Resolving tenant complaints is an unavoidable aspect of being a landlord. Inevitably, even the best property managed by the most seasoned landlord will have issues that irk tenants.
How quickly and efficiently you handle these complaints will determine how long you retain your tenants. Tenants that don’t feel their concerns are addressed are more likely to move out.
Luckily, tenant complaints are easy to predict as they fall into the following 4 categories:
- Maintenance issues
- Noisy neighbors
- Pest infestations
- Pet problems
In this article, we’ll go over each type of complaint and how to address them.
A Few Points First
Before thinking of handling complaints, you need to make sure that, as a landlord, you are easily accessible. A tenant that has a difficulty reaching you will be doubly aggravated by the complaint.
This isn’t to say you need to be accessible 24 hours a day. However, be consistent with your availability and have at least two ways tenants can contact you in case of an emergency.
You’ll also want to make sure that you receive a tenant complaint, you listen carefully. No matter how futile you may think the issue is, the tenant clearly doesn’t feel that way. Actively listen to your tenants and wait for them to finish before speaking. Being dismissive will only anger your tenant.
Finally, keep all your communications as well as receipts for expenses related to tenant complaints in writing. These may come in handy should the situation ever reach a legal dispute.
Handling Maintenance-Related Complaints
Maintenance issues are the most common types of complaints issued by tenants. What makes them frustrating is that because they aren’t the property owner, tenants are unable to handle them right away. They rely solely on you, the landlord, to fix them.
The first thing to do when receiving a maintenance complaint is to go visit the property yourself. Tenants aren’t always knowledgeable of building maintenance. While they may be able to describe the issue, they may not be able to accurately point out the root cause.
Ask for a good time to enter the unit and get a clear picture of what the issue is.
Once you have a good understanding of what’s causing the tenant’s maintenance complaint (and have begun fixing it) communicate with your tenant. Let him or her know what the problem was caused from, how you’re handling it and when it’ll be resolved.
Ideally, follow up with the tenant a few days after the complaint was handled.
If you’re renting out a multi-family property, communicate with the other tenants to see if they are dealing with a similar issue.
Dealing With Noisy Neighbor Tenant Complaints
When you get a noisy neighbors complaint, first ask your tenant to try and speak with the neighbor causing the disturbances and resolve the situation amicably. Your tenant should be able to handle noisy neighbors on his or her own.
However, if the tenant can’t resolve the situation, then it’s time for you to get involved.
The easiest situation to handle is when the disruptive neighbor is also one of your tenants. Given that the lease likely includes a section governing noise, refer the tenant to that clause.
However, when the neighbor isn’t also your tenant, things can get a bit more complicated. In such cases, involving the city’s bylaw enforcement section is the quickest and straightforward method to resolve the issue.
Ultimately, if the tenant doesn’t stop the disruptive behavior, you may have to consider eviction.
Nothing can make you lose good tenants faster than a pest infestation. From bed bugs, to cockroaches, to rodents, few tenants will put up with pests for very long.
Don’t wait until you get a pest complaint to take action. If you haven’t already, research competent and reliable exterminators in your area. Write down their contact information so that it’s easily accessible in a time of need.
In the event a tenant contacts you for a pest complaint, take action quickly. Contact the exterminator and let the tenant know when they should get a visit.
Depending on how many units you have in close proximity, or if you’re renting a multi-family property, consider hiring a service for preventative measures.
Resolving Pet Complaints
Most tenant complaints involving pets relate to dogs, specifically, barking, feces and aggressive behavior.
When it comes to a barking dog, deal with the issue the same way you would a noise complaint. Attempt an amicable resolution first.
However, if the dog owner is unable to stop the barking, issue written warnings. Eventually, you may have to ask the owner to remove the dog from the property or face eviction.
While eviction is a last resort, it’s best to lose one problematic tenant than lose several tenants.
As for pet complaints related to feces, the first step is to ask the owner to pick up after themselves.
If the behavior doesn’t stop, you can invoke city bylaws related to the issue. You can also refer the tenant to the lease agreement which should include clauses related to cleanliness. If the situation goes on, you can issue written warnings that eventually lead to evictions.
As for aggressive dog behavior, it must be dealt with quickly. If a tenant feels unsafe because of a potentially aggressive animal, the responsible owner must take immediate corrective measures. If the situation doesn’t resolve in under a week, issue written warnings and contact the city bylaw.
Wrapping This Up
Ultimately, tenant complaints are unavoidable. Regardless of the type of complaint you’re faced with, remember to:
- Listen to the tenant and truly understand the complaint.
- Not belittle or dismiss the complaint.
- Respond to the complaint quickly.
- Communicate the steps you take with the tenant.
At the end of the day, tenants want to feel like someone is helping them resolve their problem.
By addressing tenant complaints quickly and efficiently, you’ll increase your tenant retention rates.