Mediating For Your Residents: What To Do & How To Do it

By Amanda Cohen on November 24, 2018

Being a landlord and/or property manager is so much more than just fixing the garbage disposal, dealing with payment from your residents, and shuffling through tons of paperwork. Sometimes, you will have to get on a personal level with your residents, especially when conflict is involved.

However, how do you know what your exact role is in conflict as a landlord or property manager? How do you know when you’re actually helping versus when you are overstepping? Bottom line: how do you know what the heck you’re supposed to do? I may not be a landlord, nor property manager, but I do know a few things about conflicts between residents because I myself used to be a resident on a college campus. So, sit back, read along, and let me give you the lowdown.

Image via Pixabay.com

Before getting extremely involved in a conflict between your residents, you want to make sure you have all of the information on what the conflict is and if it is even appropriate for you to step in as a mediator. If the conflict is about overnight guests, that isn’t your place to get involved (unless you’re the manager of a college dorm room). However, if it’s about noise levels in your property, you can get involved because that is probably in the contract you has your residents sign.

Once you know the nature of the conflict and you deem it appropriate to get involved, get all sides of the stories from each of the residents involved and then you can proceed. When you talk with them, remind them that (1) you’re there as their landlord/property manager and therefore aren’t biased in any way, (2) you’ve heard all signs of the story, and (3) you aren’t taking sides or fixing anything, rather you’re there as a neutral party so that this conflict gets resolved in a mature manner.

The next rule of mediating a conflict between your residents is that when in doubt, refer back to the contract you all agreed upon and had them sign. Certain residential situations are covered in resident-landlord/property manager contracts, so this is always a good place to start.

If a resident is blatantly in violation of the contract, boom, the conflict is fixed because he/she agreed to act in a certain way deemed by the contract. If a particular situation is not talked about in a contract, you should suggest to the residents who are in conflict with one another to draw up a contract that the residents and you, the landlord/property manager will sign. If you are able to, you can even offer to help them draw up a fair, unambiguous contract that everyone can get behind and is reasonable.

When rules are clean-cut, distinct, and clear, negative situations become much more avoidable. If you are thinking to yourself that this sounds like a waste of time, think about it this way. It takes 1-2 hours to draw up a small contract. If you don’t take this small block of time, you will instead be faced with tons of text messages, phone calls, complaints, and request for your help. Now, which situation sounds better?

via Pexels.com

Another great way to ease into your position as a mediator is giving your residents advice or anecdotes rather than being the person who fixes everything. Giving residents advice instead of fixing their problems coincides with the saying: “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” Giving your residents advice will help them solve similar conflicts in the future (and will lessen the possibility of you getting a million texts in one day from your residents).

This may seem self-explanatory, but people often misconstrue the job of a mediator. A mediator isn’t there to fix the problem, a mediator is there to give people the tools, and unbiased advice, to work through the problems themselves.

As long as you remain calm, give them advice, and maybe even share a story or two about you when you lived with roommates will calm your residents down and it will show that they can trust you to help them honestly and without overstepping.

If any of you have been in this situation and are worried about it coming about again, try my advice. If you’ve never had to get involved in resident conflict, then lucky you. However, having these rules in your pocket will help you guide your residents and make them better roommates to one another, better neighbors, and, who knows, maybe even better people! Not only that, but if you help them with their conflicts and do a good job at it, people will be saying a lot of positive things about you as a person and landlord and/or property manager, which is great for business.

By Amanda Cohen

Uloop Writer
University of Michigan
I am currently a junior at the University of Michigan.

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