How to Avoid and Resolve Common Tenant Complaints

Keeping a rental property in proper running shape can be one of your biggest challenges as a landlord. Ultimately, renting property doesn’t just carry the chance that problems will pop up: they will without a doubt pop up, and it’s always going to be your responsibility to correct these issues. Many property owners can make mistakes and handle these issues poorly, costing them time, tenants and of course, money. If you want to get ahead of the curve, here’s a guide on how to avoid and resolve common tenant complaints.

Naturally, not all complaints can be solved in a simple manner, but with this you can cover your own responsibilities and get on better terms with your tenants. People all have unique situations and problems, and will complain about the strangest things. However, there’s a common pattern of typical issues that tenants will have. People typically complain about maintenance issues, but things like pest control, noisy neighbours and the cleanliness of the property are also common.

Communication

Communication is an area you have to force yourself to come through on, even if it’s not the strong suit of your personality. Any sort of phone call or email should always be responded to. Even if it seems strange or obtuse, simply communicating at all is what counts.

Tenants want to know you’ve heard them and that you care. Failing to do this much will be huge in losing you good tenants. Sometimes it can be hard to understand initially what a tenant wants, and correcting the issue may be beyond your power, but they want to feel listened to more than anything else.

When a tenant complains to you, always stay calm and respectfully listen to their complaint. They may be irate or exaggerating, but remaining calm and listening will only better the situation, and possibly help them to calm down and better articulate their issues.

Listening can also be important in a case where you think they’re complaining about a needed repair you already know about, but further explanation could enlighten you to a new and more serious problem. Ask questions and engage them, this will make them feel respected and give you as much info as possible as to their needs.

Pests

Pests can quickly invade an apartment and become a major issue for tenants. If your property were to become infested with rodents, roaches or other types of pesky insects, your tenants might bail before they do.

Take complaints about pest issues very seriously. If your tenants complain of pests, schedule professional treatment and extermination immediately. These sorts of problems can escalate rapidly and become a major headache for you if you wait until it’s too late.

To be on the safe side, a good landlord should schedule for regular pest control the prevent issues from cropping up at all. You’re tenants can get flighty at the sight of these things, so definitely avoid being stingy here.

Noise Issues

Noisy neighbours are going to show up at some point as an issue from your tenants. However, unlike simple repairs, noisy neighbours can cause quite the predicament. The noise might not even be coming from your property, and in many situations your options will be limited.

Listen to the tenant’s complaint carefully and keep them informed so they know you’re taking steps to resolve the issue. Ask neighbours if they’re having similar issues to gather more information about the problem and make sure of it’s validity.

In the case the noise is coming from a tenant inside your property, contact them directly and politely to see if a peaceful solution can be achieved for all parties involved. You may be able to make arrangements to move the noisy tenant, or take action to remove them should they be in violation of the terms of the lease.

If the noise originates from another property, things will be a lot more difficult, and your options will be much more limited. Try contacting the owner of the other property to see if the noise can be alleviated. Should this not yield results, continue to communicate with the tenant who made the complaint and work together to see what can be done to resolve the issue.

Repairs and Maintenance

Repairs may seem simple, but can cause you nightmares in their logistics. The key is in having a well organized and established complaint resolution system, with instructions for maintenance requests included in the lease. Details like what to do in the case of an emergency, expected response time and more should be included.

Always respond to requests promptly and give your tenants specific time frames for when the repair should take place and be completed. Ask follow up questions upon completion to insure the issue was resolved and the tenants are comfortable. Communication will keep your tenants happy and feeling cared for.

Of course, if things go awry you might get taken to court over maintenance issues. In a likely case, it might not even be your fault, but it happens regardless. Record all tenant-landlord communications and keep your paperwork and receipts regarding maintenance work as it will be of crucial importance in a situation such as this.

 

The Business of Being a Landlord

Being a landlord and owning rental properties is a business and should be treated as such.  While you may not spend 40 hours a week in an office like an accountant there is still work to be done.  As you purchase more properties you will have to hire staff to help you run your operations, maintenance people and admin staff will be needed.  Let’s look at the business of being a landlord and what your responsibilities are and what you need to hire people to do.

Be the Boss

In the beginning it may be you that cleans up apartments or does repairs but as your business grows you need to work on your business and not in it.  Real estate moguls don’t patch dry wall they hire people to do it while they focus on getting their next deal.  You need to adopt the same attitude.  Learn to delegate, build systems so that mundane tasks get done by someone else.

Have Great Apartments

They key to successfully be a property owner is finding great tenants.  Great tenants want a great place to live and it’s your business to provide that.  Make sure that each apartment is fixed up and move-in ready before you start advertising.  Use durable yet quality materials that will survive the wear and tear tenants can put your property through.

Know the Laws

It doesn’t matter what type of business that you run there are going to be laws that dictate what you can and can’t do, the onus is on you to know and understand them.  Knowing the relevant laws will protect you from getting sued.  Make sure you understand tenant law in your area, how evictions are handled along with discrimination it will save you thousands in the long run.

Find Great Tenants

Do not rent to the first person that comes along looking for an apartment.  You may get lucky and they turn out to be great or you could end up with the tenant from hell.  A tenant you could have avoided with a little screening in place.  Market your rentals aggressively so that you have a choice of tenants coming to you.  Which brings us to the next point….

Screen Your Tenants

This is hands down the most important job that you have, bad tenants cost money.  Check references, prior evictions, employment and credit history before you bring out the lease.  This will save you time and money and allow you to continue growing your real estate empire.

How to Screen Tenants and Protect Yourself

If you are a landlord the last thing you need is the tenant from hell.  They cost you a fortune in unpaid rents, they damage your property and you have to go to court to try and recover losses.  There are things you can do to prevent all of this but you need to know how to screen tenants and protect yourself against future losses.  Here are some red flags and how you can avoid them.

Check Employment References

Most landlords only check to verify that a prospective tenant has a job and makes enough money to pay the rent.  You can also ask supervisors if the potential tenant is reliable, do they show up and finish work on time.  Do they show up late all the time and reek of last night’s party?  A good employee is often a good tenant.

More than Just a Credit Score

Credit scores are just a number and don’t even come close to telling the whole story.  You’re better off looking at the type of debt they have and the payment history.  Some debt is constructive, almost everyone has a car loan or a student loan they are trying to pay off.  We have also all been in financially tight situations, that being said someone with large amounts of credit card debt may not be a great risk.

Honesty is the Best Policy

If you find a potential tenant lying on their application for any reason then move on to the next applicant.  Little white lies have no place on a rental application and they aren’t trustworthy.  Lies on applications are often in regards to income, many will inflate the amount of money they earn.  It is still a red flag and you need to pass.

Have they Ever Been Evicted

If they have been evicted before then pass on the application.  While most landlords will only check credit and employment history you are far better off checking to see if a tenant has been evicted in the last 5 years.  At the same time you want to check with previous landlords to see if they have been a good tenant or not.  Paying the rent on time isn’t the only thing that makes a good tenant you also need someone who will keep your property clean and well maintained.

Renting to a new tenant is always risky so do whatever you can to protect yourself from bad tenants.  Screen carefully each and every tenant that moves into your building you will thank yourself for it down the road.

Should You Hire a Property Management Company

Many property owners are hesitant to work with a property management company thinking that they can easily handle all of the maintenance tasks and collections on their own.  They think it is only a couple of hours out of their life, until things start to break and tenants stop paying the rent.  If you want to grow your portfolio of properties then at some point you are going to need some help.  Should you hire a property management company?  Yes, as a matter of fact you should.  Let’s look at why.

Dealing with Tenants

This is the biggest reason to hire a property management company and that is to deal with tenants so you don’t have to.  Screening tenants, taking rental applications, or showing apartments none of that would be your responsibility anymore.  Even having someone to screen tenants for you makes a property management company worth the cost.  They would also be responsible for collecting rents and enforcing the terms of the lease, leaving you free to run your business.

Pricing Your Rentals

If you don’t have a background in real estate and owning property is an investment strategy for you then you probably have no idea how to price them or what market rent is.  If you price too high then you will be left with a bunch of vacant units, price the units too low and you lose money.  Both situations are bad for you.  A property management company keeps a very close eye on the local markets and can help you price your units correctly.  You can still attract good tenants while turning a profit.

Maintenance

Do you really want to handle 3am phone calls because a toilet won’t flush, that is part and parcel of being a landlord.  Not to mention the cleaning and painting of units every time a tenant moves out.  None of that is fun nor is it a good use of your time.  A property management company will handle all of that for you along with getting the right contractors in for the job.  The more units you buy the more maintenance headaches you will have to deal with, let someone else deal with that.

There will come a point where hiring a property management company just makes sense and you should do it sooner rather than later.  Yes, they will cost money but your time is valuable and it could be better spent looking for your next deal rather than dealing with tenant issues constantly.  Delegating responsibilities will be the best decision you make as a business owner.

Is Rental Property Right for You?

Owning real estate is one of the fastest and easiest ways to build wealth, that being said it is not an investment that works for everyone.  Despite all the claims to the contrary being a landlord isn’t creating passive income, there is work involved in being a landlord.  That being said it can be incredibly lucrative for the right person.  Is rental property right for you?  Let’s look at what’s involved in being a property owner and you can determine if this is the investment that you are looking for.

The Down Payment

Buying rental property is not like buying your primary residence, the banks and loan companies have much stricter rules for rental properties.  If the property is bigger than a triplex and you have no intention of living there then you can expect to put down at least 20%.  You are also going to run up against some stricter loan requirements even with the bigger down payment.  You will have to demonstrate the property is in good enough condition to be rentable and you may also need some cash reserves for things like repairs and upgrades.

Property Financials

Aside from your own personal finances that need to be in order to buy rental property you also need to have the financials of the property in order as well.  The rental income needs to cover not only the mortgage but the other expenses associated with the property, that can include the taxes, maintenance, heat, hot water and have a little left over for unexpected expenses.  There are formulas for determining whether a property is worth buying or not and you can check them out here.  You plug in the rents and expenses and it will do the rest for you.

Maintenance Issues

Things break down, tenants will leave their apartments in a mess and your phone will ring in the middle of the night.  Are you ready to deal with all of that?  You can hire a property management team to handle it but that will eat into your profits.

Tenants

Dealing with tenants can be a huge pain.  It is up to you to collect the rent, make sure they adhere to the terms of the lease, evict when necessary and there are the usual personality conflicts you may also have to deal with.  Will you be comfortable doing all of that.

Rental property is a great way to build wealth but it is not without some work on your part.  Weigh the pros and cons and decide carefully if rental property is for you.