Resident Experience

How to Keep Your Residents Happy During COVID-19

Post by
Steven Keker
How to Keep Your Residents Happy During COVID-19

Every property manager looks forward to having reliable residents who never miss their rent payment dates and hardly ever need to be reminded about their rental space’s basic maintenance tasks. But once you a community of residents, you must do everything you can to keep them for the long term. There’s no better way to do that than to establish and maintain good relationships with them.

At a time when rental prices have plunged in most cities as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the U.S., you must stay creative to keep your property rentals afloat and returning a profit. Single-family homes’ rent growth was highest since 2016, just weeks before the country recorded its first coronavirus case. By May, that growth had evaporated as single-family rents plummeted to numbers not seen for over a decade.

Regardless of the dataset that you use, the truth is clear: the rental market is more fragmented now than we’ve seen in a long time. Residents can now get their hands on cheaper units with better terms and conditions. The dramatic shift in fortunes for property owners has meant that they have to rethink their approach to keep their properties occupied, including making deliberate efforts to keep their residents happy.

The following are seven tips you can leverage to keep your residents happy during these trying times:

Make Sure Your Expectations and Resident Agreement Are Clear

For those who want to manage their property instead of using a property agency, this is important to note. You can avoid unnecessary scuffles by establishing from the very start your expectations from residents and what they should expect from you.

Requiring that your residents sign the tenancy agreement beforehand will bind both of you to the stipulated terms. Both parties are sure to enjoy the predictability of expectations, ultimately leading to a happier relationship.

Manage Repairs Within Reasonable Timeframes

No resident appreciates a prolonged wait time for property management to complete maintenance requests. While a leak might be tolerable for the first few days, leaving it unattended for weeks or months is likely to push your residents over the edge, especially if they’re paying hefty rent amounts. For property owners who may find it hard to do property maintenance, perhaps because of family or work commitments, it might be the best time to consider a fully-managed property agency.

Commit to an Accelerated Process of Resolving Complaints

Many property managers have a rule of thumb regarding complaints: they should be resolved in a week, their severity notwithstanding. Make an effort to adopt this rule to demonstrate to your property residents that you take every one of their concerns seriously and that their complaints are a priority to you.

Keep in mind that while residents might be inclined to forgive you for slight delays, they’re likely to come guns blazing if the issues at hand are sensitive, like security. Promptly addressing complaints will show your residents that you are a reliable and responsible property manager.

Don’t Assume an Annual Rental Increase

For the majority of property owners, increasing rent is an annual ritual. The justification of these increases are usually twofold: an effort to align with changing market conditions and to keep the properties profitable by keeping up with costs of maintenance, insurance, and council rates that often go up from one year to the next. While these increases might be hard to argue against in any other year, 2020 is no typical year.

Even before the pandemic, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University says that about 20.8 million renters in America were cost-burdened— over 30% of their income was spent on housing. The situation is worse now. With COVID-19 affecting the livelihoods of millions across the nation, increasing rent right now would seem tone-deaf. It could ruin your relationship with some of your best residents, especially if they feel that those increases are somewhat unwarranted.

Instead of using overt tricks and intimidation techniques, as some have, to evict your renters, you can use this season to showcase the best of humanity. In this unprecedented time, the kind thing to do is either not alter it at all or even consider lowering it a little. Such a step shows goodwill, for which your residents will be grateful.

Respect Your Residents’ Privacy

While it is within your rights to inspect your residents’ home, dropping by unannounced comes across as crude and disrespectful. To avoid crossing the line, plan your visits well in advance, and inform the resident at least two days before your scheduled inspection. Besides, random checks are often unnecessary; inspect the property only when there is a valid reason.

Some residents might be resistant to inspections, so it would be wise to ensure the resident agreement includes that provision. You could also consider predictable timelines for inspections, say, once every six months.

Redesign Your Property to Feel like Home

Has it been a while since you gave your property a facelift? Maybe now’s the time. It might surprise you to learn that you could drastically change your property’s appeal by making small changes to it. Your residents will appreciate those small efforts that make that space feel more homely and which are likely to partly inform their decision to extend their contract on your property.

Keep up with the Latest Property Industry Legislation

It is your responsibility as the property owner to ensure that it conforms with industry legislation, including new provisions that may be introduced in your locality. For instance, property managers in New York City would be wise to learn how the new landlord-tenant mediation program that Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in July, works. Your residents should not be caught off-guard when local government officials show up to enforce some new rules that you are yet to communicate to them about. Staying proactive on this front will eliminate embarrassing and frustrating surprises, giving both you and your property residents peace of mind.

Conclusion

There’s no denying that the current COVID-19 circumstances are a frustration for many property owners. The key to surviving and thriving in this once-in-a-century situation is for you as the property owner to make the right decisions that will cement the good relationships you have with your residents. Finding new residents can be a financial burden, especially when most are staying put trying to wait out the pandemic. Keeping your residents happy is the best course of action.