Property management has two general types of conflict: one being practices that can be in place to avoid conflict, and then conflict that comes with the job!
By Darren Hunter – DarrenHunter.com
Conflict comes in many different forms. However, it’s generally between us/our agency and two principal groups: our tenants (our customers) and property owners/investors (our clients).
TENANTS: With tenants, you are providing them with a property they need to call home. The most basic, fundamental need and right of every human is to have a sanctuary, a place where they can hide away and a place where they can feel safe for them and their families. For that reason, it makes sense that tempers can flare when their peace of mind is affected in some way with their rental property.
OWNERS: With property owners and investors, you are likely managing their most significant financial asset which usually comes attached to a large mortgage! I have always said, ‘When it comes to money, people are funny’ and certainly when dealing and managing their property asset, the unexpected can occur, tempers can flare and ‘agro’ flare-up accordingly.
Ten Power Keys to Help You Manage Conflict:
1. Tenants and Repairs
The most common complaint tenants have about property managers is repairs not being conducted on time. I could write pages on this topic; however, the best way to deal with it is to examine the complaints about repairs you have had, work out what caused them and then fix the issue to make sure it doesn’t happen again! Was it the landlord not doing their part? Your clients need to be educated that this is an obligation. Is it a landlord that needs to be called and you cannot get hold of them? Can you push harder for a maintenance limit where you do not need their permission first? Identify the complaint and change the system to ensure you eliminate this complaint in future.
2. Landlords and Communication
The most common complaint landlords have about their property manager is about lack of communication. This one requires your attitude to be in tune with what your client needs, which is transparent and timely communication. Don’t send an email when the problem is best fixed by telephone (if required). Ensure all your calls and emails are returned on time. However, another way to ensure you have a communicating attitude is to say to yourself, ‘How would I feel if I owned this property, and I was kept in the dark about important issues?’ So for goodness sake, communicate!
3. Deal with issues, immediately.
Problems and potential conflict can occur when problems, complications and ‘stuff-ups’ are kept hidden and undercover. In property management, there is a simple formula that has exact results every time. Problem + Time = Conflict. However, Problem + Quickly Fix = Problem Solved and Conflict Lessened or Avoided. It has always been my experience that if a problem or mistake is fixed quickly, then the problem is resolved with little-to-no damage caused. If you leave a problem to fester with time, expect to have problems and conflict!
4. Be clear on the right expectations upfront.
One of the most effective keys to avoiding conflict is to ensure all clear expectations for both your landlords and tenants are given upfront. Educate your landlords on common conflict areas like wear and tear, the rent arrears process and repairs. With tenants, also thoroughly educate them with your strict rent arrears policy, what you expect at routine inspections and the vacate inspection. Inducting your customers and clients with a carefully prepared Tenant Handbook or Property Owner’s Handbook will do this nicely!
5. Use conflict for improvement.
If conflict and mistakes occur, don’t let this opportunity go to waste. As consultants, we can go into a business and point out weaknesses for a nominal fee; however, your complaints will do the same job for free! Use complaints and mistakes to get leverage from the problem, to change your systems and processes not to let it happen again!
6. Being organised/use daily planning.
The more conflict that is in a department, the more a property manager is disorganised and not managing by priority. All tasks (everything that needs to get done) should be written into one source like a notebook. Once you have this listed, just do it and ignore anything else that can wait until the next day.
7. Attention to detail/accuracy.
Another source of pain and conflict is not doing a job or task correctly in the first place! Make sure your mission is completed thoroughly. Don’t leave pieces undone or parts incomplete. Your goal is to get the work finished the first time without having to revisit it later and fix it again. It can sometimes take 2-3 times more energy to fix it, than what it would take doing it right the first time. Strict adherence to systems, policies and procedures will ensure this occurs every time.
8. Under-promise and over-deliver
If you are reporting back to a person with a complaint, problem or just everyday issues you can delight the client or customer and reduce conflict by first under-promising and then over-delivering. If you do what they expected, you have a simple completion of a task. Complete something before they hope you to, and you’ll delight the person at the receiving end. Top operators always use this rule!
9. Don’t pour petrol on a fire.
Too many property managers believe that when a person is yelling at them, they need to shout louder! I have learnt by experience that this doesn’t work! Quick diffusing of a situation can occur by speaking calmly, professionally and sometimes firmly, but don’t try to put out a fire by throwing petrol on it! Use excellent people skills and use water to put out a fire! (Metaphorically speaking).
10. Always make good file notes.
Conflict can occur when you cannot prove what was agreed upon by not having records of previous file notes of actions and conversations. A significant amount of business health checks we have conducted tend to show most property managers rarely make file notes and use the excuse that ‘I know what is going on and remember everything!’ This attitude quickly comes undone when they go on sick or annual leave, or resign from their position and leave other property managers to deal with conflict and issues that if they knew what had occurred, could quickly deal with conflict and problems at hand.