A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine. She rents an apartment in a large complex. She mentioned that she’s planning on moving out at the end of her lease term.
I asked her why she wanted to leave, and she named several minor problems with her apartment.
She felt the dishwasher was a little bit too old and loud. The sliding door around her balcony leaked a little bit of air and needed new weather-stripping.
As a landlord, none of these seemed like major issues to me. If I had a tenant who requested more weather-stripping, I’d happily give them some. After all, it’s an incredibly reasonable request.
I’ve been to her apartment and I can vouch that her dishwasher is truly old. It’s definitely on the verge of needing to be replaced. And her sliding doors probably do need weatherstripping. In other words, she isn’t asking for anything unreasonable.
An Unreasonable Request?
I asked my friend if she has mentioned any of these issues to her landlord. She hadn’t, she said, because she felt that none of these were the types of issues that she should ask her landlord to fix.
The dishwasher is loud, but it’s not broken. The doors leak some cold air, but she didn’t feel she could ask to have it fixed.
Instead, she just stayed silent and allowed these minor issues to wear on her, little by little, until it finally caused her to decide to move out.
Understanding Why Tenants Leave
After this conversation, I started to get a better idea of what causes tenant turnover. Sometimes it’s the small issues within our units that cause tenants to leave.
These are the types of issues that don’t necessarily incite a repair request, but that do wear on a tenant’s nerves, and prompts them to start look for better, nicer places.
This leaves you, the landlord, with a vacancy you need to fill.
How can we landlords avoid these issues?
#1: Go above and beyond.
Many landlords warn against over improving the property, but I tend to approach my properties with the opposite mentality.
I pay close attention to detail, and try to ensure that the tenants have a fantastic living space.
My theory is two-fold:
- Treatment - Tenants are more likely to treat a property well if the property is in good condition.
- Turnover - The number of small, minor inconveniences that tenants won’t complain about, but will move out as a result of, will decrease.
#2: Send out a survey.
This is an idea that I’m toying with. Many large apartment complexes and multi-unit properties do this.
They use third parties, such as residentsurveys.com, to acquire anonymous feedback from their residents.
They send out resident satisfaction surveys, maintenance satisfaction surveys, and move in follow-up surveys. These surveys provide the landlord and property manager with the feedback that they need in order to have happy residents.
As a small-scale mom and pop landlord, however, this is harder to do. I can’t sign a contract with a big third party, because I only have six units. But I could create a simple survey using surveymonkey.com or even a Google survey, and distribute these to my residents.
It’s true that it would be much harder to guarantee anonymity when I have so few residents, but perhaps it may be an effective tool for acquiring feedback.
#3: Send periodic email.
Every now and again, I’ll send an email to some of my tenants to just say hi, and ask how their unit is doing.
I’ll invite them to let me know if there are any questions or problems that they’d like me to address.
Sometimes the tenant may not take the initiative to voice a problem or concern. If you take the extra step of asking them, they may feel more comfortable speaking out.
Photo Credit: sean dreilinger