The landlord-tenant or property manager-tenant relationship is, unfortunately, rather tense sometimes. And unfortunately, we have seen more and more anti-landlord rhetoric and legislation come down the pipe in the last couple of years in large part because that relationship is often tense. While there will always be disagreements between landlords and tenants, there are ways to alleviate them and improve that relationship.
This is critical for the bottom line. Maintaining a strong relationship with your tenants is a critical step to getting them to renew their lease. More renewals equals less vacancy and less turnover. Less vacancy and less turnover equals more profit!
And furthermore, who wants the headaches of having to deal with angry (justifiably or not) tenants all of the time?
There is an Enemy… but It’s Not You
Whenever something goes wrong, people will naturally want to blame someone or something. There will be an enemy when a tenant cannot pay their rent or a maintenance issue goes badly or the city is condemning the home to build a parking lot or whatever.
But what’s critical is to make sure you frame things in such a way that you are not the tenant’s enemy and furthermore, the tenant is not your enemy. This framing allows you to work on the same team toward the best solution.
Now, the best solution is not necessarily what you want and it is certainly not what the tenant wants every time. If they can’t pay their rent, the “best solution” for them is to not have to pay the rent at all. That obviously won’t work. So what we are looking for is the best solution given their situation.
So for example, the best solution for the tenant who can’t pay their rent on time could be something like a payment plan to catch up or a cash-for-keys arrangement (you pay them a small amount of money, maybe $100, to move out in the next week or so and avoid an eviction).
Regarding the “enemy” you want to work as a team with the tenant against, it could be one of four things:
- The Law
- The Lease
- The Policies or Owners
- The Past
The law is rather simply; you cannot discriminate. You always have to keep Fair Housing in mind with everything you do in property management and this is something you can reference in discussions with your residents. You cannot give a sweetheart deal to one resident that arbitrarily withhold it from another because it could be seen as discriminatory.
In the same way, you can reference your lease. You have to uphold the terms of the lease (rent is due each month, there is a late fee, you cannot make lots of noise after 11:00 pm, etc.) for each resident. Again, to not do so would be discriminatory.
In the same vein, you can reference company policies along with the lease. Or, if you are managing for an owner, that owner will often reign in what you as a property manager can do. And while you do not want to bash the owner, you can point to them as the reason why you cannot do certain things (i.e. “the owner will not allow it”).
Finally, there’s the past. Something bad happened in the past, but that is the past and this is the present. We often say something akin to “What’s done is done, now we need to find the best way to move forward.” This is especially true if maintenance issues go sideways. Apologize quickly and sincerely. If it was really bad, perhaps offer a discount on rent. But whatever you do, do not let the discussion dwell on what happened. That problem was the past. The “past” is the enemy. “Now we need to work together to find the best solution given the current situation.”
By working together with the resident, it is much easier to make what would usually be tense and even hostile situations rather pleasant. And the outcomes are better too. Tenants are much more likely to feel good about you as their landlord/property manager and renew their lease if they believe you are on their side. So be on their side!