How to Minimize Resident Complaints During Renovations
Depending on where your site is locations and the local climate, the summer months may be the optimal time to perform upgrades and renovations at your site, especially if outdoor works is involved. Contractors may be more willing to work during the summer, and there may be greater availability of less expensive labor. All this may mean you may be able to negotiate a better deal for your site.
However, renovations such as common area improvements at your tax credit site can be a nuisance to residents. Even if the renovations result in an improved site for your residents, the construction work itself will often inconvenience and irritate them. But you can keep complaints and resident dissatisfaction to a minimum by communicating with your residents, says Montana manager Bruno Friia. He uses a four-step approach to keep his residents content during noisy, dusty renovation projects. We’ll tell you how he does it and give you a Model Letter: Use Announcement Letter to Stem Renovation Complaints to help you educate your residents about your next renovation project.
Residents Can Cause Problems During Renovation
Residents are usually enthusiastic about renovations, says Friia. They realize that you’re making their site a better place to live. But not everyone feels that way. A few residents will be angry that they have to go through the back entrance for a few weeks while you redo the main entrance. And somebody will always grumble that her hallway will be torn up for the week her family is in town. As unreasonable as these complaints may be, it’s a bad idea to ignore them.
If you don’t explain to your residents what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how it will affect them, you’re likely to get a lot of complaints. Without appropriate explanations, residents may call you repeatedly with complaints and inquiries about every aspect of a renovation. Some residents may even impede construction workers and caused project delays and cost overruns.
Four Steps to a Smooth Project
Most residents won’t complain if they understand that the disruption from the renovation is temporary and that the result will be worth the inconvenience. To educate them, follow these four steps:
1. Send announcement letter. Tell your residents about the upcoming renovations. As our Model Letter illustrates, your letter should:
- Explain what you’re doing;
- Explain how it will improve the site and residents’ everyday lives;
- Tell residents when the work will take place and what inconveniences they can expect; and
- Include a telephone number that residents can call to get information about the renovation. The number should be that of someone who’s available during business hours and who thoroughly understands the project. This person’s role is to keep your residents happy until the project is finished.
2. Hold resident meeting for large project. If the project is a large one, such as constructing an addition to a building or re-landscaping the site, consider holding a resident meeting. Use the meeting to explain the details of the project and to answer any questions your residents may have. “The trick is to put residents’ complaints to rest before they even think of them,” says Friia. So try to make a polished presentation. Display big pictures or diagrams of what the finished project will look like so that residents can see what they’re getting. The architect or contractor should be able to provide these items for you.
In the announcement letter, tell residents when and where the meeting will be held. If you manage a large site, hold more than one meeting at different times to make sure everyone can attend.
3. Display picture with contact information. Put posters up around the renovation site with a picture or diagram of what the area will look like when the renovations are completed. That way the project’s benefits will stay fresh in residents’ minds long after they’ve forgotten the announcement letter and the meeting. Include on the poster the contact information you put in the announcement letter.
4. Keep residents updated. It’s also a good idea to tell residents from time to time about the progress you’re making. As you complete phases of the project, put signs on the posters that say something like “We’re halfway done—your new walkway will be finished before you know it!” For larger projects, you can send update letters informing residents in different areas of the site when the project or a phase of the project will affect them.
Bruno Friia, CPM, MPM: CEO, Real Estate Mgmt. Group, 3011 American Way, Missoula, MT 59808; www.re-mg.com.
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