
Another important factor is how quickly you respond to a tenant’s issue. Depending on the severity of their complaint, you do not necessarily have to drop everything to remedy it, but you do need to fix the issue within a reasonable amount of time. A leak or broken front door lock needs to be fixed immediately, while things like a broken kitchen cabinet handle or cracked tile can wait a few days.
Show Genuine Concern
Dismissing a tenant’s concern is a quick way to create hostility. Regardless of how you feel about how valid their complaint is, you must always make them feel that their complaint is important and that you will do everything in your power to fix it as soon as possible. You want the tenant to feel that you are on their side, rather than being their evil landlord nemesis.
You must always conduct yourself in a professional manner. This is your business and you cannot allow emotions to cloud your judgment.
If a tenant is screaming, never scream back. Do not curse. Do not put yourself in legal jeopardy by threatening or resorting to tactics like ignoring maintenance requests or fiddling with a tenant’s utilities. Acts of retaliation are illegal and it is your responsibility to keep your cool at all times.