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The Property Manager's Ultimate Guide to Tenant Communications

 

 

Over 80% of consumers say speed and convenience are the most important elements of customer service. The truth of the matter is that 68% of renters leave their residences due to bad customer service. Your communities could have all the amenities in the world, but if residents don’t feel valued and appreciated—chances are they will move elsewhere.

Do you have bad customer service? Or just poor communication?

Many properties may be FAILING when it comes to communicating with tenants.

Effective communication is an important element of running a successful property management business. Properly communicating with tenants and owners can minimize workplace frustrations  and risk to the business. Plus, if you set up your process and systems well, it can reduce time spent on tedious tasks and free you up for bigger initiatives.

Property managers are tasked with handling many different job duties, ranging from leasing to maintenance requests, to risk mitigation. Staying organized while balancing lots of tasks can be difficult without the right processes and tools in place.

Let’s take a look at why property managers should focus on tenant communication and what strategies and communication channels are most effective.

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Why Tenant Communication Matters

Communicating effectively with tenants and prospective tenants affects the bottom line - and your job satisfaction.  Here are some of the ways tenant communication impacts the business.

  1. Leasing rates - Being quick to respond to inquiries and maintaining open lines of communication throughout the leasing process will help close more prospective tenants. 
  2. Improve renewal rates - Zillow found that “tenants satisfied with property management are more than 3x more likely to renew.” 
  3. Tenant satisfaction - Besides helping with online reviews and maintaining occupancy rates high, keeping tenant satisfaction and retention rates high can improve job performance ratings and open the door for future job opportunities. Not to mention keeping those painful tenants off your case. There are over 300 Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaints against the country’s largest property management firm. How many of them could have been prevented by better communication?
  4. Risk management - Part of a property manager’s job is to protect the owners from liability. Doing so makes a property management firm and the people that work there more valuable.

Transparency

Transparency is important when communicating to tenants, and especially when communicating with corporate leadership or property owners. Property managers must be honest and trustworthy when it comes to managing all forms of communication. If not, these items can become issues with both trust and liability. 

Property managers should make sure tenants are aware of relevant subjects such as:

  • Property maintenance
  • Leasing guidelines 
  • Emergency procedures
  • Facility use
  • Upcoming renovations
  • Rental payments

Communicating these matters with tenants can help to avoid problems later down the line. Clarifying leasing agreements and property policies can minimize future disagreements. Keeping tenants in the loop on maintenance and renovations can also help to avoid confusion. Lack of transparency, on the other hand, can result in resident dissatisfaction.

For large property management firms or large property owners with many buildings, the senior team wants to know what’s going on across the portfolio. When you’re communicating with corporate managers or ownership, transparency helps them feel confident that all the properties are well managed and under control. And this can keep them from needing to micro-manage each building, which shows your effective leadership!

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Risk Mitigation

Property managers are tasked with a number of responsibilities—including risk management. As the face of the property, they must be able to communicate and engage with owners, third-party vendors, and tenants. Managing potential areas of risks can help to protect themselves and the interests of the businesses they represent.

Adopting risk prevention strategies can help property managers and building owners against unwanted legal issues. A number of high risk scenarios may be presented to property managers throughout their career such as:

  • Ongoing lawsuit threats
  • Rent abatement
  • Tenant allegations
  • Property damage

Property managers that protect themselves against high-risk scenarios can make them an invaluable asset in the eyes of corporate leadership. Communicating discussions in writing can help tremendously from a legal standpoint. If a situation arises that results in a lawsuit—documenting situations in writing can be useful during litigation.

Systems that enable tenants to communicate with property managers can help manage all this paperwork in a simple way that doesn’t take extra time. Tenants should be able to communicate their concerns, create maintenance requests, report criminal activity, and ask general questions within an easy-to-use online portal, or even better, using their mobile phone.

Good tenant communication keeps all parties accountable for their actions while reducing the risk of lawsuits and disagreements.

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Types of Communication

Property managers must be able to communicate with tenants and owners on a number of issues. As the faces of large residential housing units— you have to manage overwhelming amounts of information. The ability to organize these various types of communication can prove useful throughout your professional career.

Leasing

Property managers and leasing teams have a long list of communications. From showing properties to signing legal documents—communication helps fill your vacant apartments. 

The first communication you have with a prospective tenant is probably the most important. When someone wants to look at a place, you have to get back to them right away.  In fact, 80% of consumers say speed and convenience are the most important elements of good customer service. 

Do you have a method to track the speed of response? Or the satisfaction of prospects that came through and decided not to rent? For prospective tenant communications make sure you are tracking:

  • Speed to respond. The best practice is less than one hour!
  • Conversion rate from inquiry to scheduled showing. If this isn’t over 80%, you should revisit your speed to response. Perhaps these prospective tenants found someone who got back to them faster!
  • Satisfaction with the leasing process - whether they did or didn’t lease from you. If your leasing agents were rude or unresponsive, you may be leaving vacancies that are preventable.

Lease agreements are legal documents. So proper communication really matters when it comes to establishing lease agreements. Tenants should understand all aspects of leases to avoid later confusions or conflicts. Among the elements that should be clearly communicated in leases are:

  • Lease start date
  • Lease end date
  • Rental rates
  • Property rules and regulations
  • Use of on-site amenities
  • Pet guidelines
  • Property maintenance responsibilities

Communicating lease obligations clearly can protect property managers from legal battles and tenant disputes. Failure to do so may result in legal action and consequences arising from negligence. 

These matters should always be done in writing and verbally, and the tenant must acknowledge them in writing. Be sure to contact your legal counsel to ensure your tenant lease communications comply with all applicable laws in your location.

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Transactional communication

Residential property management groups rely upon financial transactions between tenants and rental companies. Keeping documentation of these transactions is another key to risk management both for the property management company and the building owners.

Some of types of transactions property managers deal with include:

  • Rental deposits
  • Monthly lease payments
  • Utilities obligations
  • Late fees
  • Early lease terminations
  • Parking fees
  • Additional on-site amenities

As with the lease agreement, these items should be communicated in writing in a system that tracks both the send and confirms that the recipient received it. You may want to consider a system that requires a confirmation of receipt from the tenant, such as when your dentist sends a text that asks you to reply with Y to confirm your appointment.
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Requests 

Among the most common communications for property managers are requests. For these communications you need to make sure that your responses are:

  • Timely. Get back to the requestor as soon as possible, even if it’s just to acknowledge their request.
  • Actioned. Create a service request, clearly decline the request, or take the required action.
  • Confirmed. Communicate BACK that the action has been completed, or if it has not, provide a status, and continue doing so until the request is confirmed to the tenant’s satisfaction.
  • Satisfied. Not all requests can be done the way they want them, but the tenant should always be satisfied that the property manager communicated with them about the issue until it was resolved one way or the other.
  • Tracked. Make sure all these pieces of communication are in the system so there’s no argument about it later.

As with all communications, to be most effective, these should be available in multiple forms, whichever works best for the tenant. If you only have one method, such as web portal, it may not be very accessible for some of your older residents. Conversely, email is not great for millennials. If you don’t already, you should have minimally five ways to communicate:

  • In person/written communication (such as in the office)
  • Text
  • Email
  • Web portal
  • Phone

Announcements

Many larger properties have communities made up of hundreds if not thousands of tenants. Keeping tenants in the loop about day-to-day occurrences helps maintain peace and cohesion.

Announcements vary, but tenants should be made aware of all events. Some examples of announcements may include:

  • Social events/gatherings
  • On-site repairs or necessary maintenance
  • Property additions
  • Updated rules and regulations
  • Upcoming emergency drills

Property managers should keep all tenants up-to-date so that there are no surprises when the landscape is being redone or the community gym is shut down for repairs. Proper communication can go a long way towards keeping tenants happy. That positive feedback can help property managers demonstrate their great management skills!

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Legal and Move Out

Potential legal issues can occur in any type of business setting—rental properties are no exception. While some legal problems may be unavoidable, property managers should do everything in their power to reduce the risks.

Consider the following excerpt that created a BBB complaint: “When I finally got my refund check there was $800.00 missing from it with no explanation.” The property manager could have avoided numerous back and forth phone calls and this complaint which may affect future renters by simply explaining what parts of the deposit were withheld, and why, and some evidence.

Property managers must manage tenant satisfaction and profitability. You will need to manage some situations differently to avoid legal battles and unnecessary headaches. The most common disputes include:

  • Eviction notices
  • Rental deposit disputes
  • Entering units without lawful notice
  • Disputes between neighbors
  • Issues of rodents, mold, and other premise usability concerns

Providing ongoing communication in each of these areas can help to protect property owners and managers in the case of legal battles. On the other hand—disorganization can cause tenant turnover and property owner frustration.

Feedback

Communication is a two-way street. Giving your tenants a way to provide feedback helps you improve your processes and gives the tenant a chance to be heard. This can really help you prevent negative online reviews, tenant turnover and worse.

Regular surveys should be sent out to tenants that allow for both negative and positive feedback and are open ended rather than yes/no questions. Property managers will be better equipped to handle issues before concerns escalate beyond the point of no return. 

Gathering feedback is easy. Doing something about the feedback may be more difficult, but you need to start with ensuring the lines to communication are open. If you don’t have something else, consider tools like:

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Communication Tools and Mobility

Automation can be a useful strategy in today’s fast-paced world while minimizing the headaches associated with monotonous daily tasks. On the other hand it’s important to maintain a personal touch with customers. The various technologies available today have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to mass vs. personal communication.

Practically every American owns a smartphone. They expect to use their mobile phone for pretty much every form of communication - text, chat, apps, email. Property managers should be able to use all of these if possible.

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Text Messaging and Chat

Mass and Personal communication, depending on the tool you use

Text communications can be used in place of email for many communications. It has the highest open rate and fastest response of all the channels. Many PMS systems have weak text messaging capabilities that only allow you to blast out messages or send a message that pushes the recipient to call back or access the online portal

Many younger residents would prefer to communicate by text and chat, and some millennials hardly check email, which could slow down your communications. So if you haven’t built out a text and instant messaging strategy you may be missing out.

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Social Media

Mass and Personal communication, depending on your processes

Marketing statistics now show that over 91% of all businesses utilize one or more forms of social media for functions such as sales, marketing, customer service, and updates. 

Resident property management that fails to use social media may be missing out on potential new clients and marketing opportunities.

Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, or SnapChat—property management companies should take advantage of all social media resources. Each of these channels can allow property managers to communicate with residents in a friendly, relatable manner.

This also includes responding to messages sent via social media. Someone needs to be responsible for managing the messages that come in via DMs, Facebook Messenger and all the others. You’ll need a tool to wrangle all the different sources and make sure they are all adequately addressed.

Company Websites and Portals

Mass and Personal communication, depending on the portal you use

Nearly every residential apartment complex has a website. Your company should update property sites frequently, and not just the listings. You should keep photos, events, open houses, awards and positive reviews current as well.

 Property managers can also use a number of commercial property management website portals to securely communicate with tenants. Portals are commonly used for things like:

  • Updated property management policies
  • Leasing guidelines and termination requests
  • On-site events
  • Handling rental payments
  • Maintenance requests

Email

Mass and Personal communication

Email has been around a long time, but because everyone gets so many emails, it’s not always the best way to communicate.. Property managers may require emails to electronically distribute large files and documents to residents, and the tracking of email for documents like lease agreements, amendments, and renewals may be required to be done by email.

These electronic documents serve as records that may provide protection in cases of legal matters. While email may not be the most useful tool for items that require immediate action—email communication still serves an important purpose in distributing and issuing electronic paperwork. Digital signature tools can even be used to acknowledge and sign documents remotely without coming to the office.

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Roles and Responsibilities

When you’re creating your communication plan, you’ll need to figure out who does what. There are a few ways to divide up the responsibilities. 

Whatever you decide, focus on making sure that no communication gets dropped. You’ll also want to make sure that there are clear handoffs and accountability if a conversation has to go from one person or department to another.

  1. By type of communication. Maybe the leasing manager is responsible for ALL communications about leasing, and the property manager handles everything else. 
  2. By urgency. You could consider appointing someone for all urgent items that require action within a few hours, and someone else handles routine requests and communications. Or maybe marketing handles all “pre-canned” emails and property management handles all ad-hoc communications. 
  3. By mode. Because there are so many ways people can communicate, you may have one person in charge of the portal, one following up on social media

Property manager positions should be viewed as a stepping stone towards future job prospects and career goals. Maintaining high occupancy rates and avoiding potential lawsuits can help property managers stand out to their corporate leaders. Practicing a high level of professionalism and adequately communicating with tenants can help pave a path towards future job success.

You may also want to focus on creating daily schedules to help with time management. 

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How to Write Great Tenant Messages

Property managers are often seen as the faces of residential properties. A resident's entire perception of a housing complex falls on their shoulders. Communicating with hundreds or even thousands of residents can be challenging and seem overwhelming. But fear not.  

Follow a few simple guidelines when writing tenant messages and you can keep everyone aligned and informed.

  • Convey a simple, precise message using straightforward language.
  • Include all relevant information and facts.
  • Be professional. Proofread messages for spelling and grammar, and keep your tone of voice neutral, not emotional.
  • Try to be objective and listen to tenants.

Your messages should be brief and to the point.

Practice proper etiquette for the communication medium used. Emails can be a bit longer, while social media and text messages should be simple and direct. 

If you aren’t taking the time to use effective communication skills or simply lack organization—your property could be missing out on potential new clients and business opportunities. 

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How ResiDesk Can Help Property Managers Communicate

If you’re tired of insufficient communication strategies and want to take your property management group to the next level—look no further than ResiDesk.

Communication is the lifeblood of property management business success. Having the right tools in place can assist property managers in working faster and more effectively. That’s where ResiDesk can help.

ResiDesk is the fastest and easiest tool for property managers to deliver messages to tenants. Whether it’s an announcement or personal conversation—ResiDesk accelerates the communication process from days to hours. Using text-based technology and other technological resources, ResiDesk allows property management groups to collaborate with team members.

Using shared inboxes—anyone on the ResiDesk team can take action to immediately address resident issues. If you’d like to increase tenant retention rates, reduce vacancy rates, and minimize legal issues, ResiDesk is here to help.

For more information about how ResiDesk can transform your property management group communication strategies—feel free to visit our website for additional questions and support. 

Don’t let your property become another statistic of tenant turnover, visit our site today.

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About ResiDesk

Tenant Communications Made Simple

Communication is the lifeblood of your property management business and your communication tools should help you work faster, not slow you down. ResiDesk is the fastest and easiest tool for property managers with messages delivered to tenants the way they want them — by text.