Keeping Tenants Happy #2: Open the Communications Channels
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Baxton.me
2 January 2018

Keeping Tenants Happy #2: Open the Communications Channels

It’s a sad fact that most tenants and landlords only get to talk to each other when they’re moving in or out, or when something goes wrong in between. And far too often it’s via an intermediary when seeking a dispute resolution. As part of a series on how landlords can keep tenants happy, Baxton Property Management in Hobart suggests ways to improve communications.

Silence is Not Always Golden

Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, you’ve probably experienced that uncomfortable feeling when you sense that something is about to happen, but you don’t know the whats, whens or whys of it. The grapevine is hinting at a change, but the jury is still out on whether the grapes are going to be sweet or sour. And that’s especially true when the information could hit you where it really hurts, by threatening your home or your wallet, depending which side of the tenancy agreement you are on.

Yet when you learn the facts, the real news is (or seems to be) better than the fake news your mind and the grapevine have created. Once you know what it is, it shrinks in size, and you can take action to deal with whatever it is.

It Takes Two to Communicate

Communication is a two-way street. When it comes to the landlord/tenant relationship, though, it’s often a street with so many broad islands in the middle that no-one can cross it. And hose islands aren’t sun-soaked, palm-edged beachy resorts. Instead they are inhabited by fears, preconceptions and misconceptions. According to surveys of Australian tenants, including those in Tasmania, a vast percentage claim to be too scared to approach their landlords or their agents, to ask for repairs or to renegotiate rents, for fear of eviction. And this is despite protection from eviction without a valid reason under Tasmanian law

By its nature, the rental system is based on strict regulations which impose responsibilities and obligations on both parties. Aimed at lessening the chance of disputes, and protecting both parties involved, when it’s mixed with a wide array of horrific urban legends, this system can result in fears on both sides regarding the other’s agenda.

One Side Needs the Other

Both sides need to realise that the rental property is vital to both the tenant and the owner. For tenants, although they don’t own it, it is their home. For owners, although they own it, it is not their home. But it may help them pay for their home, and is a very valuable asset. To reach a balance point in their relationship they both need to look at it for what it is.

Basically, renting out a building is like hiring out a washing machine or TV. It’s just a question of scale. What makes it more difficult and emotionally-charged is that it involves something as vital as the globally accepted right of all people to a home or shelter.  All “products” fulfil customers’ needs, in return for payment. The rental company, won’t be happy if the TV contract fee isn’t paid, or if the washing machine is damaged during the rental contract, and the company will be more than unhappy if it’s broken. It will probably cancel the contract, despite the repair costs involved and the cash lost before it finds someone else to hire it.

At the same time, the person renting these appliances would be furious if they couldn’t watch a popular TV series, or their washing was piling high, because the appliances they had hired didn’t work. And if this seems ridiculously simplistic when compared to a home, perhaps comparing the situation at a hotel or resort would be more appropriate. But all renting contracts have the same implied terms and conditions.

Don’t Waste Opportunities

Routine checks are often at the core of tenant/landlord disputes.  Yet they can create an opportunity to build a working relationship that can benefit both parties. By changing it from a policing role to a more interactive process, the focus would shift to being more for the good of the premises, not about judgingthe people in it. Tenants could be encouraged to mention some small glitch to the landlord when there’s still a chance to fix it before it ends up causing damage or a flood of anxious phone calls in the middle of the night. Or leave the landlord with a hefty repair bill.

The routine check is as much (or more) about the condition of the property as it is to do with getting some idea of how well the tenant is taking care of it. If the tenant mentions something they’ve noticed with regard to the property, that should be a gold star on their checklist, and if the landlord compliments them on how well they are doing, they will probably take even better care of it. Especially if the landlord’s positive approach allows them to free themselves of fears of blacklisting or eviction.

Keeping the Link Alive

Tenants will be happy if the owner, property manager or agent acknowledges their reports, or requests for repair. It also might buy the landlord a bit more time in the case of non-emergency repairs. And being kept up to date with progress on the repairs, dates of inspections and any other events, will also certainly pave the way to a happier rental relationship.

Baxton Property Management in Hobart, after 100 years of cumulative experience, is well aware of the dynamics involved in the tenant/landlord relationship. That’s why this Tasmanian management specialist is committed to providing information and ideas regarding it to both tenants and rental property owners. To find out more about the role property management services can play in dealing with those on both sides of the rental picture, contact Baxton.


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The information contained in this article is based on the authors opinion only and is of a general nature which is not indicative of future results or events and does not consider your personal situation or particular needs. Professional advice should always be sought relevant to your circumstances.

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