As a landlord, it doesn’t take much for you to get a bad reputation. One or two unhappy residents won’t hurt much, but if you aren’t careful, a few bad reviews can snowball on review sites like Yelp. Prospective tenants often search for apartments by word of mouth, especially if they’re new in town. If you lose control of your narrative, it’s really hard to wrestle that sense of control back. Here are three ways you can keep up a solid reputation among renters in your area.
Upgrade instead of downgrading
Picture the following scenarios: In Scenario A, you’re leading a prospective tenant on a tour of the apartment complex. You pause by some construction and say, “There used to be a pool here, but we’re tearing it down.”
In Scenario B, you also pause at a construction site on the premises, but this time you say, “There used to be a pool here, but we’re tearing it up and replacing it with an even nicer one. There’s also going to be a hot tub.” Which scenario do you think will make the prospective tenant want to rent the apartment?
Tearing down something and replacing it with something better suggests that a landlord has their eye on progress. They want to create a better living experience for their tenants, even if it means going through some growing pains. But if you’re just removing a feature with no plan to replace it, that sends a message that you’re too cheap to offer nice things. You’re sending a signal to both current and future residents when you decide something nice isn’t worth the expense it costs you. If you’re going to get rid of a neat feature, try to replace it with something comparable. Putting it in a picnic area where the pool used to be is a lot better than just leaving a hole full of dirt.
Don’t nickel and dime your tenants
By the same token, you should also charge fair market value for your property. Tenants aren’t clueless. If they live in a hot rental market, they usually know that when they start searching for apartments. But while many tenants won’t blink at paying $1,000 for a studio apartment, they will blink if you charge a lot of suspicious service fees for amenities they can get free at other properties.
Take the rental application, for once. A simple rental application is one that an interested party can fill out without too much hassle. They don’t have to pay an exorbitant amount of money just to get a chance at renting an apartment. They will have to pay a fee to secure the apartment, but you shouldn’t charge someone $100 just for the privilege of filling out an application that contains all their personal information.
Communicate honestly and openly
Way too many people become landlords without knowing how to communicate properly. It turns out that a real estate license doesn’t necessarily come with a primer on the principles of communication. For instance, you should know that when you speak to tenants, the message you’re sending won’t always be the one your tenants receive. A written message will often (but not always) be easier to understand than one that’s issued verbally.
As a landlord, you also have to leave yourself open for any questions or concerns. You must seem friendly but not overly friendly, and approachable but not so approachable that your tenants will call you on your cell phone at 2am because their toilet is making a weird noise (that’s what an emergency maintenance hotline is for). Most landlords don’t get this right immediately, but that’s okay. You have to keep going until you figure out the right balance.