Communicating with Tenants

Why Does Communication Matter?

Good communication is one of the most important aspects of being a successful landlord, because it allows you to have healthy, positive relationships with your tenants and their neighborhood. If you get along well with your tenants, you may also be able to ask them for a testimonial or a positive review in the future. 

Active Listening

How you listen is just as important as what you say. Active listening shows the other person that you are making an effort to hear their concerns.

Simple Steps for Active Listening:

  1. Show the person talking that they have your full attention:
    1. Make direct eye-contact if appropriate.
    2. Let go of any distractions for the moment.
  2. Watch the other person's body language.
  3. Show that you are listening by using small gestures, such as nodding or smiling. 
  4. Use small comments (e.g. "okay," "I agree," or even "uh huh") to show interest and give feedback
  5. Ask clarifying questions (e.g. "So what I hear you saying is..." or "Do you mean...").
  6. Avoid judgment
  7. Don't interrupt.
  8. Give an appropriate response when the time is right.

Using I-Statements

When people feel strongly about an issue, their emotions may cloud their ability to clearly share their thoughts. This can lead to statements that come across as accusatory or angry. Another technique for solving problems is to replace negative statements with positive "I-statements."  An "I-statement" is a sentence that helps people express their own feelings (using the word "I"), rather than focusing on blaming others. 

These are some simple steps to creating I-statements of your own:

  • Clearly state what YOU think, feel, or need. 
  • Avoid telling the other person what they are thinking, feeling, or must do. 
  • Make it your message. Use "I" instead of "you."
  • Tackle one issue at a time - avoid confronting someone with a long list of problems. 
  • Explain the situation from your point of view. 
  • Avoid name-calling and accusations. 

I-Statement Formula

  1. Your feelings ("I feel..." or "I need...")
  2. Other person's action ("...when you do...")
  3. Reason for your feeling ("...because...")
  4. Your request ("I'd appreciate it if...")

Examples of Positive I-Messages

Each of the following negative statements has been re-worded as a positive I-statement. 

  • "You are always so loud. I don’t understand how you can be so inconsiderate!" 
    • "I have a hard time sleeping when you play your music loudly at night. I’d really appreciate it if you could turn the volume down after 10pm."
  • "Move your car or I am getting it towed!"
    • "I really need to get to work on-time, which is hard to do when I have to wait for you to move your car each morning. If you could switch to the other side of the driveway, that would help me a lot."
  • "You get me the rent, now!"
    • "I am frustrated that I haven't received your rent payment yet, because I need it to pay the mortgage. If you can get it to me by Wednesday, I won't add any late fees."

Steps to Settling a Conflict 

Many of us try to avoid conflicts; however, that is not always possible (or healthy). Some conflict is inevitable. In these cases, it is usually best to work towards a solution rather than ignore the issue and hope it will go away. 

Helpful Steps to Resolving Conflict:

  1. Set a time to meet when you are both calm and not busy.
  2. Begin by giving the other person a “positive message” about what is bothering you.
  3. Listen carefully to the other person’s point of view.
  4. Decrease areas of disagreement – find out what you can agree on.
  5. Offer solutions where you both give a little and get a lot. 
  6. If you cannot resolve the conflict on your own, suggest a mediator whom you both respect.

Example Scenario: Communicating with a Tenant

You can use this scenario as a model for communicating productively with a tenant. 

The Situation

Your tenant lost her job a few months back, and she hasn't paid rent since. You've been patient with her, but you're going to have trouble making the mortgage next month. You're thinking about filing an eviction against her.


  • What is the problem you need fixed? 
    • My tenant isn't paying rent.
  • How is the problem affecting you? 
    • It's getting hard to pay the mortgage, and my property tax bill is due in a few months.
  • How do you feel about this? 
    • I’m frustrated – my tenant signed a lease and promised to pay rent in full every month, and now she isn't following the contract.

Create an I-Message 

“I’ve been feeling frustrated and concerned, because I haven't received a rent check from you for several months now. I'm asking you to work with me on this, because I don't want to default on the property."

Planning: Next Steps

  • What are some steps you or your tenant could take to resolve the situation?
    • Partial payments: Perhaps your tenant could agree to pay what she can each month until she gets back on her feet.
    • Payment plan: If your tenant regains a source of income, another option could be to negotiate a payment plan for the arrears.
    • Rental assistance: You can ask your tenant to apply for rental assistance from a government agency or community non-profit. 
  • What will you do if your tenant does not agree / won't talk to me? 
    • You could try talking to your tenant one more time, this time letting her know that eviction is on the table.
    • You could contact a mediator or the City of Albany's Housing Services Advocate for assistance in contacting and negotiating with your tenant. 
    • If all of my efforts are unsuccessful, I may have to file an eviction against my tenant.
  • What will you do if your tenant agrees to pay rent, but does not follow through on her promise? 
    • I will reach out to my tenant to see what the situation is and why she hasn't paid yet. 
    • Then I would follow the same steps as above.