Very few people in this world enjoy conflict. For most of us, it’s one of those experiences we try to avoid at all costs.
But if you’re an Austin landlord, it’s impossible to elude. Whether small or large, conflicts will surface on occasion. Your success will be highly dependent on how well you’re able to resolve conflicts.
In this article, we’ll equip you with tools and frameworks you can use to resolve disputes in a practical and proactive manner.
Eight Tips for Dealing With Friction as a Landlord
As much as we might wish for a magic silver bullet to neutralize conflict and restore peace to a landlord-tenant relationship, no such solution exists. Instead, you’ll have to utilize a combination of tactics, such as:
1. Build Rapport With Your Tenants
As a general rule, it helps to build rapport with your tenants and get into their good graces. You’ll want to do this in your own way (one that’s true to your personality), but there are plenty of easy methods to launch a tenant relationship.
First impressions are huge, so start as early as possible. Simple things like presenting a new tenant with a gift basket on move-in day will go a long way toward building rapport and preventing frivolous issues from growing into serious points of contention.
The goal is to make such a good impression that your tenant will automatically extend you the benefit of the doubt.
2. Prevent it Before it Happens
In addition to building rapport, you can prevent tenant conflict before it happens.
For example, craft specific language in the lease agreement that requires the tenant to follow particular rules that relate to noise and neighborhood regulations. Then, an issue arises, you can point to the language in the lease agreement and remind the tenant what he or she has already agreed to do (and avoid).
3. Use “We” Language
One of the simplest things you can do is to change the way you speak. Instead of using a lot of “I” and “you” language, try switching to “we.”
It’s not your way or my way – it’s our way. You’re working to reach a resolution together. This simple shift in vernacular should help you reach a resolution much sooner.
4. Offer Choices
People don’t like to feel as if they’ve been backed into a corner. Regardless of how right you may be (or how wrong the tenant is), it’s usually a good idea to keep the conversation open and give the tenant choices.
Say, for example, the lease agreement states the tenant is responsible for basic landscaping, but they haven’t touched the yard in two months. Rather than calling up and demanding that the renter mow the grass, you could present the individual with two choices:
“Hey George, I noticed that the lawn hasn’t been mowed in a while. As we discussed when you moved in, this is part of your responsibilities as a tenant. I know you’re probably super busy with work and other duties, so I can see how it might have slipped your mind.
“Will you please mow the lawn by Saturday? Or if you can’t fit it into your schedule, I’ll be happy to have a lawn company come out and take care of it and add $40 to next month’s rent. Let me which option is best for you by the end of the day.”
Can you see how much more effective this approach might be? Rather than demand the tenant take action, it gives two simple choices with a clear deadline.
This will make the tenant feel as if he has more control of the outcome, while you get what you want no matter which option he chooses.
5. Meet Face to Face
Since conflict is uncomfortable to begin with, the last thing you want is to encourage matters to boil over even further. As tempting as it can be to handle conflict via email or SMS (in other words, to avoid it), you’re usually better off facing it in person.
Written communication – particularly short-form SMS messages – is too easily misconstrued. When you meet in person, you have so much more than words to work with.
You’ll provide and read body language, tone, inflection, and facial expressions. And if you manage to remain empathetic, you’ll be much more likely to achieve resolution.
6. Lose the Battle to Win the War
Depending on your personality, you may have difficulty giving any ground. Most of us prefer to win at all costs and not to back down.
But in many tenant conflict scenarios, the better option is to lose a battle so you can win the war. Losing the battle might take the form of waiving a late fee on a rent check so you can collect the rent and improve the relationship
This in turn will increase your odds of collecting future rent checks on time.
7. Keep a Written Record
Many conflicts can be resolved without much fuss. But in extreme cases, it’s possible that you’ll have to pursue legal remedies.
In those cases, it’s vital to keep a written record of everything that’s happened. As a general best practice, all communications ought to be recorded.
Emails, phone logs, and even text threads can be useful to protect you when a tenant tries to claim something other than the truth. We recommend saving these documents for several years in tenant-specific folders.
8. Let Your Property Manager Take Care of It
Although it’s necessary to have the tools you need to push back effectively in a conflict, you don’t have to do it alone. Instead, you might prefer to “outsource” these matters to a property manager.
When you have a property management service on your side, it basically serves as a liaison between you and the tenant. Should you desire, your managers can insulate you from the tenant completely, and handle all direct interactions on your behalf.
This removes unnecessary stress and friction from your life.
Green Residential: Austin Property Management
At Green Residential, we serve landlords by providing comprehensive property management services in Austin that make owning income-producing real estate a breeze. By handling the time-consuming and undesirable aspects of the process, we free you up to focus on big-picture items – like expanding your portfolio or maximizing cash flow.
For more information, please feel free to contact us today. We’d be happy to provide you with a free property analysis!