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There’s No Place like Home

Written by Wil Whalen, Spectrum Enterprises

Last week I was conducting an inspection in a high rise building.  As the property manager, the maintenance supervisor and I rode the elevator to the top floor of the building, they began talking about which tenants would give us a hard time or be upset about being chosen for the inspection. As it went, no matter how gruff the tenant was when they let us in, they were wishing us well as we walked out the door.  At the end of the inspection the property manager turned to me and said, “Wow, I wish I could take you with me on every inspection.  They loved you.”

At Spectrum, we inspect thousands of units each year.  We’ve walked into units where we didn’t want the bottoms of shoes to touch the floor and we’ve seen units that were immaculate.  Some units are covered with “Godfather”posters and others look as though Martha Stewart decorated them herself.  This is because the tenants are individual people and the units are their homes.

I’ve found that if you treat the tenant with respect and kindness and be conscious of the fact that you’re in their home and not just a unit, that you’ll have a much better experience.  I don’t waste time with too much small talk or get into conversations that would extend the unit inspection; I just treat both the unit and the tenant with respect.  I say hello, thank them for letting me into their home, and make a few positive comments while conducting my inspection.  If the unit is filthy, then I comment on the weather.  If the weather is awful then I comment on a photo or the styling of the apartment.  I also assure the tenant that I don’t intend to take up too much of their time.  One woman was so bothered by the fact that we were in her house, I took a second to let her know that I understood her time was just as important as mine and that I didn’t intend to take too much of it.  I followed that with a simple compliment on a beautiful painting she had on the wall.  By the time I walked out of her unit 3 minutes later, she was thanking me and wishing me a good afternoon.

That said, some tenants will be difficult for the sake of being difficult and no amount of smiles, flattery or good manners are going to change that.  Remember that some tenants may suffer from some sort of mental illness and this may come off as them being difficult.  For those units, just do your inspection and move on.

This isn’t about trickery or false compliments or even trying to “charm” people.  It’s about treating tenants like people and giving them the respect they deserve.  Yes, one of the down sides of living in affordable housing is the amount of inspections the tenants have to endure every year.  Not every inspection has to be painful though, a little respect goes a long way. So remember, just as you like to be treated with respect and as much as you expect people to respect your home, it’s important that we show our tax credit tenants and their units that same respect.  Because it is true, there’s no place like home.

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