5 Ideas for Maintaining Quality Relationships with Tenants
Back in graduate school for psychology, a professor I had used to emphasize the importance of “bringing it down to ground level.” When describing what makes a good relationship between people, we end up describing what makes good people good. We use words to describe these people such as nice, thoughtful, caring, humorous, outgoing and so on. These are all the fluffy descriptive words up in the clouds that merely describe the person. We all think we’re very nice, thoughtful, charismatic people. The problem is that we haven’t gotten into the details of why these descriptions are accurate for this person. “Bringing it down to ground level” for positive relationships means emphasizing the underlying behaviors and actions that lead to this relationship.
The secret to having excellent relationships with other people, or in this case, with your tenants, is to bring it down to ground level and answer the question, what are the things that your tenants see in an authentic and caring person? Notice I didn’t ask what you think because I believe you when you say that you are a caring person. Ask what the tenant thinks. What behaviors can you exhibit to cause more positive behaviors in your tenants today? These are some of my suggestions…
This is still up in the sky, but observable behaviors that tenants are looking for in a good landlord are signs of respect. The tone of your voice or the words you choose to use can significantly alter how a relationship is perceived. When there are disagreements between the landlord and the tenant, it is important to reason through the situation along with the tenant. Instead of harshly replying, “These are the rules and these are the penalties for not following them.” It is better to say, “I’m sorry this rule has inconvenienced you. The reason for the rule is to help fellow tenants with XYZ, or we have otherwise observed problems with ABC without implementing the rule.”
2. Prompt and organized responses to maintenance requests, whether big or small.
Now we can start getting to ground level. Tenants want to see helping behavior from the landlord. This is an excellent opportunity to make long lasting connections to your residents. It’s also an opportunity to make a very unhappy resident too! Making your responses to a tenant’s needs prompt and professional is more than just maintenance to the property. It maintains your positive relationship with the tenant, which increases the likelihood that they will choose to renew their lease and stay with the property.
3. Knock/phone-call/email message inquire into unit status.
Many landlords take the stance that if they don’t hear about problems that tenants are having; they must not be having any problems. Not every tenant will report problems right away, but they’ll still be mad at you that it’s not fixed! The problem can slowly grow into a big problem.
You can start showing helping behavior to your tenants even when they don’t need your help. The best thing you can do is proactively ask them how things are going in their unit. If tenants are very welcoming to your presence, a quick knock on the door and asking them how their stay is going; “is everything functioning normally?” can go a long way. If they tell you something is broken or not working properly, you now can jump on a small problem before it becomes a big one! Just like #2, this will often increase the average amount of time that a tenant chooses to stay.
4. Event organizing to meet and greet the community.
Organizing an event is also an observable behavior of giving to the community that you serve. Familiarity is important to building positive relationships with your tenants. To build upon these interactions, you can organize simple community events with food and music or other activities. This will help to build up that comfort level for tenants to ask you for help and to rely on you. Doing an event on a seasonal basis will help you to ensure that you get a chance to have those rare positive interactions with each of your tenants.
Nobody likes penalties and tenants hate late fees. They also aren’t particularly fond of being evicted. What they may not know is that Landlords hate it too. I know what you’re thinking and I agree with you. It is entirely the tenant’s responsibility to pay rent on time. But that doesn’t change the negative feelings they think when they get a fee.
The fee is intended to change the behavior of not paying rent on time. It is not intended to create a negative relationship between the landlord and the tenant. Overtime, late fees can actually spiral into bigger conflicts between the landlord and tenant, much like a teenager fighting with mom and dad, leading to an eviction. By having an automated reminder before the rent is due, you can help tenants to avoid getting into this rut and maintain the positive relationship you’ve been building in the past few steps. Fault has nothing to do with it. The property manager is in most cases better off not having to make an eviction.