Dealing with tenant complaints

Geoff Roberts
| 4 min. read
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Published on June 29, 2009

Whether you’re dealing with a tenant who files complaints rarely or frequently, due diligence is always essential. Tracking and addressing tenant complaints in a timely manner is important not only for keeping your tenants safe and happy, but also for protecting yourself and your property in the long run.

1. Encourage tenants to come to you.
As with maintenance, tenants should be encouraged to come to you with any complaints they may have as quickly as possible. Sure, there might be some tenants that overuse this privilege, but the vast majority will not. Provide a number they can call at all hours—and be sure the number’s voicemail includes an emergency number callers can utilize during off-hours.

2. Create (and use) an official tenant complaint form.
Although it may seem unnecessary at times, tracking each and every tenant complaint is important. These forms will provide a record of the situation and what you did to mend it and also, in some cases, provide yet another way for you to record repairs and upgrades that have been completed in each unit. On this form you’ll want to include the date of the complaint, the tenant’s name and unit, and the nature of the complaint. You’ll also want to record resolution action items, the date the issue was resolved, and how it was resolved.

Since we just talked about eviction last week, this seems like a good time to point out that, in some states, tenants may be justified in non-payment of rent if complaints are not resolved. Tracking tenant complaints is a surefire way to make sure you avoid precisely this sort of situation.

3. Resolve the issue as soon as possible.
Every landlord should have a list of contractors ready to call on short notice. Even though some issues are too big or complex to be fixed immediately, having loyal contractors who will push you to the top of their list should the need arise is key to resolving problems quickly. It also benefits you; in some cases, the faster a repair is made, the less damage ultimately occurs.

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4. Follow up with tenants.
Always make sure you let tenants know when a complaint has been resolved or closed out—even if the resolved issue seems like one that will be blatantly obvious to them. And if you find yourself in a situation where a complaint cannot be resolved immediately, be sure to let your tenants know that you’re on the case, where you’re at in the process, and when they can expect to have the problem remedied.

5. Handling tenant interpersonal issues.
With all of this in mind, it’s important to remember that some tenant complaints involve interpersonal issues rather than repairs and maintenance. For example, at some point, most landlords will have to deal with tenants complaining about other noisy tenants. Although it may be uncomfortable, dealing with this sort of complaint is just as important as dealing with maintenance and repairs. Begin by speaking with the tenant in question; be sure to include a clause in your lease agreements that clearly states behavioral expectations so that you can point back to that in such situations. If the problem continues, it’s time to start writing official warnings. And if the issue still persists, you may be forced to look at alternatives such as eviction.

In the end, dealing with tenant complaints boils down to two main elements: keeping your tenants happy and keeping your property safe and in good repair. Although tenant complaints may sometimes be a bit trying, staying on top of them is always in the best interest of your business.

Read more on Resident Management
Geoff Roberts
Geoff Roberts

Geoff is a marketer, surfer, musician, and writer. He lives in San Diego, CA.

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