If you’re the owner/landlord of a multi-family property or apartment building, you have to be a Swiss Army knife of sorts. Not only are you tasked with providing a secure place to live, collecting rent checks, and ensuring each unit is well-maintained, but you may also have to play the roles of therapist and mediator.
The faster you master how to prevent, manage, and resolve conflicts between tenants, the easier your job will become.
Best Ways to Prevent Conflict
It’s better to prevent conflict in the first place than to resolve conflicts that have already developed. So let’s begin this discussion by exploring some of the best ways you can proactively thwart conflict before it’s allowed to blossom.
- Screen tenants meticulously. Most landlords vet tenants based on one simple factor: Can they pay the rent on time and in full? If the answer is yes, they sign a lease agreement. But just because someone can pay, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be a good tenant. You want to find individuals who are financially responsible and good-quality people. That will reduce the number of potential conflicts that will arise.
- Set clear ground rules. When you sign a lease agreement with a new tenant, you ought to set very clear and precise ground rules with regard to behavior, prohibited activities, and expectations. Never assume the person has read your list of rules. Discussing them openly and obtaining verbal confirmation is a smart move.
- Encourage socializing. Whether it’s a duplex or an apartment building with 25 units, do your best to encourage socializing. Tenants are much less likely to get in conflicts if they’re on friendly terms. They’re also far more likely to sort out their problems on their own, rather than drag you into the situation.
If you do the three things above well, you’re likely to eliminate most of the conflicts that might otherwise occur. It’s not a foolproof system, but it’s fairly effective.
Five Tips for Resolving Conflict
Despite your best efforts, some conflict will be inevitable. If you find yourself in a situation where two or more tenants are at odds with one another, turn to the following tips to address the matter.
Don’t Let Conflicts Fester
It’s tempting to let a scenario work itself out. You think, “If I just give it another day or two, maybe things will simmer down.”
Occasionally, they do … but more often they don’t. More likely, a conflict will fester and get worse with time.
If the problem is brought to your attention, then it’s not likely to be a minor issue. It’s probably a matter that’s been going on for a while and has finally boiled over.
Pushing something like this to the side could create an even more serious problem. It’s best to confront it head-on.
Get Both Sides of the Story
When there’s a conflict between two parties, it’s imperative that you avoid taking anything at face value. You have to get both sides of the story; otherwise, you’re likely to get manipulated by one of the parties.
Start by speaking to both sides individually. In this initial meeting, listen more than you talk. Ask questions, but don’t direct the conversation.
Your main objective is to gather details. You’ll probably hear different facts from each side. It’s your goal to follow through and uncover the truth of the matter.
Once you feel like you’re ready for it, gather everyone in a safe, neutral environment — such as your office — and host another conversation. This time, you should lead the discussion. Give everyone an opportunity to speak, but don’t allow the disagreement to grow heated.
In the real estate business, everyone understands that nothing is official unless and until it’s written down. The same is true in conflict management: If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.
Keep a written record of all tenant conflicts: what was said, who did what, when conversations were had, and what the outcomes were in each event. Not only does this cover you if a situation gets out of hand, but it also enables you to remember specific details accurately at a later date.
Most of us hate being forced to do something. It makes us feel as if we’re a child who lacks any say in what happens.
In order to prevent tenants from feeling as if you’re infringing on their basic freedom, offer choices for every conflict resolution. When you offer various options, you’ll be better able to control the outcome while still making your tenants feel like they’re in charge.
You select the choices — which means you retain a direct say over what happens — but they pick from those choices (which gives them a sense of autonomy). It’s a win-win for all concerned.
Stick to Your Guns
If you say you’re going to do something, you need to follow through. It’s okay to be empathetic and understanding toward your tenants, but you mustn’t allow yourself to be controlled by the emotions of the situation.
Once a conflict is resolved and a plan is in place, you must be prepared to stick to your guns and see it through. For example, if one tenant has been forbidden from parking in another tenant’s designated spot, you can’t a later infraction slide.
You must be willing to follow up with the agreed-upon consequence (whether it’s calling a tow truck or levying a fine).
Green Residential: Houston Property Management
When you’re a landlord, bickering tenants is the last thing you want. Try as you might to prevent and address such conflicts, sometimes they’re going to be more than you can handle.
Instead of stressing yourself out and trying to do it all on your own, why not hire a property management company to do the heavy lifting for you? At Green Residential, it’s our goal to make your role as a real estate investor and landlord as easy as possible.
Whether it’s screening tenants, collecting rent checks, or dealing with tenant conflicts, we handle everything so you can make more efficient use of your time. For more information on property management services in the Houston area, please contact us today!