Understanding the Tenant/Property Manager Relationship

How to Have a Good Relationship With Tenants Balancing the multiple responsibilities of being a property manager and possibly acting as liaison between owners and tenants may sometimes seem like having several bosses with wildly different needs and expectations.

Juggling the tasks and instilling a climate of understanding and mutual respect is not, however, an impossible dream.

Communication Is Key

The first requirement is to listen well, to clearly outline expectations, and to maintain set standards. Realize that trust is founded early in any relationship. Part of any move-in orientation ought to include some basic instruction on dealing with potential emergency situations. Empower tenants by passing on specific information that can help them. Just as you are clear about rents, method of payment and due dates, tell tenants where the main electrical cutoffs for water and electricity are, and how to deal with an emergency situation.

Explain that there's a big difference between a dripping faucet and a floodWhile you'll want to take action in either case, one calls for a routine service appointment; the other might require a call to the fire department or an emergency response company, even if it's 2 a.m.

Perfect Your Listening Skills

Tenants have a right to expect that their questions, comments and complaints will not fall on deaf ears. Honor that by asking pertinent questions to determine what their underlying concerns might be. Health and safety issues deserve priority attention, but landscaping comments and burned-out light bulbs are handled in different ways.

Be upfront and honest about how to request service, and about what items fall under the broad category of tenant responsibility. However, take repeated complaints about the same burned-out light bulb seriously. It might just be that there's a faulty circuit or a malfunctioning fixture. In such cases, notify the tenants who brought the defect to your attention, or commend them publicly. 

Rely on the Written Word

Always defer to the lease terms, whether you're talking about late fees or responding to a question about a visiting pet. Your fiduciary responsibility requires adherence to legally binding agreements. It's usually not a good idea to make exceptions. It's also vital that you live up to your part of the bargain.

Be scrupulous about move-in and move-out dates and inspections. Assure that rental units are maintained and repaired as necessary, that any damage assessments are fair and justified and make certain that deposits are returned on a timely basis.

Adapt to Changing Situations

Innovate and anticipate. There are always opportunities, whether you manage single-family homes in popular neighborhoods, rental apartments in a high-rise building, or retail spaces in strip centers.

Give tenants adequate notice before scheduling disruptive major improvements, and be prepared for some grumbling during a parking lot re-striping or a new roof installation. But don't let minor inconveniences get in the way of good relations either. Send out notices or plan an informational meeting whenever necessary, even if the information is only about inclement weather. Be proactive in terms of soothing ruffled feathers and watch your approval rating soar.

Maintain a Sense of Humor

Always look on the bright side, even if it's not always easy. Laugh at yourself and resolve to be upbeat even in difficult situations. It's an attitude worth cultivating, and a distinct asset. Remember that you and your tenants are not adversaries; in fact, you may find that they become your biggest allies.

At the very least, resolve to treat one another with mutual respect, and both you and your tenant will be able to have a long, mutually beneficial relationship.

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