Liar. Mentally unstable. Unprofessional. Thief. These are only a few of the choice words found in landlord reviews currently posted online.
Take a look at local review and rating websites and you’ll likely find long lists of tenant complaints. One landlord has 13 reviews posted, 9 of which are one-star ratings. Only one comment is positive.
With many of these rating websites, there are no filters and no verification process. The same comment may appear multiple times. And these comments too often go undisputed.
A landlord’s online reputation matters because this is what prospective renters will use to form a first impression. Bad reviews will attract tenants who can’t compete for better properties. Negative reviews — and the resulting lack of tenant retention — can impact the property value when it comes time to sell. A bad reputation with one property can seep into other properties owned by the same landlord.
Do the Research
Go online and find out what people are saying about the rental property. Research the property name, address, and the landlord’s name. Reviewers are seldom shy about including specific information. Or, sign up with a reputation monitoring service that will send alerts each time specific information appears on the Internet.
Focus on Yelp and Google local ratings — these are the most popular, and therefore the most potentially damaging. Be aware that there are many websites that offer to rate landlords, including one specifically designed to track reports of bedbugs.
Find out if the website allows the opportunity to dispute unfounded comments. At the very least, be prepared to respond to negative reviews.
When responding, be factual and professional. Don’t swap insults with the reviewer or intimidate former tenants by publishing private information about them. For instance, if the reviewer says the landlord never repairs the property, simply state the repair policy: “Tenants are encouraged to report repairs. Our maintenance team responds to nonemergency repair requests within 24 hours. We pride ourselves on our service.”
Respond to reviews individually rather than using a standard, stock answer each time. When a reader scrolls through the thread, they should not see the same generic response over and over again.
Don’t be fooled by a five-star rating. Read the text. Sometimes tenants will use five stars to avoid moderators who filter negative comments.
Lemonade from Lemons
If the reviews are valid, make the necessary policy changes and then tout that online, like the comment, “Thanks to everyone who pointed out the trouble with the laundry room. Good news: it’s fixed! We encourage tenants to share their concerns!”
Most tenant complaints are centered around the condition of the property and the speed of repairs — “never around”, “no repairs”, “no permits”.
In contrast, good customer service, particularly with repairs, earns positive reviews. Tenants appear willing to overlook minor problems if the landlord is responsive to their concerns.
There is no way to avoid comments, but with good customer service, negative reviews can be overshadowed by the positive, even to the point where complaining tenants appear petty. “It took two days to fix the stove,” sounds a lot better than “I couldn’t use my stove for three months.”
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 is 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.