Tenant Conversations: How to Deliver Bad News Without Ruining the Day

Last Updated: July 17, 2014By

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Supply and demand economics dictate price points for residential rental properties – the lower the availability numbers, the higher the base rent. Economics 101 – right? But, supply and demand also pose a few negative challenges for property owners and managers.

To understand how too many apartment seekers and low inventory is problematic for some property managers, consider the challenges apartment complex owners in Houston, Texas face.  Increased drilling activity has thousands of new residents pouring into the region seeking high-paying jobs – and a place to live when they aren’t punching the proverbial time clock.

A recent KHOU.com news article reveals that apartment owners should brace themselves for a 22% increase in property valuations for 2014 – based on market availability and the tidal wave of new residents flooding the area. With such a drastic increase, Houston property owners must evaluate what portion of that increase to pass along to current and prospective tenants.

Adjusting rental rates drastically could alienate loyal tenants. There’s a good article here about raising rates in general, but there are myriad potentially upsetting circumstances that pop up every day that some would label as “bad news”.  Broken water mains, parking lot resurfacing that translates into limited parking for several days, extended pool closures and more serious situations like asbestos and mold remediation that temporarily displace residents are just a few examples.

So how do you deliver bad news without damaging relationships?

Don’t procrastinate.  Notify all stakeholders – residents, employees, vendors and owners – as quickly as you become aware of a problem.

Claim ownership. Although many loudly proclaim “don’t shoot the messenger”, this is no time to skirt responsibility. The most effective way to address potential conflict is to claim ownership outright. The messenger may not have created the problem, but a quick resolution requires whomever delivers the message to accept responsibility.

Managers can support their staff by giving them complete details about the situation so they can respond to resident questions. Even something as benign as a temporary water outage can provoke rumors about property management companies failing to pay utility bills.

Be concise. Whether you have an issue with a single resident or want to broadcast a property-wide message, deliver your bulletin with confidence and clarity. Focus your message on solutions and benefits, but don’t avoid negative elements.

How you handle negative circumstances influences perceptions.

The most effective way to deliver bad news without compromising relationships is to prepare before a situation arrives. At your next staff meeting, open the floor to your employees to discuss what worked and what didn’t work in the past when you faced challenging predicaments.

Design templates that allow you to get messages to residents quickly. Whether you use email and text alerts, an automated telephone system or post messages to social media, a template saves time and allows employees to focus on solutions, not problems.

  • Start with an introduction that includes both a benefit and a potential objection. (Your tenant may want the water back on immediately; however allowing repair contractors to get the job done correctly means there won’t be new problems in the future)
  • Follow the introduction with a concise explanation of what caused the problem.
  • Provide solutions and work in progress updates.
  • Express concern for inconvenience.
  • Encourage feedback.

By being proactive and having the right communication tools in place, property managers can lessen the impact of potentially troubling news, which will help to maintain satisfied residents.

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AppFolio, Inc. develops Property Management Software that helps businesses improve their workflow so they save time and make more money.  Appfolio submits articles & blogs including topics of Resident Retention, Improved Owner Communication, Time Management, and more.


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