According to journalist and broadcaster, Walter Winchell, timing is an important part of building a productive relationship. He noted, “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” Many tenants who live in Washington DC homes for rent right now may feel the rest of the world is “walking out” when a crisis strikes.
When your former reality is supplanted by a disappointing, stressful, or disruptive event—whether it’s a pandemic or a sudden tragedy—you can feel lonely and lost. However, times of crisis can instead be turned into a golden opportunity to strengthen the working relationships you have with your renters. Now is the time to “walk in,” and show you’re not just someone who has invested in a property—you are invested in the well-being of your residents, too.
A word of caution: This blog post does not act as a substitute for legal counsel. When in doubt, consult with your trusted attorney or Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA for real-time assistance concerning your Washington DC homes for rent!
Compassion is sometimes confused with simply being “nice.” However, in reality, it’s a far more dynamic trait. Compassionate people feel genuine concern for the suffering of others. To show compassion during a time of crisis, try doing things like:
- Set aside time for your renters: Don’t just ask how your tenants are doing; listen to what could be a long, detailed answer. Many people may toss a quick, “How’s it going?” their way and continue about their day, so you can differentiate yourself by patiently absorbing everything they say. This is especially pertinent when you’re trying to help them by crafting payment plans or offering other solutions to support their well-being when showing you care.
- Offer to help in specific ways: While it’s nice to say, “If you need anything, let me know,” it may come across as a meaningless platitude. Try being more specific. For example, you could say, “I grabbed some extra groceries. Would it be OK if I swung by and dropped them off?” For renters in your Washington DC homes for rent that are immunocompromised, elderly, or otherwise at risk, this kind of gesture can speak volumes.
- Show patience when tenants are frustrated: During a crisis, tenants may lash out only because they’re stressed out. If a tenant may be displacing blame in your direction, you can show compassion by not getting defensive and patiently letting them vent. When they finish, you can ask discerning questions such as, “What could I do better in the future to prevent this from happening again?”
Improve Your Communication
During a crisis, it’s important to communicate well and often. This applies to both listening to tenants’ concerns and expressing important information to them. In times of crisis, there is bound to be confusion. You should try to provide them with clarity around expectations and the role you plan to play during the crisis. For example, you can let them know:
- How the crisis may affect the services you can offer.
- Steps you’re taking to help minimize the impact of the crisis on their lives as residents.
- What you plan to do as part of your crisis response, along with timelines and benchmarks.
This is particularly helpful if you’re making improvements to the property. To get an idea of how to approach this professionally, you can take a look at our response page to COVID-19 to address the concerns of the rental community in Washington DC homes for rent that we serve here at Renters Warehouse!
The more consistent you are, the more comfortable your tenants will be during a crisis. As things change around them, you can be a rock, a steady cornerstone around which they can structure other decisions in their lives. But it’s easy for a well-meaning landlord to slip into a pattern of inconsistency when you’re managing so much more than your Washington DC homes for rent.
To avoid inconsistency:
- Try to avoid singular, grand gestures of kindness. Opt instead for smaller measures that you can replicate for several weeks or months in a row.
- Maintain the same timelines you had in place before the crisis, including rent collection, maintenance, and general upkeep. Being consistent in these areas will help give tenants a sense of stability.
- If you increase communication at a certain point during the crisis, try to maintain it for an extended period. If your communication tapers down before the crisis, you may come across as someone who no longer cares.
Enforce the Same Rules and Fees—Within Reason
Before a crisis strikes, your tenants’ residence was a source of consistent, reliable comfort. If you change the rules or fees unnecessarily, you may introduce a sense of uncertainty to a relationship they need to be stable and predictable. It’s also worth noting for Washington DC homes for rent that orders from the DC Council may currently suspend the application of certain fees. Choosing to waive certain fees for your renters now is both a gesture of care and a step in the right direction for complying with current legislation in the DC area.
During a crisis, your tenants will invariably need some kind of help or support. You can be the friend who walks in when they feel the rest of their world slipping away. Remember to show compassion, communicate, and be consistent. This can give them a sense of security during insecure times.
For insight into how to apply these principles to rent collection, turn to our free resource, the Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook. As always, we’re here for you at Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA: if you need further guidance, reach out to the experts!