WARNING: KEEP YOUR DISTANCE: Tenant on Tenant Conflict Ahead
If you own rental property it is inevitable that at some point you are going to experience conflict between tenants. Tenant vs tenant drama can be a serious issue that can undermine all the great work you do as a property owner. All the timely maintenance responses and top-notch communication can be undone in an instant if an internal conflict creates great discomfort. At Nexus Property Management®, we pride ourselves on our communication and strategies for resolving conflicts. From tenant parking issues, to storage and common area conflicts, to arguments over loud music and even cooking spices...we’ve seen it all. In general, adherence to a couple basic steps will help you decrease and manage the negative fallout that often comes with these inevitable disputes.
STEP 1: Stay Out Of It
For whatever reason, in our society it's become all too normal to rely on others to solve our problems for us. We hear this from the police officers as well as from school teachers out on the recess yard. More and more, people are looking to have someone in authority make a decision for them. Well, don’t fall for it in this case. The first step when it comes to conflict between tenants is to encourage the tenants to talk and try to resolve their differences themselves. One of our favorite responses when tenants bring an issue to us is, “...yeah, I could see where that could be an issue...What did the tenant say when you asked them about it”? More often than not that step has been skipped. Remind the tenant that they can choose one of three options they are most comfortable with:
- Knocking on their door
- Leaving a note on their door
- Texting or calling them
In this way, you are letting the tenant know what the expectation is and you are providing simple guidance to help move them down that path.
When the property owner gets involved it ups the ante, tenants dig their heels in, and more often than not you end up being forced to take a side, which can cause big problems down the road. The goal of any conflict is to try to find a win-win solution...and this is much easier when the two parties engage and you are able to remove yourself and stay neutral.
STEP 2: See Step One
In all honesty, the tenants may be unable to come to a win-win solution on their own. Encouraging them to work out a compromise (remember, the first time you just asked them to talk to each other rather than to you) can be an effective reminder that it’s up to them to solve this. Unless someone is breaking the lease in some way, the property owner doesn’t have any magic powers to change people’s behavior...so don’t get trapped by that expectation. If you get the feeling that someone is breaking the law, this then becomes an issue for law enforcement, but the goal is to deescalate whenever possible.
STEP 3: Help Decrease Friction
If tenants have worked at resolving the conflict but are no closer and you fear it may lead to issues going forward, it may then be necessary to help the parties communicate more clearly and effectively. Although you may elect to take this path where you are more active, it’s important to note that you’re just trying to help them talk to each other--you’re not offering a decision or solution yourself (unless you can convince the tenant that it was their idea in the first place).
NEXUS PRINCIPLE: THINK LONG TERM
Nexus Property Management® has a lot of experience with conflicts and we acknowledge that there’s no one-size fits all recipe for success. But when it comes to Nexus policy and protocol there are guiding principles that we adhere to when making tough decisions. This scenario is one where it is essential to THINK LONG TERM to avoid taking a step that leads to negative outcomes and even worse, incentivizes the same actions down the road. For example, if you were to intervene on the side of one of the tenants right away, to put this issue behind you quickly, what do you think that tenant is doing next time even the slightest issue arises??? All of a sudden the smallest things are being brought to you and you’ve taught the tenant to expect a solution courtesy of YOU. This is inefficient and unsustainable. It’s not why you own property and its not how you maximize your time.
You’ve got to THINK LONG TERM in all that you do as a business or property owner. At Nexus, thinking long term leads us to approach every conflict like this as an opportunity to educate the parties involved. If they can resolve this issue on their own, experience has shown that the next time something similar arises, we won’t even hear about it.
Mick Lefort is the Vice President of Operations for Nexus Property Management®. A National Property Management Franchise that manages all types of rental property from single family homes or condos to large apartment buildings and complexes.
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