Just as landlords have certain expectations from tenants, such as paying rent on time, tenants also have assumptions that a landlord is fully aware of their responsibilities, such as providing a secure and habitable space. While landlords have many duties that go beyond simply collecting rent and performing obligations under the law, they often also fill the position of maintenance specialists and conflict solvers.
Tenant complaints come in all shapes and sizes. From maintenance problems to pest invasions, noisy neighbors to broken appliances, you should regularly address all kinds of issues to protect your rental business and your property in the long run.
No matter how much effort you put in making sure you run the business in good order, property management is not a guarantee that you can avoid complaints altogether. Whether you are managing your first rental property or you’ve been a landlord for years, one has to be prepared for tenant disputes and complaints that will inevitably arise. Here are tips on how to deal with them as smooth and stress-free as possible.
1. Set clear expectations
The best way to stay away from complaints is to prevent them in the first place. Before accepting a new tenant, as a responsible landlord, you must let them know what is expected of them to avoid conflict and confusion in the future. When your tenants fully understand the rules before they move in, the likelihood of their tenancy running smoothly will be high. To make this happen, you have to provide them with detailed documents that explain all rules and obligations of both parties.
Take the time to learn and keep yourself updated with the housing laws in your state. Ideally, you will want to take into account all the rules such as rent amount and frequency of payment, the date tenancy will begin, a list of extra conditions that may include no smoking, limited number of people allowed to live in the rental space, and rules about pets to mention a few. Having a clear agreement legally binds you and your tenants and will serve as proof and reference should there be any disputes.
2. Encourage open communication
One of the best skills a landlord could have is the skill of active listening. Pay attention to your tenant’s concerns and respect whatever issue they may be experiencing. Keep your doors open and encourage open communication should your tenants have complaints. Provide a number that they contact during working hours and be sure that you can accommodate them. Also, make sure to have an emergency plan, so your tenants know what to do and who to contact if there is an actual emergency
3. Take the issue professionally
Being a landlord is a business, so you should take care of your business’ matters professionally. When the issue arises, try to stay as calm as possible and do your best to handle it with the best intention in mind. Do not lose your temper even if your tenant is stressed or aggravated, as this will just add fuel to the fire. Acts of retaliation may only put you and your business in jeopardy, so it is important to keep your composure at all times.
If the complaint is about home repair issues or pest problems, give your tenant a guarantee that you will get it fixed, or you will call a repair service to handle the situation immediately. Do your part to ensure that your tenants can have peace of mind. Many problems can be resolved with proper communication and fair discussion on both sides. Being considerate and understanding will increase your chances of resolving the problem successfully.
4. Have a prompt response
By the moment you received a complaint, one important factor is how quick your response is. Putting away your tenant’s concern would only lead to more conflicts. No matter how severe the case may be, you have to be able to fix it within a reasonable amount of time. If the complaint involves noise complaints such as noisy pets from neighbors or excessive partying, that requires you to talk with other tenants, investigate and take action immediately. A broken bathroom hook for towels, on the other hand, could wait for another day if necessary.
The goal is to keep the tenants satisfied with your service and protect your property. A happy tenant would be more likely to retain their leasing contract with you, saving you money and trouble in the long run. Responding on time will not only show that you genuinely care about your renters but will also make your tenants feel that you are on their side.
5. Keep up with property maintenance
To keep your rental property a safe space, you have to make an effort to monitor recurring complaints and keep up with property maintenance to sustain the property in good shape. You will also want to improve your property’s aesthetic for it to be more appealing — improvements such as a common lounge area or a small garden will help the property feel more like home.
As you know, it is your legal obligation as a landlord to keep a property in a habitable condition. For this reason, make sure tenants always have access to basic essentials such as water, electricity, and a clean area. What’s more, this proactive approach will minimize tenant dissatisfaction from dealing with things breaking, pests, and other potential house hazards, which in turn removes you the burden of worrying about when will be the next complaint.
6. Seek help from a professional mediator
If you have exhausted your options in resolving tenant complaints but resolved the issue itself, a professional mediator may be able to assist you with the case. A mediator is professionally trained to determine how the complaint can be settled in the best interest of both you and your tenant.
In most cases, the mediator will have you and your tenant sit down together to discuss concerns unbiasedly. Each side is given a chance to discuss fairly. If both parties agree, the mediator will put it into writing and suggest actions to take. Mediation is an excellent option if you want to have an effective yet informal dispute resolution without having to go to court.
Mariia serves as editor-in-chief and writer for the Rentberry and Landlord Tips blogs. She covers topics such as landlord-tenant laws, tips and advice for renters, investment opportunities in various cities, and more. She holds a master’s degree in strategic management, and you can find her articles in such publications as Yahoo! Finance, Forbes, Benzinga, and RealEstateAgent.