Conflict resolution is a frequently-discussed topic in property management, but many resources centre on how issues between landlords and tenants can be determined in a formal setting.
Resolving conflict is in fact a skill property managers often need on a day-to-day basis.
In this property management series article, our experts look at three common conflict scenarios and how you can produce an outcome that best meets the needs of all parties involved.
1. Dealing with a difficult landlord
Understandably, a landlord will expect a lot from their property manager, they are, after all, trusting you with one of their biggest financial assets.
Sometimes, what a landlord expects can go beyond what is realistically achievable for one person who is looking after a number of properties. A landlord who demands more than is reasonable can be a significant cause of conflict for a property manager.
When dealing with a landlord who is upset or angry, these three steps should guide your approach:
- Listen and understand
Too often in cases of conflict, we jump in to explain or justify or argue our point. Obviously, this can cause further conflict and amplify a landlord’s anger. Focus on listening quietly and patiently. Empathising with, and understanding the landlord can go a long way to calming them and smoothing over the situation.
- Deal with the problem, not the person
When someone is upset with you, it can be easy to become defensive and go on the attack. Remember to attack the problem, not the person — hone in on exactly what the issue is, what has caused it and how you can fix it. Ignore your personal feelings for the person and work hard to always treat them with respect.
- Keep robust records
As in any dealing you have with your landlord or tenants, keeping detailed records of every communication, interaction and action is absolutely crucial. Should any issues ever be escalated, solid records will help protect you and justify any actions you might have taken.
2. Dealing with a difficult tenant
When conflict arises in property management, most often it relates to the tenant and their adherence to their agreement, or the condition or upkeep of the property.
Tenant and landlords’ rights are protected by law, so it is very important to make sure any issues with the property are dealt with promptly, rent is paid on time and the property is respected.
Sometimes, if a tenant is falling behind in rent, or if they are unhappy with the condition of the property, or they aren’t keeping it as they should, conflict can ensue.
- Be empathetic
Even if this tenant is on the phone with you every week, and really tests your patience, try to put yourself in their shoes and understand why the issue they are raising is so important and how you can best resolve it, or if, perhaps, there is another reason for their call.
If they are causing the problem, for example, their rent is overdue, a little understanding can help you get to the bottom of the situation and make more informed decisions.
- Stick to the rules
The tenancy agreement and relevant Acts will dictate much of how you need to respond to any given situation. Our industry is very strict when it comes to the rules, so make sure you follow protocol and do everything by the book — it could protect you from fallout later.
- Watch your own emotions
Often times when we are in a situation of conflict, we take emotional cues from the person or people we are interacting with. If they are calm, that keeps us more calm. If they are angry and loud, this may cause us to become louder so we feel we are getting through to them, and as a result, we may become angrier.
You can better control a situation of conflict by keeping your own emotions and language in check; don’t raise your voice, use sudden or erratic gesticulations, speak too quickly or take a sarcastic tone.
3. Dealing with internal conflict
Beyond your tenant and landlord, a property manager can also experience conflict with team mates, perhaps a sales colleague who expects something more than you can give, or a PM colleague who doesn’t seem to be pulling their weight.
Internal conflict is different to that with tenants and landlords for one important reason… you have to keep working with this person every single day. If you upset each other or offend each other irreparably, going to work can be more stressful and your environment can become toxic and unwelcoming.
The best action you can take when experiencing conflict with colleagues is to always put it in perspective. Is this issue trivial or simply just a by-product of office stress? Is the conflict actually about something completely different than it seems? Or does it constitute harassment or bullying?
In the first instance, if trivial, ask yourself if it’s really worth pursuing the argument. What do you get out of a win? How will your relationship suffer? How will you feel? How will you make someone else feel? If this issue isn’t worth it, be the bigger person and let it go… everyone will have a bit more perspective once they’ve had a chance to breathe and think more rationally.
If the conflict is something bigger — if it’s particularly nasty, offensive, discriminatory or ongoing, consider bringing in your manager to deal with it.
Experiencing conflict and being on the wrong end of someone’s anger or frustration each and every day can make for an exhausting, emotional and miserable working experience.
By learning how to manage conflict and ‘put out fires’ you will build better and more trusted and respectful relationships, and you can feel happier and more comfortable at work.