Tenants are undeniably stressed during this trying season in all of our lives. Whether they are spending much more time with children or loved ones who need care or merely experiencing slashed hours and outright job loss, they have new weights on their hearts and finances. That's exactly why, as the experts in Winter Garden property management, we want to focus on the importance of your renter relationships right now.
This isn't to say that making these changes will completely eliminate any strain you might currently be experiencing in the working rapport you have with your renters. However, even unhappy tenants remember kindness and fairness after a crisis passes. Your goodwill and strong organizational skills will go a long way to smoothing over some of the issues that your tenants are facing. Here are some things to keep in mind as you work to maintain your tenant relationships during a crisis!
Please note: This blog is not intended as legal counsel. When you need to develop a working relationship with your renters that requires hands-on legal guidance, speak with a competent attorney or your Winter Garden property management partner!
Be Empathetic About Difficult Circumstances
Some landlords feel that showing empathy can make them appear weak—but it is vital to remember that being understanding and listening to your tenants doesn't mean you are giving up on getting rent payments! You are simply getting new information and allowing your tenants to feel heard.
- Letting them know that you understand that times are tough right now is key to keeping your relationships productive and civil.
- Avoid "cutting off" tenants from amenities or services you provide as a response to behavior under pressure.
- Give your renters a safe space to feel heard and work with them as much as you can: information from them could contain workable solutions to problems you've been facing collectively.
Share Information Quickly and Clearly
One way to show respect is to communicate clearly—and often!
- Rather than waiting until after tenants have missed payments on rent, reach out and let them know that you are instituting an across-the-board policy about setting up payment plans—or whatever your plan is during the crisis.
- Quickly responding to phone calls, texts, or emails shows that you value getting the answers to your tenants, and it reduces the time that they could be growing more anxious waiting for you.
- This sign of respect may not instantly mend fences if you have to share bad news, but it is part of being a great landlord! As a Winter Garden property management provider, we have often found that excellent communication skills are the key to a successful compromise.
Consistency Right Now Is Key
Speaking of across-the-board policies, attempt to create policies that you can live with—even if every single tenant takes you up on those options. The goal isn't for everything to be the same, but rather to show that every tenant is entitled to the same flexibility.
You can create exceptions, but they need to be clear: you may say you are no longer offering payment plan flexibility for tenants who have been late with rent more than two times, but you can't just say "no payment plan because I don't like you." A reputation for consistency builds a sense of fairness that tenants tell their friends about—which can build your long-term business.
When it comes to late fees and other charges that you may have to implement, make sure that you are clear on the rules and when a fee applies. There is a temptation to levy a higher fee when a tenant does something that bothers you, but sticking with your standard fee schedule is the best way to make sure you aren't undermining your reputation as a consistent landlord.
While you can hold firm if tenants damage property or otherwise break the terms of their contracts, it's best to make sure you aren't giving some tenants a free pass on those behaviors and others a harsh penalty.
When You Can, Cooperate and Collaborate
Tenants may come to you with a problem you've never heard of or situations you've seen a million times. When something new comes up, make sure you listen carefully before telling them what you want to happen next. While tenants may propose plans that don't work for you, their suggestions are often the promises they are most likely to actually keep.
If you can meet them in the middle, making a plan that is rooted in what they propose with small changes to fit your needs may be exactly what you need to walk away satisfied. Working with a Winter Garden property management professional can also help you with this kind of chat! Your property manager serves as a go-between for you and your tenant, and they've been working with tenants for years. This makes them a particularly good resource for managing your needs in concert with your renters.
If you are struggling with maintaining your tenant relationships while trying to collect rent in a crisis, Verandah Properties can help. Download our Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook to learn more!