Steps for Handling Tenant Complaints

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••• Steps for Handling Tenant Complaints. Betsie Van der Meer/Stone/Getty Images

When tenants have a problem at their rental property, they will complain to their landlord. These complaints do not always have to cause conflict between landlord and tenant. There are steps a landlord can take to handle these complaints successfully. Here are five ways a landlord can deal with tenant issues.

Before learning how to handle a tenant complaint, here are two points of caution:

  1. Every Situation Is Unique: People have different personalities and different trigger points, so it can be difficult to gauge how a person will react when met with conflict.
  2. Do Not Put Yourself in a Situation Where You Feel Unsafe: If you ever feel like your safety is in jeopardy, you need to remove yourself from the situation. Hopefully, it never gets to this point, but if it does, you need to get away and consult the proper authorities, if necessary. There is no sense in putting your life or your career in peril due to a tenant conflict.

    5 Steps for Successfully Handling Tenant Complaints

    There are endless things that tenants can complain about. Regardless of what the complaint is about, you should not change the manner in which you, as the landlord, respond to the complaint.

    Being understanding, calm and professional will have a huge effect on and your ability to successfully resolve the issue. While you may have to adjust your response slightly depending on the type of complaint, there are certain steps you should always take.

    Step 1: Listen to the Complaint

    One way to come to a successful resolution is to actually listen to what your tenant is telling you. Being respectful and understanding of the tenant's issue may help to keep the tenant calm and will help you be more receptive to their problem.

    For example, you may be aware of a small roof leak that occurs in the bathroom when there is a heavy rain. If the tenant calls to tell you there is a leak in their bathroom, you may dismiss it as the leak you are already aware of that needs fixing.

    However, if you do not ask questions as to the exact location of the leak and the strength of the water flow, you will fail to realize that this is not the leak you are already aware of, it is actually a burst pipe that needs to be fixed immediately. So, you should always listen carefully to the tenant’s exact complaint and ask follow up questions so you know exactly what is going on.

    Step 2: Be Available

    If a tenant feels as though you are never available, they will be easily frustrated. This isn't to say that a tenant should be able to reach  you 24 hours a day, every day of the week.

    You should have normal business hours when a tenant can contact you, for example from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. on weekdays. During these hours, you should readily respond to tenant phone calls or emails.

    You should make it known that tenants should not contact you outside of these hours unless it is an emergency. Be sure to have an emergency plan in place at your property so your tenants know what is considered a real emergency and what can wait until normal business hours.

    Step 3: Address Complaints in a Timely Manner

    Another important factor is how quickly you respond to a tenant’s issue. Depending on the severity of their complaint, you do not necessarily have to drop everything to remedy it, but you do need to fix the issue within a reasonable amount of time. A leak or broken front door lock need to be fixed immediately, while things like a broken kitchen cabinet handle or cracked tile can wait a couple of days.

    Step 4: Show Genuine Concern

    Dismissing a tenant’s concern is a quick way to create hostility. Regardless of how you feel about how valid their complaint is, you must always make them feel that their complaint is important and that you will do everything in your power to fix it as soon as possible. You want the tenant to feel that you are on their side, rather than being their evil landlord nemesis.

    Step 5: Be Professional

    You must always conduct yourself in a professional manner. This is your business and you cannot allow emotions to cloud your judgment.

    If a tenant is screaming, never scream back. Do not curse. Do not put yourself in legal jeopardy by threatening or resorting to tactics like ignoring maintenance requests or fiddling with a tenant’s utilities. It is your responsibility to keep your cool at all times.

    Common Types of Tenant Complaints:

    This list is in no way extensive regarding the complaints your tenant may have, but it does represent some of the most common issues landlords must deal with.

    1. Noisy Neighbors
    2. Maintenance Issues
    3. Pest Problems
    4. Pet Problems
    5. Cleanliness of Property/Tenants