9 Tips for Successfully Handling Tenant Complaints
We’ve all been there, on the receiving end of a terrible complaint by one of your tenants. They’re difficult waters to navigate properly, and it’s never going to be super-easy, but with the right approach and mentality, it definitely can be a successful experience.
Whether or not you believe the complaint is warranted or fair, it’s imperative that you deal with your tenant in the best possible way.
Check out our list of tips to help smooth over a sticky complaint into a successful landlord-tenant dialogue.
Communication is vital
Ensure you’re keeping the channels of communication open with your tenant, or your real estate agent, whoever you are dealing with directly.
Thinking of sitting on the issue until you’re less flat-out busy? Let them know it might take a while for you to get around to it.Is there a more economical option you’d prefer to take when replacing or fixing something in the property?Have a chat to the tenant to see what their expectations are, and your views on the price differences.
Even if you’re just stuck for cash at the moment, just give your tenant a little heads up to tell them you’ll get to the issue as soon as you can.If you’re maintaining those channels of communications, you’ll also be encouraging your tenant to do the same.
Stay calm, cool and collected
So say that your tenant’s complaint is completely ridiculous, or not a fault of your own, or simply an invitation to start a dispute, there is no reason to lose your cool.
You are the one in control, remember. But you do need to keep relations friendly with the tenant and ensuring that you don’t blow up in their face.
Calmly address the complaint, cool your temper if need be, and deal with the issue in a professional and collected manner. If nothing else, it’s just common courtesy to keep things civil.
Follow up on the complaint
Even if the complaint is ridiculous, and even if you believe the complaint to be unjustified. For example, a tenant believes they are entitled to an insurance claim you know they are not. Instead of telling your tenant an outright ‘no’, phone up the insurance company, and tell your tenant what the company has said to you. Worst case scenario – you don’t look like the ‘bad guy’ to you tenant, and best case – your tenant actually can claim something via insurance and your property’s value is then increased and your tenant is happy again. It’s really a win-win.
Be empathetic towards your tenant
Most disputes are often born from simple misunderstanding. Something that just isn’t a priority in your own home property may be integral to your tenant’s property. Just ensure you’re always putting yourself in your tenant’s shoes and thinking about what might matter to you if you were renting. As the old saying goes, a little empathy never hurt nobody.
Keep it realistic, and be honest
This ties in a little with the ‘communication’ tip, but it’s quite important so we stress the point again. Whatever your reasons behind a delay in responding/refusal to accommodate/need for further consultation, you need to be keeping your tenant informed every step of the way. And if something just ain’t gunna happen, you need to be letting your tenant know from the start too.
It’s better to chat directly to them about their concerns, honestly and upfront about whether or not their wishes will be met, then keep them dangling for months to come. Still, ensure you follow up the complaint regardless as per above.
Remember that every situation, and every tenant, is unique
After renting for a long time, it’s easy to cast a lot of situations and complaints into the ‘too hard’ basket. Or the ‘done that’ basket.
It’s easy to think that every new tenant just wants a new sink because there’s a new one in fashion, or that every tenant is out to milk you for all they can (particularly if you have been duped once or twice before!). But it’s important to deal with each and every complaint appropriately, and with due attention.
Each situation is unique, as is every tenant, and it’s important to deal with each complaint keeping this in mind.
Be available for contact
Now, we’re not saying that you need to leave your phone on throughout the night in fear of a 3am call, but do ensure you remain available (and approachable) for your tenant to contact if need be.
This is very significant in maintaining positive relationships with your tenants. If they feel as though you are never available, they are likely to grow frustrated and your relationship will sour.
It’s also worth leaving an ‘emergency’ number with your tenant as well, so they know who they should pass their complaint into outside normal business hours.
Identify the type of complaint
Identifying the type of complaint will make dealing with the complaint so much easier. Is the issue relating to the property itself, such as leaky taps and insecure locks? Or is it about the neighbours and their noisy children/weekend parties? Is it a pest problem, or a pet problem? Knowing the type of complaint will enable you to know how to respond to the complaint, and that will ultimately determine the success of your dealing with the complaint.
Devise a plan for the handling of complaints
Planning is essential. Prepare for the eventuality that you will need to deal with a tenant complaint and decide early on how you will deal with that. So, will you be following up the complaint via a formal or informal request? Will you personally be dealing with the complaint, or will you be communicating via an agent? It’s the small things here that matter.
It’s a tough procedure, but having a good idea of how to approach tenant complaints is supremely important. If in doubt, simply consult our little list of tips and you’ll sail through this tricky minefield with no problems at all.