As service providers to renters, landlords will benefit from understanding the top complaints voiced by their customer base in order to provide better service and secure long term tenants.
The impact of a tenant’s dissatisfaction with a rental experience can result in increased turnover, high vacancy and a poor reputation in your community. The best defense against tenant complaints is to handle them appropriately or prevent them altogether.
In general, tenant complaints can be segmented into two categories:
- Complaints about Management
- Complaints to Management
Tenant complaints about management reflect of your renter’s impression of you, your management style and your business. Complaints about management tend to revolve around how tenant communication and customer service is handled, maintenance requests, the application process, rental rates, and security deposits.
In some cases, a tenant complaint is unjustified and his frustration with management is due to the misunderstanding of his role in the landlord-tenant relationship. For example, a common tenant complaint regards the costs associated with applying for a new rental home and the credit check requirement. For this type of situation, the best solution is to effectively communicate the renter benefits of tenant screening and how application funds are allocated.
In order to help landlords effectively manage their reputation among renters and provide superior service to tenants, here is a list of common renter complaints about management and how to resolve them.
Complaints about Management
- Bad communication
Common complaints about poor communication from management can include a renter feeling like their landlord is hard to get a hold of and does not return phone calls or emails. A renter may be looking to speak with a landlord with simple questions, like when trash is picked up every week, or with bigger issues, like a maintenance emergency or that criminal activity is suspected from a neighbor and their safety feel threatened.
Resolution: Take all tenant communication seriously. At the beginning of the lease term, provide your tenant with the best way to get a hold of you for non-emergent and emergency communication. Give your tenant appropriate expectations about when you will respond to non-emergent issues and provide answers. The key is to be realistic about your response time and stick to it. You also need to respond in an appropriate amount of time, 1-3 days is ok for non-emergent issues. More than a week is not. Emergency tenant communication should be handled immediately.
Pro Tip: Email communication with a tenant is an excellent way to keep good records of all tenant communication.
- Poor customer service
As J Turner Research found, renters find issue with a general lack of customer service from landlords and the rental management staff. Landlords can often forget that a renter is their customer and it can be easy to only focus on the property and the business without looking at the person on their other side of a landlord tenant relationship.
Resolution: Building a positive relationship starts with the first conversation and continues into the rental process and through tenancy. A positive relationship with your tenant, in truth, should never end as a they can always provide an outstanding word of mouth recommendation for future tenants who are considering renting from you, even after they vacate your property.
- Rental Application Fees
Rental application fees are a highly debated topic among tenants who may view the dollar signs in a rental advertisement as a reason to look at another property. Complaints regarding rental application fees tend to stem from a renter assuming landlords are profiting from these funds.
Resolution: As mentioned above, explaining the reasons behind the application fee and how the collected fees are used should satisfy qualified renters. For example, explain that the an application fee covers the cost of a criminal background check so they know you are only renting to quality tenants and providing them with a safe home.
- Security Deposits Refunds
Renters who assume they will receive their full security deposit upon vacating are often shocked and frustrated to find their deposit was used by management to fix any tenant caused property damage. Complaints about security deposits heighten when a renter feels the property damage was exaggerated and deposit deductions were unjust.
Resolution: Provide your tenant with a move-out checklist, including the criteria in your move-out inspection report and the condition you expect to find your property after they vacate. After they move out, return their deposit with an explanation of charges to their forwarding address. If you are deducting charges, be clear about them and break down the work. For example, instead of saying $100 for patching and painting the walls, break it down further, $10 for each 5 spots in the living room, $20 for the spot over the fireplace and $30 for paint and supplies. The more specific you are, the less likely they will be able to dispute the charges. And always use pictures to illustrate the damage.
- Ignored Maintenance Requests
Landlords who fail to respond to maintenance requests in a timely manner may find a dissatisfied renter. While emergency repairs are easily prioritized by a landlord who wants to protect their investment, non-emergent maintenance requests should be handled in a timely manner in order to protect your landlord-tenant relationship.
Resolution: Give your tenants appropriate means of contacting you and ways to submit work orders. Consider using property management software that provides a tenant portal where tenants can submit work orders online and landlords can easily manage requests, respond to tenants and coordinate with vendors online. Provide your tenants with information about how and who to contact about maintenance requests and work orders.
- Rent Increases
Complaints about rent increases are typically due to a renter assuming the increase is a result of a greedy landlord. Rent increases are a natural part of working in a fluid industry, where rates are set based on the corresponding market demand. Landlords may decide to increase their rental prices in order to match market rates, to pay for property maintenance or improvements, to accommodate tax increases, or simply to increase their profits. The trick to raising rents appropriately is doing so in a manner that limits turnover and keeps vacancy rates low.
Resolution: Be prepared to address negative feedback about rent increases from your tenants with legitimate justification for your action. Are you matching market prices? Do you offer new amenities? Are you updating the property? If you keep your tenants informed as to the reason behind a new, higher monthly rent, they will be more willingly to adhere to your changes.
Pro Tip: Raising your rent prices might have more success if you offer the higher rate to new tenants, rather than current tenants. You might experience more push back and higher tenant turnover if you suddenly increase your rent rates for tenants who are used to your prices.
Having the means of dealing with tenant complaints will ensure proper management of your properties. Handling tenant complaints appropriately and preventing them from happening altogether will create a positive landlord-tenant relationship and build your reputation as a great property manager in the community.
As demonstrated above, the majority of these complaints and resolutions tend to stem from lack of communication or information about standard practices in the rental industry. Although it is ultimately the renters responsibility to stay informed about their rights in a landlord-tenant relationship, you can mediate the situation by communicating patiently and effectively with your renters.
Positively managing tenant complaints contributes to your success as a landlord and helps you retain your best renters. With each interaction that is handled appropriately, you build the foundation for a great relationship with your current tenants, which translate to less turnover, less vacancies, and more income.
Kaycee Wegener is an associate of Rentec Direct, providers of property management software. As Rentec Direct’s Content Strategist, Kaycee informs and entertains property managers and landlords who seek industry related tips and trends. To learn more about Kaycee or Rentec Direct, visit www.rentecdirect.com