By: Jim Joffe
It seems to me that “Resident Relations” encompasses “resident relationships”. Those residents with whom you have positive and pleasant interactions are often promoters of your community, your management services, or both. Those you never, or almost never encounter are often neither promoters nor detractors. The smallest group is usually those residents that ignore community standards, don’t get along with their neighbors, or openly defy the rules and regulations. They are often detractors. With today’s easy access to “social media” it has never been easier to anonymously trash a business. It also has never been easier to launch and unfounded class-action lawsuit. When dealing with your spouse it is often better to be loved than right. But managing a community is not the same. Disregarding the enforcement of community standards for the sake of keeping peace with the bad actors in your community is not an option. You can’t abandon right to be loved. How does one do both?
Over the years others and I have written “resident relations” articles with various suggestions on how to improve resident relations. You’ve been urged to remodel your facilities, sponsor parties and activities, and survey your residents. Another side of promotion of better resident relation is enforcement of the Park rules and regulations. Many articles and many seminar have tackled the subject of rules enforcement, but maybe not with the emphasis on how, if properly done, one result can be more positive resident relationships. The obvious benefit is that well-behaved homeowners and residents with attractive homes and yards will be appreciated that less civic-minded neighbors are required to join in keeping up the appearance and quiet enjoyment of their community. You can’t ignore the detractors negative impact upon the community to the detriment of the supporters.
First, be “up front and personal”. If there is a problem, whether it is unacceptable behaviors or activities, or failure to properly maintain their homes and yards, communicate the facts in as personal manner as you can. A visit to the homesite (not inside their home) or an invitation for a private meeting in your office is best, if possible. A telephone call is next best. Communicate, don’t confront. Discuss and describe the facts (what the problems are and what the rules or laws state) and invite a response. Be prepared to offer solutions. Do your best to keep the exchange pleasant. Emphasize the benefits to the community and your obligation to promote community standards. Listen to their objections. If you are being truthful and fair, any objections they raise won’t hold up, especially the usual “you are picking on me” defense. Let them have their say. While explaining bad behaviors is a little trickier than pointing out deficiencies with the home or in the yard, it can be done. Do your best not to make the request for compliance a personal attack up on their character or personalities. De prepared to redirect the conversation to the problems or deficiencies not the people when they make it personal (you are picking on us, you don’t like us, you are prejudiced, etc.).
You don’t have to like them. It helps a lot if you can make them like you. Not hating you is also good. Often the best you can do is to have them realize that you are fair-minded. There are two goals. First, compliance with community standards. Next is to minimize hard feelings on their park. Remember, you are doing your best to sell them on the benefits of compliance…even if the only benefit they recognize is not being evicted. It is also very important that they see you as consistent. Above all, we mistrust and resent inconsistency. Again, the more people that like you and the way you conduct yourself in your management role, and the fewer the number of people that dislike you, the better. Do your best to minimize the number of detractors in your community.
When was the last time you bought something from someone you didn’t like? Sure, the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld has a line of people that didn’t like him to buy his soup. He was rude and combative. But he was consistently rude and combative to everyone and he had a great product. (Make sure you offer a great community). And, who’s to say that if Mother Theresa was selling the same great soup she wouldn’t have been able to expand and sell twice as much, maybe franchised. Keeping your supporters in your camp is not nearly as challenging as converting or neutralizing detractors. But both skills are easily as important. Usually, people don’t sue or go out of their way to trash people or businesses they feel are fair-minded, offer a good product or that they like. Good resident relations require building better resident relationships. So, don’t pass up any opportunity to minimize potential future loss or to build a good relationship.
Jim Joffe is a partner at J&H Asset Property Management, Inc. He can be reached at 714.974.0397, ext 103 phone; 714.283.3225 fax; and email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is re-printed with permission from WMA.