Middle-of-the-night phone calls and furious emails probably aren’t what you wanted when you chose to become a landlord. But it’s important to remember that your tenants are your customers and it’s up to you to keep them comfortable and content.
It’s actually a good thing that most of the complaints you hear will be the same. Once you understand the root causes of these issues and have a plan for alleviating them, you can sleep better at night and increase your odds of retaining long-term clients.
The three golden rules
Before discussing the common tenant complaints you’ve likely heard — or can expect to hear — let’s consider a few points for caution. Everyone has his own set of rules, but the three below are worth their weight in gold:
• Treat tenants like people. This is an essential item. When did landlords stop treating tenants like living, breathing people? Your tenants –even though some of them may be annoying or disruptive — deserve compassion and respect. You must always keep this in mind when dealing with them.
• Leave room for flexibility. There’s something to be said for having hard rules that you stick by at all costs, but that may not be practical. Leave some room for flexibility or alternative interpretations on your side.
• Know when to back out. One would hope that it never comes to this, but if you ever feel like you’re being threatened or are in danger of suffering injury, back out, walk away, and call in the authorities. There are more important things than collecting a rent check.
Top five tenant complaints
If you learn to abide by the three foregoing rules, you’ll have a foundation for what you should and shouldn’t do in every situation. Now let’s consider the problems and issues that are most common among tenants, along with specific advice for how to overcome them.
• The premises are dirty upon move-in.
Even on the day a tenant moves in, it’s possible you’ll hear a complaint. Usually, this will have to do with the property not being clean enough for the person’s liking.
In order to avoid a situation like this, it’s best to make a habit of always hiring a professional cleaning service between tenancies. While you may have asked your previous tenant to clean before moving out, it’s unlikely that he or she will have done a perfect job.
It’s also important to note that you should never fight this complaint. The last thing you want to do when a tenant moves in is to give the person a reason to butt heads with you. If he or she doesn’t believe it’s clean, ask if the tenant would like you to bring in a cleaning service to handle the problem. An expression of your willingness to do this may be enough to settle the person down.
• Noisy neighbors.
Then there’s the perennial classic, the noisy neighbor issue. Whether you’re leasing an apartment in a commercial complex, a duplex, or a stand-alone home on a crowded street, noisy neighbors regularly turn up.
Handling this tenant complaint requires some skill. If the noisy neighbor is one of your own tenants, then you should be able to address the problem with very little effort. But if the noisy person is a random neighbor, the situation gets quite a bit trickier.
Start by asking your tenant to confront them, because this can sometimes be effective. If the problem persists, you can try to confront the noisemaker yourself or reach out to that person’s landlord. If it’s still a problem and your tenant won’t live with it, you can look into local ordinances and see if the noise may violate any laws (i.e., excessive noise after 9 p.m.).
Most important here is to show your tenant that you’re taking their problem seriously and attempting to alleviate the annoyance.
• Plumbing/appliance problems.
Maintenance issues, especially those related to plumbing or appliances, are very common. The goal here is to separate actual issues from perceived problems and to have a pre-established plan of action.
Start by deciding how tenants will notify you about these issues: usually by email, phone,or through a property manager. Having a procedure streamlines the process and eliminates confusion.
Next, you should have some sort of screening process to determine whether the problem is serious enough to require a service call or your presence. For example, a clogged sink drain can usually be fixed with a few household tools and shouldn’t require a plumber.
However, an amateur probably shouldn’t handle a leaky dishwasher. On your end, keeping a list of reliable and swift handymen can speed up the process and keep your tenants satisfied.
• Pest issues.
Everyone hates pests, bugs, and rodents in their living spaces, so don’t blame tenants if they call at the sight of a mouse or roach infestation.
The best way to deal with pest problems is to take a pre-emptive approach. For a few dollars a month, you can have a professional service spray your properties to keep critters out. However, if you already have a problem, you’ll need to take a more aggressive stance.
Have a pest control professional come out and locate the source. Take full responsibility for the problem, but ask your tenants to do their part by keeping the premises clean. Dirty dishes, trash, and moist bathrooms serve as open invitations for bugs, mice, and other varmints.
• Paint color.
Finally, paint color can be an issue for picky tenants with particular tastes. Instead of having to deal with tenants who’ll want to repaint, minimize the likelihood of a problem from the start by using neutral colors in all the rooms, and maintaining a policy that renters are not allowed to change wall colors. It’s that simple.
Regardless of the complaint, it’s worthwhile to listen before speaking, be consistently available and reliable when tenants ask for you, and address issues in a timely manner. If you’re able to do that while remaining kind, personable, and professional, most tenants will work with you instead of against you.
Houston property management
If you’re looking for premier property management services in the Houston area, come to Green Residential. We’ve been in the business of serving landlords and real estate professionals for more than 30 years, and always enjoy meeting new faces and adding new clients.
Although we also offer a number of specialized and unique services, we focus primarily on property management, tenant screening, evictions, and maintenance and repair coordination. For more information on how we can serve you, please contact us today!