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Posted by on in Resident Retention
I Hate My Residents!

Recently, I attended a training for property management professionals and had the opportunity to mingle with those in the multifamily housing industry from my area. Many of these individuals are property owners and some work for fee management companies. There were many things learned and observed, but there seemed to be a consensus among this group that stood out: Property Managers hate their residents! The course was taught by an owner of a PMC named Greg (name changed to protect the innocent) and the idea of loathing residents was coming from him, but being perpetuated by the class. Let’s look into this idea and find out why this is a problem.

Greg started out the class with the question, “By the raise of hands, who loves the residents in their community?” And the class busted out in laughter in response to the question. Someone blurted out, “Isn't that an oxymoron to have residents that you love?” Having been in property management for many years on the property side and on the vendor side, I wasn't surprised by the response from some in the group. The topic of discussion was regarding property inspections and service requests and how renters demonstrate their frustration to the site staff or maintenance staff. One property manager exclaimed, “Quite frankly, I hate my residents! They are inconsiderate, they knock on my door after hours, they are rude, and expect that I know every problem in their apartment. They don’t know what’s it’s like to work on a property.”

I didn't disagree with many of the negative statements given by these individuals based on my own personal interactions with difficult customers, but there is a major danger in this feeling towards tenants. What is the impact of this negative view of tenants within a community? How can this attitude affect your company’s KPIs?

1. Lower Resident Retention

A community is like a fish bowl. Residents can see and feel the culture that has been created in a community, and many times this culture is created by the site staff. If the negative vibes are felt by the residents or feel that the staff is not invested in their well-being, they are not likely to renew their lease. The resident experience (RX)1 should be one of the staff’s main focus after move in.

2. Bad Reputation & Reviews

When a resident moves out and they are unhappy with the service or experience within the apartment community they moved from, they are likely to leave bad reviews. Negative reviews on social media and various websites can hurt future occupancy, increase vacancy loss, and reduce NOI. Reputation Management2 is a key factor for future success and former residents can influence your bottom line.

3. Low Employee Engagement

My mentor, who also happens to be my Mom, taught me that you have to love your product in order for you to believe in your work. I love working in property management! I know that many in our industry love what they do, but there is a consensus that it is fine to have a negative view of their residents and this is a problem! When property staff dislike their customers, it is likely to affect the positive work environments and dissuade employees from finding meaning in their work3. I have seen it many times, as I am sure you have, that a difficult resident base can burn out an employee.

What needs to change? I argue that when property staff sees the resident's happiness as key to their property’s and portfolio’s performance, more effort should be made to appreciate and respect them. Property staff will understand their needs more and start to build better relationships, especially with the demanding residents in a community. Focusing on the individual customer will always help them know that the property staff cares about them, even in difficult situations.  This will lead to higher resident retention, an improved community reputation, and higher employee engagement.

What are some ways you have been able to help site staff overcome this negative view of their residents? Please leave a comment below.

 

By: Dallas Jensen

1http://rentsauce.com/social%E2%80%A2culture/lifestyle/rhi-resident-happiness-index

2http://rentsauce.com/social%E2%80%A2culture/online-trends/words-wings

3http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2014/04/04/the-five-elements-of-a-simply-irresistible-organization/

RentSauce shares multifamily news and information in SEO, Online Marketing, Technology, and Social Media. Information about contributing authors is found at http://rentsauce.com/
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  • Donald D. Miller, CPM Emeritus

    I have taught a seminar entitled " Have you told your tenants that you love Them?"
    The conclusion being, when do you tell them you love them?...before someone else does!!!÷

  • Jeez...not loving your residents means you do not love your job which means people can tell it from your actions and behavior which leads to bottom line problems over time. It's a people job....you gotta love people or you may be in the wrong career. I love residents...they are me.

  • <p>We all have "those" residents. But we also all have great residents. Not long ago, some of my staff were frustrated because of some difficult residents and I gave them this reminder: Count every resident that comes to mind who is a royal pain. (There were fewer than 10) Now, think of how many residents we have - 3000. We may have a few doozies, but they make up less than HALF a percent of our residents! <br />
    That example put things in perspective and made them realize that, overall, we have pretty great residents. The "top 10" are usually just unhappy people who are just as irritating to everyone else as they are to us, so we shouldn't take it personally and just be happy we don't live with them!</p>

  • Dallas Jensen

    Ann Stack

    Isn't it so true we forget about all those awesome residents and sometimes only focus on the hard one. Thanks for the comment!

  • Dallas Jensen

    Great comments above, thanks for the discussion. I know we forget about those great residents sometimes and they are our lifeline for revenue and overall community happiness.

  • Sue B.

    I manage a 34 unit HUD housing complex for the elderly. I can count on one hand the tenants who ever make me feel like I hate my job. Most often, I feel honored and privileged to help these wonderfully appreciative and compliant residents view our facility as a place they are proud to call home, rather than as a place they must live just because they don't have a Plan B. I will be turning 62 myself in a couple months. I sometimes ask myself, "If I were a resident of such a facility in the future, how would I want to be treated? What type of interaction would I want with the management and maintenance staff?" Well, that's the type of staff we need to be for the residents we have now. If so, resident retention won't be a problem. They'll be beating down our doors for the chance to join us!

  • I think sometimes people forget this is a business. It's a job. Take time to get away and defuse. You must have a defined time to start and end your day (yes I know, emergencies) or else it seems like you're always "on".

    Train yourself to think that you like your residents. It does require taking a step back emotionally, but can save a lot of frustration in the long run. What I used to say was I like all my residents, maybe some of them don't realize it yet. And yes, keeping them happy does go a long way. But it's imperative to establish boundaries. Keeping them happy isn't synonymous with letting someone walk all over you. Don't answer if they knock on staff personal residences after hours. If you do, you're not required to provide office services just because they got a hold of you at 10 pm. It is acceptable to tell someone to leave the office is they're getting out of control and I've never required any managers or staff to be yelled at, berated or threatened. That's not only horrible for them to deal with it's setting a very precedent for resident behavior toward staff. On more than one occasion I've told people there's no law saying we can't act the same way that you do, but we don't come banging at your door or yell at you when your rent is late or there's a rule violation, so why in the world would you think it's ok to talk to us like this?

  • I know for me, it's easy to focus on the few "bad apples" because these tend to be the residents that take up most of our time - in the office complaining, or constant emails, or having to chase after them for rent every month. The good residents, who we do love, tend to be more quiet and it's easy to almost forget about them. Each time I have the opportunity to interact with a positive resident, I make a point of trying to think back/refocus on that great conversation when my "bad apples" try to bring me down.