Image of 4 Proven Ways to Keep Tenants Renting Year After Year

4 Proven Ways to Keep Tenants Renting Year After Year

Featured Image Photo Credit: Naomi Hébert via Unsplash

It’s every property manager’s nightmare: four white walls. Gleaming hardwood floors. Sunlight streaming in through the windows.

But it’s quiet—too quiet. The air feels stuffy. There’s no furniture; just imprints in the carpet where it once was. The residents who lived there—the ones who always paid their rent on time and took care of the place like it was their own—turned in their keys weeks ago. The unit’s been empty ever since.

Why Do Tenants Move Out?

For each month that a unit remains vacant, you’re losing money—from lost rent to the costs of refreshing the unit, marketing the vacancy, and screening rental applicants. Is there anything that property managers can do to keep good tenants in place? Buildium’s 2017 American Renters Survey, which investigates where, how, and why tenants choose to rent, found that life changes are the top reason why tenants leave. There will always be a portion of tenants whose circumstances force them to move away. For tenants who leave by choice, however, the survey revealed three main grievances: rent increases, bad neighbors, and dissatisfaction with their unit. There’s a common thread running through these complaints: You can ameliorate them simply by being tuned into residents’ concerns. Residents admitted that inertia is a top reason why they stay put—so in reality, they’re yours to lose.

4 Proven Ways to Keep Tenants Renting 

So which actions have the biggest impact on tenant satisfaction—and which missteps are the most harmful? Let’s start at the beginning: the tenant’s move-in experience.

1. Welcoming New Tenants

Buildium’s 2017 American Renters Survey found a startlingly clear relationship between move-in experience and tenant satisfaction. Eighty-seven percent of tenants who reported a good move-in experience felt positively about their rental. Meanwhile, just 20 percent of tenants who reported a bad move-in experience felt positively about their rental—and 82 percent were considering moving out. What are most property managers doing for new tenants? Most often, residents stated that their property manager simply gave them the keys and basic information about the apartment. Less than half of residents reported that their unit had been cleaned before they moved in. And 16 percent of tenants told us that their property manager didn’t even do those things. It’s clear that the move-in experience represents a huge opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competition. So how can you start your tenant relationships off on the right foot?

  • Have the unit professionally cleaned between tenants.
  • Fill a welcome basket with essentials that might be hard to find during the move, like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.
  • Compile a packet of helpful information, like where the closest grocery store is, and how trash and recycling are handled.
  • Introduce new tenants to their neighbors. Tenants report that good neighbors are a top reason they stay—and bad neighbors are a major reason they move.

Above all, you should strive to build positive, proactive relationships with your tenants from day 1, rather than solely interacting with them when there’s a problem.

2. Building a Community

A thriving resident community does more than foster positive relationships between tenants; it also lowers crime, conflict, and turnover. So how can you nurture a strong sense of community in your properties?

  • Bring in high-quality tenants with effective tenant screening practices.
  • Plan community activities. (One in three tenants say they’d be willing to pitch in!)
  • Leverage social media to spread the word about activities and get the conversation going.

Which activities would be a hit with your residents? Single- and multi-family residents alike expressed an interest in yard sales, charity drives, green initiatives, clubs, parties, and activities for kids and pets in Buildium’s 2017 American Renters Survey.

So what’s the impact of community activities on tenant satisfaction? Among tenants who reported that activities were available where they lived, 66 percent reported positive feelings toward their rental, compared with 55 percent of tenants with no activities—an 11 percent bump. What these numbers can’t capture are future tenants who will be attracted to your properties because of the vibrant community you’ve developed. If you empower residents to plan activities with little oversight from your team, the initial time investment could pay dividends for years to come.

Next, let’s address one of the third rails of tenant relationships: rent increases.

3. Handling Rent Increases

Deciding how much and how often to increase rent is a delicate balance. Buildium’s 2017 American Renters Survey revealed four key insights on this matter:

  • 81 percent of tenants stated that rent is their top consideration in deciding where to live—tied with location.
  • More than 1 in 4 tenants feel that rent increases are never reasonable.
  • When asked, “When do you feel it is reasonable for your rent to go up?”, the most common response (at 31 percent) was “Every 3 to 5 years.”
  • When asked, “How much is reasonable for rent to increase at any one time?”, the most common response (at 49 percent) was “1 to 5 percent.”

Our best advice is to prepare tenants for an increase of 1 to 5 percent every two to three years. An incremental increase will be much better received if you set tenants’ expectations early on; cultivate strong relationships; and make transparent communication a habit.

Next, let’s discuss the most tangible way to keep tenants happy and differentiate your properties from the competition: physical upgrades.

4. Adding Attractive Amenities

Which updates present the greatest return on investment? The 2017 American Renters Survey asked tenants which in-unit amenities are worth paying higher rent for. Fifty-eight percent of residents agreed that a washer and dryer would win them over. Other top picks were central air (selected by 49 percent), high-speed internet (44 percent), and a dishwasher (42 percent). For building amenities, residents most wanted to be able to bring their pets (selected by 45 percent) and park in a garage (40 percent). All in all, property managers and owners would be wise to remember that the cost of a new appliance likely outweighs the price of losing a reliable tenant.

How Buildium Can Help

Last, we highly recommend considering property management software, which can reduce friction in your tenant relationships to keep them (and you!) happy in the long-term. Buildium makes it easy to streamline maintenance requests, share important documents and information, collect payments on time, build a resident community, and more—empowering you to put resident happiness on autopilot. For a free trial of Buildium’s property management software, give us a visit today at

Robin Young Burinskiy is Buildium’s Senior Content Writer and the Managing Editor of the Buildium blog, where she writes about the impact of industry trends on property managers' daily lives. She also writes about authenticity, vulnerability, and fulfillment on her lifestyle and travel blog, Feather & Flint. She holds degrees in psychology, sociology, and songwriting. Connect with her on LinkedIn to keep track of her work and chat about writing, marketing, social science, and more of her favorite things.

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