Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Cascade of Errors

I was talking to a DIY investor last night about an issue they were having with tenants in a property. I suggested a solution to their problem, and they said ‘yes, that would work, except…’ and then added a bit more information about something else they had done which meant they couldn’t do what was suggested. “In which case, you’ll need to do this instead” I suggest. “Will that work if I have also done...?” asked the landlord. Yep, another issue to complicate matters. This went on until there were about four or five issues all of which impacted on or complicated the original issue. I offered what help I could, but I came away thinking “We don’t get compacted issues like this, why not?”.

A big part of the answer is experience. We have the ability to avoid a lot of issues by simply anticipating what could go wrong and acting to prevent it. That’s not to say our psychic abilities are such that we can predict every outcome. But, we have been around the block enough times to identify recurring themes.

One of the problems for the landlord above was she didn’t put things in writing. We have this down to an art-form, with many standardised letters for just about every issue, from breaking leases to being late with the rent payment. What do tenants think of this? They like that we are professional and consistent. They know where they stand with us. In many of our letters regarding a breach of agreement we cite the part of the Residential Tenancies Act which applies and we encourage tenants to call Tenancy Services. Could you be so confident with your process that you can encourage a tenant to get independent advice? We can.

Another thing that makes us different from this DIY-er was that we look at the big picture, the lease overall, where she reacted to the situation at hand. She wanted to keep her options open (only for the sake of having the options there, in reality she was not going to exercise them in the timeframe created by the lease duration) which meant she wasn’t decisive when she needed to be, and that led to complications. It is a relief to limit your choices and live with the decision made than be indecisive and be railroaded into a bad situation or be overwhelmed by the choices before you.

The final difference was that we don’t care if we are liked. Sure, we like to be liked, but we would rather do what is right than popular. We don’t need the tenants to like us, we do need them to do the right thing. Our DIY Landlord did care. The relationship was important for her, and she would rather compromise her rights than have a difficult conversation.

Ask yourself:
Are you experienced enough to foresee potential problems and head them off at the pass?
Do you put agreements in writing every time?
Do you consider the big picture when you make decisions, and can make decisions without regret?
Can you tell tenants ‘no’ without feeling bad about it?
If you have answered ‘No’ to even one of these questions, consider getting help from someone who can say ‘yes’ to all four of these. You'll be much better off.

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