Being the mediator between a feuding neighbor and your tenants is difficult. As the landlord, you’re in a complicated position where you have to act fairly and be conscious of how the conflict is affecting your reputation as a whole. Although finding some resolution in tenant conflicts is no easy feat, with these tips in mind things will be a little simpler when you have to act as the referee.
Show That You Listen
A large portion of neighbor complaints consist of noise, pets, trash, and even space. While many of these problems can be resolved by arranging for the neighbors and your tenants to talk to each other, not every tenant feels comfortable with confrontation. You probably have experienced this at some time and have ended up with one of three reactions:
- Your tenant goes to their neighbor and it’s resolved on its own.
- Your property’s neighbors get angry and blame you for not dealing with the problem.
- The property’s neighbors confronted your tenants, but the problem has continued or possibly gotten worse.
While we all hope that tenants would resolve their issues themselves, this doesn’t always happen. Big or small, your property’s neighbors want you to know if they’re having issues with your tenants, and it’s important that you listen and take them seriously. Even though they aren’t your tenants, showing that you’re listening helps prevent the neighbors from putting the blame on you in online reviews, and potentially scaring away future tenants. We’ve all heard of the phrase “actions speak louder than words,” but have you applied it to listening? Show that you’re concerned by using appropriate body language and taking notes.
Facilitate Negotiations Like a Boss
Getting in the middle of feuding tenants and neighbors isn’t fun, but sometimes it’s necessary. If you’ve received multiple complaints or are concerned about the safety of your tenants, then becoming a tenant referee is a must. However, like anthropologist William Ury says in his TedTalk, The Walk from “No” to “Yes”, “as humans it’s very easy to react.” There are always two sides (and your tenants are expecting you to be on their side), but there’s also a third side as well. You have the ability to represent an outside opinion, and keep the feuding parties on track when coming to terms. Your neutral perspective can point out similarities, changing hostility to hospitality. Although William Ury learned this trick from his intense experience negotiating terms between Russia and Chechnya, using a common identity to lead negotiations is just as effective on a smaller scale. You just have to keep them on track, and be sure to remain impartial so no one feels ganged up on.
Intervene Only if Necessary
Of course if the problem gets out of control, to the point where your tenants are breaking their lease, take action. Depending on the severity of the offense, you might want to consider evicting them. An example of this would be if a tenant was stockpiling trash to the point where conditions were unsafe for them and their neighbors. That being said, if your offending tenant has a disability like hoarding, you’ll need to make reasonable accommodations for them. To help ease tensions in this case, you can try to make some of the neighbor’s issues top priorities when arranging accommodations.
If you’re receiving multiple noise complaints but the tenant hasn’t broken their lease, you’re going to have to buckle down and bear through it. To ease tensions, make your tenants aware of county or city noise curfews. You don’t want your property’s reputation to be in jeopardy. Perform verbal verifications yourself or use a tenant screening service that provides this to try to avoid potential problem tenants before even signing the lease.
In any conflict there are multiple perspectives and as a tenant referee it can be difficult to identify who is in the wrong without potentially alienating your tenants. Use your view as an outsider in the situation to keep tempers and strong emotions at bay, and keep the discussion on track. That way, your tenants and property’s neighbors can focus on coming to an agreement, getting you one step closer to working on other important things.
How do you handle tenant and neighbor conflicts? Have you had to intervene? Share your experience in the comments section below and be sure to subscribe!