Communication is key, as they say, and this is nowhere more apparent than in the landlord/tenant relationship. With the extra stress everyone is facing these days, the slightest communication misstep can sour a once amicable relationship between renters, property managers and the landlords they represent. However, if all parties are conscious of how they communicate with each other, misunderstandings can often be avoided. Sweyer Property Management has a few tips for both landlords and tenants that can help avoid some of the most common communication pitfalls and their inevitable consequences.
Whether speaking on the phone, talking in person, emailing or texting, landlords must be sure they're getting their message across in such a way that the necessary information is being understood by the tenant. By taking a few things into consideration, landlords will increase the chances that their tenants have not only understood their message, but also feel respected and valued throughout the conversation.
- Be Flexible in Your Communication Methods: Landlords and property managers who are dealing with large numbers of tenants must understand that not everyone is going to prefer the same method of communication. You will have some tenants who exclusively want to talk on the phone and some who don't want you to ever call them because email or text works just fine. As you get to know your tenant, pay attention to this. It is much easier to contact a tenant when something important comes up if you're using their preferred communication method. If Sophie on Green Street refuses to answer a call but will respond to a text right away, you probably don't want to call her about an important maintenance issue, right?
- Active Listening: As we've all heard before, there's a big difference between simply hearing someone talk and actually listening. Active listening involves being engaged in the conversation - things like repeating or rephrasing what the other person has said, taking notes if needed and expressing empathy. Also, don't be afraid to "over communicate" - you're speaking with this tenant to share information and it's your job as the landlord to try to be sure they've understood your message. By employing active listening, landlords are able to pick up on cues from their tenants and therefore be prepared if a conversation is about to escalate.
- Attitude: As the landlord or property manager, you're placed in the position of being "the expert" when conversing with tenants. However, this can come off as arrogance if it isn't balanced with a properly conveyed desire to understand a tenant's situation and help them through it. Always be sure to clearly and politely explain things and take time throughout the conversation to see if the person on the other end has any questions. But what if they have a question you don't know the answer to? While hanging up the phone and crying under your desk may be tempting, the best course of action in that situation is to admit that you're unsure of the answer, promise to do some research and get them the answers they need in a timely manner. Lastly, express gratitude towards your tenants - thank them for calling, express that you enjoyed speaking with them, things like that. Remember, whether you're a landlord or a property manager, the tenants are your clients and deserve to be treated as such.
- Tact and Truthfulness: We've all been there - staring at the phone or keyboard dreading making the call or drafting the email that will inevitably upset the recipient. But, avoiding dialing the number or hitting send isn't going to make unpleasant issues disappear. When faced with having less-than-delightful conversations with tenants, honesty and tact are a must. When some bad news must be shared or a difficult topic must be discussed, the best thing landlords can do is be straightforward with their tenants, be sympathetic while presenting them with the clear facts of the situation, be prepared to answer any questions they may have and, if possible, work together towards a solution to the issue.
Tenant Communication Tips
Just as there are some steps landlords can take to ensure they are being effective communicators, there are things tenants can do to ensure they’re clearly communicating as well. Most of us have been renters at some point in our lives and understand that things can get heated. But, has yelling and screaming at someone ever really helped? Probably not. Here are a few things renters can keep in mind to more effectively communicate with their landlords and property managers.
- Avoid Distractions: If you're making an important call to your landlord or property manager, it's probably best that you don't have the season finale of The Bachelor blaring in the background along with your two sobbing roommates who just can't believe he gave the rose to… well, you get it. Distracted conversations easily lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications. If you have to place an important call, put in a maintenance request online or send an email, do it at a time or in a place where you can focus your attention on that task for a few moments. This will assure that you've been able to clearly express your thoughts and in turn will help the landlord understand exactly what it is you need so that the two of you may work together towards a solution.
- Honesty: Yep, honesty applies to both sides of the equation here. If you've experienced a medical emergency or job loss this month and are going to be late on your rent, simply ignoring the situation probably isn't the best solution. And this extends to any number of problems you may face throughout your tenancy. If you are having an issue related to your rental property or your ability to pay rent - tell your landlord. Chances are, if you are honest and up front about things, they're going to want to work with you to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone.
- Heated Emotions: While its more than understandable that you'd be upset if your water heater bursts, screaming at or berating your landlord probably isn't going to get the issue addressed any quicker, is it? Landlords and property managers are there to help you fix problems in your property and rudeness or blaming isn't going to help the situation for anyone involved. Being calm and rational throughout unpleasant situations will help everyone understand what is going on, what needs to be done to address the issue as quickly as possible and help maintain a positive relationship throughout your tenancy.
Communication and Technological Advances
With the constant barrage of new technology over the past several years, the communication options between tenants and landlords/property managers are virtually limitless. Many of these options are wonderful as they provide for conveniences one thought would never exist. Most tenants today pay their rent online, submit maintenance requests online and even schedule showings, take virtual tours of homes, fill out their initial applications and sign leases online.
However, that doesn't always take the place of human interaction and solid communication skills. Though phones may not be ringing at the rate they were 20 years ago because many activities related to rentals and property management do take place online, it is still of utmost importance to have a live person available to answer the phone when people decide to call a landlord or property manager. Hey, sometimes there are questions that computers simply can't answer (at least not yet anyway…).
That's why at Sweyer Property Management, we always have a live person answering our phones during regular business hours. Listening to endless menu options (none of which ever seem to fit the description of what you need), pressing buttons and eventually getting rerouted back to the main menu can get pretty irritating (remember the heated emotions we just discussed?). When you get a real person on the phone, they will empathize with your situation, understand and answer your question or, if they can't, quickly find someone who can. As technology continues to evolve, we've yet to see a replacement for good old-fashioned human interaction.
Perhaps the most important takeaway here is to remember that we're all human and deserve to be treated as such. Whether you're the landlord, tenant, property manager or maintenance tech, the person on the other end of the phone or email has a family and a job and a multitude of their own concerns to deal with. So, above all else, remember to be kind - you never know what battles another person is facing.
If you’d like to learn more about our property management strategies or schedule a no-obligation rental analysis for your investment property, please give us a call today at 910.256.3031 or reach out to us via our website.