When you own a rental property, your tenants are bound to have a complaint or two. Even with a lovely and well-maintained property, it’s impossible to avoid any complaints as a landlord.
Oftentimes, a tenant isn’t put off by having to put in a complaint, but how you, as a landlord, handle it can set the tone for the rest of the tenancy. How you handle a complaint can also determine whether the tenant wants to renew their lease or look elsewhere when it ends.
Since long-term tenants are usually the goal of any successful rental property, you’ll want to try to hang onto the high-quality tenants that rent out your unit. A happy tenant is a tenant who stays and takes good care of your property!
You have to address a tenant’s concerns quickly and efficiently, hopefully fixing the concern for the foreseeable future or assuring them to contact you if they still have any complaints.
So, what should you do when a tenant complains? Well, you’re in luck! Here, we’ll talk about the most common tenant complaints and how to respond to them.
Rules of Handling Any Complaint
Be Easily Accessible
Before you can deal with your tenant’s concerns, you need to be sure that you’re easily accessible to your tenant. If a tenant has to jump through hoops to get in touch with you, they’ll likely be more frustrated by the issue they’re having and with you, as their landlord.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to answer every single call, no matter the time of day, or be available to come over as soon as they text, but they should be able to leave their complaint for you to see when you have the time.
As a rule of thumb, giving your tenant two different ways to get in touch with you quickly is a good idea.
Listen to Your Tenant
No matter what, always listen to your tenant carefully. Your tenant calls you about a plumbing issue and you’ve had issues with the plumbing before? Still listen! It could very well be the same issue persisting, but it could also be a different issue that needs fixing.
Some issues will seem small, but if they seemed that way to the tenant, they wouldn’t have called you. Wait for them to finish talking and then you can decide on your course of action. You don’t want your tenant to feel that you’re instantly dismissive of their concerns.
For any complaint, keep organized records of any communication about the complaint and receipts of any expenses addressing the complaint incurred. Keeping records will come in handy if you’re ever caught in a legal dispute with the tenant.
The Most Common Tenant Complaints
Tenant complaints usually fall into one of four categories: issues with noisy neighbors, pest infestations, problems with pets, and maintenance issues.
The first thing to do when receiving a noise complaint is to ask your tenant if they’ve tried speaking with the neighbor causing the noise before talking to you.
Sometimes, the issue can be resolved between the two neighbors. Your tenant should be able to handle a noisy neighbour by themselves, but there are situations where you might need to step in.
If the other tenant involved is also your tenant, it’s often an easy fix. If the accused neighbor is indeed being disruptive, there’s likely a section in the lease that limits the amount of noise the tenant can cause.
If the complaining tenant is overreacting to the noise level, it’s also easy to leave the noise complaint alone.
However, when the noisy neighbor isn’t one of your tenants and you’re forced to step in, things can get a bit more complicated. As a landlord, there isn’t much else you can do except contact the local authorities and ask them to enforce city bylaws on noise.
Pest complaints can include everything from rodents to cockroaches and bedbugs. The one thing that any pest infestation has in common is that it can drive out even the best and most understanding tenants. Infestations can also cause property damage.
The best way to handle pest infestations is to prevent them. As part of your routine maintenance, check for any signs of pest infestation or places it could occur like dark, damp areas. Also, make sure that you have a list of good exterminators in your area that you can call if necessary.
If you have a lot of rental units, you might want to consider hiring a service to sweep all of your rentals regularly for signs of infestation. Once you have more than a handful of units under your management, it’s difficult to catch every sign before it becomes an issue.
Most tenant complaints about pets have to do with dogs. Whether it’s barking, a lack of hygiene on the owner’s part, or aggressive behavior, dogs can cause issues for neighbors.
Dealing with a barking complaint can be handled in a similar way to a noise complaint. First, talk with the owner of the dog. Then, if the noise persists, issue a written warning to the neighbor.
If the noise issue still hasn’t been resolved, the owner will have to either remove their dog from the property or be evicted.
Eviction should be the last option, but sometimes it’s necessary. It’s better to lose one tenant than two, and if the dog is causing unresolvable issues for one neighbor, it will probably do the same to the next tenant.
For complaints involving the owner of the dog failing to pick up the dog’s feces, the first step is to, again, ask the owner to fix the problem themselves.
However, most leases also have a section on cleanliness as well as city bylaws on the matter. If necessary, you can enforce these regulations, or issue written warnings that usually lead to the dog owner’s eviction.
For complaints involving the aggressive behavior of a dog, there’s less patience involved in the process. If the dog’s behavior is making the tenant feel unsafe, the owner must take corrective measures immediately.
The dog owner has a week to sort out the issue. If the aggressive behavior persists after that, it’s your responsibility as a landlord to issue a written warning and contact the city authorities to protect your tenant.
Even with a routine maintenance schedule, the most common type of tenant complaint is about maintenance issues. The biggest frustration tenants face with maintenance issues is that they’re often not allowed to take action immediately as they don’t own the property.
They rely on you, as their landlord, to get it fixed as quickly and efficiently as you can!
The initial step after receiving a maintenance issue complaint is to either visit the property yourself or send in the maintenance team if you have one contracted.
While tenants may be able to tell you about the issue, they may be missing key details or unable to describe it accurately enough to know what the problem is.
Coordinate a good time to visit the unit with the tenant. After the visit, make sure to communicate to the tenant what the root of the problem is, how you want to handle it, and the timeline until it’s fixed.
A few days after the complaint is resolved, check back in with your tenant to see if the problem has truly been handled. If you own the entire building or it’s a multi-family home, be sure to check in with other tenants to see if they have a similar issue.
Dealing with complaints is a natural part of owning a rental property. If dealing with these issues feels overwhelming, consider hiring a property management team like Bigham and Associates to deal with it for you. Our team’s years of experience will keep your tenant happy and you stress-free!