How to Handle High-Maintenance Tenants
One of the most common complaints I hear from Landlords is that they don’t like to deal with “high maintenance” tenants. Like most things, there is a middle road with responding to tenant maintenance requests.
If you’re too stiff with the requests you receive, you can endanger your business for not providing adequate housing conditions. To be clear, every tenant request needs to be acknowledged and evaluated no matter how small it may initially seem. For example, a hole in the carpet may not seem like a big deal, but in actuality it is a safety hazard because the tenant (or a guest) can trip and fall by catching their foot on the hole.
On the other hand, if you’re working on every maintenance request regardless of its merit, you can reduce or remove the profit you’re making from the property. For example, what do you do when there is some minor paint chipping on the bathtub and the tenant wants it re-glazed? This is not preventing the tenant from taking a bath/shower. It is not putting the tenant in danger. It is at your discretion to choose to repair this. What you need to do is set a policy for what you will and will not conduct repairs for and clearly articulate this policy to your tenants.
Make a big list of the things that count as being true emergencies, such as the water heater going out, and put these as the top priority items. This list is not exclusive, but simply a guide. Include on this list all of the items required in your local codes for what is required to be in your units including smoke detectors, proper insulation, etc.
Then there are other things that you may still care about, but are a lower priority. While not every landlord is concerned about chipping paint on a bathtub, some may consider the possibility that the chipping will get worse and then it will be a bigger cost to repair. For these items, make a secondary list of things that you would consider to be important, but not immediate emergencies. These are the repairs that can wait, but you plan on remedying in a reasonable period of time.
Once you have a policy in place, you will be able to refer to it when explaining to a tenant reasons why you might not accept their maintenance request.
Having professionalism means speaking to the tenant with respect and pragmatically articulating your company’s position. Keep the conversation on the subject at hand. Do not speak in a personal manner or make any criticisms or accusations to the tenant. Explain your priority list of emergencies first, then major repairs, then minor repairs. Refer back to the lease, which should clearly designate the landlord’s rights and responsibilities. Law is a good friend for both the landlord and the tenant. It can be used as a guide for proper behavior and expectations for both parties. Referring to it often helps to objectify the situation. The moment you make this about yourself or the tenant, there is a greater probability that you will invite unnecessary conflict.
Being able to properly handle tenants requires a lot of practice. You should regularly train with your employees on proper policies and procedures. Role playing can be a great way to challenge your employees with the unexpected. With a clearly communicated policy to both your employees and your tenants, and a well-practiced customer service, you can reduce the difficulties that follow frequent and erroneous maintenance requests.