Whether it’s a warning about bedbugs on your property, or insults posted on Twitter, it is important for landlords to be aware of what tenants are saying online.
With so many apartment seekers searching the Internet for vacancies, information about a landlord is only a click or two away from prospective renters. While landlords are focused on screening out bad tenants, rental prospects are using online sources to research the landlord.
As online classifieds have grown more popular, a boutique industry has blossomed for landlord rating services. Sites like RateMyLandlord.com or CheckMyLandlord.com allow tenants to post remarks and enter ratings on numerical scales.
Other websites cater to niche markets. For instance, GradeMyLandord.com focuses on off-campus student housing. Sites like BedbugRegistry.com even offer users handy phone apps.
Landlords who are not online frequently may find their business is being impacted by negative comments or ratings without even knowing it.
The overall impact of this negative online information on an individual landlord may depend upon the rankings of the host website in the search engines. To gain search engine optimization, the sites must solicit a large number of participants. One such company in the U.K. offered participating tenants a chance to win an iPad.
Rating websites are only one piece of a landlord’s overall online reputation. Social media sites allow a vast array of opportunities to sink disparaging remarks on the Internet. Once there, it is virtually impossible to remove. Landlords may have to focus instead on containing the damage.
Enter the online reputation consultants, who help businesses, celebrities, and those who’ve otherwise become notorious manage their online image, and provide image makeovers for those who don’t like what they see on the Internet.
Online image gurus, like the experts at Reputation.com, use clever and complicated search engine optimization tricks to bury negative information deep into Cyberspace, while flooding searches with new, positive information. Whether a landlord would choose to employ such an arsenal depends upon just how bad the information is affecting business, but prices for such services are economical compared to facing long-term vacancies.
Short of employing an image consultant, there are some simple steps a landlord can take to monitor their online persona to make sure previous tenants aren’t going to hamper their ability to fill vacancies now, and in the years to come
Start by running your name, business name or property address through search engines, and see what comes up. Sign up for free Google Alerts with those same key phrases, and you will be notified of future entries on the Internet. A note of caution: don’t use general search phrases, like “Ontario apartments” for these alerts, or you may become inundated with irrelevant entries.
Take a look at negative reviews or information. Look at the website’s terms and conditions, and check whether landlords are allowed to offer a rebuttal.
Consider speaking with the tenant to see if you can rectify the situation that sparked the negative review. In return, the tenant may agree to take down the negative entry.
With some smaller rating sites, websites or blogs, it may be possible to demand the administrator correct, revise or delete damaging posts or comments.
Keep track of how new tenants found your listings, and whether you see a decrease in applicants. From there, you can determine whether it is in your best interests to simply ignore a negative entry.
Old information is another way to damage a landlord’s reputation. If you have outdated photos on your website or rental ads — like pictures of the property from last season — or inaccurate figures like last year’s rent, online searchers will think the worse of it.
To stem the tide of public criticism, consider asking exiting tenants to fill out an evaluation. To the extent you can resolve tenant issues, this will minimize the risk of those disputes becoming public.
If the negative comment is true and fair, change those things going forward.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.