Every landlord faces conflict at some point in their career. Whether it’s a minor dispute over noise or a major legal entanglement, conflict is unavoidable.
You can prepare for tenant disputes by learning some basic conflict resolution strategies. It’s to your benefit to resolve a conflict before it escalates—neither you or your tenants want to sit in court or pay expensive legal fees. Skip the courtroom by getting to the heart of every issue as quickly as possible.
It could be that your behavior or policies really is unfair to your tenants. Or, if not, there could be an easy compromise. You’ll never know until you sit down with your tenant and hear them out.
Here are five tips for resolving landlord-tenant conflicts without legal involvement.
- Know the Law
Before you engage with an upset tenant, make sure you know the law. You can’t argue your position if you’ve inadvertently broken the law. Memorize which laws apply in your state and fully understand the terms of their enforcement.
Be sure you know the following in your state:
- Lease regulations and required disclosures
- Rent regulations
- Security deposit and late fee limits
- Entry laws
- Fair housing laws (including the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and additional state protections).
- Eviction procedures
Your legal knowledge will help you remain objective and impartial during conflicts. Tenants are more likely to stand down when they realize you know the laws in place and haven’t broken any of them. A tenant angered by a rent increase can’t argue with a law clearly permitting it.
- Refer to the Lease Agreement
The lease agreement is a binding document both you and your tenants signed. The first thing you should do when any conflict arises is to refer to the lease.
If the lease agreement doesn’t clear up the issue, it may be because the problem was unexpected or unforeseeable. In this case, you might need to write a lease addendum or amendment.
You can write and distribute these legal documents directly on your property management software account. However, you can’t enforce any new rules until your tenants sign them or the lease term is up.
- Listen to the Tenant’s Perspective
In any argument, both sides want to be heard.
The best thing you can do to reduce conflict before resorting to arguing is to listen to the tenant’s perspective. They may have valid points or specific reasons for their claims. You may even learn about special circumstances or stressors you could easily alleviate. You’ll never know until you take the time to listen.
After your tenant has made their grievances, repeat them back in your own words. This demonstrates that you understood their perspective and position. Only then should you reiterate any laws, legal documents, or other conditions.
- Use Mediation
What happens when an argument persists? Don’t resort to litigation just yet. Instead, consider enlisting the help of a third-party mediator.
Mediation is a legal tool used to resolve disagreements. Mediators cannot make legal decisions like judges can. Rather, they simply help both parties communicate and come to a mutually recognized solution.
Both you and your tenant must agree to use a mediator. Mediation is usually successful because both parties are willing to cooperate to find a solution. It’s also free of legal pressure and flexible enough for you and your tenant to discuss matters beyond the initial complaint. You may bring up anything that could be relevant to the dispute, including patterns of behavior or other strains on the relationship.
Mediation services for housing disputes are available in many cities and communities at low costs. Call your city manager, mayor, or other local authority to get in touch with the person who handles such disputes.
- Put Any New Agreements in Writing
As soon as you and your tenant come to an agreement, be sure to put it in writing. Just like the original lease agreement, this new contract can save you further trouble down the line. It also shows that you’re serious about making any changes you promised you would.
Managing Conflict in Your Rental Business
It’s impossible to please all your tenants all the time. Conflicts will occur, but anyone can become a calm and skilled negotiator with the right preparation. By understanding the law, being a good listener, and seeking help when necessary, you will handle tenant disputes with grace.
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