By Anthony Russell, Author of Leadership for Landlords: Property Leadership Handbook for the Modern Landlord
Anyone that does this job long enough will eventually start seeing complaints come in. It’s inevitable that when you pack a bunch of people who don’t know each other into small spaces that there’s going to be some conflict.
Here are my top 5 tenant complaints and how I resolve them when they come up.
#1 Noisy Dogs
If you’re going to allow pets into your apartments, then eventually you’re going to end up with a tenant that has a barker. I have a few tenants that have these types of dogs. In some areas it’s welcome in the buildings. One of our tenants’ dogs (a purse dog) has bitten me twice and barks at me from their window every time I visit the building. However, no one ever complains about the dog in the building because it’s a rougher area.
That’s not always going to be the case though. Sometimes you’re going to need to address this issue. The best way to handle this is to fix it before it starts. Have a pet clause in your lease as well as a noise clause that ensures all tenants in the building can have a reasonable expectation of quiet during certain hours of the day. There are also city ordinances you can fall back on. Make sure the tenant complaining gets evidence and as a last resort you can always evict.
#2. Parking Issues
Much simpler to handle but almost equally complained to us are parking issues. We like to try and let people figure this out for themselves first. We tell people when we lease to them how many spots they’re authorized. Most of the time this is all we need. Sometimes though certain buildings have issues, and we build it into the lease. You can also assign spots by plate number and then check on it when you do your regular building inspections.
#3. Smoking Weed
Every year I get less complaints about this due to the ever-increasing acceptance of marijuana use. They do still get reported though and you as the property owner will likely be put in a spot to make a choice.
In our state (Ohio) medical use is legal now. That said, if it’s a nuisance then it’s probably worth addressing with both parties. To the complaining party I tell them that it’s legal in Ohio now and it’s not my place to make the call if it’s being used illegally or not. I’m not a police officer. For the offending party, I tell them about the complaint and ask them if they are consuming to make sure to be respectful. Our tenants have been very receptive to this.
#4. Long Term Guests
This complaint can be difficult to prove so it’s worth taking your time dealing with it. Remind the offending tenant that there are max occupancy laws. You should also have a block in your lease that covers long term guests. Our lease says without prior written approval for a long-term stay, anyone over the age of 18 that is residing at the apartment for more than 5 days need to be on the lease. Also make sure to review your local laws on squatters. You’re going to want to catch that before it becomes a problem for you.
#5. Stomping Feet
This last one we get at least once a year. All of our buildings are 100+ years old. So, though we keep them modern, I can’t go back in time and make the walls and floors thicker. So, what do you do when someone is a stomper?
Well, the first thing is to figure out if the two tenants are having a conflict with one another. This is almost always the case. One doesn’t like the volume of the other’s TV or maybe the way they face their trash cans. If this is the case, try and mediate it the best you can. It helps to just talk things through with people. However, if this doesn’t resolve it, you’ll need to take more drastic measures. Obviously start with reminding them about the lease agreement, the right to everyone in the building for peace and quiet at certain hours. Sometimes that doesn’t end it though. In those cases, I have gone as far as telling both tenants the next report I get from either of them, that I’m not renewing either of their leases.
Being a landlord often requires that you’re a people person. You can certainly do this job without attempting to mediate situations. However, the more personable you are with your tenants, the easier it will be to solve these issues.
About the Author
Anthony Russell is a former United States Army Sergeant and current Property Leader. For the last decade he has refined the leadership training the Army gave him to develop a new Property Leadership methodology. Using empathetic leadership and the servant leader mindset, he has managed to keep repair costs low, and profits as well as tenant happiness high.