The real problem with “problem” tenants is YOU!
As I sip on my delicious warm soya Caramel Macchiato at the ever convenient M40 Oxford service, I reflect upon my day welcoming new tenants in Coventry.
If you assume a Welcome Meeting is where you introduce yourself, learn the tenants names, and then bugger off, I envy your innocence.
If you assume a Welcome Meeting is where you introduce yourself with a big smile, bring gifts galore and ask tenants if there is anything else they need. You are wrong. That is not a Welcome Meeting, that’s a suicide mission. Don’t do it.
As I have finished patching up my wounds from last year’s suicide missions welcome meetings, here’s some essential advice on how to conduct a successful welcome meeting.
I have a bad habit of trying to be mother hen and see student tenants as my little babies. If they want the sun, I want to give them the sun, moon, and stars. Anything to see a smile light up on their faces.
Since last year I said to myself “Man up Jess. This is business.”
Gone are my days of greeting people with hugs and smiles. Now it’s all about a sincere handshake blended with a “pleased to meet you” and impassive smile. I can smile and be warmer later, once the professional relationship and ground rules have been established.
Let them warm up to you as the meeting goes on.
If you become their best friend as soon as you walk through the door it is going to be extremely awkward when they ask you to provide cleaning products and toilet paper in 30 minutes time.
If you begin stern, it is less likely they will ask you for things that they normally ask their mum for. It also makes it easier to say “no” in the event that they do ask you for stupid things. If you begin stern (but fair), they will respect you more.
Set the ground rules immediately
The best piece of welcome meeting script I got given by my business partner is:
“Hi X, Y and Z. Welcome to your new home. For both our sakes it is important we have a good relationship during your stay. So before we start I am going to advise you of my pet hates, OK? Do not do any of the following:
- Ask me for additional furniture, lightbulbs, TVs, electrical items including microwaves and kettles
- Rearrange the furniture, damage it and then request I buy new stuff
- Let white goods get mouldy and then request we buy them new ones
This was all explained to you before you took the rooms and I am reiterating it now so we don’t have a problem in the future. Is everyone clear? *Pause and pray for silent head nods* Great. Now we can get to the good stuff…
Things I want you to ask me about:
- Issues with the heating or electrics
- If any leaks occur
- Anything you would call 999 for (but obviously call them first!)”
What you’ve done is plainly told them what their role is and what your role is. They now have a better understanding of what their responsibilities are and what you can do to ensure that they have an enjoyable stay in your property.
You teach people how to treat you
Whether you are self-managing or not, you want your tenants to understand when it is appropriate to contact you (or your agent) and when it is not.
When tenants contact you over trivial things it wastes your time. It also requires you to both, say “no”, and be branded an asshole of a landlord.
Or it requires you to buy new equipment. This costs you time, money and reinforces in their heads that if they ask you for something you will say yes. How many things can you afford to say yes to before it ruins your cash-flow and reserves?
Imagine if you have bought your tenants all the bits and bobs they have asked for and suddenly their is a disaster not covered by your house insurance. Where is the money left over to pay for the repairs once its all used up on presents and the minor things requested by your tenants.
You need to understand by saying no to certain requests you are protecting the tenants and yourself. Part of your net profit per month should be put in a separate pot for repairs, maintenance and emergencies.
If you accidentally spend this pot for example by purchasing a smaller bed for the tenants because “they want more space in their room” you are helping no one.
You may think by saying “yes” to all tenant requests you are being a good Landlord. You think it will make them like you. In return they will be lovely clean tenants. They will always pay their rent on time. They will never cause you hassle. Speaking from experience, this is a TERRIBLE belief. Get rid of it now!
Seriously, I know! Because in spite of constant warnings from my mentor, I thought I knew better. I thought he was just being unreasonable by denying so many simple requests and I paid dearly for ignoring his warnings.
Here is the reality: You are teaching tenants to treat you like their doormat with an unlimited bank account. This treatment reinforces in tenants that it is OK for them to act like a spoilt diva and demand what they think they are entitled to.
Here’s the crazy thing… if tenants and in fact any one else does act like a spoiled diva further on down the line, we only have ourselves to blame! People only know what they have been taught. Teach people with your actions.
Teach people with your actions at the very start. It is much harder to change the dynamics of a relationship once it has been established. This applies to all relationships in your life, not just relationships with tenants.
Be two steps ahead with your finances.
I assume in my cash-flow that I will not make a profit in the first month. The first month’s rent usually covers my set up costs such as furniture, minor repairs/renovations, safety certificates etc.
My business partner, who has well over 25 years’ experience in property, budgets £2000 a year for repairs, maintenance, and emergencies (obviously this figure is dependent on the type of property).
Having a budget also helps understand how much to put into the maintenance pot per month. Yes it will reduce the amount of net profit you can use for personal spending per month, but if an emergency strikes you can relax in the knowledge that the cash to resolve the problem is immediately accessible.
Hopefully you will still have funds in the pot to rollover onto next year. The idea of this pot is not to zero it out each year. It should slowly build up over time so when the property needs a new kitchen, bathroom, boiler or windows replacing in three years time, the money is there.
- Begin professionally: It sets a precedent for the relationship
- Put it out there straight away: Do not allow them to have unrealistic expectations of what you are willing to provide. It is not worth the hassle.
- Teach them how to treat you: Actions speak louder than words. Do not be afraid to say “No” to their ‘it would be nice to have’ requests. It will save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
- Be two steps ahead of your finances: Put money in a special pot for repairs, maintenance and emergencies. Let this pot build up over the years. Again, it will save you hassle in the long run.
I really enjoyed writing this post. I cannot begin to describe the hassle it caused me when I naively did the opposite of all these points. If you have any questions about the above please feel free to post them in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them.
Is niceness really a problem or is our writer making a mountain out of a mole hill? Does the phrase treat them mean, keep them keen only apply to certain dating situations or does it apply to other areas too?
How to deal with the uncomfortable “problem” of niceness takes the opposite approach and if you think you understand where you should and shouldn’t be nice then take our customer services boffin quiz to find out just how good you are at working with people.
For Further Reading:-
Danielle Lavieri’s insightful blog on people pleasing
Join the Discussion:-
Surprise! Being nice…..