How to Resolve Tenant Disputes | Think Realty | A Real Estate of Mind
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How to Resolve Tenant Disputes

Perhaps the worst part about managing rental properties is dealing with angry tenants. By its very nature, the relationship between landlords or property managers and tenants can be fraught with tension. No one likes paying their rent after all. And furthermore, if there are major maintenance issues, a maintenance issue goes sideways, the tenant can’t pay their rent or there is a major disagreement about something, that tension can blow up into outright hostility.

No matter how well you screen your tenants and maintain your properties, there will be such issues that arise. There is simply no avoiding it. Luckily, there are ways to effectively deal with it.

Be on Your Tenant’s Side

Every disagreement is between two (or more) opposing sides. But what if you put yourself on the tenant’s side to argue against something else entirely? By doing this, you can radically reduce the tension and hostility between you. After all, why would there be any hostility if you are on the same side?

Of course, your interests aren’t entirely aligned with the tenant’s so it’s not that easy to be on the same side. The way to do it is to find a common enemy, of which at least four possibilities are available:

  • The Lease
  • The Law
  • The Polices (or Owner)
  • The Past

Every lease has certain terms, i.e. when rent is due, what the late fee is, what the term of the lease is, how long guests can stay for, etc. You cannot make exceptions for some tenants and not for others or you would risk violating Fair Housing, which is where the “law” as enemy comes in. You could also just reference the company policies (for example, “I’m sorry, it’s against our policies to allow for a second payment plan”) or the owner if you are managing third-party (for example, “I apologize, but the owner is unwilling to upgrade the furnace”).

You can also just use “the past” as the enemy. Something like “what’s done is done and now we need to figure out the best way to move forward.” This works particularly well with maintenance issues that went badly. Sure, you should apologize and maybe offer a bit of a discount, but you do not want to dwell on what went wrong. You want to move forward to a solution.

Finding the Best Solution Together

Once you have selected an enemy to fight together, you can move on to fighting it with the tenant. Here is where you look for the best solution possible given their situation. Notice that this isn’t necessarily what they want. Ideally, they would want to not pay rent at all or have their balance forgiven. That’s not going to happen. But we can find a solution that is better than something like an eviction or lawsuit or endless arguing that resolves nothing.

So perhaps they are too far behind on their rent and can’t catch up. The lease or policies are the enemy as you can’t make an exception just for them. But a cash-for-keys arrangement could be the “best possible solution” as they can move on with $100 or so in their pocket and no eviction on their record and you can get the property back quickly without having to pay to file that eviction. Or perhaps a maintenance issue went badly. In this case, the past is the enemy and you can provide the best solution by getting the issue fixed, even if late, and maybe giving a $100 discount. Now the issue is fixed, they have a bit of extra money for their hassle and don’t have to find a new place to live. After finding such a solution, what is the point for them of arguing anymore?

With this framework in mind, you can resolve many tenant disputes without an argument and save a lot of mental energy. This strategy will help your bottom line, but honestly, it’s even more important for your mental health. Arguing and dealing with angry tenants just drains you.

To find out more, check out our video on the subject and subscribe to our YouTube channel as well.