Calendar icon January 18, 2024

7 Common Tenant Complaints and How to Deal with Them

Before we get to common tenant complaints, let’s get a property management complaint clear: It can feel like the only time tenants are responsible is when they have a “complaint.” We’ve had plenty of property managers express this frustration! 

The key for property managers is to put a plan in place to proactively prevent issues that might lead to resident complaints. By offering residents valuable services and deploying proactive strategies, property managers can avoid a lot of the headaches of dealing with complaints.

Of course, no matter how well you anticipate problems, they will inevitably arise. So, today, we’re sharing our findings from conversations with property management companies on the ground. We’re outlining the top seven tenant complaints they shared with us and the best process to resolve rental complaints or disputes.

Common Tenant Complaints

We polled a group of single-family property managers, asking them to list the most common tenant complaints their companies deal with. We’ve grouped the specific complaints into broader categories. Without further ado, here are the top seven.

1. Maintenance issues

Maintenance issues were by far the most common tenant issues listed. From plumbing and water backup complaints to water heater or furnace issues to regular wear and tear.

Perhaps the most important factor in these types of complaints is response time. Maintenance issues are unavoidable to some extent, so the way in which a property manager deals with them when they occur makes all the difference.

Property managers often use property maintenance software to help automate and manage responses to maintenance requests. Platforms like Property Meld can help optimize work order management, response-time tracking, communication, scheduling, and more.  

Another key to managing maintenance complaints is to ensure you have preventive maintenance strategies in place. This can be a resident rewards system that encourages residents to take preventive measures themselves. An air filter subscription is another way to ensure critical maintenance issues pop up less frequently. We include both of these services in the Second Nature Resident Benefits Package (RBP) and have seen them prove quite effective.

 

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2. Aging appliances

While you might wrap this into maintenance issues, it comes up enough to warrant its own category. Aging or malfunctioning appliances are some of the top renters’ complaints we hear about from property managers.

As with other maintenance issues, the key is a quick response time and quick resolution. Property managers can use similar maintenance software tools to respond to and schedule repairs with appliance vendors.

A preventive strategy here is to ensure that all appliances are up to date when you have a transition between residents.

3. Utility costs

None of us love paying for utility costs, and this is another top complaint we’ve heard property managers report from their residents. Residents may complain about the rising cost of heat in winter or air conditioning in summer.

Property managers have different approaches to utility bills. Some will put the utilities in their name or the property owners’ name and then bill it back to the resident during occupancy (which eliminates the headache of transitioning between tenants). Others will put everything in the residents’ names when they move in. Still others will take a hybrid approach – for example, putting water in the owners’ name and energy and internet in the residents’.

Whatever way you slice it, though, the rising cost of energy and utilities is a headache. One way to help residents through this is by providing services that help build their financial security and reward them for on-time bill payments, etc.

A Resident Benefits Package achieves this by giving residents services they value and are willing to pay a little extra for. For example, the Second Nature RBP includes a move-in concierge service that helps residents find the best prices for utilities in their area and set them up without the hassle. It’s all done in a single phone call.

4. Rent concerns

Residents may also complain about strict rent payment deadlines or rent increases. There are a few ways to address this. First, it’s critical to set expectations from the very start. Let residents know what rent deadlines will be and help set up an easy payment system to remove barriers to on-time payments. For rent increases, you can give them the option of locking in a rate for a longer-term lease.

Once expectations are set, you are in a better position to enforce them.

Another great way to approach resident rent concerns is to give them incentives for paying rent on time and help them build financial stability through those payments. In our RBP, we provide credit reporting services to ensure that every on-time payment benefits the residents’ credit. And our resident rewards program gives residents perks for on-time payments, too.

5. Pests

Another common reason residents might reach out is to address pest problems like bed bugs, cockroaches, mice and other rodents, etc. These rental complaints must be addressed immediately to avoid a pest issue becoming a pest infestation.

Property managers typically have trusted vendor relationships with pest control and exterminators in place to deal with pests immediately should any issues arise.

While preventive measures like sprays can be somewhat effective, we’ve found that the ROI just isn’t there for most property management companies. A better strategy is to have on-demand pest management services available to deal with the issue if and when it happens.

Pest control for property management nips the problem in the bud, and you’re not overpaying for services you don’t need.

6. Safety

Feeling safe in our own homes is critical to our quality of life. Safety concerns may not always be a property manager’s responsibility, but tenants may still reach out about them.

While PMs can always recommend security systems, the key here is simply to ensure the property is in good condition. At a move-in inspection, ensure all locks are in working order, windows close and lock properly, and outdoor lighting is in good condition. States also may have laws concerning locks, keys, and security, which property managers should be familiar with.

Another great way to invest in resident safety is to provide renter’s insurance. A renter’s insurance program can give residents peace of mind about risks and protect the owner from unexpected loss of income or property damage.

One more increasingly important factor in safety? Identity protection. Cybercrime occurrences have surpassed home burglaries in the past three years. With identity protection, you can provide a valuable service to residents and a buffer to their finances while they get restoration.

7. Communication gaps

Lack of communication can cause big issues.

Setting expectations from the start, and keeping residents regularly informed of important updates and information, is key to their satisfaction. From their welcome letter and lease agreement to renewal notice to move-out instructions, every touchpoint matters in ensuring residents are getting the best experience and value from your property management company.

With communication, it’s critical to track your teams’ response times when handling tenant complaints and how quickly tenant issues are resolved. Any time you receive communication from a resident, your team should respond promptly and with the best service possible.

This brings us right into our next section, where we’ll outline in more detail how that communication should progress.

How to deal with tenant complaints in your rental properties

Here are a few different tactics and processes to have in place at your property management company to take care of renters’ complaints before they become a sticking point or damage the relationship.

Never ignore a complaint

Any property manager can tell you that ignoring a complaint is possibly the worst thing you could do. Not only will it lead to disgruntled residents, but ignoring serious issues like maintenance problems, pests, or safety can lead to escalating problems that could cost your clients a lot of money.

Even if a complaint doesn’t have merit, property managers should respond with a clear explanation to ensure residents know they were heard.

Get as much information as you can

When your team first receives a complaint, they should ask lots of questions to ensure they fully understand the issue. Get all the information you can so that you can get to a solution.

There are plenty of software tools on the market that can help with this step. For example, Mezo is an AI-driven property management software that takes requests directly from residents and uses conversational AI to ask these questions in real time. This helps identify the actual issue, help the residents resolve it themselves, or escalate it to the right vendor.

Be empathetic in your communication

You’ll get much further with residents if your approach is empathetic rather than combative. If they’re happy, they’re more likely to stay, to pay on time, and to be an easier customer to deal with. Train your team to listen and respond with empathy and excellent customer service.

Explain the steps to resolution

Overcommunicate and keep your tenant in the loop. Explain the steps that will be taken to resolve their issue. Follow up after to ensure that they are satisfied. You can use software tools to help track this and support communication through a dashboard, automation, etc.

Take preventive measures to avoid repeat issues where possible

If it’s within your power, set up preventive measures and reassure your residents that similar issues won’t arise again – or that you’re ready for them when they do. Again, some useful strategies could include an air filter delivery service, on-demand pest control, and more.

Communicate value

Remind your residents of the value you provide them! Got a pest complaint? Remind them that on-demand pest control is already part of their resident benefits package – an add-on value that not every property will include. Of course, you don’t want to be exploitative about this, but a successfully resolved issue is an opportunity to communicate the value of the property they’ve chosen.

How to resolve rental disputes when complaints go unaddressed

Though it should be rare, disputes will occasionally arise between tenants and property managers or owners. If a dispute does arise, it’s critical to know the laws in your area and to seek legal advice about tenants’ rights and what you’re required to do by law.

Here are a few key ways to deal with rental disputes:

  • Keep communication open: Initiate open and clear communication with the resident. Encourage them to express their concerns and provide details about the unresolved issues. This dialogue can help in understanding the problem better. 
  • Document everything: Keep detailed records of all communication, including emails, letters, and notes from conversations. Documentation is essential for legal purposes and can serve as evidence if the dispute escalates.
  • Inspect the property: Have a thorough inspection of the rental property to assess the validity of the complaints. Document any issues found during the inspection, and share the findings with residents.
  • Offer solutions: Propose viable solutions to address the specific complaints. Work collaboratively with the resident to find mutually agreeable resolutions. This may involve repairs, maintenance, or other actions to remedy the situation.
  • Legal consultation or mediation: As we mentioned, given the variation in state laws, it's crucial to seek legal advice. You may also want to consider a professional mediator before taking more serious legal action.
  • Follow proper procedures: Adhere to any applicable eviction or dispute resolution procedures outlined in your state's landlord-tenant laws. Failing to follow proper procedures may lead to legal consequences.
  • Document resolutions: Once a resolution is reached, document the agreed-upon actions in writing. Both parties should sign the agreement, creating a legal record of the terms agreed upon to avoid future misunderstandings.

Remember, the specifics of these steps may vary based on your location and the unique circumstances of the dispute. Always consult with a legal professional to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations.

How Second Nature helps deal with tenant complaints and rental disputes

One of the best ways to address inevitable complaints is to ensure you have a good relationship with your residents. Keep communication open, set clear expectations, and be responsive. It’s also important to ensure that you offer a great resident experience overall.

Second Nature’s goal is to help property managers provide the best resident experience possible. To that end, we’ve developed a robust and customizable Resident Benefits Package that helps support preventive strategies, rewards responsible resident behavior, and protects residents’ financial stability.

Learn more about the benefits of an RBP and how we’re helping property managers drive resident satisfaction.

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Property Management Pest Control Gone Wrong: Resident Horror Stories & Nightmares

In the world of property management and real estate investing, maintaining a clean and pest-free environment is central to the well-being of the residents who live in your properties. That being said, effective pest control is not only a best practice, but also a strategic move that enhances your properties’ living experience, making your life as a property manager easier and your residents happier. Pest control is crucial for several reasons: Investing in pest control saves significant potential costs by avoiding large-scale infestations and property damage, enhancing resident satisfaction with a healthier, pest-free environment, and preserving property value. This approach reduces health risks, protects against liability, and maintains a good reputation by demonstrating the property management company’s dedication to providing safe, comfortable living spaces for great tenants. Ultimately, pest control sets professional property management companies apart from DIY and amateur real estate investors by safeguarding both residents' well-being and property assets. By addressing these points, you can foster a positive living environment that benefits both you and your residents. It’s important to note that our goal is not to call out “good tenants” vs. “bad tenants.” Instead, we always aim to foster a constructive dialogue focused on addressing problems and finding solutions. By emphasizing respect and fairness, we can help create a positive environment that benefits all residents, ensuring their rights and dignity are always respected. Also note that even though we here at Second Nature prefer the term "resident" over "tenant" to foster the human element, the word "tenant" may still be used occasionally due to its long-standing legal and real estate context. "House of Horror" Stories Most property managers have encountered their share of resident horror stories – and many, not for the first time. These tales often involve unexpected and severe pest infestations, made worse by residents' behaviors. Indeed, from bedbugs and roaches (the truly bad tenants any property manager is looking to be rid of) to animal issues, the range of pest problems is vast and daunting. Our "House of Horror Stories" video provides a vivid account of these situations, including some landlord horror stories that are too distressing to include here. Maggots falling from the ceiling: A tenant reported maggots falling from the ceiling onto their bed. The pest company discovered that these maggots were larvae of beetles infesting the air ducts in the neighborhood. Pets and extensive damage: Animals in one property caused extensive damage by covering all floors with feces and chewing through doors, door frames, flooring, HVAC systems, and appliances, with clean-up costs exceeding $15,000. Flushable wipes backup: A tenant flushing baby wipes caused a major sewage backup, leading to water damage throughout multiple rooms (including the living room and master bedroom), with clean-up costs close to $5,000. Donkey in the basement: During the purchase inspection, a donkey was found tied to the deck and later moved to the basement to hide it from animal control, calling for its quick removal. Rodents damaging appliances: Rats infested a property, chewing through a new dishwasher, insulation, and electrical wires, requiring repeated pest control visits and extensive repairs. These stories from a range of contributors highlight the unpredictable and often extreme challenges property managers face in maintaining their properties and ensuring the safety and well-being of their residents. How to Control Resident Pest Issues A robust pest control program is often the property manager’s best friend. After all, infestations can be difficult to proactively defend against, given that background checks, references, and tenant screening go only so far in uncovering the pest issues that can befall even the best tenants. Regardless of the challenges residents may present, a comprehensive pest control plan can mitigate potential infestations before they escalate into true horror stories. This includes timely intervention, and educating residents about maintaining cleanliness. Providing residents with clear guidelines on waste disposal and food storage can also significantly mitigate pest problems. Additionally, offering pest control services as part of a Resident Benefits Package can encourage residents to report issues early, allowing for swift action. Planning Ahead When dealing with problematic residents, it's essential to have a clear action plan. Issuing notices to clean the property promptly (e.g., with a 7-day notice period) is a critical first step. Leveraging a notice-to-clean template can streamline the process and ensure that you comply with tenant laws and legal standards. If worst things come to worst, an eviction notice may become necessary. However, this process is governed by various rules and regulations that can differ significantly across federal and state lines. It's important to be well-versed in these laws to avoid legal pitfalls. A detailed “notice to vacate” template can be incredibly helpful for property managers looking to take care of these complex situations. Nipping Things in the Bud In conclusion, maintaining a pest-free environment is integral to property management success. On-Demand Pest Control is a service in Second Nature’s fully managed Resident Benefits Package (RBP). It offers predictable, cost-effective, and fast solutions when a pest issue arises. Instead of expensive scheduled preventive treatments, residents can request service as needed. This approach ensures fast response times, directly addressing the problem at hand and saving costs over recurring treatments Property managers simply select the best pest plan from four tiers of service levels to include in their RBP. When an issue arises, the resident reports it in the On-Demand Pest Control portal, and the pest issue will be resolved. Learn more about On-Demand Pest Control by getting in touch, or read our latest study on the impact of our RBP on the resident experience.

Calendar icon July 3, 2024

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Your Guide to Property Management Laws, Regulations, & Rules

Property management activities involve overseeing rental properties, ensuring they’re maintained, residents are managed, and finances are handled effectively. While a real estate license is not always necessary to manage rental properties, licensing requirements can vary significantly by state. Typically, states may require property managers to hold a real estate license or work under a licensed broker. Property managers should familiarize themselves with the specific regulations in their state to ensure compliance. What Are Some Important Property Management Rules and Regulations? Property management laws encompass various areas, ensuring the safety, rights, and responsibilities of both property managers and tenants. Key areas include: Anti-discriminatory laws: Fair housing laws such as the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) prevent discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. Lease paperwork: Legally binding lease agreements must include specific terms and comply with local regulations. Safety, maintenance, and repairs: Property managers must ensure properties meet habitability standards, including weatherproofing, heating, water, and electricity. Financial management: Proper handling of security deposits, monthly rent collection, and financial records is essential to comply with regulations and avoid disputes. Property management laws by state Each state has specific property management laws that property managers must adhere to. For instance, in many (but not all) jurisdictions, property managers must obtain a real estate broker license to operate. These laws are typically drafted and enforced by various regulatory bodies such as the state's Department of Real Estate or similar agencies. For instance, the California Department of Real Estate is responsible for regulating real estate activities, brokers, and salespersons, including those who work in property management, while the Texas Real Estate Commission handles these responsibilities in Texas. These agencies ensure compliance with state licensing laws and often provide resources and guidelines for property managers of both residential properties and commercial properties. Below is a table linking to the respective government sites for state-specific regulations: State State Body Alabama Alabama Real Estate Commission Alaska Alaska Real Estate Commission Arizona Arizona Department of Real Estate Arkansas Arkansas Real Estate Commission California California Department of Real Estate Colorado Colorado Division of Real Estate Connecticut Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Delaware Delaware Real Estate Commission Florida Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation Georgia Georgia Real Estate Commission and Appraisers Board Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' Real Estate Branch Illinois Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Indiana Indiana Professional Licensing Agency Iowa Iowa Department of Inspections, Appeals, & Licensing Kansas Kansas Real Estate Commission (for commercial real estate property management only) Kentucky Kentucky Real Estate Commission Louisiana Louisiana Real Estate Commission Michigan Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Minnesota Minnesota Department of Commerce Mississippi Mississippi Real Estate Commission Missouri Missouri Division of Professional Registration Montana Montana Department of Labor and Industry Nebraska Nebraska Real Estate Commission Nevada Nevada Real Estate Division New Hampshire New Hampshire Real Estate Commission New Jersey New Jersey Real Estate Commission New Mexico New Mexico Real Estate Commission New York New York State Division of Licensing Services North Carolina North Carolina Real Estate Commission North Dakota North Dakota Real Estate Commission Ohio Ohio Division of Real Estate & Professional Licensing Oklahoma Oklahoma Real Estate Commission Oregon Oregon Real Estate Agency Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission Rhode Island Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation South Carolina South Carolina Real Estate Commission South Dakota South Dakota Real Estate Commission Tennessee Tennessee Real Estate Commission Texas Texas Real Estate Commission Utah Utah Division of Real Estate Virginia Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation Washington Washington State Department of Licensing West Virginia West Virginia Real Estate Commission Wisconsin Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services Wyoming Wyoming Real Estate Commission Note: This list excludes resources from Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Tenant screenings Tenant screenings are a critical step in property management, involving background checks, credit checks, income verification, employment verification, rental history, and proof of ID to assess prospective tenants. This process helps ensure that potential renters are reliable and financially responsible. It's important to obtain signed consent before running credit checks, as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), to comply with legal standards and protect tenant privacy. Another important guidance is provided by the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing-related activities based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability, ensuring equal access to housing for all individuals. Learn more about Tenant Screening Tips for PMs Lease agreements A lease agreement is a legally binding contract between the landlord and tenant, outlining the terms of the tenancy. Key components of rental agreements include lease terms, rent amount, security deposit regulations, and common clauses such as maintenance responsibilities and lease renewal terms. Regulations governing lease agreements can vary by state, so it's essential to ensure that leases comply with local laws. For instance, state laws often contain security deposit limits, provisions for the return of unused portions, as well as a clear accounting for any deductions. Consulting with a lawyer is crucial to ensure your agreement is legally sound and reflects your specific circumstances. We’ve shared some relevant resources below: Learn more about property management agreements, featuring a free template Learn about security deposit insurance, and its pros and cons Financial management Effective financial management in property management involves establishing clear rent collection procedures and maintaining organized financial records. This includes tracking rent payments, managing tenants’ security deposits, and adhering to landlord-tenant laws to avoid legal disputes and financial penalties. Keeping detailed records can help property managers resolve issues efficiently and ensure transparency with tenants and property owners. Solutions such as property management software can streamline financial operations, automate routine tasks, and perhaps most importantly - ensure accuracy and regulatory compliance with respect to various accounting regulations and legal requirements. Evictions Evictions are a legal process to remove a tenant from a property. Common reasons for eviction from rental units include nonpayment of rent, property damage, lease violations, and criminal activity. Property managers must follow their state's rules for eviction notices, such as unconditional quit terminations and termination for lease violations, to ensure the process is lawful and fair. State laws regarding unconditional quit terminations and terminations for violation of a lease vary widely. Unconditional quit notices typically demand that tenants move out immediately without an opportunity to remedy the violation. States like Indiana and Mississippi allow landlords to issue these notices for serious or repeated violations, with Mississippi requiring 14 days to move out. For lease violations, the notice period and the opportunity for tenants to remedy the breach also differ by state. For example, in Kentucky, tenants generally have 15 days of written notice to cure a violation, but if the same violation occurs within six months, landlords can issue a 14-day unconditional quit notice. In contrast, states like Iowa and Maine require a seven-day notice period for tenants to address lease violations before eviction proceedings can begin. In California, on the other hand, tenants must be given three days or more to cure the violation before landlords can file for eviction (source). These legal nuances emphasize the importance of PMs and tenants understanding their specific state regulations to navigate eviction processes appropriately. Property maintenance and repairs Maintaining rental properties is a legal obligation for landlords, ensuring that properties are safe, habitable, and free from hazards like lead, asbestos, and mold. This includes weatherproofing, providing adequate heating and water, and ensuring electrical systems are functional. You can find out more about these issues in our Property Maintenance Guide for PMs. Landlords must also give notice to tenants before entering the property for repairs, as required by most state laws. When in doubt, consult a legal advisor to ascertain the specific laws that apply to you in your state. Tenants have the right to a habitable living environment, and failure to meet these standards can lead to legal consequences as well as issues with occupancy rates. Indeed, when landlords fail to make required repairs, tenants have several options depending on their state's laws. Tenants may withhold rent, make the necessary repairs themselves and deduct the cost from the rent, pay a reduced rent, report the issue to local building inspectors who can order repairs, or even break the lease and move out. Additionally, tenants can sue the landlord for a partial refund of past rent or for damages caused by the substandard conditions, including discomfort and emotional distress. Get our preventative maintenance checklist for property management Learn about the importance of pest control to maintain a pest-free environment Second Nature's Guidance Staying informed about state-specific regulations, maintaining organized records, and ensuring compliance with federal laws such as the Fair Housing Amendments Act is key to successful property management. On a practical level, understanding and adhering to property management laws and regulations is crucial for property managers to ensure smooth operations, maintain property value, and foster positive tenant relationships. Learn more about property management company best practices, marketing, and more in our Second Nature Community.

Calendar icon July 3, 2024

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