10 Things About Dealing with Difficult Residents

By Kristen Massey |

March 1, 2018 |

Updated August 4, 2021

3 minutes
  1. Listen, Apologize, Solve It and Thank Them. A majority of customers who complain aren’t asking for anything. They just want to vent. Be that listening ear and apologize to them. And never forget to thank them for bringing the complaint to your attention.
  2. Smile. Smiling is free and often contagious. You never know what a resident might be going through in his or her life. Sometimes they just need that positivity.
  3. Agree. I once had a resident who often complained about the cost for his RUBS water bill. Month after month I tried to explain how it was calculated, and then I finally said, “You are right! The bill is high!” He walked away with a smile and never complained again. He just wanted me to agree with him.
  4. Communication. Always get the complaint in writing from the resident who complains about another resident and keep this information anonymous. Then arrange for a personal conversation about the matter. Always follow up in writing so that it is documented in case you decide not to offer a renewal.
  5. Follow-Up. No matter what the resident has complained about -  a noisy neighbor, the lawn crew blowing grass, or the roofers working too early - always follow up with them after you addressed the complaint to see if it has improved. This shows that 
    you care.
  6. Put yourself in their shoes. Through active listening, you show a concern for the matter. Take notes on what they say. Repeat back what you think you heard and then write it down as your understanding of the conversation. This is a great way to document the event and show you are focused on them.
  7. Online Reviews. If residents posts positive reviews of your community, always follow up with a comment, “Thank you so much for your kind words!” A negative review needs the same, if not more attention. Your response to negative reviews is an opportunity to off-set the complaint and lets them know that you take pride in the community and value their feedback.
  8. ‘If you could, you would!’ In one case, an adult resident wanted us to host an “adult night” at the community pool. While it seemed like a great idea to her at the time, I explained that it would be against Fair Housing practices because everyone would not necessarily be welcomed.
  9. Focus on the Positive. I had a resident come to our office extremely upset after finding a few ants in her apartment. After setting up a pest control appointment, I mentioned to her that the return of ants meant spring was around the corner.
  10. Anticipate Residents’ Needs. Every month, our team conducts a “maintenance walk- through.” During this walk-through, preventive maintenance is performed. Filters are changed, smoke alarms are checked. At first, I received many complaints about this. Once I explained that we were doing this for them, they were pleased to participate.

Kristen Massey, NALP, CAM, MBA, Property Supervisor, Research Properties, Louisville, Ky. If you are a property management professional and would like to contribute to this column, please contact Paul Bergeron