How To Build An Engaging Environment for Your Tenants

By Victoria Robertson on February 19, 2019

When renting an apartment to a college-aged tenant, there are a lot of considerations to keep in mind. For instance, college students are far more likely to respect your environment and rent again if you create an engaging environment for them to partake in.

But how challenging is it? And where do you even begin?

Building an engaging environment for your tenants may seem challenging at first, but you will quickly learn that it’s quite easy so long as you listen to your tenants and hear their needs/wants. More often than not, the answer is right in front of you.

From here, you can implement whatever practices you feel are best for improving and creating an engaging environment for your tenants.

So, in the interest of helping you get started, here are 10 best practices that will help you build an engaging environment for your tenants.

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1. Host Community Events

One of the simplest and most effective ways that you can build a more engaging environment in your complex is to hold community events for your residents. These events include quarterly picnics, pizza parties, movie viewings, etc. The sky is truly the limit here.

Essentially, a community event is meant to draw in all of your residents so they spend time together and feel more like a neighborhood than they do individual apartment units. This is a great way to start building that engaging environment, plus, it’s fun for everyone involved.

The downside is these parties can be costly, so it’s unrealistic to hold them often. That being said, holding a few throughout the year is a perfect way to get everyone together and having fun for a few hours.

2. Provide a Suggestion Platform

One of the biggest resident complaints in an apartment complex is that they don’t feel their needs are heard. Generally speaking, there is no way for a tenant to recommend any changes to the leasing office, as there typically isn’t a platform to use to do that.

That being said, if you create your own suggestion platform for the complex, individuals will note your effort and be more likely to get involved.

Suggestion platforms can require in-person suggestions or anonymous, online suggestions. Either way, you should have some sort of method for collecting and reading through all the suggestions you are provided over the course of a year and implementing those suggestions that are realistic and doable.

Sure, you’ll get some suggestions that aren’t worthwhile or realistic; there is always that possibility. But for those that are, you are improving your complex and the resident experience, all with minimal effort.

3. Begin the Year with a Meet and Greet

One of the most productive ways to start the school year in an apartment complex is to host a meet and greet with all of your tenants. This is a great way for everyone to meet one another right off the bat, which also helps in terms of crime rates, as individuals are more likely to report someone they don’t recognize if they feel they have met everyone in the complex. So that’s a win-win right there.

In addition, a meet and greet is a good way to get neighbors talking to one another when they otherwise wouldn’t and to build up that relationship so the community is more engaged overall. Without hosting these meet and greets, tenants are far less likely to communicate with one another, often causing a lack of communication and a lack of belonging, which can impact the number of people that re-sign at your apartment.

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4. Conduct Complex Contests

A fun and engaging way to build up that sense of community is to create and conduct complex contests for all of your residents. These contests can be apartment decorating contests, fun relay races, food drives, etc. Again, the sky’s the limit here.

Contests are great because residents are automatically interested if there is a benefit to themselves, and you benefit in creating a fun and engaging community. So again, this is a win-win.

Plus, you can use the contests, such as the food drive or other donation-driven events, to benefit the local community, making this a win-win-win. And who could argue with that, am I right?

5. Establish an “Open Door” Policy

Again, residents like to feel heard in their community. For this reason, in addition to the suggestion box, establishing an “open door” policy is a great way to ensure your residents feel heard and have an opportunity to express any complaints and/or concerns they may have about the apartment complex.

Residents need to feel that their voice matters, and establishing this open door policy from the get-go will ensure your residents feel they are heard and simultaneously helps you to better suit their needs on your end. This is a great way to help one another in order to ensure your apartment complex is the most engaging on campus.

Infographic by Victoria Robertson

6. Make Participation Easy

A fault that many complexes have when it comes to enticing individuals to participate in community events is that the participation is too complicated and therefore unrealistic. Don’t give your tenants a laundry list of things they need to do in order to participate.

Instead, make it as easy as possible for residents to take part, no matter their budget, location or class schedule. For instance, host events on different days of the week so that schedules for the students can be more flexible. In addition, don’t require the tenants to bring something, but rather, make it optional. Many students will be on a tight budget and spending extra money for an apartment event isn’t in the cards for them.

In addition, make the event convenient. For instance, host it right in the complex itself rather than at a different location, as you are then more likely to get participation, especially from those that may have forgotten about an event until they happen across it on their way home from class.

The easier it is for your residents to partake in your events, the more likely they are to do so. In addition, you can always ask your residents what they would like to participate in, as you’re likely to get more participation this way as well.

7. Include “Resident-Only” Perks

While these events should all be resident-specific, you should also keep in mind that your residents may want to bring individuals outside of their apartment (i.e. significant others). While you shouldn’t include these individuals in all events, you can include them in some, as you’re likely to get more participation this way as well.

That being said, be sure to still host events that are “resident only” and provide additional perks for such events to ensure you get participation. For instance, if you have a building picnic for residents only, let them know you will be supplying the food and that individuals can bring snacks if they would like.

This will entice participation while also leave residents the option to contribute or not. And when you are limiting the individuals that are allowed to attend, this is an essential component that you shouldn’t take lightly.

8. Create Optional Complex Activities

In addition to hosting quarterly events for your residents, it can be a good idea to create optional complex activities for your residents throughout the year. These are typically less involved, less expensive events that residents can participate in on their own time.

For instance, if you were to set up a lemonade station in the middle of the complex, residents could stop by throughout the day as they would like a glass and they can meet other individuals in a more casual setting. Other complexes have created an arts and crafts station, hot chocolate bars, and other creative and/or food-related activities that are quick, simple and get people talking to one another. Basically, your goal here is to draw their attention and potentially create some relationships amongst your tenants to really bring through that sense of community.

This is a great, inexpensive way to show you care about your residents and that you are doing things for them, but in a way that’s laid back and allows your residents to participate on their own time.

Given the ease of these activities, you can do this more often and be sure to ask for resident feedback as well to see if they have any ideas or suggestions as it relates to activities your residents may be interested in.

9. Build a Sense of Office Community

Many residents don’t even know where their leasing office is, and most won’t stop by after they get their keys for the year. Others will stop by on occasion to drop off their rent check, and that’s about it.

When it comes to the leasing office, students should immediately feel like they are at home and welcomed, which is not typically the case. A leasing office should feel relaxing and be a good place for students to stop by as they wish.

For this reason, your leasing office should have its own sense of community that you create, from the time an individual signs their lease until they leave at the end of the year. No matter what, the leasing office should feel like a welcoming and engaging environment.

Many offices will use popcorn machines, coffee and water dispensers and other such luxuries to make residents feel like they belong. Others are more active still in greeting you at the door and inviting you to stay. Many leasing office personnel are on a first name basis with the renters, which is a great way to ensure your renters feel at home and appreciated.

Basically, no matter what, you should be going out of your way to make sure that your renters feel like they belong.

10. Pay Attention to Your Residents

As has been stated throughout this article, listening to what your tenants want is one of the most important things that you can do when it comes to building an engaging environment for your residents.

When you are building something for your residents, you should be taking their ideas and needs into consideration above all else, as this is the best way to get return customers and referrals. Without this component, you can create all the initiatives you want to, but they may not hit home for your residents because you aren’t listening to what they are asking for.

If you’re in doubt as to whether or not any of these initiatives would work for your residents, ask them. You can send out an anonymous survey, ask them point blank when they sign their lease or send out periodic email requests for your residents to let you know how you’re doing.

With these methods, you are more likely to see engagement, as your residents will feel that their opinions are appreciated and listened to, which is more than more other complexes can say. And trust me, they’re going to notice it.

Again, building an engaging environment for your tenants takes time, effort and dedication, but once you put the work in, you are most definitely going to see that return on investment in the years to come from a combination of repeat and new customers, all impressed with your community engagement initiatives.

When it comes down to it, students are looking to rent a home, and the more effort you put into making your complex feel like a home for them, the more likely they are to return and recommend your complex to their friends and family.

So start with these 10 tips for creating an engaging environment for your tenants, but don’t be afraid to conduct more research and implement complex-specific initiatives that you know your tenants are going to love.

It comes down to the customer experience, and so long as you are working to improve that on your end, your tenants are going to be more than happy with the outcome.

By Victoria Robertson

Uloop Writer
University of Illinois
Victoria is a dedicated writer who graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She currently writes freelance pieces for various sites and works in Marketing for Myndbee Inc., promoting their current mobile app, Picpal.

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