Tips for Handling Tenant Complaints

2 Apr 2014
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As with any relationship, the relationship between Property Manager and tenant will inevitably see its share of problems. It is your job and your ability to keep any tenant complaint or conflict from turning into a large issue or problem. Here are some tips for successfully handling a tenant complaint.

Before delving into how to handle a tenant complaint, here are two points of caution:

  1. Every Situation Is Unique: People have different personalities and different trigger points, so it can be difficult to gauge how a person will react when met with conflict.
  2. 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 peril due to a tenant conflict.

Increase Your Chances of a Successful Resolution:

There are endless things that tenants can complain about, and while you may have to adjust your response depending on the type of complaint, there are certain things you should always do, no matter what the complaint is, to increase your chances of success. When dealing with any tenant complaint, the manner in which you respond to the complaint can have a large impact on the outcome.

For any complaint, you should always:

Listen– One way to come to a successful resolution is to actually listen to what your tenant is telling you. For example, you may be aware of a small roof leak that occurs in the bathroom when there is a 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 that needs fixing. 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 carefully to the tenant’s exact complaint and ask follow up questions so you know exactly what is going on.

Be Available– If a tenant feels as though you are never available, their frustration will quickly grow. You should have normal business hours when a tenant can contact you, for example from 9am to 5pm 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 constitutes a real emergency and what can wait until normal business hours.

Address the Complaint in a Timely Manner– Another important factor is the timeliness in which 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 need to be fixed immediately while things like a broken kitchen cabinet handle or cracked tile can wait a couple of days.

Show Genuine Concern– Dismissing a tenant’s concern is a quick way to create hostility. Regardless of how you feel about the validity of their complaint, you must always make them feel that their complaint is important and 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 their evil landlord nemesis.

Be Professional– 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. It is your responsibility to keep your cool at all times.

Source: Erin Eberlin

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