Marcus Lamonis, the star of the hit TV show, “The Profit”, is a master at optimizing the profitability of a business with his three-step methodology; evaluating and improving the product, people, and process of a business. As a landlord or property manager, you can deploy the same critical analysis and execution when it comes to handling reasonable requests.
Handling Reasonable Requests: Understand Your Product
Whether you have one property or a large portfolio, residential or commercial, upscale or low-income, the product you sell is in essence simply square footage rented in increments of time. But your assets are much more than physical.
Although you are busy juggling all the responsibilities of property management, take a moment to think about the property portfolio differently; or perhaps as you once did when you first began. For instance, reimagine commercial properties provide an opportunity of hope for a growing business, residential buildings not only house tenants but become home, and the storage units you provide protect precious memories, important documents, heirlooms, etc.
Changing how we view our ‘product’ can help us change perspective regarding the desires and needs of the renter making handling reasonable requests less burdensome.
Analyze Tenant Requests: Focus on The People
Whether you call them renters, leasees, tenants, or residents–the human component can make this industry fulfilling; not to mention interesting. Remember, an empty unit can’t pay the bills. Ultimately, how you manage tenant relations can make or break your profitability.
Is the customer always right? Of course not, but they always have a right to be heard, respected, and treated with kindness. In that, there is some room to entertain a negotiation, concession, or compromise. At the very least, recognizing that some requests are reasonable is a start.
Changing our attitudes about those we serve, will serve us well in terms of renter turn-over and reputation.
Evaluate Requests: Review The Process
Once we have evaluated our product and have created an environment of care for our residents, it’s time to look at the process for handling reasonable requests.
Get it in Writing
Whatever the request, it’s best to get it in writing. It speaks to the professionalism of your office and allows you to track those requests and concerns so that nothing slips through the cracks. This also ensures all requests and all tenants are treated fairly. No one wants a discrimination claim or he-said-she-said costly legal battle.
Most landlords today are moving away from physical paper requests and driving the process online. In that, most property management software will allow you to offer your renters a tenant portal giving them the ability to submit work orders. Consider using this tool to receive all requests, not just repair concerns.
For mobile-home parks, apartments, or HOA communities, consider providing a computer workstation in the clubhouse or other public location for residents to use. But be sure to also offer pre-printed forms for those who are not tech-savvy.
Check with local and state regulations as you may be required to accept email complaints and requests just as you would an online or printed form.
Reply to the Request
Create a habit of responding to tenant requests promptly. If your email provider or property management software allows, consider creating a template. Regardless of how you reply, remember to acknowledge the request specifically. If you can not give them an answer immediately, offer a timeline or let them know you’ll contact them as soon as possible. Remember to thank them or show your appreciation.
Communicate Progress or Final Decision
If you can not offer quick approval, update your tenant with a status; even if it’s a simple note. This will reduce inbound phone calls and/or office visits and builds trust with your residents; an important component to low turn-over rates.
Changing our process can improve our communication, build trust, and create efficiency in the workplace.
Tenant Requests for Approval
Let’s take a minute to consider the types of requests that come in that should get immediate attention.
According to the Federal Housing Urban Development (HUD), housing discrimination is illegal in nearly all housing, including private housing, public housing, and housing that received federal funding. The Fair Housing Act not only protects tenants from discrimination but also speaks to handling reasonable accommodation requests.
It is considered discrimination for a property owner to refuse to make reasonable accommodations for someone with a disability. If you receive a request for accommodations, take this seriously and prioritize it at the top of the list. There is a difference between reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications so being well informed is the best policy.
Repair requests should be considered reasonable until investigated to prove otherwise.
A renter has the right to expect a home in working condition, also known as Implied Warranty of Habitability. Be aware that some states allow tenants to hire someone to repair issues related to health and safety. Then they can deduct those costs from their rent due.
Whether by inspection or request, it may be in your best interest to address them before the tenant takes things into their own hands. In that way, you’ll have control over vendor selection, quality of repair, and costs.
Any item that has been broken by use or abuse should be repaired. It’s best to have trusted vendors already in place to investigate as needed before something more serious occurs.
In the case of abuse, you may be able to pass on the costs to the tenant if within your lease agreement and your state/local laws.
If it is from normal wear and tear, deferring maintenance can risk further damage and other unfavorable consequences.
Tenant Requests for Consideration
Consider why fulfilling the following requests might be a benefit, not a burden.
If you do not allow pets, there are many very good reasons to allow pets in your rental property to consider.
In the U.S. according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), about 85 million families own a pet. With sixty-eight percent of households owning a pet it may be time to reconsider your pet policy.
Activities can build a community and create a sense of belonging. Building community brings people together and this banding can help lower crime rates and again, tenant turnover.
If you manage a multi-family complex, it may be a good idea to approve (or initiate) activities such as yard sales, fundraisers, game nights, block parties, potlucks, and BBQs.
A request for an amenity might be a signal that a tenant is shopping around and potentially looking to move. It might be to your benefit to consider both out-of-the-box amenities and other requests such as a fenced-in yard, washer and/or dryer rental or hookups, air conditioning and/or ceiling fans, etc.
Handling Reasonable Request
Although not every request is reasonable, most requests should be reasonably considered and all requests should be handled professionally.
The role the tenant plays pays the bills. Finding reasons to approve tenant requests may just result in a win-win for everyone.