It’s the one thing all property managers want to avoid, and no matter how big or small, conflicts or disputes are always the tasks that are pushed to the bottom of the list. To ensure you are addressing these conflicts in the correct manner, here is an action plan to keep on hand for when things go pear-shaped.
DISPUTE RESOLUTION ACTION PLAN
1.THINKING, ASSESSING & PLANNING
This is the stage where you take some time to think about what exactly the dispute is, how it occurred and how it can potentially be resolved. The more detailed information you can find about the issue, the easier it will be to help resolve it.
2. FOLLOWING THE RULE BOOK
What is the legislation surrounding this issue, and what does the act say? For example, the carpets need to be returned to the same condition they were in when the tenants moved in. However, the tenant does not have to leave the property in a better condition than it was in at the start of the tenancy (e.g. require carpets to be steam cleaned when this wasn’t done before they moved in). So, if the carpets are old, then replacing them with brand new ones is not an acceptable option and in this instance, the options would be to a) have it patched up, or b) pay compensation to the value of the patch amount or other.
It is also important to ensure that you have done everything by the book. This is an important step, if you are at fault in this dispute it is time to put your hand up and own it. What is the worst thing that can happen? There is no point in wasting time on a dispute if you are actually the cause of it or the business is the cause of it. Don’t waste energy and time covering it up, you’ll earn more respect and self-respect for fixing it rather than playing the blame game.
3. THE MORAL CODE
For example, if a tenant has only just moved in, but has lost their job and can’t afford rent any more. They want to leave due to hardship, but they have 5 months left on their lease and the owner doesn’t want to let them out. Do you battle on with them and waste time continually chasing up rent arrears? Or risk them applying to QCAT? Or do you negotiate a break lease fee or compensation fee to the owner to recoup owners’ costs and let them out of the lease? If you put yourself in their shoes, what would you want? I’d want to be let out of my lease and morally and ethically this is probably the right thing to do. It is a tough conversation with an owner though.
During this stage, it is also important to put personal feelings aside. You might want the tenant to pay for something simply because you don’t like them, but at the end of the day you’ll just waste more time and energy arguing something that you are wrong about anyway… and Karma is always around the corner.
4. GREY AREAS
There are so many grey areas when it comes to the legislation and tenancies and until you deal with every one of them (which is impossible) you won’t know which way to solve your dispute. Definitely, don’t put off dealing with it because of how hard it seems, seek the advice of the other members of your team and discuss it with them, 9 times out of 10 someone else has already dealt with this situation before and will have the answer for you. If they don’t escalate it higher and get a resolution as quickly as possible. Be prepared or open to accepting a differing opinion.
5. DECISION AND ACTION
Once everything has been assessed and all options have been put into consideration it’s time to determine the best course of action. Communication is KEY during this step, so here are some tips to consider:
- Make a decision and stick to it
- Make sure all communication is in writing
- Try and put the above points in writing: What is the dispute? What does the act say? Morally what is right here? What does my team say? What is my decision and an action plan to resolve it?
- If you can’t resolve it with tenants the next step is management or a RTA dispute resolution request, the tenant can submit this. Owners are best escalated to senior staff.