6 Tips for Gracefully Responding to Bad Reviews as a Property Manager

by | BiggerPockets.com

The internet is a great tool for anyone who wants to advertise a service, property managers included. But as with all silver linings, there’s a dark cloud attached: Online review sites give the most motivated (read: angry) tenants the opportunity to vent their feelings where anyone can see. Unfortunately, people (read: clients) who don’t operate on the internet much can easily misunderstand what that negative review means. Specifically, they can easily interpret the review as meaning you’re a poor manager, when the truth is that quite often being a good manager entails pissing some people off.

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6 Tips for Gracefully Responding to Bad Reviews as a Property Manager

Don’t panic.

The first thing to know is that you’re not suddenly in deep weeds — several studies have shown that the occasional negative review makes a business more trustworthy in the eyes of browsers. No one wants to do business with a PM that sounds too good to be true. But you can (and should) get the best of both worlds by responding to the bad review in an effective, professional, and proactive manner.


Respond directly to the complaint.

Don’t be one of those passive-aggressive people who replies elsewhere on the same page to a complaint leveled at you. That’s not professional. Instead, reply directly to the complaint — and, in fact, reply directly to the “pain point.” In other words, you should search the complaint for the source of the problem and directly acknowledge that it is the source of the problem. Then, either apologize (if it was a mistake) or agree with them that it would suck to be on their end of the situation (if it was deliberate).

If you apologized, own the mistake.

If the incident was a mistake, you should immediately explain that it’s not a normal situation. At no point should you say anything that says or implies that the complaint is wrong or invalid — the only thing that will do is start a feud. Neither should you blame anyone/throw anyone under the bus (i.e. “sorry that our handyman screwed that up”). Simply acknowledge that a mistake happened, make it clear that it’s not normal, and if applicable, stress that you won’t allow it to happen again.

Related: 10 Invaluable Lessons I Learned From My Very First Tenant Eviction

If you empathized, explain the policy.

If the incident was deliberate (i.e. you evicted someone for good cause), express your sincere empathy — and then explain in simple terms why the incident had to go down that way. Be polite and don’t explicitly accuse them of any specific wrong-doing. Simply say something like, “Unfortunately, violations of our lease agreement do lead to eviction.” They’ll know what you’re talking about, and the other readers will understand that your reasons were legitimate while appreciating you not airing your dirty laundry.

Offer an offline way for the complainant to respond.

Either way, if the offended person wants to continue to conversation, they should do so offline — give them an opportunity to do so in your response. If they do respond online, don’t respond with anything other than a repeat of the same offline communication offer.


Related: 5 Things to Show Your Tenants About Their New Home (to Save You From Costly Repairs!)

Alert your relevant client(s).

Don’t just sit back and wait for a client to find the negative review on their own — that’s asking for a very nerve-wracking phone call by an upset property owner. Instead, compose an email about the negative review and your response to it. Include an offer to chat with any client who wants to discuss the incident with you in person. This will show your clients that not only are you alert to negative reviews of your work, but you’re extremely professional in addressing them both publicly (on the site itself) and privately (among your clients).

In the end, at least in the property management industry, the social media machine is consistent about one thing: About 10% of all people who come away from your company with a negative experience will post a negative review — and about 1% of all people who have a great experience will leave a positive review. On the one hand, this means if your review feed looks like it’s about 50/50, you’re doing really well! On the other, it means you should probably spend some time and effort getting very familiar with these rules because you’re going to be putting them into effect more often than you’d like.

Property managers: What’s the worst review you’ve ever received? How do you deal with less-than-stellar feedback?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Drew Sygit

While in the mortgage business, Drew rose to a VP position at the first broker he worked for and then started his own company. In the pursuit of excellence, he obtained several mortgage designations and joined mortgage & several affiliate association Boards. He also did WebX presentations and public speaking. It was during this time he started personally investing in single-family rentals, leading him to also start Royal Rose Property Management with two partners. He also joined the Board of a local real estate investors association, eventually becoming its President. The real estate crash led to an offer from the banking industry to manage a Michigan bank’s failed bank assets they acquired from the FDIC. The bank acquired four failed banks from the FDIC, increasing from $100M in assets to over $2B while he was there. After that, he took over as President of Royal Rose Property Management. Today, he speaks at national property management conventions and does WebX presentations.


  1. Mike McKinzie

    Here is a NOVEL idea, how about providing GOOD service to being with! In my forty years of investing, I have had way more serious problems with Property Managers than I ever did with tenants! I have never written a negative review online about a PM but I am a hair’s breadth away from doing my first, and they are active members of Bigger Pockets! And I am noticing that PMs are doing worse and worse, I have had more problems in the past 5 years than I did in the previous 35 years. I am reading more and more about how to manage rental property “from afar” on my own due to such lousy service.

    • When my husband had a PM, they moved in criminals. He took over the job, and did far worse, because, as he said, he could only be too nice, or really mean, no in between. He couldn’t throw tenants out. After he passed from a long terminal illness, most properties had been abandoned. I got them into shape to rent, and am doing my own management. Gradually learning not to be too soft, and more picky.

      Mike, sounds like time to change property managers, or have a discussion. There’s no need to have one if you’re not getting what you need for their cut.

      • Deanna Opgenort

        Hi Pam. MySmartMove or similar credit-check service is WELL worth it’s cost ($35/applicant). We’ve been using it for years to screen roommates, & for my (one) rental.
        I have had to ask two tenants to leave for lease violations, but it was for things that didn’t show up on the background check, and even my “worst” tenants would be someone else’s “OK” tenants.
        I do allow pets & subtenants, but now require photos of the animal(s), and the tenants must initial on the lease each and every one of the following points;

        “Additional occupants over 18 must pass background check”
        “no pit bulls, no pit bull crosses”
        “no pet sitting without PRIOR permission”
        “guests are not allowed to bring pets without PRIOR permission”
        “new animals require PRIOR permission”

        • Sounds good Deanna. I realize now that I’ve got to start doing the credit check, as well as the criminal bkgrd. check that weeds out a lot for me. I don’t do pets. I have duplexes, and it’s not worth the complaints for me.

          I do have one tenant that I found out had been on the verge of getting evicted, but was in a pricier place. She is actually one of my first to call with the rent, because she knows what can happen. I’ve come up with a sort of budget list for tenants when they move in to see how much it costs them to live. Gas, food, entertainment. etc. costs more than you think, esp. if you eat out, and most live off of McDonald’s. The making 3X rent rule is not enough, if you’re renting a low end $425-475 apartment. and have dependents. Initially, the budget was to help a nice tenant be able to swing it. But we went over it and there was nothing she could cut. She just can’ afford to live without a roommate, or a lot of overtime.

    • Drew Sygit

      @MIKE – sorry to hear about your bad experiences. How specific have you been about your expectations with your PM’s?

      One of our biggest challenges is trying to figure out the expectations of our owner clients. We have a very thorough PMA where we do our best to spell out what we do for owners. Most though, don’t really know what services or level of services, they want. It is very difficult to meet expectations that are not defined.

    • I’d think it would be more likely the tenant. The owners would not want prospective tenants to read anything negative relating to their property. Although sometimes the negative things written should be aimed at property owner. i.e. not getting things fixed after property manager brought them to owner’s attention, if that’s what was agreed on. These expectations should be made clear at the beginning, as to whether the manager is to pick, call, and let in repair companies, etc., and bill owner afterwards, or alert owner who does this him/herself.

      • Drew Sygit

        @PAM: good input! What’s a PM to do though when the owner is slow to respond and approve repairs, won’t approve them or will only approve a low-ball amount?

        Tenants only deal with the PM so that’s who they write the negative reviews about.

    • Drew Sygit

      @PAUL: while this is true more often than people think, we’ve encountered enough competitors to know there are a lot of owners getting terrible service. We’re not perfect, but we operate with integrity and honesty. We also have a well thought out system that we never stop trying to improve. Many of our competitors seem to try to get by with doing as little as possible — making them no different than bad tenants.

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