An inevitable part of a landlord or property manager’s job is dealing with tenant complaints. But you can work to ensure a more positive outcome for most issues with some preparation and planning for how you’ll deal with them.
Lay a clear foundation
The most effective way of preventing conflict in the first place is to make sure that everyone starts with the same set of expectations. Getting your tenant’s signature on a well-written apartment lease should help accomplish this.
Make sure that the lease agreement you use clearly spells out all tenant rights, responsibilities, and limitations of tenancy, including behavior that is not allowed. It is especially important to detail the rules in areas that are common sources for tenant complaints, such as issues involving noise, guests, parking and pet behavior. Also be clear about repair issues: what the tenant will be responsible for, what repairs the property owner will handle, and the process for getting repairs made.
Detail property condition before move-in
Don’t let there be any doubt about what the apartment unit looked like before the tenant moved into it. A careful walk-through with thorough documentation is a must to establish a baseline for condition of the unit. Print out a detailed checklist for every part of the unit which both you and the tenant will sign.
Being a good communicator means not only delivering messages with clarity, but also responding quickly and completely to tenant needs. When your tenant contacts you about a potential problem, get back to her immediately via whichever method she used to contact you. Even if you already sense that you know the resolution the situation requires, respond respectfully and get to the bottom of the issue using diplomacy and tact.
Before you take a position on the tenant’s complaint, be sure you know the lease agreement to the letter and that you respond in a way that is in complete accordance with it. If the dispute is between two tenants, interview them both and investigate the situation neutrally. You’ll need all the facts to deal fairly with the issue. For all communication with tenants on contentious issues, take thorough notes of phone calls and in-person conversations, and save emails, so that there won’t be any confusion later about what was said to whom and when.
Create a schedule
If resolving a problem requires you to take action in some way, be an example of coordinated follow-through. Work with the tenant to find dates to make repairs, for instance. Once you have a plan, stick to it, or all your good efforts will look insincere. Be sure that the steps you outline for yourself include a follow-up to make sure that all parties are satisfied.
One of the many roles a landlord or property manager must fill is that of problem solver. To make sure that you do the best possible job, strive for mutual understanding with your tenants and work in good faith to fully address their complaints and concerns.