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Handling That Irate Tenant

March 1, 2000

5 Min Read
Handling That Irate Tenant

Handling That Irate Tenant

By Pamela Alton

The holidays have passed, and we are in a new year. As always after the holidays,people tend to be in a less friendly mood. Why? One of the reasons is because thosecharge-card bills are now coming due, owners usually choose to raise rents on Jan. 1, andmoney seems to be tight for a lot of people.

This is the time of year that you, the manager, must double your efforts incollections. You must also field those nasty calls about rent increases or late fees. Attimes, you may find yourself feeling like a punching bag. Try to remember that thesepeople are not mad at you personally, but just need to vent a little steam. Try to becompassionate and listen to their complaints, yet remain firm in your efforts to collectthe rent and late fees owed to your company.

If a tenant calls in screaming and yelling at you, and you feel your temperaturerising, your face getting hot and that you are about to explode, take a deep breath andask if you can place them on hold. Clear your thoughts and calmly come back on the lineand try to resolve the situation. If the tenant is there in your office making ascene--and they usually do when another tenant is in the office--ask them to remain calmand tell them you will just take a minute and deal with the other tenant first so you cangive them your undivided attention. After the other tenant has left, deal calmly with theirate tenant.

If you find you cannot control the situation, you might want to say to the tenant,"Please calm down and keep in mind, your $25, $50 or $100 a month only gives you theright to rent space at this facility. It does not give you the right to verbally abuse me.If you don't calm down, you will have to leave this office or I will call thepolice." You will probably not have to take any situation that far, but if you findyourself in a situation you can't handle, it's not unreasonable to contact authorities.

When it comes to fielding those rental increase calls, remember: Money is usually tightthis time of year. Most rental increases are for $2 to $20 dollars, depending on thecurrent rental rate and size of the unit. Keep in mind the cost it takes to rent a truckand the hassle of moving items from one facility to another. Most tenants may threaten tovacate, but in reality, most of them won't.

Try to be compassionate when dealing with rental increases. You probably shop the otherfacilities in the area on a regular basis and should know their rental rates. You mightwant to say something like, "We are all within a few dollars of each other; however,if you feel you can find a facility as clean, convient, with the same hours, etc., thenyou do owe it to yourself to go elsewhere. We would hate to lose you as a tenant, but wewould certainly understand." Statements such as these let the tenant know youunderstand his concerns. You may lose some tenants, but that is a fact of life in thestorage game. They move in--they move out.

As for the owner reading this article, try to remember that your manager is the personon the front line. He must deal with tenants on a day-to-day basis, and most managers knowtheir tenants very well. They know who is the dead beat, who is the one who complains allthe time, and who pays the rent on time and is a pleasure to deal with. Trust yourmanagement's judgment when dealing with tenants.

I might not always agree with the managers under my supervision, but we never disagreein front of a tenant. I try to back my managers 100 percent, and we'll discuss thesituation and how to handle it better next time later. There is nothing more demoralizingthan being a manager, getting yelled at by a tenant, and taking a stand, only to have yourowner back up the tenant and overrule your authority. Remember owners: It's easier to findtenants than good managers. If you don't trust the judgment of your management staff, thenyou should consider letting them find a position more suited to them while you find astaff member more suited to your management philosophy.

Managers, do the best job you can at handling those irate tenants. Try to remember notto take it personally. Stay calm, and don't explode at the tenant--that will not solve thesituation, and in most cases only makes it worse. Most of the time, an irate tenant onlyneeds someone to listen to his complaints, so try to be helpful and understanding. You'llbe the winner in the end.

On a more personal note, I would like to thank all of the managers and owners who havecalled, written, or stopped by our tradeshow booth over the past several years to sharetheir appreciation for this column. I have been privileged to write for InsideSelf-Storage and look forward to writing more articles over the year. If there is aparticular subject you would like me to address, please don't hesitate to contact me andlet me know. I hope 2000 is the best year ever in the self-storage industry.

At times, you may find yourself feeling like a punching bag.

Try to remember that these people are not mad at you personally, but just need to venta little steam.

Most of the time, an irate tenant only needs someone to listen to his complaints, sotry to be helpful and understanding. You'll be the winner in the end.

Pamela Altonis the owner of Mini-Management®, a nationwide manager-placement service.Mini-Management also offers full-service and "operations-only" facilitymanagement, training manuals, inspections and audits, feasibility studies, consulting andtraining seminars. For more information, call (800) 646-4648.

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