Top 3 Tenant Complaint Types and How to Handle Them: A Landlord Guide
As a landlord, you are the single point of contact for your tenant’s needs, questions and problems. This means it is your responsibility to handle all complaints that may arise in a professional manner. You must ensure that your tenants are satisfied with the rental property while still maintaining your authority as their landlord. Although it may seem like a minor inconvenience to have your tenants move out due to disputes, it can lead to major costs to you as the landlord. On average, it can run you up to $800 to replace secure a new tenant when an existing one moves out prior to their rental contract finishing. To prevent these costs, follow these simple tips when dealing with your tenant’s complaints.
- Communication Issues
Tenant Scenario #1: “I can’t reach my landlord over email and they never pick up the phone”
Resolution: Communication with your tenants is key to a healthy long-term rental relationship. This does not mean that you need to leave the door open for constant communication with all tenants. It is about finding a balance and responding in a timely and professional manner. If you keep lines of communication too open, you are at risk of over-communicative tenants who will run to you at every small issue and use up too much time. It is best to establish communication guidelines and expectations up-front with your tenants, including your preferred contact method and response time expectations.
Tenant Scenario #2: “My landlord is extremely rude, and their responses are short or non-existent.”
Resolution: Your tenants are ultimately your customer, and in any business, customer service is key. You must communicate in a professional manner, preferably in writing, to assure that you have documentation of all conversations to avoid any misunderstandings. Remember that there is a difference between an annoying tenant and a tenant that has broken laws or agreed-upon terms in your rental agreement.
- Neighbour Issues
Tenant Scenario #1: “My neighbours are too loud”
Resolution: If the neighbours are your tenants as well, you can go to the unit and speak to them to address the situation personally. Simply inform the tenants of the quiet hours as per the building or municipal rules and ask politely that they try to keep it down as there have been complaints from other unspecified individuals nearby. It is in your best interest to record the warning with some form of written communication and response, and not to say exactly who or where the complain originated from to avoid animosity. Unfortunately, if they are not your tenants, there is very little that you can do to assist with the noise complaints besides asking your tenant to follow up with the authorities, security, or the noisy neighbours themselves. They key in this situation is making your tenant feel heard and not ignoring their complaints. It can help to add carpets or plants between the units if applicable to reduce the noise pollution that may be occurring.
Tenant Scenario #2: “My neighbour smokes and it’s getting into my house”
Resolution: The best solution for a situation in which your tenant’s neighbours smoke is to assure that all windows and doors have adequate sealant around all edges. This may require you as the landlord to provide additional maintenance services to properly seal the windows so that the smoke is not able to pass through the cracks in a closed window. If the smoking is in violation of building policy, the tenants may be able to file formal complaints with the building.
- Administrative Issues
Tenant Scenario #1: “There is no damage in my apartment/that damage was there before I moved in. I don’t understand why I can’t get my security deposit back”
Resolution: In order to avoid a dispute regarding a tenant’s security deposit, it is useful to have a thorough inspection checklist that covers all areas of the rental unit. This checklist should be used before the tenants move in, and both parties must sign off on the completed list of existing issues prior to move in. This will also allow the landlord to address any damage prior to the new tenant moving in, and allow for a point of comparison when the tenants move out as well. Once the lease has ended, the same checklist must be completed to assess any damage to the apartment. Having everything in a written document will clear up any issues in regard to the security deposit and will reduce the likelihood of an argument. It Also helps to have dated photographs of as much of the space as possible to compare visual before and after reference points.
Tenant Scenario #2: “Maintenance never gets completed; I don’t know who is responsible for it.”
Resolution: Prior to a tenant moving in, clear maintenance responsibility should be outlined in the lease contract. In most cases, it is the landlord’s responsibility to conduct routine maintenance to ensure the ongoing habitability of the apartment. This means making sure the apartment is safe to live in. However, landlords are not normally responsible for fixing damage caused by tenants, their friends, family or pets, or for making improvements to the unit above and beyond its current, agreed-upon, and livable state. To avoid any confusion, the maintenance agreement should be reviewed upon signing of the lease.
By following these quick tips to tenant management, landlords are able to reduce the overall costs and headaches of tenant complaints.