How to be a Resident Referee

Being the mediator between feuding residents is difficult. As the property manager, you’re in a complicated position where you have to act fairly and be conscious of how the conflict is affecting your community as a whole. Although finding some resolution in resident conflicts is no easy feat, with these tips in mind things will be a little simpler when you have to act as the referee.

Show That You Listen

A large portion of resident complaints consist of noise, pets, trash, and even space. While many of these problems can be resolved by arranging for the two residents to talk to each other, not every resident feels comfortable with confrontation. You probably have experienced this at some time and have ended up with one of three reactions:

  1. Your resident goes to their neighbor and it’s resolved on its own.
  2. Your resident gets angry and blames you for not dealing with the problem.
  3. Your resident confronted their neighbor, but the problem has continued or possibly gotten worse.

While we all hope that residents would resolve their issues themselves, this doesn’t always happen. Big or small, your resident wants you to know if they’re having issues with their neighbors, and it’s important that you listen and take them seriously. Even if it’s not in your policy to handle specific resident issues, showing that you’re listening helps prevent the resident from putting the blame on you and potentially writing a bad online review. We’ve all heard of the phrase “actions speak louder than words,” but have you applied it to listening? Show that you’re concerned by using appropriate body language and taking notes.

Facilitate Negotiations Like a Boss

Getting in the middle of feuding residents isn’t fun, but sometimes it’s necessary. If you’ve received multiple complaints or are concerned about the safety of your residents and community, then becoming a resident referee is a must. However, like anthropologist William Ury says in his TedTalk, The Walk from “No” to “Yes”, “as humans it’s very easy to react.” There are always two sides (and both parties are your residents, expecting you to be on their side), but there’s also a third side as well. You have the ability to represent the community, and keep your feuding residents on track when coming to terms. Your outside and neutral perspective can point out similarities, changing hostility to hospitality. Although William Ury learned this trick from his intense experience negotiating terms between Russia and Chechnya, using a common identity to lead negotiations is just as effective on a smaller scale. You just have to keep them on track, and be sure to remain impartial so no one feels ganged up on.

Intervene Only if Necessary

Of course if the problem gets out of control, to the point where one of your residents is breaking their lease, take action. Depending on the severity of the offense, you might want to consider evicting them. An example of this would be if a resident was stockpiling trash to the point where conditions were unsafe for them and their neighboring residents. That being said, if your offending resident has a disability like hoarding, you’ll need to make reasonable accommodations for them. To help ease tensions in this case, you can try to make some of the neighboring resident’s issues top priorities when arranging accommodations.

If you’re receiving multiple noise complaints but the resident hasn’t broken their lease, you’re going to have to buckle down and bear through it. To ease tensions, create a noise curfew that aligns to your county or city law. You don’t want any of your other residents or your community’s reputation to be in jeopardy. Perform verbal verifications yourself or use a tenant screening service that provides this to try to avoid potential problem residents before even signing the lease.

In any conflict there are multiple perspectives and as a resident referee it can be difficult to identify who is in the wrong without potentially alienating one of your residents. Use your views as an outsider in the situation to keep tempers and strong emotions at bay, and keep the discussion on track. That way, your residents can focus on coming to an agreement, getting you one step closer to working on other important things.

How do you handle resident conflicts? Have you had to intervene? Share your experience in the comments section below and be sure to subscribe!

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Becky Bower is the Content Strategist here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing, from CSU Channel Islands. Her biggest weakness is cake and favorite superhero is Batman.

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