Tenants who are engaged with their local community are often happier than those who are not, so connecting tenants to one another and allowing them to form meaningful relationships with their local community has now become a necessity rather than just a luxury.
It’s also far more cost-effective to retain happy tenants. Average turnover costs for an apartment within the industry is around £1,200, however this number can often be significantly higher, depending on a wide variety of factors specific to the property.
Although turnover to some degree is inevitable, in many instances, developments lose tenants because the living experience falls short of their expectations. Property managers should be striving to encourage tenants to consider the entire building as their home instead of limiting the idea to just their apartment.
While it’s relatively easy to provide trendy amenities, great designs, and flashy décor, what really attracts tenants to a building, and keeps them staying year after year, is creating a sense of community and belonging that supports their wellbeing.
Why engage with the community?
When a new tenant moves into a building, they may be unfamiliar with the surrounding area. Connecting them with others in the building, local shops and services, or details that can bring convenience to their lives is a great way of ensuring tenants feel engaged from the offset. Many of our clients team up with the local businesses to offer exclusive discounts to their tenants on anything from cleaning services, dog walkers to local restaurants.
Holding regular social events is also an important way in allowing friendships between tenants to blossom – whether that’s online or in person. Research by Apartment Life found that the more friends a tenant has within their building, the more likely they are to renew their tenancy. Without any friends living in their community, tenants only have a 29% chance of renewing. That number jumps to 38% if they have 1-3 friends, and if they have 7 or more friends, there’s a 47% likelihood that they’ll renew. Facilitating safe and easy communication among members of the community allows people to get to know each other more easily.
The power of community
Investing in developing a community not only enhances the tenant experience – it can also lead to better outcomes. Tenants are more likely to behave in a way that benefits the collective good if they feel an attachment to the people, place and community in which they live.
Although the link between a sense of community and pro-environment behaviours is an under-researched area, there is evidence that supports these observations. Fostering a sense of community and attachment to a place and to others increases the effectiveness of behaviour change campaigns in relation to both energy saving and recycling, for example.
This is because when individuals feel that they belong to a community or want to fit in to that community, and their identity is partly attached to it, they are more likely to act in a way that benefits the collective good.
The role technology can play in engaging tenants
Tenant engagement portals such as Spike Living can help to foster a sense of community and attachment, as well as empower tenants by providing relevant, relatable information. Research highlights that the presentation of data in terms of direct energy units such as kWh or in terms of CO2 emissions is difficult for users to understand.
However, a tenant engagement portal that can present usage information in relation to others, demonstrate impact and employ gamification techniques to motivate tenants is more effective at creating engagement and driving change. Whilst a tenant might look at their smart meter and not grasp what a kilowatt-hour is, showing that they are using more energy than their neighbours will make them instantly better informed. Examples include the amount of energy used compared with others living in a similar sized apartment in the building, the amount of carbon used in a 10-minute shower, or how much energy is saved by turning the heating down by one click.
Furthermore, having the ability to send out personalised, weather-appropriate tips to help tenants reduce consumption, as well as keeping the community engaged with useful information, can make cutting their carbon footprint seem like a positive achievement rather than an enforced misery. This mixture of education and competition creates a feedback loop of positive reinforcement that will keep the issue front of mind.
At the end of last year, Spike Global, ASK4 and Utopi released Changing Behaviours, a joint research report highlighting how working to change the behaviour of tenants can reap significant rewards. For example, strategies that tap into the natural human instinct to conform to social norms – such as providing feedback on consumption and comparison with others – can result in behaviour changes that reduce carbon emissions in the region of 7%-35%. And that’s just according to some more conservative estimates.
The report also explores and investigates the reasons why tenants, despite good intentions, behave in ways that are often at odds with these values. The reasons why tenants often fail to follow up on values with concrete actions are many and varied – ranging from feeling powerless to making a difference (especially when others around them are not doing the ‘right’ thing), a lack of comfort, a mistrust that their accommodation provider is genuine and authentic in their sustainability efforts. A lack of information on personal consumption in comparison to others also plays a crucial role.
As the BTR sector continues to grow at pace, tenant engagement will play an increasingly important role in retaining tenants as well as driving down carbon emissions.
You can learn more about the role that community can play in achieve net zero and other sustainability targets by downloading our Changing Behaviours Report below.