The thought of visiting a tenant face-to-face to resolve serious problems terrifies many property managers, but it shouldn’t. Why? Because there’s nothing more effective than meeting a tenant in person when there’s a problem, such as a late rent payment or damage to deal with.
Simply sending a letter, email or text message rarely achieves the desired result. Sure, the paper trail is important for your records, but used alone written communications don’t have the greatest impact. It’s all too easy for a tenant to ignore, delete or throw away the message. And they’ll have no qualms about doing so, because it’ll give them breathing space.
Tenants having breathing space does not help you!
Giving the tenant breathing space does not result in action! That’s why having a physical presence is important, because the communication is immediate and therefore creates urgency. This face-to-face contact creates an impact far greater than any letter or email. This is especially true when you’re dealing with something serious, like a late rent payment.
Late rent payments need to be dealt with NOW!
We’ve already discussed the importance of dealing with late rent payments straightaway. This is a time when a face-to-face meeting between the property manager and tenant is vital. The property manager needs to reinforce that the outstanding rent has to be paid “now”… never use terms like “as soon as possible” or “when you can”, as that sends a completely different message to “I require the rent to be paid now”.
But why do this face to face? Imagine if the property manager didn’t meet with the tenant, and simply relied on sending letters and reminders to the tenant. This would send a strong message that there is some level of tolerance or acceptability to the practice of paying rent late. There is no danger of the tenant thinking this if you visit them in person!
Meeting them in person has other advantages too
By meeting the tenant in person, you can put forward possible solutions on how to solve the problem. But you need to be aware that the problem is their problem, and not your problem. And excuses like “I don’t have the money” or “I don’t know when I’ll have the money” aren’t solutions, and you need to tell them that.
Possible solutions you could suggest are for the tenant to pay the outstanding rent by credit card, or to ask the tenant to get financial assistance from friends, family, or an employer. You could also ask the tenant to meet with their bank so that payment can be arranged for tomorrow. You need to investigate and communicate all possible solutions to the tenant so that their problem will be resolved as soon as possible – and face-to-face is the only way to do that effectively. Even a phone call won’t be anywhere near as effective as it doesn’t create the same urgency.
Creating urgency is vital
Acting immediately is vital, as there is a good chance that your tenant has defaulted on other payments too, such as loans and hire purchases for their car, white ware, television or power bills. If that’s the case, the tenant will be weighing up whom to pay first. By visiting them face-to-face, the tenant will realise that you are their most serious problem, so you’re more likely to be at the top of their repayment list. But you need to act quickly in order for that to happen – and you need to work hard to maintain your position on their mental payee list.
You only need to look at professional debt collectors to know that this face-to-face approach works. After all, they don’t rely on letters and notices to get their money. No, they visit in person to create the required urgency. They know that it’s the proverbial squeaky wheel that gets oiled.
Not only does the face-to-face visit create urgency, but it pushes the tenant out of their comfort zone. Tenants are usually far more comfortable with receiving written communication from the landlord, than having him or her meet them in person.
But when you do meet the tenant, there are some guidelines to follow.
Guidelines for successful face-to-face visits with your tenants
When you visit your tenant face-to-face, you must realise that human beings will often go on the defensive when they’re confronted about problems they’re responsible for, e.g. missed rent or property damage. You need to be prepared for that, and make sure that you communicate in an even and calm fashion, especially when a problem is escalating. Do not raise your voice. Remember it’s not personal – it’s business.
If you appear non-threatening and calm in a confrontational environment, your tenant is much more likely to be able to reach a solution that is in your favour. Their ability to resolve their problem is increased while they are not on the defensive. Your strongest outcome is for the tenant to take ownership of the problem and believe they are managing the problem.
Also, remember that the tone of communication should be proportional to the severity of the problem: you need to keep things in perspective.
Remember, you are there to solve the problem to the benefit of the property owner, and to do so in a dignified and respectful way. Having the skills to do this is central to being an effective property manager.
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