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How to Handle Conflict with Your Residents

October 17, 2018 / by Brent Silberbauer

the word conflict on post-it noteIn the world of property management, it’s inevitable you’re going to have conflict. Many investors get into real estate and believe they are in the property business, but you’re not in the property business – you are in the people business – and having good people skills will be essential to your success. 

So what happens when the resident moves out and doesn’t like the cleaning fees? What do you do when you have a no pet policy and you find kitty litter in the bathroom during a maintenance call? How do you handle complaints from one resident about the loud music coming from another resident’s apartment? Managing conflict is where a good property manager can really shine. Here are some basic steps to grow in your ability to handle conflict. 

Have a conversation directly with the person involved

Many times, we hold grudges from a distance when we feel we have been treated unfairly or when something is wrong. This only makes matters worse. Property managers typically have a litany of one-star reviews on Google stemming from not having a personal conversation with the parties involved. 

When you have your discussion, focus on the facts and events, not on the personalities

Keep the conversation directed on the facts and events and avoid making it personal. Do not say “when you do this…” say “when this happens….”  If you make it personal, people will feel attacked and become defensive, limiting the chance of a peaceful outcome. 

Listen carefully

We can fall into the trap of not listening, but just waiting for our turn to speak. This will get you nowhere when it comes to resolving conflict. Truly listen to the other person, avoid interrupting, and ask questions if you need clarification. If you really want to build bridges, make the other person feel understood by rephrasing what they said so that they know you understand them. You can do this by starting your response with “So what you’re saying is…”

Identify the areas of conflict and develop a plan to work on it

It’s important to clearly label the area of disagreement so that you can prioritize the issues. Work on the biggest one first. Do your best to focus on a plan of action to take care of the issue. As you work together on the plan, focus on the desired outcome. Focus on a future of solutions and resolutions that work best with everyone. When you focus on a peaceful future you cast a compelling vision that is worth taking action on. This can be a powerful motivator. 

Work the plan and communicate often

Stick out the discussion until both agree on a fair and equitable term. As you move forward point out areas of progress and agreement. It’s important to congratulate others when you see progress being made. In this way you start to build a momentum of unity and cooperation that can have a positive snowball effect. It’s amazing to see that the people who start off fighting can later become very close friends as they work together to bring positive solutions to previously difficult situations. 


Conflict isn’t easy, and many times it takes a lot of humility to achieve. Like anything though, the more you practice resolving conflict, the better you get at it. The trick is to work on your conflict resolution skills intentionally throughout your management career. If you can become a conflict resolution pro, that will be a huge asset as you manage your property. Remember, you’re in the people business.

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Topics: Residential Property Management, Rental Property Tips