If you have a good working relationship with your tenant, you’ll find it much easier to negotiate outcomes in your favour.
This might sound obvious, but how do you negotiate outcomes in your favour?
The landlord/tenant relationship is a partnership where each party has obligations they need to complete under the tenancy.
However, the tenant is much more likely to accept their responsibilities under the tenancy if they see the landlord taking responsibility for theirs. They will also perceive it as good service being provided by the landlord.
It’s all about leading from the front: after all, is the tenant going to respond to your request quickly if you don’t complete your responsibilities under the tenancy agreement?
It’s not a good situation for the tenant to see the landlord as operating under one set of rules, while they’re expected to follow different standards.
Case studies: let’s look at Landlord A and Landlord B over a 9-month period…
Both Landlord A and Landlord B receive 4 repair requests over a 9-month period. These are:
- The lock on the garage door isn’t working.
- One stove element isn’t working.
- The lounge light flickers all the time; the tenant has replaced the bulb but the problem persists.
- The showerhead drips when the mixer is turned off.
Let’s see how each landlord deals with these repair requests…
Landlord A’s response to the repair requests:
- The landlord asks his builder to repair the lock on the garage door; this is completed 4 days after the tenant requested the repair.
- The landlord gets his electrician to fix the broken stove element, and that’s done within 2 days of the tenant notifying the landlord of the problem.
- The landlord’s electrician replaces the lounge light switch – and at the same time as the stove element is repaired, so only one visit is required to fix both problems.
- The landlord’s plumber installs a new shower mixer 3 days after the tenant requested the repair.
Landlord B’s response to the repair requests:
- The landlord tells the tenant that his brother will repair the broken garage lock. However, the lock never gets repaired.
- The landlord advises the tenant that he plans to purchase a new stove. 9 months later and the new stove hasn’t arrived, and the element still isn’t working.
- The landlord responds to the tenant that the light fitting has always flickered, and takes no action. So 9 months later, the light fitting still flickers.
- The landlord turns up with his tool bag and spends an hour working on the showerhead. He tells the tenant that he thinks he’s fixed the problem… but, in fact, the shower is still dripping.
What are the consequences of these different responses?
It’s obvious that both tenants have experienced very different outcomes for the same problem: the difference in service between Landlord A and Landlord B is like night and day.
There is a consequence to this, and this is that Tenant A and Tenant B will act and perform very differently to each other.
Tenant A is very likely to be happy with the performance of his landlord.
However, Tenant B is likely to feel very dissatisfied and resentful.
It follows that Landlord B is much more likely to spend time in mediation or at a tenancy tribunal hearing.
Landlord B doesn’t realise that his tenants think less and less of him every day
Tenant B is reminded every day that their landlord isn’t living up to their expectations. Every time they switch the lounge light on, use the stove, park their car or have a shower they think less and less of their landlord.
That’s multiple times a day that the tenant has negative feelings towards their landlord! And to some tenants, this reinforces the negative stereotype of a landlord.
In short: how a landlord manages their tenants creates their own YES/NO outcomes.
Let’s reverse the situation, and look at requests a landlord might make to the tenants:
- “As discussed, your bank transfer for rent didn’t come through yesterday. I’d appreciate it if you could meet me tomorrow night at 6pm for payment of one week’s rent in advance.”
- “Thank you for advising me that your car moved into the garage’s fibrolite panelling. Attached is a quote from my builder for replacing the broken section of fibrolite; the cost of repair is $100 + GST ($115.00 total). My builder is able to complete this work on Thursday this week, it would be appreciated if you can deposit the sum of $115 into my bank account prior to the start of this work.”
- “I noted on Tuesday that your vehicle has been dripping oil onto the garage’s concrete floor. I would appreciate it if this can be cleaned off with a suitable concrete cleaner. I can arrange for a contractor to complete this work, the cost would be $70 + GST. After the concrete has been cleaned I would like you to keep an oil drip tray under the car so the concrete can be protected. A drip tray can be purchased from Bunnings/Mitre 10 etc.”
- “I will arrange to get the wall in the lounge repainted, as Jo advised of a small knock on the south wall (entrance door/garage end). It is small, however I will get a painter to apply filler and put on two coats of paint. I suppose it will take a painter 3 visits to apply the filler; let the filler dry; then return for the first coat of paint (to the whole wall) and then return again for second coat. Including travel time (round trip) it will probably be one hour per visit (total 3 hours) plus paint/materials. I agree, it sounds a lot for a small knock- it’s just that travelling time for 3 x visits etc. I’ll get an estimate price from a painter tomorrow.”
In all these instances, the landlord is asking the tenant to do something. I’m sure you’ll agree that Landlord A has a much higher probability of being told “yes” for such tenant requests… whereas Landlord B may get a “no” – or no reply at all.
Consider your ratings
Another way of looking at these scenarios is that a landlord who cooperates with tenants’ requests in a timely manner, might get rated as an 8 or 9 out of 10 landlord. So when the landlord asks something of the tenant, the response will be in line with this rating.
What sort of rating do you (honestly) think your tenants would give you?
With good property management (i.e. by working on your ratings) you can lift the performance of your tenant. It’s about building a relationship of respect: if you respect the tenant, they’ll be likely to respect you.
The relationship between the landlord and tenant is a partnership agreement. And the tenant will always be noting whether the landlord is keeping up their part of the agreement.
One important aspect is that there is no smart formula or negotiating tactic to get what you want if you’ve been behaving like Landlord B. The damage has already been done in this scenario. However, a good starting point is to admit to the tenant that your communication has been poor, and in future you will always get repairs/maintenance completed in a timely fashion.
Then you have to deliver on that promise!
- The relationship between the landlord and tenant is a partnership agreement: you need to show respect in order to get treated with respect.
- If you address the tenants’ repair requests promptly and deal with them properly, the tenant is more likely to comply with your requests.
- If you, as landlord, haven’t been delivering the very best service, the damage has already been done. The best way to turn around a relationship that’s gone sour is to admit to the tenant that your communication has been poor; and then get any repairs dealt with in a professional and timely manner.
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