Why Tenants Love to Hate Their Property Management Company

by Jordan Muela on May 19, 2010 · 11 comments

in Uncategorized

This is a follow up to our survey of almost 3,000 reviews of property management companies on Yelp and Yahoo Local.

Why is it that management companies seem to get such a bad rap in online reviews? It would be easy to dismiss these review sites as being platforms for libel by disgruntled people with an axe to grind, but the reality is rating sites are a useful tool that are widely used by consumers.

61% of people rely on user reviews for product information or research before a buying decision is made. (Razorfish, 2008)

Knowing that consumers use online rating and review sites for everything from restaurants to doctors to apartments, we felt compelled to better understand why our research showed property managers were on average getting 30% lower ratings than the average for all other industries.

In fact if you’re looking to be entertained by passionately negative reviews, the property management industry pretty much takes the cake:

Unfortunately property management can be a thankless job, where tenants are hyper-sensitive to mistakes and often resent the enforcer aspect of the management company’ role. Obviously, not all tenant/property manager relations are like this, but as our research and the ubiquity of these glowing (as in firebrand) reviews show, it isn’t uncommon either.

Here’s my breakdown of what makes this industry unique in garnering so much negativity.

Spoiler alert: You’re going to be disappointed if you’re wanting me to place all the blame squarely on tenants or the management company.

The single biggest reason for low reviews from tenants is that the management company acts as an enforcer to uphold the interests of the landlord. This tension lies behind about 75% of the negative reviews we surveyed. Granted, the complaints tend to deal with surface issues, but this enforcement dynamic in the relationship is a root cause for bad blood between tenants and management companies. In this respect, property management has something in common with professions like police officer, tax collector, prison guard, prosecutor, repo man, etc., which all have significant enforcement roles and suffer from the same negative sentiment.

This negative perception of the MC as an enforcer is amplified when it is the only frame of reference tenants have. Because much of rental housing is treated like a commodity (renters shop primarily on price) margins are low, leaving little room for the kinds of extra services that create a positive impression and relationship. This means that tenant interaction is limited to paying bills, trying to get broken things fixed, or reporting other problems, which isn’t exactly the foundation for a glowing relationship.

Together, these factors have a negative impact on both tenant AND management behavior making it easier to find fault than solutions. Constructive dialogue is quickly replaced with a willingness to jump to conclusions and demonize the actions of the other party. Once an “us against them” mentality takes hold, it isn’t long before the tenant views himself as the little guy “fighting the man” in a crusade against landlord tyranny. The flip-side is the property manager who feels totally unappreciated and is tired of getting dumped on resulting in cold or overly heavy handed in dealings with tenants.

All these emotions are amplified by the fact that people’s homes are an important part of their security causing strong reactions to any perceived threat.

Again, my goal is not to label one side as being primarily responsible. We can all recognize that there are bad tenants that don’t pay rent, as well as negligent management companies that fail in their responsibilities. My point is that the inherent dynamics of the tenant/manager relationship lend themselves to strife.

Obviously I’m not the first person to recognize this and many management companies have well thought out tenant retention programs designed to maintain strong positive relationships and keep tenants happy. Check out Mike Brewer and Heather Blume for cutting edge strategies.

Is it fair?

No, but does that really matter?

Clearly, tenants are not in a position to tell owners who they should hire, and yet their reviews can affect the reputation of the management companies and influence client perceptions.  While this can be a bitter pill to swallow, it’s imperative that you embrace the fact that you’re not in control of what is said about you online.

As consumers are empowered by review sites and social networks to share their experiences, businesses of all types are becoming acutely aware of the need for online reputation management.

Who is talking about you, what are they saying, and how should you respond?  We’ll cover this and more in next week’s overview of reputation management for property management companies.

How are you dealing with tenants and owners talking about you online?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Brewer October 15, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Jordan,

I know I am a little late in saying so but, thank you for the mention. That means a great deal.

Hope all is well and good for you and keep up the passions!

M

Reply

Jordan Muela October 20, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Thanks for stopping by Mike. Same to you my friend, keep up the good work over at mbrewergroup.com

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Donald Leske January 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Well said Jordan. I am way late reading your article, but it is still very relivent of course.

I have been into rentals about 30 years, and also own a web design company so I am somewhat up on the power of the internet. BAD reviews etc… can kill a company. No joke. One way I have been pro-active is to have links on my sites that show Owner Testimonies and Tenant Testimonies.

Also, I actually ask owners for a testimony after one year. With the tenants I became a “Tenant Advocate” at http://www.allexperts.com for online helpfullness its great and I get comments that tell me its working. Follow that with the willingness to negotiate and bargain with tenants to make their life a little bit better…, and most other things go well. – Owners just want to get paid and not have their property trashed.

I just joined this Managemyproperty.com and is how I found you.
Regards,
-Don / Broker-webmaster
bciwire.com
bcirent.com

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Jordan Muela January 24, 2011 at 9:12 am

Thanks for commenting Donald. I like the steps you have outlined for engendering good will among tenants. The bottom line that being proactive trumps being reactive in all most all circumstances. Glad to have you on board, let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you!

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allison January 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm

omg I hate my apt manager!!this apt laundry room was never shut down in years and now he just recently shut it down just to be a *******!!!!What can i do?im almost sure not much!ugh.

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Teddi Norton April 6, 2011 at 9:24 am

Where do I give a review on a management company from the perspective of a landlord?

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Jordan Muela April 6, 2011 at 9:51 am
Jean Kirchner September 30, 2011 at 7:45 pm

What an interesting bend you have on the reality of bad reviews. My husband and I manage 2 rental properties and while the job can be thankless at times, it can be very rewarding. All it takes is a little patience and understanding. My mother lives in a beautiful apartment complex that she and her fellow tenants should be thrilled with based on accomodations and location. HOWEVER, the person who manages her building would be better placed in a location that she does not work with senior citizens. They have special needs and a little tolerance, understanding and patience would make her job so much easier and make the tenants appreciate her on a daily basis. These are loving people who are currently so riled up by this woman that they search out me, a complete stranger to most of them to ask for help to do something about the manager. She has fired or driven away all of the maintenance people what were employed by the apartment complex over the past few years, so now they have NO maintenance at all. She approaches the senior with a heavy hand instead of a helping hand when she needs documents from them. Many cannot hear well, or have memory problems. A little kindness would help so much. Because of the management alone, I would not recommend that anyone look at these apartments if they have other choices. The management company is Republic out of Portage, MI. The complex is Harbour Pointe apartments in Montague, MI. There is not any phone number available to the residents or me to contact this company to ask for help and heaven know… the woman in charge is NO Help at all. They will be reported to HUD soon if they have not been already. BAD BUSINESS…

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office space columbus January 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Excellent summary of the tenant property management relationship. You are very correct that many of the complaints are due to the fact that the property manager is enforcing the landlord’s rights and protecting their property. Property management is a thankless job, receiving calls at all hours of the night and most people do not call to say that everything is OK. We manage commercial real estate and we have to deal with very complex HVAC systems, security and fire and life safety systems. We still receive calls in the middle of the night even for office buildings and warehouses mainly for false fire alarms and making sure the snow removal has been taken care of so tenants don’t slip and fall on the way into their office the next morning. The key to successful commercial property management is maintaining good communication with tenants to keep them happy and respond quickly. Also work hard to keep costs low which is constant battle. This is how our company differentiates ourselves from our competition. Many companies just don’t work that hard to reduce costs and don’t communicate enough with tenants and their building owners.

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rony hosen October 6, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Unfortunately property management can be a thankless job, where tenants are hyper-sensitive to mistakes and often resent the enforcer aspect of the management company’ role. Obviously, not all tenant/property manager relations are like this, but as our research and the ubiquity of these glowing (as in firebrand) reviews show, it isn’t uncommon either.

Reply

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