Managing rental properties requires a variety of skills, but one of the most important ones is developing a positive relationship with the tenant. Building trust and maintaining a good working relationship with tenants bolster your reputation and will attract quality, long-term tenants. However, there are times when issues invariably arise, and how landlords manage tenant disputes will set the tone for future interactions.
Tenant complaints are part of the job description, but many disputes can be avoided by having a solid and signed lease agreement with clearly defined expectations. When issues arise, having a plan to address them will serve you well both legally and in terms of stress.
Use Strategies To Manage Tenant Disputes
Disputes can happen between a landlord and tenant or between two or more tenants. Whether you’re personally involved or mediating between tenants, there are skills you’ll want to put into action.
Have a System
The day-to-day details of managing a rental property can easily become overwhelming. When a complaint or a disgruntled tenant suddenly interrupts the normal workflow, it’s easy to react without thinking and potentially risk missing key details. You also risk making a rushed decision that doesn’t serve you or the tenant well. Putting a plan in place for dealing with complaints and disputes allows you to keep a level head, respond in a calm manner, and approach the problem with logic and know-how. Create a tenant complaint form, have a dedicated phone number for concerns, and offer easy online access to submit a request or concern. A system eases stress and tells the tenant that you are easily accessible and ready to help.
A prompt response to a complaint can often diffuse the situation and prevent it from escalating into a dispute. Even if you can’t fix the situation immediately, if your tenant knows that you are working on it and will communicate about the process, you reduce the risk of frustration bubbling over. Maintaining open and productive lines of communication helps the tenant focus on working toward a solution.
Emotions run high, especially when mediating between neighbors or if a fix is complicated and takes time. It is imperative that a manager remains calm and professional to truly understand the problem. This will allow a manager to communicate to the tenant that you care about finding the best solution. Professionalism promotes respect, and respect makes it so much easier to manage tenant disputes.
Keep a Written Record
No one wants to imagine a scenario where a tenant complaint escalates into a legal situation, but in the event legal action takes place, having a written record of all communication and all efforts made to resolve the issue is important. Good records show the tenant that they are being taken seriously and help to protect the landlord.
Consult the Lease Agreement
Do you have a well-written lease agreement? Do you have a process in place so that every tenant has read, agreed to, and signed the lease agreement? Having a lease agreement that lays out the rights and responsibilities of both parties will help you head off many disputes before they even begin.
Five Common Tenant Complaints
The best way to avoid complaints is to work to minimize any issues proactively. With that in mind, here are five common complaints landlords receive from their tenants:
- Maintenance and Repair: Have a maintenance and repair schedule in place so tenants know that it’s a priority. Describe the process to submit requests and the timeframe for a response. Follow through as quickly as possible, communicate with the tenant during the process, and follow up afterward.
- Poor Communication: Communication options are more diverse than ever. Have a dedicated phone number that is answered or checked daily, offer an online submission option for questions and maintenance requests, and create a stated policy for the timeframe established for answering emails. Setting expectations ahead of time reduces the risk of confusion that leads to complaints.
- Noise: Tensions between neighbors can quickly escalate into bigger problems, and noise is often the catalyst. Be clear in your lease agreement regarding quiet hours, expectations for pet noise, and the process for handling noise complaints.
- Privacy Issues: All tenants have a right to privacy. This means you cannot show up to an occupied property without informing your tenant first, unless it’s an emergency — even if they’ve made a repair request. You must provide 24 to 48 hours’ notice before entering. Communication is key!
- Customer Service: Professional interactions and timely responses are important in establishing and maintaining trust between the landlord and the tenant. Your tenant is a customer, and prompt, excellent service is the best way to retain quality tenants.
Setting a high standard when you manage tenant disputes will reduce stress and headaches. Create your plan, craft a quality lease agreement, and set the tone for yourself and your tenants. Timeliness, prompt communication, and respectful interactions can dictate the landlord-tenant relationship in every interaction.
Partner With the Experts
There is a lot to think about when deciding to take on a rental property. Talking with an expert can help you make the best decision for long-term success. With a commitment to providing our community with a reputable service, Rent Portland Homes with Darla Andrew manages properties with efficiency and innovation. Our team has over thirty years of experience advising clients on industry best practices to keep up with our ever-changing market. Call or text Darla Andrew today at 503.515.3170 to learn more about how we provide the support you need to confidently enjoy the rental process.