The tenant-landlord relationship is adversarial in its design. The landlord is the person collecting rent, they have control over the residence, and in terms of winning over praise, there’s basically no hope, at least categorically.

This inherent power imbalance can lend itself to conflict – or if not outright conflict, the landlord should at least expect to field complaints from time to time.

Before jumping into the process of handling tenant complaints, however, it’s important to first talk a little bit about prevention. Like most things in life, it’s usually much easier to prevent a problem than it is to deal with whatever ramifications come from it.

It Starts with Your Lease Agreement

Often a tenant complaint will stem from an issue they deem unfair or inappropriate. Here’s an easy example.

Say you receive a tenant complaint citing loud music in the unit next door. This is a valid complaint, and one you will have to address. It’s also an interaction that has the potential to go poorly. Fortunately, you could prevent the issue by clearly spelling out in your lease agreement what is and is not acceptable in your rental unit (i.e., no loud music) – and by assessing fees for engaging in those types of behavior.

Assessing fees can be an effective tool for dissuading behavior you deem unacceptable for your property, and you should call out these types of behaviors in your lease – not because you’re hoping to get rich from them, but purely as a way to dissuade someone from engaging in that type of behavior.

How to Handle Tenant Complaints

Despite putting preventive measures in place, you still will receive complaints from tenants. That’s just part of being a rental property owner.

If you hire a property management company to help with your rental units, they should be the ones who primarily deal with these day-to-day complaints, not you, but if it is you who are taking calls from disgruntled tenants, here are a few strategies for handling them.

  • First, listen – It can be tempting to interrupt a resident during a rant, but do your best to listen and ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand the issue.
  • Express understanding – Let tenants know that you appreciate their perspective and are committed to finding a resolution. Do your best to promptly acknowledge their complaints, and if you can’t, offer a timeline for when the concern will be addressed.
  • Document the complaint – Maintain a record of all tenant complaints, including the date, nature of the complaint, and actions taken. Documentation can be valuable in case of disputes and as a useful data point for conducting your own analyses.

One final thing to note is that tenant complaints, though at times frustrating, can provide useful insight into the management and operation of both the property itself and the management company’s performance. If you notice any trends in tenant complaints, it could be your cue to implement a broader change.

If you have questions about property management here in Franklin County, Ohio, call our team at 614-725-3059.