The secret to having dream tenants
Martin Grunstein’s presentation at this year’s #REIQSummit was not only incredibly memorable, but also provided attendees with a new insight into property management.
While there were many take-home moments from this session, one statement that resonated with me was this: ‘people act the way they are treated’. Martin used an example of a large chain hotel where every item in the room is bolted down and the guests are made to hand over their credit cards in case they run away without paying their bill. At the opposite end of the spectrum is a small Bed & Breakfast which treats guests like family members and has never had anything stolen or a bill unpaid.
If we could bring this mindset to the rental space, I wonder if the industry might be a little different? Of course, we must always prioritise our owner clients’ interests and ensure all legal documentation is completed. However, is the way that tenants are generally treated contributing to the volume of disputes that is clogging up our legal system and giving headaches to property managers and investors? Most disputes stem from miscommunication and tenants feeling like they are being treated unfairly. At the end of the day, it’s not actually about money; it’s about all parties being heard and respected.
There is no denying that a small percentage of tenants choose to do the wrong thing, and there are consequences for this. However, most tenants are like you and me – they want a nice home to live in, and to be treated respectfully. In return, they will take care of the property and work with us to resolve any issues that may arise.
What is interesting is that the same tenants who may be perfectly reasonable and cooperative at one property, can turn into a nightmare for the next property owner. How can this be? The answer is simple – people act the way they are treated.
This relationship starts when we are advertising for new tenants. A well-written ad with professional photographs portrays a good first impression and shows the rental market that we respect our properties and our future tenants. At the viewing, which is often the first person-to-person interaction we have with future tenants, they will take our lead and act according to how we treat them. If they love the property but don’t like the agent, they may still take the property, but the relationship will start on a bad foundation which is very hard to change.
Once tenants are placed, we need to advise our owner clients that the tenants are now their customers and as such they have consumer rights just like they have when they buy a product or service. Most property owners understand that they must keep their properties maintained, but the key is how quickly maintenance issues are resolved. Attending to maintenance as soon as it is reported shows the tenant that the owner respects and appreciates them being great tenants – and that’s exactly what they will become, even if they weren’t at the start.
Isn’t it interesting how we often come across fantastic owners who just happen to have fantastic tenants? I don’t think this is a coincidence. The owner starts off the relationship on a good foundation by ensuring the property is well-maintained and in turn, the tenant responds favourably by ensuring that rent is a priority and the property is looked after.
Of course, we as managing agents have a huge part to play. In all of our communication to tenants, we are representing the owner and as such we must take care to treat the tenants with respect, as this will have flow-on effects in what kind of customer the tenant turns out to be.
It is important for owners to understand that acknowledging the tenant’s feelings is in no way an indication that we are on their side, or even that we agree with them. It is simply the first step in forging a good working relationship with their tenants, so that we can resolve issues on their behalf.
Anyone can be a Property Manager – but a good property manager understands customer service and can achieve amazing results for all parties. Our job is to ensure communication is optimised to all parties, while providing reassurance, acknowledgment, and respect to all.
Call me an idealist, but if this level of communication and understanding began at the start and throughout every tenancy, no matter what situation arose, perhaps QCAT wouldn’t be so busy, our jobs would be a little easier and the ‘tenants of our dreams’ might just become a reality.
Food for thought.