Property Management: There’s No Such Thing as a Difficult Resident


An Angry Person

I’m sure, in reading the title of this article; your first thought was something along the lines of “Really? She can’t be serious.” You may even be thinking of a particular resident who you would say is the true definition of the word “difficult.”

Residents are not born difficult – they do not move into your community with a ready-made chip on their shoulders. Residents become difficult when our performance negatively impacts their overall living experience. Think about that resident who you would consider to be your most “difficult.” Now, think back to that person’s move-in day. Was s/he full of negativity and impossible to please? Did this person question your every move and show no trust or faith in the management team? Probably not. So what were the circumstances that led to this change?

Early in my property management career, I was a part of a team that assumed the management of a large community. I learned very quickly that assuming a community also meant assuming all of the problems that came along with it. This community in particular had many challenges; little to no budget, it was not in the best neighborhood, and the residents had no faith in us because the previous management failed to resolve their concerns. We were facing an uphill battle on all fronts but the most important was transforming how the residents felt about management. As we moved forward, any initiative or change we wanted to implement would have failed without having resident buy-in; so getting them on our side was critical.

Learning to work with your most difficult residents will enhance your skill set and make you a stronger property management professional. Let the word “perform” serve as your guide:

The P-E-R-F-O-R-M Standard

P – Professionalism: never miss an opportunity to show the resident you are a true professional in everything you do. Remember, you are a part of a team that operates a million-dollar business so conduct yourself and your business in that manner.

E – Empathy: the successful professionals work with residents from a place of understanding, having the ability to see things from the resident’s point of view. Think of how you would react if you were in their shoes and most importantly, acknowledge when a mistake has been made.

R – Reassure: residents need to feel and believe that we will do what we say. Be confident and realistic when working with your residents. Never promise more than you can deliver and always deliver more than you promise.

F – Follow-Through: notice this doesn’t say “follow-up.” Following trough is seeing a task not only to completion but through to satisfaction. Once an issue has been resolved, circle back with the resident to make sure they are satisfied with the outcome.

O – Overlook: one of the worst things we can do in working with a resident is to take things personally. Even if a resident makes a negative comment that attacks you personally, always respond and conduct yourself from a professional stance.

R – Resolve: the end result is the beginning. Determine what resolution is going to be satisfactory for your resident and work from there. Get as close to that resolution as possible, then present the resident with what you can do for them.

M – Move Forward: no matter how difficult the resident and regardless of how uncooperative they may be, harboring negative feelings about that resident will prove to be counter-productive. You will be more inclined to voice your negative opinions to other employees thus potentially jeopardizing their abilities to work with that resident in the future.

As you and your team master the PERFORM Standard, your residents will not be as difficult as first thought. Unfortunately there are some residents who may continue to be tough to work with and you may not be able to eliminate those altogether. However, the more consistent you are in your performance, the easier your interactions with your residents will become.


Vice President of Education and Consulting, SatisFacts Research

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Lia Smith career in training, property management and marketing began in the mid 1990′s. Lia began her training career at Nextel Communications, where she was responsible for training over 1,000 Customer Care Representatives. She then embarked on a new career in property management as a Leasing Associate with Lincoln Property Company, and steadily moved up the ranks. Lia was able to merge the worlds of training and property management when in 2006 she became Director of Training and Marketing at SPM Property Management, a 14,000+ unit portfolio; this included creating SPM Academy and a Learning Management System. She also developed and managed SPM’s resident feedback program, and was responsible for providing post-survey action planning support for property teams and management. Lia has proven experience in solving training and resident retention challenges for market, affordable, senior, tax credit and student communities. These experiences have helped Lia relate to both onsite and corporate associates. Lastly, Lia has presented at key industry events such as MultifamilyPro Brainstorming on topics related to developing the operational and service skills of onsite and executive level teams. Lia Joined the SatisFacts team in 2011 as VP of Education and Consulting.

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