By Kim Schmitt, Managing Broker
I am often asked, “How do you effectively handle difficult tenants?” First, I prefer to use the term challenging rather than difficult. You’re probably asking, “why does changing a word make a difference?” It’s important that our attitude is not negative going into communications with a challenging tenant, as our goal must always be to deescalate the situation and solve the problem.
A few of the most common issues that arise with what we call challenging tenants include late or missing rent payments, unauthorized occupants or pets, parking violations, tenants not getting along with neighboring tenants and the condition of their unit.
As a property management company, we encounter challenging tenants all the time. It is important that when communicating with these tenants we practice professionalism, listening skills, problem-solving skills and have solid policies in place to try and prevent bad behavior before it starts.
As a landlord or property management company, it is important to make effective communication your priority before resorting to more drastic measures. So, how do you communicate better with challenging tenants?
Clear Rules and Guidelines
Make sure your tenants have a clear written guideline outlining your property standards and what your expectations are during their tenancy. It is our policy that prior to accepting money to hold the unit, we provide a sample copy of the lease and rules. This packet also includes a signature page in which the tenant signs confirming they have received it and have read through the documents. At the actual lease signing, we take our time outlining our property standards in detail. These procedures cut down the
possibility of our policies being misunderstood or ignored.
Be consistent with rule enforcement and penalties. It is important that within your policy you also let your tenants know what the penalties will be. Remember, what you do for one tenant, you must do for all.
Multiple Ways to Communicate
Provide tenants with multiple ways to communicate with you. We like to provide an online tenant portal, emailing, calling, in-person meetings and an emergency after hours phone number. When setting up ways to communicate with your tenants, you must remember that not everyone is computer savvy.
Patience is a Virtue
Whether you are handling a disruptive tenant who causes drama or a forgetful tenant who missed a rent payment, both situations can be irritating. This is where you must find your patience and handle them
It is never a good idea to approach tenants with hostility. Remember our two main goals? We want to deescalate the situation and solve the problem. If we lose our patience, we lose our goals. Explain to the tenant what the violation is and discuss with them how to fix it. If after a set number of warnings with no success, it may be appropriate to start eviction proceedings.
Stick to Policy!
In other words, your policies are in place for a reason. For example, if you have specific dates in your policies for rent collection, grace periods, late fee, etc. Stick to them! You need to provide consistency by upholding your policies so that your tenants know there are consequences for not following them.
RESPECT Goes Both Ways
You may find that you just do not like your tenant. They’re just not someone you would invite over to your home for a cup of coffee. Well, that’s okay. Nobody said you and your tenant need to be friends.
However, you and the tenant do need to provide each other with a level of mutual respect. Again, the tenant needs to know what you expect while they occupy your property, and what will happen if they disrespect it.
It is important to remember that unless the tenant is engaging in illegal activities, disturbing other tenants or causing property damage, you must respect their privacy. Remember to provide appropriate notice of entry per your state statues, don’t just drop by without notice. Tenant’s have rights and you do not want to risk legal action. Tenants may have issues that are significant to them even though they seem minor to you. It is important to respond within a reasonable time frame to their concerns and
Good communication is key. Whether it is with your “perfect” tenant or with your “challenging” tenant. The end goal is to create a property where tenants want to stay long term, pay rent on time and follow the policies and guidelines you put into place. It is up to us as the property manager or landlord to handle situations as they arise, take appropriate action when necessary and keep the lines of communication open.