Communicating with different Tenant personalities

“You are surrounded by them. You are them. Human beings. But how do you deal with them?” Wayne Dyer

This post started from a ‘bad’ tenant experience, although not bad in the known sense of the term.

You’ve heard people talk about ‘bad’ tenants, usually defined as those who breach the lease agreement … don’t pay, or don’t pay on time, or damage the property, etc.

And good tenants would obviously be the opposite. Not always. Sometimes ‘good’ tenants behave oh so badly.

We’re not talking about complying with or breaching agreements, that’s another topic – this is about personality (or it’s unmasking) and tenant traits, which affects every interaction of an agent’s management of every tenancy for the duration.

We do our due diligence thoroughly screening the tenant in the application process. But this doesn’t always show the true personality of the applicant, nor the unmasked version of some whom you will meet immediately after handover … in some cases Mr or Ms Charming and Co-operative turns in Mr/Ms Godzilla-tenant on steroids. (Apparently it’s sometimes said that Godzilla had a second brain in base of the tail … mmm – but actually I think that was Stegosaurus and a myth, so let’s not go there.)

With this type of personality it’s usually on the day of handover inspection. A stand-up tenant with impeccable credentials … and an unforeseen problem.

There’s something about the combination of property (which is always emotive) and money, which changes some people.
I think it is said best in this article “Are rental agents superhumans” which says “interesting phenomenon… when someone becomes a Tenant, they seem to take on a whole new persona. Sometimes you can hardly believe that it is the same friendly person who attended the first viewing of the Property. Becoming a Tenant seems to be a “Personality Changing” event for some people“

Once they’ve paid a fair chunk of change for the damages deposit, which is held in a Trust A/c by the Agent who does a comprehensive ingoing report to compare with when they leave … coupled with the fact that most tenants believe it’s landlord and agent vs tenant, and the many horror stories of unscrupulous agents or landlords not returning tenants deposit, it can bring about some interesting personality changes, unrealistic demands, and unacceptable behaviour towards the agent.

Most tenants are pleasant and co-operative, some become very challenging (demanding) but manageable. And some a pure nightmare of entitlement and disrespect. Thankfully in our experience these account for about 1% of tenants who by most other accounts are ‘good’ tenants – a very unsettling experience for the duration and they make sure to take up an excessive amount of time with their misplaced sense of superiority.

But this all got us thinking about the various tenant traits and personalities we experience in the course of managing an active and busy rental agency, and the style of communication we have to adopt for each – communication being critical in the management process.
“Knowing your tenants can make a huge difference in your ability to be proactive in managing sometimes unrealistic expectations and demands.”

In our experience, broadly speaking the following personality types influence the experience of managing the property and tenancy. These are all perceived as ‘good’ tenants (bad tenants being a topic for a different article) – they pay on time, and generally take care of the property. But there’s one thing you can’t predict – the purely human element – human nature, character traits etc. which can make for a careful balancing act of management.

  • Pleasant and co-operative – thankfully these account for quite a high percentage of tenants, they respect property and people (happily including agent!), communication flows throughout the tenancy, and they’ve booked professional cleaners for the exit handover before we’ve even sent the ‘end of tenancy requirements’ email.
  • The Perfectionist – very demanding and high maintenance. The ingoing inspection with this tenant would be a full day event if you allowed it. But generally a very good tenant once you’ve managed expectations. Always leaves the property as, or better than they found it.
  • Happy, chilled & untidy – every promise they made about ‘green fingers’ is forgotten as soon as they’ve unpacked. They won’t damage things (there’s usually too much clutter around so surfaces are protected! :), but generally so laid-back they don’t see any urgency in reporting maintenance, and won’t spring-clean when they leave. Easy-going but they need a super-vigilant agent.
  • The Complainer – this in one unhappy individual. Thankfully this type also accounts for only about 1% of tenants. They are never satisfied, and start complaining from day 1. Hardly a week will go by without an urgent message from the Complainer, who will become unpleasant if their needs are not treated as an absolute priority. With this tenant one needs to provide clear boundaries. We had an interesting experience in one of our rentals, a stunning townhouse in Kenilworth in we had such a tenant (a couple actually, of like mind) and the property was handed to them in lovely condition. During the tenancy previous to theirs we’d only had a couple of minor repair issues the entire year, and likewise with the tenants who occupied after this couple left. Yet during The Complainer tenancy everything went wrong with that property … it was like the house protesting their occupancy.
  • The Demanding, Arrogant tenant – massive sense of self-importance and limited emotional intelligence. This is the scary one, charming to a fault to start, the mask falls off around the time of the ingoing inspection, and usually with low EI they have no grip on how to communicate acceptably. This tenant wants, no expects, the property to be personalised for their use. And there will definitely be repairs needed when they leave, which they will fight about with now expected arrogance and of course generally impotent threats of ‘I’ll speak to my lawyer”. Basically a bully, this person needs a firm agent. Managing them is a careful balancing act for the full duration of the tenancy.

We’re all flawed, and that’s the beauty of who we are – we accept and embrace that, and will always try to meet you half way. Disrespect however cannot be seen simply as a flaw, there’s no beauty in that, and any form of abuse is unacceptable.
We’re on your side, we’re here to guide, serve, assist – try to remember, we’re human too.