“We’ve decided not to renew.”
Few words are more unwelcome to a property manager’s ears. Some tenant loss is inevitable as companies expand, downsize or change their focus. But if you suspect you have been losing good tenants needlessly, you may want to reconsider your approach to commercial property management.
Implementing the following four principles will both improve your tenants’ overall experience and prevent problems before they arise. This will not only keep your commercial tenants happy, but it will also put you in control of the relationship—and most likely improve your bottom line.
1. Keep the property safe. Making safety your No. 1 priority will make tenants feel secure, and it will help you steer clear of tort issues. Conduct regular safety inspections, and be sure to communicate your safety concerns to your tenants as well. Sometimes safety requires compromises in convenience, so it’s important they understand the reason for your protocol.
Landscaped areas in particular often get overlooked when it comes to safety. Inspect them regularly for tripping hazards such as eroded areas, fallen limbs and heaving pavement due to overgrown tree roots. Also, be sure shrubbery is trimmed back and your outdoor areas are well lit to deter would-be assailants. Security cameras are also a must in many locations.
2. Keep it pleasant. Scrupulously clean, well-maintained property will command higher rent and encourage tenants to stay. Tenants as well as their customers are also more likely to treat the property with respect.
The biggest pitfall here is the tendency to grow accustomed to the way a property looks as it ages. Be sure to inspect your properties regularly for aesthetic as well as mechanical issues. Use a checklist to note the condition of each aspect of every room or area (such as floors, railings, lighting fixtures, etc.). Be sure to allocate room in your budget for replacing worn or outdated items.
Don’t underestimate the importance of “creature comfort” convenience and quality. Something as simple as installing a thermostat so tenants can adjust the temperature of their space will make a big difference in the level of satisfaction. Good lighting is also critical. Consider asking them if there is any area they wish were better lit, and proactively replace any fixtures or bulbs that are buzzing or flickering.
Finally, if you outsource maintenance services, vet your contractors. Do your best to ensure that any service providers who come in contact with your tenants are clean, neat, polite and respectful. Communication is key. Keep tenants in the loop about upcoming maintenance calls and be sensitive to their needs. Ask for their feedback afterward, especially about any outsourced services.
3. Make it easy. In all interactions with tenants, consider their point of view. For you, property management is your primary business. For them, it’s an interruption. The easier and more effortless you can make it for them, the more they’ll appreciate doing business with you.
In particular, set up systems that make it easy for your tenants to pay their rent. Consider accepting multiple forms of payment so each tenant can choose what works best for them. Setting up a system that automatically drafts payment is another good option that will virtually eliminate late payments.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Much of the time when tenants are dissatisfied, it’s due to miscommunication or a breach of understanding. Keep your tenants in the loop about any upcoming changes, and ask them proactively how they feel their needs are being met.
A simple monthly newsletter is an invaluable tool for keeping in touch with tenants without interrupting them. Use it to foster a sense of community among your tenants, as well as to keep them informed of things you are doing behind the scenes to keep them comfortable, safe and happy. If you are a larger property management company, you can also include employee spotlights to help your tenants relate to your company as a team of human beings rather than a faceless corporation.
Finally, your tenants will appreciate transparency in accounting. For instance, when signing on a new tenant, be very clear about how you calculate CAM fees and other charges. If possible, discuss any maintenance assessments with your tenants before the work is done. Tenants also appreciate the convenience of real-time accounting with secure online access.
Keeping these four golden principles of tenant relations—safety, comfort, convenience and communication—top of mind will help pave the way toward better tenant retention. Implement them proactively, and ultimately they will make your job easier as well!
Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer with expertise in areas including construction, small business management and sustainability (www.thegreeninkwell.com).
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