In the age of ‘everything online, all the time’, bad news spreads quickly; and residents are leveraging various online channels (Condo.com, ApartmentRatings.com, BBB, Yelp, Google Reviews, Facebook, and others) to communicate their displeasure and frustration with property issues – particularly when it comes to plumbing. Prospective tenants are utilizing these channels to gain insight into how property management responds to requests and handles problems, before they decide where they want to live.
To become the property of choice for new tenants, as well as to increase or maintain your current tenant retention rate, properties must now address and solve problems before they tarnish their reputation. This includes taking proactive steps to maintain functional and problem free plumbing systems, such as using a seasonal checklist for properly maintaining your pipes (see our post on summer checklist essentials).
In addition, ensure your property management staff is proactive in responding to any and all online feedback by providing timely responses and direct contact information for residents to reach out with their concerns. Not only will tenants be pleased with your property’s dedication to resolving their issues, but potential residents will see the diligence & commitment of staff in providing top-notch customer service.
In addition to property reputation, what else affects resident retention?
Competitiveness & Rental Rates
Two properties in on the same street could be equally attractive cosmetically, but if one of those properties gains the reputation of having plumbing problems, as easily documented online, then the leak free property has a significant competitive advantage. The leaking property is left with lowered resident retention, increased costs (insurance premiums, water extraction, mold abatement, plumbing repairs, maintenance overtime, water and sewer usage/costs, associated damage repairs including the likes of drywall, paint repair) and could quickly start to feel the pressure to lower rents to attract prospective residents.
When a catastrophic leak damages a resident’s unit (walls, floors, carpets, cabinetry, paint, tile, ceilings) and contents (computers, televisions, furniture, clothing), often times the resident is burdened with filling a claim on their renter’s insurance policy. Forcing the residents hand in filing an insurance claim can open up a can of worms including withholding rent, posting poor online reviews, and creates a situation where a resident is always on the lookout for ways to “get back” at the property. Leak free plumbing can turn residents into community advocates whereas leaky plumbing turns residents into community critics who look for opportunities to condemn the communities living conditions as well as community staff members. Build Community Champions not Community Critics by keeping your piping leak free.
Have a Game Plan in Place
If your community has had its fair share of leaks, put a game plan in place for dealing with both big and small leaks. Communication is key! When a leak is reported, keep your residents in the know about what you’re doing to solve the problem and how quickly you anticipate the leak to be resolved. Make sure to have a handful of vetted and approved plumbers lined up to respond to such emergencies.
From a resident’s perspective, a leak, no matter how minor, is a real emergency. If leaks are not addressed immediately, residents are left feeling as though the property does not care about their living conditions, their belongings, as well as their safety or general wellbeing. More often than not, residents do not consider that there may be legitimate reasons why their leak repair is being delayed (it takes forever to get a plumber on a Sunday, maintenance staff is occupied with more pressing issues, it can be extremely difficult to get a local plumber to respond immediately.) The longer the response takes, the more agitated the resident becomes, and the harder it is to alleviate the resentment.
Maintaining a functional leak free plumbing system (fixtures and piping) is a key element of providing comfortable homes and keeping residents happy. Don’t let negative reviews tarnish your property’s potential. By providing a comfortable and properly functioning property for your residents while maintaining a proactive and professional customer-service model, you’ll be well on your way to keeping current and potential tenants pleased, both on the couch and on the web.