Every property manager has an opinion on how cooperative or uncooperative their residents are. Most property managers still refer to residents as tenants or renters, and that reality leads to the first of the three ideas to help your residents want to be more cooperative. My first idea (aka suggestion) is to begin to change the way you look at and speak about the residents who are renting the properties you manage and/or own. This is powerful, and reminds me of the quote from Mohandas K. Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Put another way, if you want your residents to respect you, then respect them. Yes, sometimes they do regrettable or irresponsible things. Respect them anyway. Sometimes they need to be warned. Respect them anyway. Sometimes they need to be evicted. Evict them respectfully. It’s a powerful notion, and one that is confirmed by none other than The Institute of Noetic Sciences, founded by astronaut Edgar Mitchell. Like many psychologists know, they realized that many accomplishments and potent paradigm shifts begin with a thought.
If you feel showing respect to your residents is disingenuous or trivial, then I invite you to imagine how you’d feel if suddenly all the tenants and renters who you’re displeased with suddenly decided to give their notice and move. How would that impact your vacancy rates? Start thinking about them as residents, call them that, and see if both you and they have a shift (over time) in their voluntary willingness to be more responsible and cooperative. The second idea has to do with a short note of appreciation, which you’d include with the next written correspondence that you have with your residents. Make the note short and sweet, letting them know that you are grateful to have them as residents and you’re working hard to make their living environment as pleasant as possible.
Recently I suggested this idea to a manager who replied, “If I did that they’d run rough-shod all over me.” I replied, “on the contrary, you’d be sending them a message of confidence and courage, and the majority of people respond well to that kind of message.” Remember, the approach here is to incent your residents to be more cooperative and to respond positively to the rules and regulations. You’ll draw more bees using honey then vinegar, if you catch my drift.
The third idea is what behavioral psychologists call a paradoxical intervention. Send a brief notice to all your residents and solicit their responses on what property management can do to be more cooperative with residents and foster a cooperative relationship. You can be specific if you wish, like asking them how you can assist them in paying their rent on time (such as an automatic bank draft program). Or you can keep the question open ended, and ask a question like, “What can we (the property management) do to motivate our residents to be as cooperative and contented as possible?” Ask them to respond via email or in writing. My sense is that you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn, and you’ll be demonstrating to your residents how much you care about them. As I always tell myself, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
By the way, if I sound a bit like a therapist, I have an M.S. in Clinical Psychology and have counseled and consulted with many people over the course of a 21 year career. Although I’m no longer practicing, I am always looking for ways to help people to help themselves and to garner the cooperation of others. Modeling this, whether you’re a property manager or in any other capacity is a powerful way to promote positive changes and lasting relationships.