How and Why To Conduct Tenant Exit Interviews

Monday, May 9, 2016

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High turnover rates are an unfortunate reality when it comes to managing student rentals. We’ve discussed this phenomenon in the past and identified that student renters are often transient. Centurion Apartments reported that, “Student housing has a turnover rate of about 50% per year, and the average student will rent their unit for one to three years.”


With such a high turnover rate in student housing, landlords should employ strategies to increase tenant satisfaction and minimize turnover. One particular technique that landlords can employ to better understand why tenants are leaving or are unsatisfied is to conduct exit interviews.


Within the housing industry, it’s a common practice for landlords to interview tenants before signing a lease; but on the contrary, very few property managers conduct exit interviews. Exit interviews can be a treasure trove when it comes to valuable information about tenant retention.


Once a tenant has indicated they won’t be renewing their lease, try to arrange an exit interview. It’s important to schedule this interview as promptly as possible, as there is still a small window of opportunity to encourage the tenant to reconsider and stay. In some cases, the landlord may need to provide incentive for the tenant(s) to partake in an exit interview such as a small monetary reward, gift card or reference letter. The information provided will be worth the cost of a small gift.


Once the tenant has agreed to the interview, it’s time to begin preparing. Landlords and property managers should ask a specific set of questions like below, while staying open-minded and non-judgemental. Tenants will be honest, if the atmosphere and tone are welcoming.

  1. What is the primary reason you are moving?

    This will address the main motivation as to why the tenant has chosen not to renew the lease.

  2. Are there any other reasons that contributed to your decision to move? 

    This will address other potential areas of concern, which may need to be addressed.

  3. What did you like most about living here? What did you like least about living here?

    This will highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of the rental property and show where improvements need to be made.

  4. Do you think the rental rate we charged is fair?

    This will give the landlord an idea of whether or not the tenant believes the rental rate is reasonable, in comparison to similar properties (the tenant has likely already begun looking at other accommodations).

  5. How would you describe your experience while renting here?

    This will give the landlord an idea of how the tenant would explain the property to other individuals via word-of-mouth.

  6. If you could change one thing about this rental property, what would it be?

    This will give the landlord valuable insight into potential areas for upgrades or improvements.

  7. What would change your mind about staying here and encourage you renew the lease?

    This is the last opportunity for the landlord to get a renewal. The tenant may share exactly what it would take to make this happen. Keep in mind, it may be too late if the tenant has already signed another lease.


Other questions can be added, as applicable. It’s important to leave the question about the potential of renewing the lease until the end; in order to gain feedback first. If the tenant hasn’t signed another lease yet, this may provide enough information to convince the renter to stay. It will always cost more time and money to find new tenants, than it will to retain previous ones.  


If the attempt to renew the lease fails, not all is lost. Landlords will have gained valuable information regarding how they can improve their rental property, which will be advantageous for future tenants.


If the tenant(s) who is leaving was overall satisfied with the accommodation, this will be an ideal time to ask for a review or testimonial. Online reviews from previous tenants are extremely important. Appfolio found that 88 percent of people trust online reviews more than personal recommendations.


In summary, exit interviews are an important task to be included on the To-Do lists of all landlords and property managers. As Gordon Gekko said in Wall Street, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”


SEE ALSO: Love Your Tenants? Let’s Talk Tenant Retention

The Team