Using Diplomacy as a Marketing Tool a.k.a. Don’t Rub Your Tenants The Wrong Way
Some tenants can be a real hassle. Others are close to bringing you to insanity. And being honest, not everybody you rent to is going to be the ideal tenant. Murphy’s Law explicitly states that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. What you want to do is take as many steps that you can to ensure that nothing will go wrong. Now the obvious things that landlords do to reduce risk are getting insurance, thoroughly screening their tenants, rigorously examining fair housing laws, etc. Something that can’t be taught in property management school is your own behavior.
How you treat your tenants can have a significant indirect impact on your vacancy rates, property condition, and ultimately property value. I believe it is even more important that you treat your tenants well when you are responding to a negative action made by the tenant than it is at any other point in time. If a landlord is overly negative or turns to taking punitive action for every wrongdoing on a property, you can scare your tenants away.
Consider those times that the tenant is too loud and the neighbors complain about the noise. You have to confront the tenant and ask them to turn the music off. Do you…
a. Get fed up that this is happening for the third time and slam your fist on their door.
b. Immediately and firmly give them a fine.
c. Show annoyance as you are making a warning to the tenant not to break the rules again.
d. Politely remind them the rules and tell them to turn off the music.
In almost every case, you should answer with D. You don’t need to get into any kind of argument with the tenant. You don’t need to raise your voice. If there is repeated behavior, a fine might be the only option, but it should be considered a last resort. Internally you can be annoyed at that situation all you want. But you should also consider yourself and your management company when addressing that tenant. Which of these responses will serve you and your management company the best? The obvious answer is D.
Your tenant has not paid rent. You serve them a 3 day notice to pay rent or quit. The tenant stays. You remind the tenant it’s time to go. The tenant refuses to leave. Do you…
a. Cut off their utilities.
b. Change the locks while the tenant is away.
c. Put their belongings on the curb.
d. Use force.
e. Go through the rigorous legal process to evict.
An eviction is a legal process. Many landlords have illegally practiced their own eviction techniques. Although it can be lengthy to get a court order and to officially evict a tenant, the landlord should never take matters into their own hands. Often times the fine that results can be more expensive than the eviction process. You should also consider the impression that these kinds of actions can have on other tenants that still live in your property. Would you want to live in a property where the landlord takes your stuff to the curb when you miss paying the rent?
Just like the scenario with the noisy tenant, you should watch your behavior during the eviction process. How you handle yourself during an eviction can be the difference between a few negative comments about your property and a previous tenant telling everybody they know not to rent to you. Nobody likes evictions and your tenant simply doesn’t have the money to go anywhere else. You have to make the right decisions for your business, but you can also remember that the evictee is a human being.
Authenticity is a big problem here. If you answer the phone continuously every day, after a while it can wear on you and cause you to be less warm and receptive to calls. It might even make you cold and callous. Some have done their best to “put on their face” when answering calls; greatly exaggerating the inflection of their voice to sound like they are very much interested or concerned with what the caller is inquiring into. If this is overdone this can come off as snobby or callous as well.
The only way to be able to appear genuine is to truly desire to help the person that is calling. Whether it is a prospective tenant, a current tenant that is making a service request, or a straight up complaint, it is in the best interest of your company to address them as professionally as possible.
What do you do when a tenant makes an irrational request? Your first answer is easy enough. But the tenant is not satisfied with that answer and is insistent. This is where a percentage of property managers might lose their composure and get a little agitated. At these points you need to accept that you’ll be on the phone with this person just a little longer than anticipated and you’ll need to reason through the problem. Take your time. Being in a rush can reduce the authenticity and increase unnecessary conflict. Think about what the tenant is asking for, and very logically explain how that would not be possible for the property management company to provide.
There are many other situations where it is best to reason through situations where diplomacy can be your best marketing tool. Property management companies that can utilize the best diplomacy have the best marketing because they have the more content residents who say more good things about the properties they manage than bad, stay on the property a little longer than average, and are a happier community as a whole.