Getting Tenants to Do What You Want, Pt. II

The secret on getting tenants to do what you want: Show genuine interest to them first.

An elderly lady sat thinking in the kitchen.

So how do you get people to actually do what you want them to do? Well, obviously, if people base their decisions on their relationship with you (or your business, in this case), you gain influence over other people by being?  trustworthy/likeable/worthy of respect. In the case of getting tenants to do what you want want them to, that means you as a landlord/property management company have to:

• Do more than your tenants expect from a landlord. It’s easy to be “the people that call if the rent is late” and very little else, especially if nothing really goes wrong with a given tenant/property. But that’s not a way to build respect and likeability – instead, doing small things like sending a welcome package, calling every few months just to check and see if there are any minor maintenance issues they haven’t reported yet, or sending a birthday card can go a long way without costing you anything.
• Do everything your tenants expect from their landlord. This is important, because if you do all of the extra stuff above, but then you don’t get a broken window taken care of efficiently, or you send an eviction notice even after the tenant has called ahead and warned you of an upcoming late rent payment, you lose all of the goodwill you’ve built up. This depends a lot on context – covering an area from the blight-ridden ‘dead zones’ of outer Detroit to the happy suburbs of Birmingham and Grosse Pointe, we’ve seen a lot of context.
• Do everything you say you’re going to do, whether your tenants expected it from you or not. This is just basic trustworthiness – don’t make promises unless you’re sure you can keep them.
• And perhaps most importantly of all, communicate empathy. The single worst thing you can do for any relationship, whether it’s tenant/landlord, spouse/spouse, teacher/student, employer/employee, or even stranger/stranger, is come across to the other person like you don’t care about the things they care about. That means you have to listen well enough to figure out what they care about, which can seem like it’s less important than doing whatever landlordery you’re currently doing when they call – but in the long run, putting the issue aside and paying attention to the person is going to mean that the person will think more highly of you.

The Caveats
There are two important caveats here, though.
• First, no amount of ‘good relationship’ with a particular tenant is going to magically overcome an unavoidable outside influence or circumstance. If a tenant has lost their job and has no income, the fact that they respect and like you may inspire them to call you and tell you what’s up, but it can’t create money in their wallet.
• Second, mistakes and miscommunications happen. Sometimes, people just lose track of things, or they come across in text in a way they never suspected they would because they can hear their own voice in their head and they totally didn’t mean it like that! So be prepared to acknowledge a mistake or a miscommunication, forgive, and move on.

That’s it – that’s the scientifically-validated way to get tenants (or anyone else!) to do what you want them to. Be a business (or person) that people want to please, and people will try to please you. Be a business that people are afraid of, and they will do exactly what they have to in order to avoid dealing with you as much as possible (and nothing more). Be a business that people hate, and they will actively work against you, no matter how fresh your carrots or how spiky your sticks.

Posted in: 1. Property Owner Blog Posts, Managing Rentals

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