Why Renters Move Out Unexpectedly — and How to Get Them to Stay
Times have been good in the rental business. Landlords and property managers have become accustomed to 6-8 percent increases in year-over-year rental rates. While unit demand should hold strong, growth in rental rates is expected to soften in the foreseeable future as the market absorbs new inventory. This creates a more competitive environment than seen in recent years, making it more important than ever for property managers to find and keep tenants.
Turnover is a fact of life in the property management world. When you can plan for it, you can typically fill your unit with little downtime between renters. It’s when turnover is unexpected that it can be very costly. The loss of rent payments is the most obvious negative effect of unexpected turnover, but there are other costs, as well, such as the disruption it causes staff when they have to prep a new property to be on the market.
You can’t always prepare for the unexpected. But by doing your best to understand why your tenants are moving out in the first place, you can stop them from leaving before they even think about packing their bags.
Why Renters Move Out Unexpectedly
Sometimes a new job or a decrease in salary can force a tenant to relocate, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Often, however, tenants are subtly influenced by factors that you can control.
For example, failing to repair maintenance issues in a timely manner can frustrate renters, causing them to move somewhere with a more attentive staff. Some people might also choose to move if they feel like the area is unsafe or simply not a desirable neighborhood. Others might take notice of other rental properties that offer more appealing perks. While you might not be able to completely control some of these factors, you can do everything in your power to make your property the best it can be. The good news is that technology can help operators provide elevated service efficiently in terms of both time and cost.
To keep your tenants happy and encourage them to stay put, there are a few things you can do:
1. Be available.
Tenants prefer dealing with professional property managers because they know someone is working to help them resolve issues. If you’re a landlord, make it a priority to take your tenants’ calls, or if you’re unable, try to return calls in less than 24 hours. Consider using an answering service and/or a chatbot to collect feedback and inquiries after hours. It might also be a good idea to periodically check in with your renters (such as with resident pizza or wine parties), as tenants can point out small issues more frequently instead of waiting to call you once those issues have become big problems.
2. Perform repairs quickly.
You might not particularly enjoy having a mountain of things to do, but delaying repairs is never in your best interest as a property manager. For one, it sends the message to tenants that they aren’t a high priority on your list, which isn’t what you want to convey if you hope they stick around. Putting off repairs can also lead to much more costly fixes down the road. For example, a small water leak might not feel like the end of the world now, but the average water damage claim is nearly $7,000.
The first step is making it easy for residents to schedule a work order using an online portal. From there, consider ways to turn maintenance into a differentiator. For example, some new technology (such as HVAC analytics) is helping property managers take care of needs that residents don't even know they have. Access control technology can also integrate directly into the work order, making it easier for maintenance staff to access the property and make repairs quickly and efficiently.
3. Make occasional improvements.
Finding long-term tenants can be difficult. If you’re lucky enough to find a few, make sure they know how much you value them (and justify your annual rent increases). Offer a new coat of paint and a professional carpet cleaning every two to three years, offer a free smart plug or voice assistant to use with their smart home amenity, and consider changing up amenities in common rooms to increase the satisfaction of your existing and future tenants.
4. Prioritize safety.
If you want residents to stick around for the long term or come back to your short-term rental on a regular basis, it’s vital for them to feel safe in your property. It’s also critical from a business standpoint because even one safety hazard can pose a major risk to your livelihood. Installing smart locks can not only help your operations, but they can also eliminate having to rekey locks and prevent lost or misplaced keys from becoming dangerous pathways for unwanted entrants.
Depending on the price range of your specific properties, tenants might have varying expectations about perks and amenities. However, their expectations of you as a property manager or landlord will never waver. You want tenants who are reliable, respectful, and responsive, and your tenants deserve the same. When you’re a friendly face who is doing everything you can to make sure they’re happy and comfortable, it will be that much harder for them to leave.