CategoriesRental Property

A Landlord’s Guide to Tenant Conflict Mediation


Your tenants aren’t speaking except to call each other names. How is this possible? You carefully screened everyone before offering them a lease. How can people with excellent credit scores, spotless tenant histories, and no criminal records not get along? Sadly, it happens somewhere every day. And this time it’s happening on your property. But don’t despair. We’re sharing practical advice for mediation to help you resolve these sorts of inevitable conflicts.

You’ll not only know how to mediate them but also how to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence.

Show Caution Regarding Disputes

Our discussion revolves around disputes that are among even the most well-behaved people. This article doesn’t address conflicts involving illegal behavior or that pose an imminent danger to others. For example, our advice can be used when a tenant plays music too loudly. But it is not meant to cover a situation where the noise is a resident firing a weapon.

Do not use tenant remediation to try to resolve deadly situations. Leave such matters to the proper authorities.

Stop Conflict Before it Begins

You may offer the best amenities and superb maintenance, but your tenants will flee at the first opportunity if they find themselves constantly in conflict with a difficult neighbor. So, resolving tenant conflicts quickly can keep matters from escalating. You don’t want to lose renters, nor do you want to face possible legal complaints.

You don’t want tenant conflict to be partly your fault. How could it be your fault? If you don’t tell tenants what is and is not permissible, you’re partly to blame for any resulting disagreements.

Make Your Tenant Expectations Clear

Suppose you don’t make it clear if pets are allowed. And if pets are permitted, you don’t specify what kind of pets and how many. What keeps another neighbor from owning a large aggressive dog? And what’s to prevent someone from housing a dozen venomous snakes?

Establish guidelines for your tenants. The lease agreement should state clearly forbidden activities, such as creating an unreasonable amount of noise.

The lease should also state the tenant’s rights as afforded by current local and state laws. Discuss the lease with the tenants before they sign it. You want to make sure that they don’t overlook anything. This also gives you a great opportunity to emphasize points of particular interest. Don’t let the tenants leave that initial meeting without taking a copy of his lease and their list of rights and requirements.

Communicate with Residents

Keep the lines of communication open with your tenants. Get to know them. If you’re an absentee landowner, make sure your property management company stays in touch with the residents.

If the tenants feel that management is out of reach, problems with fester. Instead of mentioning a matter before it gets out of hand, people will remain silent until they can tolerate the situation no further. That’s when conflict can boil over into verbal and even physical altercations between residents.

On the other hand, if the tenants feel they can speak openly with management, they’ll alert you to problems during the early stages. This will give you a chance to defuse a matter before it grows.

Resolving Matters

Mediation means serving as a neutral middle person between two factions. But it only works if you can remain completely neutral. Your role isn’t that of a referee. You’re not there to proclaim a winner and a loser, such as in a boxing match. Instead, your goal is to help both sides better understand the other. If you’re successful, you can help the parties resolve the matter without involving legal threats.

When tenants are in conflict, the stress can disrupt your office. To avoid being thrown off course by every argument that arises, establish a standard operating procedure. Have a checklist you follow. If you have a step-by-step instruction manual, you’ll be better able to keep calm and professional.

Set up a similar program for the tenants. If tenants know how to file a complaint, there’s less chance they will directly confront a neighbor, which can worsen the situation.

Keep excellent records of all communication related to the conflict. It’s therefore advantageous to try to get the tenants to put their complaints in writing, whether by email, text, or paper.

You also want to document spoken communication. However, do not record any conversation unless it’s permissible in your state. It’s best to consult an attorney. Lawyers can help you avoid breaking the law. For instance, they will know whether you need authorization from the tenant to record the conversation or if you only need to forewarn them that you’re recording.

If a recording is not legal or practical, make sure that you never meet alone with the tenants involved in the dispute. This includes video chats. Always have someone else present. Preferably, you want someone who can take comprehensive notes of the meeting. The person doesn’t have to be a professional stenographer but should be accurate and reliable. Online software may also be an option for taking meeting notes.

Notes will be worth the trouble should the tenant feud end in court. You will be thankful to have documents showing the professional lengths you went to try to reach a fair and peaceful resolution. The notes could also play a role in clearing you of any slanderous accusations of intimidation or threats.

Listen patiently to the tenant with the complaint. Be aware that when people are upset, they often become irrational. So the upset party may make insulting remarks about you and your style of property and tenant management. It’s crucial that you remain calm and be a voice of reason. Do not counterattack with insults. And don’t feel the need to defend yourself again every petty remark the complainant next. Instead, allow them to talk without interruption.

If you give them a chance to talk uninterrupted, much of their hostility will dissipate. Once a person believes that someone is listening to them and taking their situation seriously, they’re more likely to calm down.

Once they have made their case, don’t immediately present the solution. You want to take the time to_ the fact that you have been paying close attention. You do this by carefully summarizing what you’ve just heard. Begin with something along the lines of “If I understand you correctly…” and then proceed to recap what the person said. This summarization is a way for you to make sure you’re getting a clear picture of the complaint. It also assures the tenant that you understand the seriousness of the situation.

Make no promises about the resolution other than that you promise to look into the matter immediately. That will reassure the complainant that the issue will not drag on and on.

But they will be anxious to know when they can expect to hear from you. So, give them a day and time when you’ll contact them to offer an update.

Arranging for a future conversation can keep the tenant from wondering if you’re accomplishing anything. And it protects you from the likelihood of the tenant continually bombarding your office with the same complaint.

Next, contact the accused and show them the same respect you exhibited toward the complainant. Unemotionally, bring up the accusation. Then quietly wait while the person responds.

Again, be prepared to be the target of insults. No one enjoys being accused of anything and it’s therefore likely to react in a negative manner. Reassure the person that you’re only trying to get their side of the story. Follow the same interview style you used with the complainant, recapping the testimony for verification.

If it becomes apparent during the conversation that there was a violation of the tenant rules, continue to treat the person with dignity. This is not the time for sarcasm and insults. Simply remind the person of the particular guideline they violated. Do not threaten. Ask them if they think it would be possible for them to work under this restriction.

When you take this line of approach, it’s less likely the tenant will see you as an adversary. You want them to see you as a helper or a counselor. If overall, the tenant has been excellent, you no doubt want to keep them on the property. Make sure that the tenant is aware of your positive feelings toward them. You don’t want an otherwise good tenant to feel they’re being harassed or they’re no longer desired.

And there’s always the possibility that the complainant was wrong in their interpretation of events. Perhaps it was all a misunderstanding. The second tenant would think more highly of you if you never accused them but simply listened to their side of the story with an open mind.

Common Complaints

Most of the complaints a landlord will receive fall into only a few categories. For example, expect to receive complaints about noise on multi-family properties.

It’s inevitable that a tenant will get a little loud while celebrating a holiday, birthday, engagement, or other milestone. And if your facility welcomes tenants with kids, there will be a few unhappy neighbors when the five-year-olds begin running and squealing during a water gun fight.

Another common complaint deals with parking. Typically, a tenant’s guest will park in the spot reserved for another resident. Sometimes the problem is a tenant taking an extra parking spot for a new vehicle.

The issue can seem trivial, but in a car culture, a parking spot can take on added meaning. People sometimes view unauthorized use of their parking area as a personal insult. And sometimes they feel they have to retaliate to maintain their dignity.

We’re all taught to share when we’re kids, but some adults often toss that teaching away. So, you’ll encounter tenants who can’t share the pool, gym, tennis courts, or other facilities without arguing. The conflict often involves how long someone is allowed to use the amenity or how many guests a tenant can invite to use the facilities at a time.

If there’s one other thing you can count on to make tempers flare, it’s property damage. Sometimes it’s fender benders and scratches. At other times, it might be broken flowerpots and stolen toys.

A Typical for Tenant Feuds

Cultural differences can lead to conflict. For example, when it comes to noise, each culture may have its own view.

One culture may be private. Any celebration would be lowkey and without fanfare.

In contrast, the neighbor may come from a culture where people are more exuberant and love to share their good fortune with a huge celebratory party. In either case, no one intends to offend. But, when people don’t understand each other, they can jump to the wrong conclusions.

You can reduce the likelihood of cultural conflicts with get-togethers where the neighbors have a chance to introduce themselves and learn about each other. Once they have a better idea of each other, they’ll be less likely to project bad motives to the other person.

Get Help with Mediation

Do you feel that you’re now ready to handle any tenant conflict that comes your way? Or would you rather not deal with any disputes?

The only way to avoid conflict is to place someone in charge of managing your property, such as Reedy and Company. We have in place time-tested procedures for handling misunderstandings between residents. And our company would be more than happy to apply its experience to make your property run smoothly and peacefully.

So let someone else handle your tenant mediation. Give us a call today to put the matter in our hands.