Many landlords wish they could communicate better with challenging tenants who pose a number of problems for management. As a landlord, you may occasionally encounter tenants who bring a range of issues with them, like missing rent payments or keeping pets when the terms of their lease don’t allow it. You don’t have to dread dealing with problematic renters, though — especially if you put precautions in place to stop bad behavior before it starts. When communicating with challenging tenants, you should practice patience, professionalism and understanding.
It may be tempting to ignore a situation, but this only exacerbates tension and makes the renter likely to move. And although having them move out may sound pleasant, you lose money in the process. Make effective communication your first line of defense before resorting to drastic strategies. If you need guidance on preventing escalation with difficult tenants, check out the five tips below to communicate better with challenging tenants.
1. Lay Down Clear Ground Rules
You know how difficult it can be to deal with unclear guidelines. How can anyone follow rules that aren’t spelled out? Save your tenants the stress and confusion of accidentally breaking the rules by clearly outlining your property standards. There’ll be fewer chances for them to say they broke your policies because they misunderstood them. And if they still don’t follow guidelines, you can point out in the contract where they went wrong.
You’ll need to be consistent with rule enforcement and introduce penalties for each breach of contract. If your tenants realize they can get over on you, they’ll do so. Show there are consequences to inappropriate actions — introduce late fees into your lease contracts. Don’t set an unreasonable amount, but make sure it’s enough to encourage them to pay on time.
2. Use Digital Avenues
Tenants should have multiple ways to contact you — such as emailing, calling or text messaging. Some properties have Facebook pages or Google accounts where they can answer questions and respond to reviews. If you implement different platforms for communicating with tenants, give your hourly availabilities for each, so they know which to use when.
For example, you don’t want someone calling your phone late at night unless it’s an emergency. Similarly, you want to avoid tenants inundating you with concerns during your breaks.
Implement different platforms for communicating with tenants, give your hourly availabilities for each, so they know which to use when.
Create a suggestions/complaints form on your website and check it regularly so you can answer any issues. When figuring out new ways to reach your renters, consider the makeup of your audience. For example, 65 percent of millennials and members of generation Z prefer digital communication over face-to-face interaction. Many of your renters may be in this age range — meet them in the middle and communicate in ways that seem natural to them.
3. Be Patient with Your Tenants
Some of your tenants may be the more actively disruptive type, while others create monetary issues like forgetting to send a check or approve an e-payment for rent. Both situations can be frustrating, but you should handle them professionally. Never approach people right off the bat with hostility or tension. People respond better to civility — few will heed the words of someone who insults them or shows an explosive temper.
Explain what they’ve done wrong and when you need them to fix it. After you’ve given multiple warnings with no success, it may be time to hand out an eviction notice. Eviction is a lengthy legal process, so be sure this is the route you want to take before starting. Don’t hold it over your tenants’ heads as a threat, and don’t initiate it for minor issues.
4. Set Deadlines
Tenants respond to times and deadlines so set definitive deadlines and stick to them.
Set definitive deadlines and don’t waver on them. If the rent needs to be in by a specific date each month, make this clear in the contract. Whether you set a grace period is up to you, but once the rent is late, it’s time to take action. Don’t wait to address the problem, because the tenant may assume you’ve forgotten or haven’t noticed. This inaction will make them more likely to do it again because they know there are no consequences for it.
Also set deadlines for yourself as well. Act quickly on concerns, questions and requests — this shows you care about your renters and want to help solve their problems. People won’t seek the assistance of someone they know doesn’t deliver. You want your tenants to know you aren’t that person. Even if their issue seems minor to you, it’s significant to them.
5. Foster Respectful Relationships
Whether you like them or not, you and your tenants must have a level of mutual respect for your professional relationship to succeed. They should know what you expect while they occupy your property, and what will happen if they disrespect it.
Likewise, it’s up to landlords to treat their tenants with decency. Unless they’re engaging in illegal activities or disturbing the premises, avoid prying into their personal lives or dropping by their place without notice. This behavior will make them feel like they’re under surveillance and may even risk legal action.
No one likes the feeling of being spied on, and if they think they have no privacy on your property, they may decide to take their money elsewhere.
Communicate Better with Challenging Tenants
Create a property where tenants are glad to rent by setting reasonable policies and allowing open communication. Remember to handle situations as they come and take the appropriate actions when necessary. Communicating with challenging tenants takes patience, but you will do well if you run your property with strict, but kind, policies.
Holly Welles writes about real estate market trends from a millennial perspective. She is the editor behind The Estate Update, a residential real estate blog, and keeps up with the industry over on Twitter @HollyAWelles.
RentalHousingJournal.com is an interactive community of multifamliy investors, independent rental home owners, residential property management professionals and other rental housing and real estate professionals. It is the most comprehensive source for news and information for the rental housing industry. Their website features exclusive articles and blogs on real estate investing, apartment market trends, property management best practices, landlord tenant laws, apartment marketing, maintenance and more.