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Landlord Reputation Management

February 23, 2021

Landlord Reputations Getting Trashed

If you’ve been surfing on Google or checking your Facebook news feed, you’ve likely seen enough articles about tenants being abused one way or another by their landlord.

Were they true, accurate accounts of the situation? Online, the truth may not matter. Perception wins which is why you are wise to respond professionally to complaints and defamation — to protect your landlord reputation.

It’s a matter that warrants looking into, given how tenants use and trust online postings. We’ve brought together some tips below on how you can deal with complaints and look like an awesome landlord.

Protecting Reputations Against Claims and Social Media Trashing

Many tenants are frustrated with the Covid 19 restrictions, financial problems, stress and then tend to take out their anger on landlords.  On the other hand, some tenants are content with the property condition and landlord services and leave good reviews online.

While this post is about managing negative reviews, landlords should also consider how they might use marketing to turn negativity into positive action.

When landlords don’t protect their reputation (and the reputation of all landlords and property managers), it tends to create “open season” on property managers in general. And sometimes, there’s no recourse or response for landlords, which in renters’ eyes, a no response might imply guilt.

And we know from news and social media articles that sympathies are for tenants, regardless of the truth. Landlords are getting trashed on forums with little in the way of filters, verification, or fairness.

And what is the downside for you if these comments go public? First of all, it discourages renter prospects from inquiring about vacancies now and in future, lowers the value of your property, and can lower tenant retention rates, leading to lower ROI. It can ruin your advertising campaigns.

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Younger Renters Do Rely on Review Sites

Nearly all Millennials (97%) read online reviews before selecting a business, and 89% trust those reviews. And a recent UK study found eight out of 10 Millennials never buy anything without first reading a review — from Forbes report.

An important distinction between younger renters and older ones is that younger ones (Millennials and Generation Z’s) check online reviews. They don’t have the instincts of older experienced renters, don’t seem to trust ads, and wish to tap into the collective online opinion to decide about renting a particular unit.

Binary Foundation (binaryfountain.com) conducted a study in 2019 on renter digital engagement and online rental research habits, and found most renters consult online reviews.  74% of survey respondents reviewed between 1 and 10 online reviews while 16% of respondents looked at 11 to 20 reviews.

They also found 57% of renters were influenced by a property’s negative reviews and 55% were impacted by positive reviews. Managing comments and perceptions then may have significant business value.

Tenant Online Reviews

Screenshot courtesy of binaryfountain.com Renter Insight Digital Engagement Survey

There’s little doubt they’re checking you out too, by name, building name, address, and company name.

Landlord reputation software

Landlord reputation software. Screenshot courtesy of reviewmylandlord.com

And that’s wise actually. Would you want to take on a tenant who performed no due diligence of a landlord or their rental properties?

Here’s another point too, that the last copy the review reader reads on a review/complaint has an impact on their perception of a landlord or property management firm.

When asked to consider the “top three aspects” that matter most in reviews, over half—57%—named “negative reviews” as the most important. Positive reviews came in second at 55%, followed by how recent the last review was at 42%. — from Multifamily Executive study.

And renters appreciated that a landlord or property manager responded to a complaint.

The survey also found that potential renters take property managers’ engagement with online reviews into consideration. Almost all respondents said they thought it was helpful when property managers responded to reviews, and 89% said they would post an online review of their community if asked. — from Multifamily Executive study.

Responding to negative comments or deliberate mischief can mitigate the harm to your reputation.

An Ounce of Prevention and Taking Control of Conversations

Managing the matter of tenant discontent can lessen these incidents and help you resolve problems with specific tenants right away.

Good vacancy advertising and tenant screening is your first line of defense. Good tenants are less likely to conduct themselves inappropriately by going public with complaints.

If a damaging comment goes viral on social media or appears on the web, then you should know about it right away and respond professionally. Responding professionally can work well by itself, however taking the right actions works even better.

Responding to Defamation and Illegitimate Claims

Our discussion here isn’t meant to be legal advice on how to respond to bad tenants. You should review your legal requirements when responding to allegations and incidents. Responding on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or in writing to the tenant has to be done within guidelines advised by your lawyer.

Isn’t it just plain wise to ensure you, your staff, the building and your company brand have a sparkling reputation? And that reputation has to be monitored because even the best landlords and property management companies can be wrongly trashed online.

And some tenants can be troublesome and conniving. There are those who when faced with big back rent due debts, damage repairs, and a potential eviction could register complaints against landlords after the landlord has warned tenants appropriately about incidents (damage, noise, etc) asking for rent, demanding rent, or preparing for eviction.

It’s not certain how effective these retaliation tactics are for them, but in some cases, courts have sided with the tenant and disallowed eviction even though all appropriate action was taken by the landlord.

How to Protect Your Reputation

The first action to take is to create a listening ear for defamatory comments online, whether on the Facebook, Twitter or Google.

You can do this each week yourself by typing in your name, rental address, or company name into Google, Facebook search, or Twitter search. This will retrieve the most visible comments. You can also use www.google.com/alerts to allow Google to notify you when it finds the words posted online.

You can also ask Google or Facebook to remove offensive material.

There are reputation protection services and apps available, however this issue is something you should be well versed on yourself. Having third parties manage interactions with tenants could create further legal issues.

Tips on How to Respond to Renters Complaints

Always respond to complaints and trashing allegations professionally and with diplomacy.

  • review your obligations and company policies
  • review the evidence and documentation you have before you make statements you may have to prove
  • be sure on how the tenant failed to meet their obligations
  • refer to the tenant’s obligation to communicate, pay bills and rent, and conduct themselves as good tenants
  • if you made a mistake, acknowledge it in the review and ask the tenant to be reasonable and work with you to resolve the situation
  • perhaps avoid discussing evictions, power turned off, the water turned off, or gas turned off which readers may be emotional about
  • explain why repairs, maintenance, and other issues couldn’t be resolved quickly enough for the tenant and apologize for the delay
  • point out on reviews that your other renters are happy and haven’t responded in such an emotional way
  • point out how you or the property manager did act professionally and in accordance with policies
  • point out how the tenant refused to communicate, take care of the unit, or be available, or how they didn’t pay their rent etc.
  • outline in detail how you responded and this is the normal process

In most cases, it’s important to remain calm, diplomatic, and to encourage the tenant to resolve the issue from their side (force them to show good faith).

Renters know about “reputation trashers and troublemakers” so their perspective is colored by the narrative they read in the review. You can win this war of words.

Your professional reputation and company brand are important assets too. Another way to avoid these types of events is to use your online property management platform to communicate quickly with tenants, before they get frustrated and reactive.

And this is only one way your property management software can deliver value to your business. You’ve put a lot into your business, and you deserve a great digital business foundation.

Do your own review of ManageCasa. You’ll like the all-in-one platform and how it focused on keeping tenants happy.

 

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