Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Building Relationships with Commercial Tenants

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Building Relationships with Commercial Tenants

Article excerpt

Traditionally, the property manager served as a "Mr. Fix-It," someone who handled a variety of customer complaints and rarely bothered to cultivate relationships with tenants.

However, as we head deeper into the 1990s, the role of the property manager has changed dramatically. In an increasingly soft market, the issue of tenant retention is becoming more and more important. Commercial property managers, as part of a team that includes marketing, maintenance, and leasing professionals, must do more than simply respond to requests for new carpeting and air conditioner repairs. To be truly effective in retaining tenants, we must know--and market--our product.

Before the lease

The first step toward tenant retention comes before the prospective tenant has even signed a lease.

To ensure a tenant's early satisfaction, the marketing, leasing, and property management departments must work together to keep the lines of communication between landlord and tenant open. For example, a property manager may assist in the presentation to a prospective tenant, providing information regarding building operations, services, and tenant mix, as well as introducing him- or herself as the person with whom the tenant will be dealing on a day-to-day basis. This type of early interaction is crucial, as it allows the prospective tenant to discuss any management issues or concerns he or she may have before moving in.

In order to best serve a potential tenant's needs, the property manager should strive to be as knowledgeable about the tenant's business as possible. This knowledge enables the manager to communicate more effectively with the tenant and demonstrates that he or she truly cares about the success of the tenant's business.

In addition, the manager also should be familiar with the tenant's space plan/buildout requirements and ought to attend any pre-lease space plan meetings. Upon completion of the fit-up work, the manager also should accompany the tenant on any pre-possession walkthroughs with the construction crew that provided the fit-up services. In these instances, the property manager must act on behalf of both the owner and tenant to make certain the space is ready for the new tenant.

One way to ensure that the work is completed to the tenant's satisfaction is to use a "punchlist" that details all necessary work outstanding and specifies when it must be completed. When the work is finished, the construction manager or building engineer will ask the tenant to sign the list, indicating that the work was completed satisfactorily, and return it to the property manager. This process provides accountability on all levels and eliminates any unpleasant surprises for either the property manager or the tenant.

Managers must stress to construction or maintenance crews the importance of completing tenant-requested work quickly and completely. Lingering problems, as trivial as they may seem to a landlord or manager, ultimately could cloud the relationship the manager is striving to build with the tenant.


Another way to better serve the tenant is to establish a positive and communicative relationship with the vendors serving the building: janitors, landscapers, and elevator and HVAC maintenance crews. Many managers have found that vendors who are made to feel that they have a vested interest in a building or project will provide better service. In addition, these vendors often will offer valuable suggestions and/or advice concerning potential problems or repair items they may see while servicing a building.

For instance, managers might meet regularly with cleaning, landscaping, and other maintenance crews to hear their thoughts on the project and to keep them informed of any special concerns. This practice can keep the lines of communication open and make the outside service-providers feel that they are part of the property "team."


Property management firms should provide ongoing training programs for their managers that include both inhouse and outside programs. …

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