How to Treat Your Renter Roommates as Individuals

AANM Newsletter, Operations,
by Olivia Creighton

Sometimes it can be hard to know how to approach renters who have roommates, but, with higher retention rates and an increased landlord-tenant relationship, access to this large tenant pool is worth pursuing. While many people push to treat them as one individual (asking for one rent check, sending one notice to all renters, etc.), roommates want the exact opposite. They are all different people, and they should be treated as such. Treating roommates like individuals rather than members of a group will go a long way, and could even improve your renter retention rates.

A Trulia study has shown that more than 20% of millennials rentals have a roommate, a trend which is only getting larger as the group grows. Zillow finds that “more than half (54 percent) of young adults aged 23-29 live in doubled-up households, with either roommates or family members”. As this particular tenant pool continues to grow bigger and bigger, renting to roommates leaves potential for landlords to increase their revenue stream. As it can be harder for roommates to find a place to rent, retention rates increase, leading to a much better (and longer) relationship between the landlord and tenants.

  1. Online Rental App
    Have each tenant fill out and individually submit their application with online rental apps. By having this available online, tenants can have their applications to you as soon as they’re finished, and you can begin the tenant screening process.
  2. Individual Screening
    You want to protect your property, so you obviously need to know more about who you’re letting into your rental. If you aren’t individually screening each of your applicants, you need to start now. Also consider conditional approval; if one applicant fails to meet your criteria, don’t throw out the whole group. Work out some sort of acceptance where the one is removed, or meets conditional requirements that may help the situation.
  3. Don’t Designate a Primary Tenant
    Some landlords may encourage designating a primary tenant when renting to roommates, but this may be a mistake. You are renting your property to two or more people, so you should act like you have different renters. Trying to designate one person as a primary tenant alienates the other roommate, and can cause miscommunications when you’re trying to only deal with one person. However, some roommates do like having a primary tenant, so be sure to communicate with your tenants to see their preferred course of action.
  4. Online Rent Collection
    Many landlords only want to receive one rent check, which is understandable. However, there is an easier solution that allows roommates to pay individually without having to move money around to produce one check. Try offering online rent collection, which allows roommates to split payments. Should you not receive your full payment, this will also allow you to see which tenant is the problem when it comes to getting the rent paid on time.
  5. SMS Notifications
    If you have SMS text notifications through your property management software (such as CICTotal Manager), then you should be sure that those messages are sent to both roommates rather than just one. Ensure that every tenant receives your communications, rather than sending it to one and hoping that the message is relayed.

As more and more people decide that living together is more practical than living alone, the potential for landlords to increase their revenue stream grows. Roommates are a part of a large, desirable tenant pool, so it is in your best interest to make renting to them a pleasant experience for both them and yourself. By treating roommates like individuals, you can create a lasting relationship with both of your tenants. Don’t allow the fact that two or more people live in the same property mean that they have to be grouped together, and implement these simple methods to interact with them as separate people.

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