By Laura Schlereth
A long-term tenant can be very valuable to a property manager, but a lot of factors go into getting them to stay. To keep your tenants happy and resigning their leases, it’s up to you to evaluate your space and determine what amenities and services will best fit the needs of your residents.
Check out these five steps toward tenant retention that will keep those moving trucks away from your building:
Your tenants love extra services, so it’s great when you can provide one or two that distinguish you from other buildings. Kim Walker, property manager of London, Ont.-based Blossom Gate within the Medallion Corporation, recommends creating a fitness facility in your building because your tenants will appreciate not having to pay for a separate membership. Walker says the gym should be well equipped, but doesn’t need to have state-of-the-art equipment. You should provide quality equipment that includes cardio and free weights.
Another amenity option that you could supply is vending machines, she adds. It’s a nice, convenient snack option for tenants, and Walker says they’ll probably be most appreciated in the laundry room or fitness area. And as an added benefit, Walker says most vending operators offer a percentage of the sales to the building owner in exchange for putting them their building.
Tenants don’t want to live in a building where their needs are not being met in a timely manner. Any complaint or issue they bring up should be answered and taken care of as efficiently as possible. Walker says you should provide tenants with a phone number and email address so they have multiple ways of getting in touch with you, depending on the urgency of the matter. Be clear about whom they should contact based on what their problem is.
Harry Popiluk, secretary and treasurer of the Institute of Housing Management (IHM) in Toronto, says you can even take a proactive approach and give an open-ended survey to tenants asking them if there’s anything building management can improve. You should also set up a focus group to discuss tenant satisfaction with residents in person, he suggests. This will address issues that you might not have noticed on your own, and it will also show that you care—an important factor to many tenants.
Walker says installing cameras can do a lot to make tenants feel more secure. If you can’t afford them all over your property, Walker recommends placing them in high-traffic areas, such as the lobby, or parking garage. Popiluk says another cost-effective option is to purchase security cameras with motion sensors. They will save energy and time on recording since they only record where people are walking.
Popiluk also mentions how important lighting is for security. Make sure walkways and less trafficked areas are extremely well-lit . A well-lit property will make your tenants feel safe when they are traveling to and from their apartment, and even deters vandalism, theft and even accidents.
In addition to installing security cameras and lighting, both Popiluk and Walker say that key card technology is worth the investment. Keys can too often be copied, Popiluk says, creating a safety risk for other tenants in the building. Not only do key cards offer more security because they can’t be copied, but if a tenant loses their card or moves out, you can easily deactivate the cards.
"Having a courteous office and maintenance staff that have a nice rapport with the residents is important," Popiluk says. Ensure that your maintenance staff is prompt on service calls and have a friendly demeanor so that tenants feel comfortable letting them into their homes.
Walker says the front-of-line staff is especially important because they’re usually the first people tenants approach when there’s a problem, such as the elevator not working.
"It’s a relationship that starts from the first day," she says. "It’s nice to create a sense of community where the staff says ‘Hello’ and asks ‘How are you?’"
Walker mentions this type of attitude is usually a skill set that’s easier to find during the interview process rather than create through training.
Everyone wants to live in a nice place, and Popiluk says the appearance of your building—inside and out—really counts with tenants. Make sure the grass is regularly cut and that the rest of landscaping is consistently taken care of. Popiluk says you should re-paint the building every five to 10 years, and replace any tile every 15 years to keep the building looking fresh and updated. Also, to make sure the units themselves are being kept up, he recommends doing an annual inspection of each one to check if anything needs to be repaired or replaced (i.e. cabinets, appliances, tiles, etc) or if any re-painting is needed. This ensures high standards are consistently maintained, he says. Popiluk especially recommends updating areas that might be neglected, such as the parking garage.
Making all five improvements at your property may be a large undertaking when done all at once, but an effort to make even some improvements will give your tenants more reason to stay. Even one long-term tenant will go a long way in cost savings and convenience.