Landlord can be another word for mediator

When most landlords and developers decided to enter the CRE marketplace, they probably had lots of reasons. Perhaps it was the chance to give back to a particular community, or to reap the rewards of a strong investment, or to provide a high-quality service that others can enjoy. Hardly any of them, though, thought that CRE would be an excellent opportunity to be a mediator.

Nevertheless, that’s exactly what they’re called to be when tenants are at war with one another. As more commercial tenants seek shared spaces and as retail tenants amp up competition for a population adapting to e-commerce, tenant conflicts have expanded beyond the multi-family housing arena.

And adopting some proactive solutions not only heads off potential conflict between tenants, it also comes in handy when a landlord has to take a firm stance.

A strong lease is the number-one tool

To head off any potential conflicts between tenants, a strong lease can set the proper tone from the beginning—especially in an environment where several tenants may be sharing everything, from adjoining walls and amenities to kitchens and parking.

The lease is the landlord’s chance to spell out specific rules that address two of the top concerns residential and commercial tenants have: safety and a peaceful environment. This is a chance to define expectations for tenant behavior and consequences for making threats against or harassing other tenants, as well as violating noise restrictions.

Get the balance right

Where commercial properties are concerned, especially those that house multiple tenants, landlords often try to achieve a sense of balance. This effort, though, has become more complicated in light of a sharing economy, where everything from offices to parking spaces are being used by more than one tenant.

When looking for new commercial tenants, it’s critical to have a full understanding of their business. This includes hours of operation (so that shared parking is achievable) to demographics (so that a yoga studio with evening classes is not next to a music venue) to not filling a complex with high-use tenants (so that customers have trouble parking, which results in their avoiding the complex … which results in a loss of revenue for tenants and the owner).

Develop a resolution policy

It’s especially helpful for landlords and owners to have a procedure to follow when mediating disputes. This guarantees that all tenants and their complaints are handled equally.

  • Consider creating a welcome package for tenants. This information can include basic information about living or working in a specific property, but it’s also a chance for the landlord to again spell out the expectations of good tenant behavior. This can include suggestions on how tenants can appropriately solve a conflict with another tenant on his/her own, as well as steps to take if the matter should escalate.

  • The welcome package should include instructions on how to file a complaint against another tenant with the landlord. Forms for such a complaint document can be included, with specific instructions on how and when to contact the landlord, owner, or property manager.

  • As the person receiving the complaint, there is a tremendous responsibility to respond in a timely manner. The tenant making the complaint wants to know that his or her concerns have been heard. This can be done with a return phone call, email, or letter to assure the tenant that you will investigate and that you take lease-violating behavior seriously. Each complaint, no matter how trivial it may seem, must be taken seriously.

  • At the same time, the landlord should contact the tenant named in the dispute to inform him or her of the situation. While the source of the complaint should remain confidential, this call is the perfect time to remind the tenant that violations of the lease—the landlord’s number-one tool—are grounds for eviction. A written summary of this interaction should be sent to the tenant in question.

  • It cannot be said enough times: document everything. This includes the initial complaint—using the complaint form in the welcome package or an online format—and logs and summaries of conversations and steps taken. This protects the landlord should the infraction result in an eviction and/or if there is future legal action as a result of this dispute.

  • Follow up with the tenant who made the complaint to ensure that the situation was resolved.

  • It may be necessary to conduct a face-to-face mediation with both parties. If this is the case, it is imperative for the landlord to remain professional and impartial. Both parties should air their grievances, and the landlord can rephrase these to help the parties understand that their concerns have been heard. The landlord can then produce documentation, such as the signed lease (there’s that number-one tool again) with the specific expectations for a safe and peaceful environment and the consequences for violating those expectations.

Being a commercial or residential landlord involves the art of mediation

Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, being part of a dispute—either as a complainant or a mediator—can be messy, time consuming, and complicated. Morris Southeast Group’s property management services can assist in the mediation process. In addition, our tenant and owner representation skill set can help match your vision with the right property to prevent potential conflicts. To learn more about what Morris Southeast Group can do for you, call us at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at


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