Titan Properties USA

Landlords can expect two things to be true: The profit potential is exceptional, and tenants will have complaints. 

Homeownership comes with natural ups and downs, with the ongoing hassle of maintenance issues, frustrating neighbors, and even occasional financial hardship. As a landlord, you get to handle these issues as they arise for your tenants, so knowing how to handle tenant complaints and concerns is essential.

We’ll walk you through common tenant concerns, a step-by-step process of addressing complaints, and what you can do to prevent issues proactively. 

Step-by-Step Process for Dealing with Tenant Complaints

Tenant complaints are an important part of a landlord’s job, but this step-by-step process can help keep tenants happy and yourself protected, with plenty of documentation and a clear approach to resolving issues in an appropriately timely manner. 

1. Acknowledge receipt of the complaint 

The first thing a landlord should do is notify the tenant they’ve received the complaint. This puts tenants at ease, as they can rest assured you are aware of the problem and actively working on figuring out a solution. 

2. Investigate the issue 

Get as much information as possible about the issue at hand. 

If the tenant is complaining about a roach infestation, for example, call an exterminator to identify the problem and offer solutions.

If they’re complaining about a noisy neighbor (and another tenant), try to learn more about when the neighbor is loud, what kind of noise they’re making, and whether the noise level is legally acceptable according to local ordinances. 

3. Communicate findings 

Report your initial findings back to the tenant, explaining what you’ve discovered. If they’ve been complaining about the AC blowing hot air, for example, let them know what the HVAC specialist explained was the core issue. If you can’t offer a solution at this point, let your tenants know when they’ll hear additional information from you and what’s involved, such as scheduling a repair appointment or getting quotes from companies. 

4. Create a resolution plan and timeline 

Find a resolution to the problem at hand, and start to put it into place. Let your tenants know what the solution will be, and by what time frame they can expect the issue to be resolved. Keep in mind that some issues—particularly emergency maintenance or safety issues—may have tight time frames and legal requirements you must follow. 

5. Resolve and document the issue 

Follow through on the resolution. Carefully document your solution and its implementation, including the tenant’s acknowledgement of the resolution. Let them know how to follow up for continued issues. 

Common Tenant Complaints (With Tips for Resolution)

When it comes to tenant complaints, there are a few common concerns that landlords face regularly. Let’s discuss the most common renter concerns and look at a few tips for resolution. 

Maintenance issues

Maintenance issues are one of the most common and significant tenant complaints that landlords need to tackle. They can range from minor issues like damaged paint or pool chemicals that need balancing to severe safety concerns that occur when a furnace stops working in the middle of a blizzard. 

These tips can help with a quick resolution:

  • Have good relationships with specialists, including HVAC specialists, plumbers, and electricians.
  • Provide clear expectations regarding standard timelines based on the type of maintenance issues; some are emergent and others not. 
  • Encourage tenants to alert you as soon as they suspect there may be a potential concern so you can address it before it becomes emergent. 

Noise complaints

Noise complaints can be frustrating for tenants and landlords alike—especially because it’s ultimately something landlords may not have full control over. Landlords may have sway over noise levels of nearby properties that they own, as they can require tenants to maintain respectful noise levels during certain hours. If they don’t, however, it can become a civil dispute between the tenant and their neighbors. 

To help resolve noise complaints, landlords can preemptively share noise restrictions or quiet hours with tenants. You can also reach out to tenants with noise complaints early to hopefully resolve the issue quickly.

Pest infestations

Pests can vary from annoying to nightmarish to downright dangerous. A few harmless spiders can be frustrating, but a yellow jacket infestation for someone allergic to wasps can be deadly. 

Pest infestations should be dealt with promptly with a professional exterminator. Request that tenants let you know as soon as they suspect a potential problem so you can engage a pest control service early. 

Safety concerns

Safety concerns are a significant tenant issue when they arise, and may include:

  • Inability for tenants to secure their home, such as broken locks, doors, or windows
  • Maintenance issues creating safety hazards, including exposed wiring
  • Hazardous environments, including untreated mold or pest infestations in the home
  • Improper home ventilation 

Conducting proper safety inspections before a tenant moves in can help identify and address potential safety concerns. Safety concerns should be addressed as urgently as possible, and can be considered emergent complaints. 

Communication issues

Communication is a crucial part of a positive landlord and tenant relationship, and some tenants will complain if they feel open or regular communication is lacking. They may feel frustrated, for example, if they aren’t notified about upcoming inspections or maintenance far enough in advance to request time off to be present.

Communicate with your tenants regularly. Aim to provide as much advanced notice as possible for any changes, upcoming maintenance, or inspections. Try to respond within 24 business hours for nonurgent tenant requests. 

Proactive Strategies to Prevent Tenant Complaints

Heading off tenant complaints is often much less stressful than actually having to deal with them. Here are a few proactive strategies that can stop tenant complaints before they happen. 

Conduct thorough move-in inspections

Landlords should hold thorough property inspections with tenants before they actually move in to the property. During this process, document the current condition of the property, including any ongoing maintenance concerns. This can prevent later disputes about damage to the property and whether the tenant was responsible. Check out our landlord’s move-in checklist for more.

Perform regular property maintenance

Preventative property maintenance is much easier, more convenient, and often more cost-effective than making emergent repairs. Conducting regular property maintenance and inspections can reduce surprise repairs down the road, and can include:

  • Roof inspections
  • HVAC maintenance and cleaning 
  • Draining the water heater 
  • Proactive pest inspections and prevention 
  • Clear fallen leaves from gutters 

Clearly communicate property expectations

Clear, open communication is essential to reducing tenant complaints later down the line. You can set these expectations:

  • How to request maintenance or cite future concerns
  • Maintenance that you will and won’t cover; you’ll fix an HVAC system, for example, but you may require that the client pays a fee to cover pool cleaning 
  • Timelines for different types of maintenance requests
  • Expectations for maintaining the state of the property
  • Any property rules, including those that help you abide by HOA or local ordinances 

Handling Difficult Tenants and Unreasonable Complaints

Sometimes you may find yourself on the receiving end of an unreasonable complaint from a stubborn renter. They may demand, for example, that you repaint the interior of the home they’ve already lived in for two years when it’s in fine condition. Or they may try to insist that a single spider inside means that the home requires a full pest treatment. 

When this happens, it’s important to protect yourself. Make sure you do the following:

  • Document all interactions and incidents, including proposed resolutions or reasons why you won’t offer additional solutions. Make sure these are trackable, and ask for documentable tenant acknowledgement. 
  • Be firm, holding your ground as needed and never offering solutions that you may not intend to follow through with later on. 
  • Reiterate your policies, referring back to the lease agreement you’ve both signed.
  • Seek legal advice for complex situations as needed, especially if the tenant threatens legal action or refuses to continue paying rent.

In some cases, difficult tenants will attempt to get their way by refusing to pay rent. If this happens, you’ll need to follow standard eviction protocols.  This means it’s always a good idea to start off with great tenants to begin with. 

Final Thoughts

Tenant complaints are an inevitable part of being a landlord. Some landlords prefer to work with a property management company that will handle most renter concerns directly, creating a buffer between the landlord and tenant. 

That said, landlords who do work directly with renters should take steps to proactively prevent as many complaints as possible and have plans in place for when concerns arise. Being prepared is an enormous asset, and both you and your tenants will be grateful for it when problems arise.

Save time and money with this refreshing guide to managing your own properties.

In The Self-Managing Landlord, Amelia McGee and Grace Gudenkauf share the secrets of efficient property management, tenant screening and onboarding, and scaling your business—all to help you break free from the 9-to-5 grind and create lasting wealth through real estate.

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.

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