When renting a property, tenants often have “selective memory” after they sign the rental agreement. It is very frustrating to move in tenants and then have them claim they were not informed about the late date, the prorated rent, how to call for maintenance, what is expected of the property condition when they move out – the list can go on and on. You are sure you know what you did tell them but situations can still develop and escalate quickly. This can continue until after they move out of the property and lead to serious legal problems.
What you can do in these situations?
Review Your Pre-occupancy Procedures
Interestingly enough, the easiest way to deflect “selective memory” is to prepare tenants thoroughly before they move in. This does not mean they won’t challenge you after they move in, but it does give you the tools to rebut their issues. Sit down and review your procedures with a critical eye.
Ask these important questions:
- Do you have written move-in procedures?
- Do you train your staff to handle move-in procedures properly?
- Do you document property condition thoroughly before move-in?
- Do you document unfinished maintenance when they move in?
- Do you disclose and document when you will complete the work?
- Are your rental agreements comprehensive?
- Are your rental agreements readable?
- Are your rental agreements current?
- Do you provide enough addendums to cover other legal issues, such as pets, homeowners associations, etc?
- Do you provide a Tenant Handbook or Manual that gives the tenant additional information and guidance that you cannot cover in the rental agreements?
- Do you have a Resident Emergency/Disaster Handbook?
- Do you have additional communications during their tenancy, such as email announcements, Tenant newsletter, or correspondence when they give a notice?
There is probably a lot more than the above list, but it will start you thinking. When you review what documentation you have, ask these two critical questions.
Is your documentation consistent and given to ALL tenants?
Can you feel confident your staff is doing this at all times?
If your procedures do not address everyone consistently and effectively, this is a basis for “selective memory.” Many tenants seem to have a sixth sense when there is a weakness, allowing them the window of opportunity for challenging your policies and procedures.
It really pays to sit down with your Personnel and discuss inconsistencies in communication with your tenants. They often have a much to say or give you insight on how they feel about handling residents. Even if you are a one-man office, it pays to sit back and analyze how you interact with them as well.
Review and improve your documentation and procedures regularly and you will find that tenants have more understanding of what is expected of them and less selective memory. If you don’t currently have a systems in place to communicate well with your tenants, you can use Property Management Systems for Owners, Tenants, and Vendors to get started. Remember – You don’t have to reinvent the wheel!
Jean Storms, MPM® is the founder/author of LandlordSource and has been a NARPM® member since January 1993.
Disclaimer: LandlordSource does not represent the article content in this website as legal advice. It is shared information only and up to the reader to use this information responsibly, seeking legal advice as necessary to their business.