What’s the secret to a great relationship? Many people would say it’s good communication, and they’re probably right. Regardless of the nature of the relationship, proper communication enables two or more parties to work together and avoid unnecessary issues.
When it comes to establishing strong landlord-tenant relationships, communication can make all the difference. Whether you are collecting rent, managing apartment repairs or just trying to keep tenants happy, communication will come into play. Keeping all of those interactions productive and respectful is in the best interests of everyone involved.
It’s not just what you say, but how you say it
There are two major points to consider here. First, the tone and any non-verbal language you use when speaking with tenants will impact how they receive your message. For example, if you are trying to collect rent from a tenant who is a few days behind on a payment, encouraging them to get in touch with you if they need to talk about finances will generally be much more effective than threatening to enforce a late fee without giving them an opportunity to explain themselves.
The medium or system you use to communicate is the other major factor when it comes to establishing good landlord-tenant communication. Simple two-way communication technology such as email or a tenant’s portal provides landlords with effective alternatives to printing and distributing physical forms and notices. That being said, not everyone checks email every day. Some of your tenants may prefer having a physical document mailed to their apartment units. Using two or three communication channels tends to be most effective when trying to reach multiple residents.
Document and archive everything
You never know when you’re going to need a record of a conversation. It might be to doublecheck a special payment date with a tenant. For more serious situations, you may need to retrieve a conversation for legal evidence.
Landlords must document and store all conversations that they have with tenants. If you have an informal verbal conversation with someone about a repair or payment, just make sure to follow up with an email to summarize what was said or agreed upon during the conversation.
Ensure messages are clear and courteous
Essentially, landlords are business owners, and their tenants are their clients. Therefore, landlord-tenant communication should always remain professional. Establishing a standard of respectful and objective interactions is critical, whether you’re talking to people through email, on the phone or face-to-face.
Stick to the facts. While you can make pleasant small talk, it’s not usually a great idea to delve into your tenants’ personal lives. You’re not their friend, you’re their landlord.
Make sure that the messages you send contain all necessary information. If you’re asking tenants to take further actions, make sure you provide clear instructions about how they can successfully complete steps. Add details, and even photos, if applicable.
Below are some other good tips for maintaining professional correspondence:
- Be courteous, but firm; there’s no need to be overly nice or rude
- Avoid negative statements (i.e., don’t blame people)
- Maintain eye contact and avoid crossing your arms if talking to someone in person
- Avoid aggressive body language if talking to someone in person
Give proper notice for in-person visits
Tenants don’t have to like you, but give them a reason to respect you. If they ever have an issue, you want tenants to feel comfortable enough to reach out right away so that you can address the problem before it gets worse.
Earning a tenant’s respect requires you to follow up on requests in a timely manner and do what you say you will do. But that also means showing them respect too. For example, if someone submits an online request about a jammed window, it would be very unprofessional to show up at their front door to investigate without first issuing a notice.
Tenants appreciate at least 24-hours’ notice before you enter their unit. In many places, landlords must legally provide 24-hours’ notice unless there is an emergency. Giving tenants proper notice allows them to prepare for your visit. They may need to clear a section of the apartment or lock up pets, for example. If you show up unexpectedly, you may not even get to accomplish what you planned to.
Automate whenever possible
Not all rental communities need software to manage operations, but it can really make a difference for busy landlords. An online system like Condo Control allows landlords to send messages to the entire building—or just a group of recipients—in a matter of minutes. Announcements can be scheduled for a later date, and can be delivered via email, text or even automated voice message.
Furthermore, this software streamlines online payments and service requests. It’s far easier to stay on top of things when they are automatically organized in one location.
Let tenants know the best times to reach you
Tenants need to know when and how to get in touch with their landlord. Providing them with times and methods (and sending quarterly reminders) helps to alleviate frustration for everyone. If you get in the habit of responding to messages after hours, tenants will come to expect immediate responses from you all of the time. Do your best to set reasonable boundaries.
Address the process for after-hours needs and explain what tenants should do if there’s ever an emergency. You may consider providing a maintenance contact sheet to tenants when they move into the building. This document would include emergency numbers and definitions of what constitutes an emergency.
Consider text messages, especially if you manage a smaller community
Receiving a text message is often more personal than receiving an email. Depending on your tenants, and the size of your building, text messaging might be one of the best ways to communicate. Texts are fast, and people see them as soon as they are sent since so many of us are always connected to our phones. They may also be free, depending on your plan.
Younger generations are not always comfortable talking on the phone, but are happy to send or receive a text. But using this method may not be realistic if you manage a large building or multiple apartments. Imagine trying to organize and archive messages from hundreds of tenants.
The good news is you can send your texts messages without having to text each tenant using a platform like Condo Control. Apartment management software allows you to write and send messages from the platform, and send them directly to your tenants’ phones.
Like anything, it takes practice and persistence to become a great communicator. Landlords are often aware of best practices, they simply don’t have the time they’d like to communicate with tenants as often as they want to.
Instead of trying to work harder, work smarter. Use software that will streamline communication and automatically archive messages for you. Try different mediums if your current method of communication isn’t working for you and/or your tenants.
On a similar note, whenever you need to communicate important information, don’t stop at an email. A quick call or text message goes a long way, and it’s more likely that the recipient will understand what you’re trying to say.