Communication in a Disaster | Tips From Property Management in Seattle

By Real Property Associates

Updated August 4, 2022.

It can be scary and concerning for Seattle renters when they can't get in touch with their landlord! Under "normal," everyday conditions, your residents need to know they can reach you if they have a maintenance emergency. They also appreciate quick responses to non-emergency inquiries. 

Excellent communication with residents is one of the best ways to be a good landlord. However, if you're slow to communicate during a crisis, residents can feel forgotten, ignored, and unsure of how you're handling rent collection, maintenance, and other aspects of your landlord-renter responsibilities. 

However, a crisis is also an opportunity to rise to the occasion and build good relationships with residents. Here's how landlords can instill confidence in your residents through excellent communication during a crisis!

Please note: This article is not a substitute for legal advice. For up-to-date information and guidance, reach out to your attorney or to expert property management in Seattle!


Online Communication Keeps Everyone Informed

As we've seen with social distancing, we never know when in-person contact or conversations might not be a viable way to stay in touch during a crisis. What's your plan for keeping residents informed when they can't talk with you in person? 

Using email becomes a simple way to inform residents about short-term policy changes or temporary updates to your operations during a crisis. From sending out an announcement for all residents to documenting one-on-one email conversations with specific renters, using email is an excellent crisis communication system.

However, to maximize email as a means of making contact, ensure the messages you send are helpful, professional, and genuine.

Prepare In Advance

We don't often get an advanced warning that a crisis is on the way. For those of us who happen to practice professional property management in Seattle, we had very little time to prepare for social distancing and changes to protocols for collecting rent and handling maintenance. At the same time, it was easier for our staff here at Real Property Associates because we have been in the business of serving rental property owners since 1991.

If you don't have a working email address for every resident, some of your renters could miss important announcements and updates from you during a crisis. To get ready for communication during a potential disaster:

  • Collect email addresses now: Reach out to residents by phone, text, or mail and request updated contact information—including a current email address. If residents have lost employment as a result of the economic crisis, they might need to update their contact info with a personal email address instead of an inactive work address. 

  • Let residents know to watch for emails during a crisis: You have a variety of ways to connect with renters, but make sure they know to watch their inboxes for crisis updates. 

  • Provide regular updates: Even if you don't have a significant update, keep a routine schedule of sending notices to renters during a crisis. Remind them that you're working and available—even if your leasing office stays closed.

When residents understand your crisis communication plan in advance, they know where to go for updates. They'll also appreciate your pro-active measures to keep in touch when they're uncertain about protocols under unique circumstances. 

Don't make residents wonder what's going on! Confusion and lack of communication can lead to unhappy renters who look for a new place to live when their leases expire. 

African american man using laptop and smartphone

Stay In Touch—Without a Crisis

Again, silence from a landlord can be scary for renters. If they rarely hear from you during their lease term, residents can feel like they don't matter. They might also be less likely to reach out to you with a problem if they don't think you'll respond promptly. 

Effective property management in Seattle stays engaged with residents year-round. Property owners should be doing the same. Don't annoy residents with too many communications or updates, but make sure they hear from you consistently.

Create a schedule for:

  • All-renter updates: News, updates on personnel changes, Seattle landlord-renter guideline updates, and safety tips can remind residents that you're working hard on their behalf—and you're available. 

  • One-on-one resident check-ins: Reach out to your residents individually once a month or once a quarter to ask if they need anything. Your proactive reach-out can also trigger a reminder for them to report a maintenance issue. 

  • Property inspections: Put eyes on your residents and your investment property throughout the year. When renters see that you care about them (and your property), they feel like valued residents in a well-maintained home. 

Landlords can build trust and develop good relationships with residents through consistent communication throughout the year. When a crisis happens, your residents will know where to turn for information and guidance to get through a challenging time together. 

Excellent Communication Helps Reduce Resident Turnover

Give your residents every reason to value you and your services as a landlord! Excellent communication during a crisis can quickly deteriorate. However, communicating well—crisis or not—is one of the best ways to build lasting relationships with residents and reduce turnover!  

Choose the right expert property management in Seattle to keep communication flowing with residents! Real Property Associates can help you put a crisis plan in place and stay in touch with your renters before, during, and after a crisis. We can also help enforce rent collection during a disaster. Learn more about it with our free resource, the Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook!

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