When you first visit a property as a potential resident, everything is designed around you seeing the best that the property has to offer. The management office (hopefully) is spotless, the staff are friendly and helpful, and there’s usually a candy dish for you to enjoy while you look over lots of glossy, colorful paperwork.
But everyone knows the flipside of this idyllic situation. Once you sign on the dotted line and move yourself in, you’re able to see the real property, warts and all. Sometimes it’s nothing major — maybe the lock on the gate to the dumpster sticks. Sometimes it’s unbelievable — theft, invasion of privacy, and things you’d never dream a property management company would allow.
As a community manager, you can only do what you can do. There are only so many hours in a day and your budget is what it is. But if you’re not receptive to residents’ complaints, things can get ugly very fast.
There was a situation not too long ago at a Virginia property where the residents came close to rioting because they felt that the management company was not living up to its responsibilities. Management, for their part, claimed that the residents were unreasonable, slovenly, and constantly disobeying the property rules.
So as a community manager, what do you do in a situation like this? Hire a mediator? Serve mass evictions? Break out the water hoses? Before you resort to those sorts of extremes, here are a few tips.
Isolate the problem. It’s very rare that an entire property suddenly turns against management. Often it’s a single agitator, bad-mouthing management to other residents, pointing out minor issues and making mountains out of molehills. If you hear general grumbling, talk to residents who you trust and see if you can trace the problem back to one or two malcontents.
Document everything. If residents are accusing you of not performing your property management duties, be sure to have written documentation that states that you have been. If there’s a maintenance issue, be sure you have the date, the details, the assignee, and the resolution right at your fingertips. Community management software can really help in situations like this.
Arrange town meetings. Gathering residents together in an open forum with management can easily degenerate into shouting matches if you’re not careful, but if you keep the reins tight, it’s a great way to establish a dialogue, hear residents’ complaints, and keep everyone up to date on what’s being done and what will be done to fix things.
Community management, like anything else, can have a dark side. But as long as residents and property managers are respectful, open, and honest with one another, most situations can be dealt with to everyone’s mutual satisfaction.
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