While the rise and rise of social media and digital advertising and marketing has opened a whole new door to the process of letting property, it also means landlords are left open to very public criticism from tenants.
Of course, the best way to avoid criticism is to be a good landlord and keep your tenants happy.
But sometimes conflict is inevitable and often the way a landlord responds to it in the public domain is the difference between making it disappear and fuelling the fire.
And it’s not just the immediate drama bad online reviews can cause.
They can also affect your ability to let your property in the future as, according to research, 86% of customers claim online reviews influence their decision-making.
Keep your tenants happy – and if they’re not, take steps to make them happy
The issue with social media is the speed of it and the fact that pretty much anyone now has a platform to air their views via Twitter, Facebook, even Instagram.
So, if you have an unhappy tenant, speed is of the essence for you as a landlord.
That means keeping abreast of online comments.
Of course, the best way to maintain your reputation is to use a good managing agent with a solid record for strong customer service.
But if you are self-managing your properties, consider following this guidance when dealing with online reviews and comments from tenants.
Search for negative feedback
Tenants could potentially leave feedback on you as a landlord on social media and this can be difficult to find due to privacy settings on accounts.
If a tenant leaves a review elsewhere online, you should be able to search for it and respond (or not) accordingly.
Sites where tenants could leave reviews include Marks Out of Tenancy, which is a comprehensive review site for residential lettings.
If your property portfolio is registered as a limited company and you let to tenants under the name of the company, a Google search should bring up any comments, negative or positive, on review websites.
How to respond
As we outlined above, responding quickly is often key to resolving any kind of negative online feedback.
Often, a tenant will simply be letting off steam and if you can resolve their gripe early, they will be happy to remove whatever they posted online.
However, responding online to negative comments is rarely a good thing.
It can create a thread of responses as both parties strive for the last word and, in terms of your reputation, can look extremely unprofessional.
Consider your tenant’s complaint and if it is justified.
If it is, make contact with the tenant, preferably in private written form (such as an email) so you have a paper trail.
Arrange a face-to-face meeting so you can get to the bottom of the problem and put a plan in place to resolve the issue on condition that the negative online feedback is removed or corrected as soon as the tenant is happy.
If you do feel the need to respond publicly to your tenant’s issue, be professional at all times and don’t let over-do your response.
A good response can actually benefit landlords so long as they are showing they are proactive and dealing with the issue raised by the tenant.
If you’re at fault, don’t say you aren’t
We’re living in an age where honesty is paramount.
So, if you come across a tenant’s online comment and you have no defence, don’t try to create one.
Admit you were in the wrong and made a mistake. We all make them, but as a landlord, you’ll stand and fall by how you respond and the speed with which you deal with the problem.
If you have evicted a tenant under a section eight notice for breach of the tenancy agreement, there’s always a chance they will aim to discredit you as a landlord online.
Again, it is crucial not to respond in an over-the-top way.
Simply respond making clear that the tenant was evicted due to a breach of the tenancy agreement – without going into specific detail.
And always try to empathise with the tenant’s situation – even if they are clearly at fault – as this will stand you in good stead with future tenants.
Use a lettings agent
The best way to distance yourself from tenant conflict as a landlord is to use a professional lettings agent.
Under a full management service, the agent will take care of all aspects of a tenancy, from dealing with issues and collecting rent to communication with tenants and property inspections.
A good management service should mean a smooth tenancy for both you as a landlord and for your tenants.
And if your tenants’ needs are looked after, that negative online feedback could very quickly become a positive!