Not all landlords can be satisfied, but the problem can be reduced if you act proactively and deal with the issues before they occur, according to Darren Hunter.

Photo: iStock/Wavebreak

He said common causes for landlord complaints are chiefly driven by expectation issues.

“Landlords with unreasonable or wrong expectations are difficult to successfully manage,” he said. “I know most property managers deal with these issues on a daily basis. But when the person you’re working for gives you a hard time, it makes your work life incredibly difficult.”

“If you’re good at what you do, it means you care – the downside is that you’re more open to be hurt.”

The key learning? Not everyone can be pleased – so don’t try.

Darren said the motivation behind potential conflict is different for tenants and landlords.

“With tenants, it’s emotionally motivated because you’re dealing with their home, their safe haven. For owners, it’s a financial motivation. They can have a knee-jerk reaction when there’s money involved, so it’s important to take a step back and think like them.”

Clients have different motives for becoming landlords, and once you understand this, you can learn what is most important to them, understand them better and communicate on their level.

Darren said there are 12 common (and different) landlord types. Each landlord should be identified and potential issues inducted upfront (as to unique problems expected) so that each type has the right expectations.

Darren Hunter’s ’12 Different Landlord Types’

  1. The Do-It-Yourself Landlord wants control, can be tight and often thinks they can do the job better than you. They’ve often had a bad experience with a previous agent. It’s important to set the ground rules and understand their motivation.
  2. The Default Landlord was likely forced into renting out their property due to a work transfer, etc. Mr Default Landlord fears getting a bad tenant and the mortgage not being paid, as well as general wear and tear issues. Key issues to nail now: The owner’s expectations – have a direct dialogue with the owner about the realistic issues that come with having a tenant in a rental. Help to adjust their expectations.
  3. The ‘Sales’ Landlord’s property hasn’t sold. They need some income and are being forced to rent it out. They’ll likely expect a higher price, so educate them on the marketplace and the vacancy rate. As with the Default Landlord, educate them on the reality of keeping a tenant in their property.
  4. The Controller wants to re-write your management agreement and keep you on your toes! He’s probably not happy with your T&Cs. Be careful of this type of landlord.
  5. The Multiple Property Landlord wants a lot of value – and usually this comes hand in hand with control. They will want a complete solution and might be tight with repairs. This landlord wants to know he’s extra special. Don’t fall into the trap of losing profit with this landlord through fee discounting – extra properties still mean an extra workload.
  6. The ‘A-class’ Landlord represents a mere 10% of your clients. They’re easy to get along with, give great loyalty and appreciate you. How nice!
  7. The ‘C-class’ Landlord is a tricky one. He wants control, he won’t do repairs and wants discounts. He’ll likely take up a lot of your time, wants above market rents and likely has a crap property! The issue here? Crap properties tend to attract crap tenants. Consider WHY you need this client.
  8. The Committee is a hard one to deal with when you need decisions made. Their property was likely a community or church house, now it’s rented out and a group of people are going to make the decisions. This can become very painful. Make it clear with The Committee type that decisions need to be made quickly and ensure the property is in a good state of repair before you take it on.
  9. The ‘Demolisher’ usually has a property in a very poor state of repair. The house is only there to be demolished when the time is right. Be sure to manage expectations for this client and let them know that there’s a minimal standard of maintenance required. They must be made aware of legislative requirements.
  10. The ‘Estate’. In this instance, mum has probably passed away and the kids are now renting the property out. Be careful with the repairs needed with this one – there could be a lot! Make sure expectations are clear. The decor could be a little outdated and repairs may be needed to cope with moving a new family into what was only occupied by a pensioner.
  11. The ‘Transfer’ Landlord has come from another agency and usually values a good property manager. They’re (usually) happy to pay your fee. They just want peace of mind and good communication. These landlords have often had their fingers burnt elsewhere, but will generally be an easy client.
  12. The Property Investor is usually not emotionally involved – it’s just business! They have a ‘buy and hold’ strategy and want maximised returns, a good tenant and are generally loyal if you give them peace of mind and show you care. Tax depreciation will be important to this client. He doesn’t want headaches – just trust.

“Don’t burn yourself out for the sake of a difficult owner.”

At the end of the day, managing owners’ expectations can be handled by inducting on the problem BEFORE it occurs, Darren said.

  1. Consider building a Property Owner’s Handbook into your handouts.
    1. Supply new landlord with an educational guide on everything they need to know – how you operate and customer service standards.
  2.  Induct the landlord when they sign the management agreement
    1. Go through everything they can expect. Explain the handbook in detail, go through common problems.

“If you feel the owner isn’t reasonable and understanding of your realistic expectations, consider whether you need them,” Darren said. “Not all business is good business. Believe that and learn to stand on that. Don’t burn yourself out for the sake of a difficult owner.”

Expectation issues 

  1. Look out for abnormal landlord behaviour before you sign the agreement.
  2. When problems occur, ensure they are thoroughly informed in every step of an issue/ problem until it is fully resolved.
  3. Be transparent in all issues and expectations – be clear, honest and confident.

“Owners need to believe in the same values that you do. Have them on board in believing in good values,” he said.

“Sometimes you need to give owners tough love and tough advice. You need to take charge. Taking a difficult management on may not be in your best interest.”

Darren said what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Be clear with owners’ expectations as you would be handling a tenant.

“At the end of the day, the behaviour of C-class landlords is a key reason property managers resign. A good property manager is hard to find. Put your health and well-being first and decide whether the management you’re about to take on is right for the business AND for you,” he said.

Darren Hunter
Property Management Trainer, Speaker & Consultant at |

Darren Hunter - of is a national and international property management trainer, speaker, consultant and authority on property management, specialising in fee maximisation and profitability as well as time and stress management and property management productivity.