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.
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.
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.
On-demand pest control nips the problem in the bud, and you’re not overpaying for services you don’t need.
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.
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.