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Contractor & tenant negotiation: ask for what you want!

1st July 2015
Contractor & tenant negotiation: ask for what you want!

Contractor & tenant negotiation: ask for what you want!

Asking for what you want is central to all your communications with tenants and contractors – and life in general.

In property management, you need to be very clear about what you want, whether it be defective work a contractor needs to correct, or a tenant’s standard of cleanliness inside a rental property.

Asking for what you want is the beginning point of negotiations

The beginning point of all negotiations is asking for what you want. If you can’t do that, you’re never going to reach the desired outcome – e.g. the tenant paying for the broken glass door, or the painter repainting a wall he thinks he has completed.

The worst that can ever happen to you when you ask a tenant or contractor for something is for them to say “no”! Again, this is just the starting point of negotiations – it isn’t supposed to make the landlord or Property Manager run for the hills or hide behind the water trough.

With a little bit of skill and practice, a “no” can be changed to a “yes” fairly quickly… or you can even train your tenants to say “yes” every time.

How to deal with confrontation

The biggest hurdle for landlords and Property Managers is accepting that their request may be rejected and they may have to deal with confrontation.

Confrontation is just a facet of negotiation; it’s the other party trying to put an end to your request. You need to deal with this head on: here are some examples on how to do this.

Example: The tenant puts picture hooks on the wall

You may have discovered some picture hooks screwed into the wall, yet the tenancy agreement specifically states that no fixings are to be made to the wall.

A landlord or Property Manager who’s uncomfortable with raising the issue might let it go and say, “well, it’s only 4 picture hooks”. But 4 picture hooks can quickly become 8 picture hooks – and all on your freshly-painted and plastered walls.

The correct communication is to remind the tenant that no nails or fastenings are to be installed on the walls, and that “we’ll need to get the holes on the walls filled and the affected walls painted”.

You’ll find that once tenants have paid for this, the problem will not reoccur.

Reminder: the above example is not reasonable wear and tear, when the tenancy specifically requires no attachments to be made to walls. The resultant holes in walls are damage.

Example: Asking a contractor to do what you want

You may need to manage a renovation to a rental property. The painter’s scope of work might require them to:

  1. Clean all surfaces down with sugar soap prior to starting the prep work.
  2. All surfaces to be lightly sanded between coats (i.e. primer, first coat, and second coat).
  3. Any holes, chips, etc. to be filled and sanded between coats.

These 3 requirements are fairly simple, and represent best practice. But unfortunately, many painting contractors won’t complete these steps unless they’re specifically put in writing, and the property owner or project manager chases them along and conducts daily inspections.

For that reason, you need to document the scope of work in writing when the contractor is tendering for the job, and also communicate these requirements verbally.

You need to ask for what you want. Don’t assume that the contractor or tenant will give you what you want!

Never make assumptions

Never assume that other parties will give you what you want, if you don’t ask for it.

For example, how often have you had work completed on site and you thought that the contractor would take their rubbish away? But you then discover that their price didn’t include for rubbish removal. So you need to ask the contractor to be responsible for rubbish removal at the time they’re pricing the job for you, otherwise you may find it’s an extra cost.

Be sure to ask trades people to sweep up or vacuum their work area before they leave the tenant’s property. The best trades people will do this without being asked, however the majority will probably need reminding!

Likewise, you will have to ask your lawn-mowing contractor to specifically catch and take cuttings away, if that’s what you want. Otherwise, they may price for leaving clippings on site or not catching clippings at all.

With regard to tenants, you will most likely have to ask them at some point not to park vehicles on the lawn. This should be covered off in the tenancy agreement, however it’s common to have to re-visit this issue. (If you have done your job at the tenancy application stage, then you should have appointed an A1 tenant and not have any problems with vehicle parking beyond the allocated areas, i.e. the carport, garage or driveway.)

Another important item to ask of your tenants is about the final 3 weeks when they’ve given notice (for a periodic tenancy) when you’ll be marketing the property and showing prospective tenants through. It is important to get agreement (in writing) on the days you would like to show the property to prospective tenants. This may typically be on Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 12.00 to 1.00pm. Even with these days and times agreed, it is prudent to remind the tenant the day before of the viewing times the following day.

Summary

  • Never assume that tenants and contractors will automatically do what you want them to do: you need to communicate this to them, clearly and in writing.
  • The tenancy agreement is an important tool in outlining what tenants need to do. It’s then your job to enforce this.
  • Specifically outline the scope of work you expect from contractors at the tendering stage, so that items such as rubbish removal are included in the quote.
  • Remember that confrontation is just an aspect of negotiation; if you are business-like and have documented your requirements in writing, it will make it easier for you to stand your ground.

 


 

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