The Most Common Tenant Complaints
Managing one or more rental properties means you will naturally have to handle a variety of tenant concerns and complaints. Below are some of the most commonly stated tenant complaints, with tips on how to avoid or deal with each. From disagreements about the return of a security deposit to property access, and even commonplace repairs and maintenance, here’s what tenants gripe about most:
Security Deposit Refund Disputes
According to Zillow.com, refund of the initial security deposit is one of the biggest complaints tenants file against landlords. Since this sum is generally a significant amount, it is essential that you detail how security deposits are handled in your lease and that you clearly outline how items or repairs will be deducted from the tenant’s deposit. Charging for general wear and tear, building a profit into repairs, or not specifying exactly what the charges are could lead to complaints and even legal action.
Bedbug or Pest Infestation
Bedbugs are difficult to deal with and strike fear into the heart of any property owner. Since they are easily transmitted via bedding and other laundry, your unit could acquire these pests at any time, and you’ll likely end up being the one responsible for having them professionally removed.
Mold and Environmental Hazards
Black mold and related environmental issues are common in older buildings and you may not even realize the mold is there until it breaks through or an appliance is moved. A true environmental hazard needs to be addressed; mold and related issues need to be identified and mitigated by a specialist; simple cleanup won’t work.
Conflict with Other Tenants
From noise complaints to actual aggression and conflict between neighbors, problems can arise between those in adjacent units or even in neighboring buildings. Some of the most common complaints are nuisance related; barking dogs and/or tenants who play music, television or other entertainment systems at top volume can wreak havoc on an otherwise peaceful community. While these issues may not be your direct responsibility, your tenant will often expect you to handle this type of complaint. If the “problem” tenant is also yours, working out the issue is relatively simple, but dealing with another homeowner is more complex and time consuming, and may require some creative problem-solving skills.
Landlord Entry or Harassment
Following your lease is a must if you need to enter the unit or wish to show it for sale. Make sure you are familiar with how much notice you need to give tenants if you need to enter the apartment — and follow the rules in the lease to the letter. Showing up unannounced, entering without permission or even showing the property for prospective tenants could trigger a complaint if you don’t follow the procedures prescribed by your lease.
Response to Repairs Needed
From major plumbing and HVAC concerns to more minor repairs to appliances or cabinetry, tenants complain about how promptly their concerns are answered. Replying quickly to tenant requests is a must, even if your reply indicates there might be a delay. By keeping the lines of communication open and acting in good faith, you can ensure that you limit the amount of repair and maintenance complaints you receive.
Move-In Condition of the Home
How clean is the unit — and is everything truly ready for the new tenant? If you are renting out a flawed home, expect some complaints. Taking the time to paint, doing minor or even major repairs, and ensuring that the place is truly livable and turnkey cuts your risk of complaints — and takes a lot less time and money than you think.
Eviction and Lease Termination
These are two different actions, but both trigger excessive complaints and sometimes even legal action. If you are forced to evict a tenant or end a lease, make sure you do it properly and abide by both your lease and the laws of the city or town where your property is located. This is not an enjoyable process for anyone, but doing things by the book can help put the task behind you and reduce many possible tenant complaints you have to cope with.
Not every tenant complaint falls into one of these categories, but the vast majority of issues probably will. By learning more about what you can expect from tenants and how to manage these common issues, you’ll be better equipped to whatever issues arise.
Jeff Cronrod has been a landlord for more than four decades and currently resides on the board of American Apartment Owners Association. He has rehabbed, owned, developed and managed more then 4,000 rental units throughout the nation.