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Pro tips for handling tenant complaints

By 7 min read • February 5, 2024

How you handle tenant complaints says a lot about you as a landlord. Even if you have a fantastic relationship with your tenant most of the time, it’s how you respond during the more challenging moments that will stick in their minds.

The art of tenant complaint resolution

Your complaint resolution process can make or break your reputation as a landlord. Keeping your tenants happy is in your best interests too, as advertising for and screening new tenants can be time-consuming and costly. So, doing what you can to keep your existing tenants happy makes sense.

If you take your role as a landlord seriously and offer an excellent level of service by showing genuine care and concern for your tenant’s safety, well-being, and comfort, then complaints should be few and far between. But hey, it’s unlikely you’ll get away without ever receiving a complaint, even if you’re an A* landlord. So, when complaints pop up, it’s important to know how to handle them efficiently and sensitively.

In this article, we’ll provide guidance on how to keep the peace whilst handling tenant complaints and resolving issues promptly and to everyone’s satisfaction.

Tips for avoiding tenant complaints

No landlord wants to hear that their tenant is unhappy with their service. But let’s be realistic; complaints are part and parcel of the job – you’ve got to expect them from time to time.

Of course, the best way to avoid complaints is to ensure your tenants haven’t got anything to complain about! Easier said than done? Of course, the odd tenant will always find something to grumble about no matter what you do. But for the most part, being proactive goes a long way.

Here are our top tips for providing an attentive service to minimise the risk of tenant complaints.

  • Screen tenants carefully – Carefully screen tenants and look for people you get a good vibe from and feel confident you’ll be able to have a positive professional relationship with. Never skip carrying out credit and reference checks, and trust your gut when screening tenants. If a prospective tenant makes you feel uneasy, there’s usually a good reason.
  • Be an awesome landlord – Go out of your way to ensure tenants have nothing to complain about. Don’t forget that providing a first-class service isn’t only about meticulously maintaining your property; it’s also about your attitude, communicativeness, and flexibility.
  • Keep communication open – Ensure that you’re always available and approachable. If your tenants know they can easily reach you, they’re more likely to discuss smaller issues before they become bigger problems.
  • Take maintenance seriously – Regular maintenance checks and prompt repairs show your tenants that you care about their comfort and the property’s upkeep.
  • Follow up on tenant issues promptly – When tenants raise issues, act on them quickly. This solves the problem, prevents irritation or resentment from building up, and helps to build trust.
  • Build good relationships Finally, be respectful, listen to your tenants, take their concerns seriously, and respond promptly to all communications. These practices help cultivate good relationships by making tenants feel heard and valued.

Tenant complaints procedure

Having formal processes in place for handling tenant complaints is more than just good practice; it also demonstrates your professionalism as a landlord and ensures issues are resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The Housing Ombudsman advises landlords to take all issues through a formal complaint procedure, explaining that failure to do so could result in a finding of ‘maladministration’ or ‘service failure’ if the tenant takes their complaint to the Housing Ombudsman.

Your complaint procedure should aim to conduct a thorough investigation and find a solution to a dispute. It’s important to inform tenants about your complaint procedure early on, ideally when you hand over the keys to the property at the start of the lease. This should include the best ways to contact you, how quickly to expect a response, and the procedure you’ll follow to resolve complaints.

You can find invaluable guidance on the Housing Ombudsman website about how to investigate and respond to complaints.

How to handle tenant complaints peacefully

How you respond when you receive a complaint can mean the difference between a quick resolution and a full-blown dispute. Your aim should always be to resolve tenant issues as promptly and amicably as possible, no matter how big or small.

Here’s a guide to handling tenant complaints peacefully.

  • Implement a complaints procedure – A clear and structured complaints procedure demonstrates your professionalism and provides a helpful roadmap to make the process run smoothly and efficiently.
  • Respond promptly – If a tenant is already irritated, waiting a long time for a response or chasing you up will only add fuel to the fire. A prompt response shows your tenant that you have taken their complaint seriously and are committed to finding a solution.
  • Communicate calmly and respectfully – It’s difficult to have a constructive conversation when tensions are high, so it’s important to keep the tone as calm and respectful as possible to help diffuse conflict.
  • Don’t take it personally – Remember, complaints are part and parcel of the job. Different people have different standards, and it’s natural for issues to arise now and then. Take a step back, and don’t take it personally.
  • Have empathy – Showing tenants empathy when they have a problem and demonstrating genuine concern for their wellbeing and comfort can help diffuse conflict quickly.
  • Apologise – If the complaint is valid and you know you’re at fault, swallow your pride and apologise; sometimes, that is all the tenant wants to hear.
  • Keep records of all complaints and communications – Always keep digital documentation of all communications you have with the tenant during a dispute; a clear history of communications is invaluable if the dispute escalates further.

We get it; sometimes tenants don’t air their complaints respectfully, or their complaints may seem unwarranted – but you’re running a business here, and it’s your job always to remain calm, collected, and professional in the face of conflict, regardless of the nature of the complaint. By approaching every issue with a professional and solution-focused approach, you can uphold your reputation as a landlord and improve your services.

Common tenant complaints

Managing tenant complaints is an important part of property management, and while complaints can vary widely, some topics come up more often than others. Being prepared and knowledgeable about some of the most common tenant issues can help you avoid them and handle them efficiently if they crop up. Common tenant complaints include:

Property maintenance issues

Property maintenance problems can involve anything and everything, from a broken door to a leaky tap. Regular property inspections and maintenance can help minimise the risk of problems. However, if a tenant informs you of a maintenance issue, prompt action is crucial to prevent the problem from escalating or becoming more difficult or expensive to fix.

Faulty or broken appliances

If you’ve equipped the property with appliances like a washing machine, hoover, or fridge, and something becomes faulty, it can significantly impact the tenant’s daily life. It’s important to arrange repairs or replacements promptly to minimise disruption for the tenant.

Damp or mould

Damp and mould problems are particularly common in older properties during winter months. If your tenant reports damp issues or mould in the property, it’s important to find the cause of the problem and resolve it as quickly as possible, not only for the tenant’s health and comfort but also to preserve the integrity of your property. Causes can include structural issues, poor ventilation, blocked gutters, and condensation problems.


Pests also pose a significant health risk and can quickly make a property uninhabitable. If your tenants have noticed pests at the property, then you may need to call in an expert to eradicate the problem and provide tenants with advice on steps they can take to help keep pests at bay in the future.

Noisy neighbours

Noisy neighbours can significantly impact a tenant’s quality of life. If tenants are having ongoing problems with noisy neighbours, you can offer advice about recording details of disturbances and having a polite word with the neighbour. If the situation doesn’t improve, you may be able to step in and speak to the neighbour, or if the neighbouring property is also rented, contact their landlord. If the anti-social behaviour doesn’t improve, you can support your tenant through the process of making a formal complaint.

Landlord visits

There’s a difference between being an attentive landlord and being a nuisance! Don’t forget that you must always provide tenants with at least 24 hours’ notice if you plan to visit the property for some reason. You should always speak with the tenant and choose a convenient time for them. Remember, your tenant has the right to the quiet enjoyment of the property – you shouldn’t be popping over regularly or unannounced. The only times you need to attend are for routine inspections, to perform property maintenance, or to respond to an issue they’ve raised.

Lack of communication

If your tenant struggles to contact you or you’ve not responded to their messages promptly, they will understandably become frustrated. Don’t forget that you’re running a business and are responsible for ensuring your paying customers, the tenants, receive a high level of service. Radio silence can leave tenants feeling unvalued and uncared for. Being responsive can minimise the risk of small issues developing into more serious complaints.

Other tenants

If you manage an HMO, you may have to act as a mediator between tenants from time to time. If your tenants aren’t getting along, listen carefully to each side’s version of events and get everyone together to talk things through amicably and resolve differences.

What to do when tenants file a formal complaint

If you and your tenant cannot reach an agreement, then the tenant may escalate the issue above your head by submitting a complaint to your local council or the Housing Ombudsman. Let’s find out more about what each route entails.

Complaint with the local council

Tenants can file a complaint with the local council if the issue affects their health or safety or involves housing standards. Upon receiving the complaint, the council will arrange to inspect the property to assess the validity of the complaint. Landlords need to cooperate fully with the council’s investigation and promptly provide any information they request. Demonstrating a willingness to cooperate and resolve the issue can help to mitigate potential penalties.

Complaint with the Housing Ombudsman

Complaints are usually filed with the Housing Ombudsman if they are more serious or cannot be resolved through the local council. You must submit all relevant documentation and correspondence related to the dispute. The Housing Ombudsman will then conduct an impartial review of the complaint, considering evidence submitted by both the landlord and the tenant. After reviewing the evidence, the Ombudsman will make recommendations for resolving the issue fairly.

Discovering that your tenant has filed a complaint can be stressful and upsetting, but it’s important to remain calm and professional and focus on finding a solution and resolving the matter. Taking a constructive approach and maintaining communication with the tenant demonstrates a commitment to resolving the issue and maintaining a harmonious relationship with the tenant.

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